wow fight my ignorance! ( presidential cabinet picks)

Inspired by this thread…

some members suggest that obama may/should/will select some republican dudes to join his cabinet.

well this is one thing which always puzzles me about your style of democracy… you elect your president, then he appoints career beurocrats and politicians to head major departments of state and drive major sectors of policy, these people are then in positions of serious power and they have been elected by no one… okay that is not the point of my question. (but I fully accept that my foreigner understanding may be wrong - if so please address this point also)

Firstly i would like to know if there is a history of presidents picking people out with their own party to cabinet posts. is it healthy? …Well i mean you are admitting that your own party does not have the talent within… Maybe my own understanding of your system is well skewed but I would have thought that if you are elected as a democratic president… then you pick democrat cabinet ministers? are there any dems in the bush administration?

The thing is that people taken as a whole generally lean either left or right, but a single person won’t necessarily match with either party very well. In a way, it’s similar to Supreme Court justices; in general, you wouldn’t call any of them Republicans or Democrats, because very few of them follow a party line distinctly. You want someone well-qualified for the job, whom you can work with, who can work on his own and take orders; sometimes, the best candidate is not ideologically the same as you. That’s not to say that your party doesn’t have any good people for the job, just that you thought this guy would do better.

As to your first point, the Senate confirms the cabinet selections. Yes, this is basically a rubber stamp. And, no, it doesn’t mean that they are elected. But, there is some degree of elected oversight to the process, and I suppose it would work to prevent some clearly unqualified wacko from being appointed into a position of power.

As to your second point, there is a well regarded book about Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, which included political rivals. Some believe that surrounding one’s self with contrarians, instead of compliant “yes” men, is a wise method of governance.

[On preview, however, I should note that the men cited in Team of Rivals were fellow Republicans, even though they were political antagonists of Lincoln. I guess that doesn’t exactly answer your question]

Presidential candidates always say this and hardly ever follow through on it. It is just political boiler plate to “reach across the aisle” which causes me to roll my eyes so much that they nearly come out of my socket.

Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this. If Obama selects one genuine Republican I will probably have a stroke. In short, its not going to happen.

If the democrats have 59 seats in the senate and Obama has the chance to pull away one republican senator that would be replaced by a democrat by a democrat governor by giving the republican a cabinet position you better believe he will reach accross that aisle with a smile on his face.

George W. Bush appointed Norman Minetta as Secretary of Transportation and he served from 2001-2006 in that capacity.

It’s not very likely that any President will appoint, say, a Secretary of State or Defense from an opposing party, but appointments to the lesser cabinet posts (and particularly subcabinet posts that also require Senate approval) happens from time to time.

(As to your last question, see my previous post about Norman Mineta, who was a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives.)

The primary difference between the US Presidential system and most parliamentary systems is strict separation between the executive and legislative functions of government. In a parliamentary system, whichever party or coalition can command a majority of the legislature gets to choose the head of the government, and that person gets to choose other legislators from his party (or coalition) to serve in important positions. This means they have both an executive and legislative role, simultaneously.

The people who wrote the US Constitution were wary of the power wielded by a unitary parliament that was easily manipulated by a monarch (as Britain’s parliament was in the 18th century.) So they designed a system where the executive branch was entirely separate. To add a check to Presidential power, they required that the Senate confirm choices for important Presidential appointees. (And it’s the Congress as a whole, through writing enabling statutes for government agencies, which gets to decide who does and does not require Senate approval to appoint, with the exception of some positions, such as Supreme Court justices, which are mentioned in the Constitution itslef.)

Because of this structure, it’s common to have situations where the head of the government (the President) is of a different party than the legislature (the Congress) which would be impossible in a parliamentary system. Right now, both houses of Congress have Democratic majorities while the President is a Republican. During the Clinton administration, the House and Senate both had a solid Republican majority for six out of his eight years in office.

Finally, unlike a parliamentary system, there is no requirement that the Cabinet positions be filled by legislators. Cabinet appointees have been former Senators and Representatives, former Governors, outstanding civil service employees from within the department in question, and frequently, private citizens who may have previously left politics or never even been politicians at all. So the party affiliation of the appointee may not be a contentious issue, as long as the person agrees with the President on the policy issues for the portfolio assigned to him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama appointed Specter or Collins/Snowe no matter what the state of the Senate is; they’re sane Republicans who have a lot of experience in one area, quite apart from being from states with Democratic governors.

Sure it is. Bill Clinton appointed William S. Cohen, a former Republican Senator from Maine, as his Secretary of Defense during his second term.

In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt appointed two Republicans, Henry Stimson and Frank Knox, as his Secretaries of War and the Navy respectively (the two departments would later be merged into Defense). Knox had been the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1936. Roosevelt was seeking to build bipartisan support for aid to Great Britain.

One of Lincoln’s “team of rivals”, Edwin Stanton (Secretary of War), was a Democrat at the time of his appointment. He had been Attorney General under Buchanan. He later converted to Republicanism, and even became something of a “radical” who defied Andrew Johnson over the Tenure of Office Act.

:smack: Good point. I forgot about him.

It is unilkely that a Republican will accept a Cabinet post if the result is to give the Dems a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. These people are Republicans but they’re not stupid. An ex-Senator or ex-congressman, or even a current one if it doesn’t shift the political balance in a serious way but these folks CAN distinguish a genuine offer from one that’s politically damaging to their own party’s welfare.

Sorry about the word “welfare”…

I don’t think that would work: the Senator would probably turn him down, and the Republicans would make a fuss about how he was trying to interfere with checks and balances and so on. It’d be a pretty transparent move on this part. So I can see Obama choosing a Republican or two; he’s already said he might keep Secretary of Defense Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Peake, if they’re interested. But I don’t think he’d pick a sitting Republican Senator.

What about nominating a GOP Senator likely to be replaced by a liberal Republican? Might that work?

At that point I think you’d be putting more effort into picking a Senator instead of finding the best person for the job.

Cabinet appointees are usually bureaucrats, not politicians. It’s just a different type of career than being an elected official, with a more academic background and they’re specialists rather than generalists.

I think Bush had one ex-Senator (Ashcroft) and one ex-Representative (Rumsfeld - although that was very early in his career) in his cabinet. Clinton had one ex-Congressman, as best I can tell - Lloyd Bentsen, who served in both houses. Picking a member of the opposite political party is one thing; picking a politician from it is another.

Yeah, that occurred to me as I was hitting ‘submit’.

That was out of sympathy for Ashcroft’s losing re-election to a dead man. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks to those who contributed.

I will watch appointments closely.