Travis Hardin Home : Essays : The Obama Cabinet
The Obama Cabinet
From the LocSec [January 2009]
by Travis Hardin
Originally published in the newsletter of North Alabama Mensa
Later Comment - April 2016
(The following contains political discussion, or as the editor wrote, "This article is biased.")
Best wishes for a happy new year, fellow Mensans. The present monstrous year, 2008, the one marking the global meltdown and the decline of American empire, can’t end fast enough for me. Do you agree? As I write this, nine days remain in this accursed year, each capable of bringing news of another national economic pillar crumbling, massive layoffs, another exposed 50 billion dollar Ponzi scheme leaving millions penniless, or continuing congressional paralysis measuring in the high Pelosis.
There’s time left for nine crooked governors to solicit bribes, nine people to be tortured at Guantanamo, nine administration denials of climate change, and hundreds of pardons for criminals close to and in the administration. (Time will tell how many or how few.)
We have learned in 2008 that Social Security and other entitlement payouts are headed toward infinity, and our government is worse than broke; that capitalism is near death from running wild without regulation; near death from leveraging and other imaginary money passed off as real by banking swindlers (pardon the redundancy); and from consumer credit being offered and accepted as if it were play money, with any reckoning deferred until later. It is now later.
We are told that to recover, our way of life must change. Therefore the coming year or two may bring vast changes. We may be required to live on less: Less pay, less retirement money, less gas and energy, less short term expectations. The object will be to find the bottom -- to find the real value of companies, of work, of the entire U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar. A push for energy independence by the new Obama administration may make energy dearer. Some may work for a new green incarnation of the WPA. Many will be sobered by the need for honest reflection, but not Congress, which has no concept of the national interest.
The honesty of the Obama team is obvious. Consider if you will that the Obama transition team is choosing cabinet officers who are trained and expert in their future department’s field; who want to use their office for good government–for the common welfare; and who believe in what they will be doing. (In contrast the present administration applied none of the honesty tests, but rather a loyalty test.)
For example, former Senator Tom Daschle, who will lead both the Department of Health and Human Services and a new White House Office of Health Reform, has already written the book ("Critical") on how he intends to reform health care.
John Holdren, a Harvard physicist and former president of AAAS is nominated for White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Dr. Holdren will also serve with scientist Harold Varmus, a Nobel prize winner and former director of the NIH, and with Eric Lander, a leading researcher in the Human Genome Project – all concerned about climate change – to make up the Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Marine biologist and professor at Oregon State University Jane Lubchenco is nominated to head NOAA. She is concerned about overfishing and climate change.
Godspeed and clear heads to these earnest policy makers.
Later Comment - April 2016
As I look at this column much later, I see two main themes I need to explain and correct.
Anxiety is the first theme. Remember it was the time of the most blatant greed we had ever experienced in this country. Investment banks began betting against themselves and their poisonous loan instruments, making money on both ends. There was a global financial meltdown in progress.
I was also anxious about the last days of the Bush administration. Liberals, not yet faced with anticipating a tornadic F5 president Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, saw George Bush as the ultimate empty shirt, unstable and malleable in the hands of his vice president, whose allies had turned government and the military over to business. I also felt uncertainty about the intentions of the Obama administration, to come within a month.
My second theme was unjustified optimism about the promises of the Obama administration. Make that my perception of his promises. It has turned out that each Democrat thought they heard Obama promise what they wanted to hear. That hope was, uh, irrational.
My biggest mistake in this article was praising Obama’s cabinet choices before their hearings. Senator Tom Daschle was nominated as Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as the head of a new White House office of health reform. He had written a book on health care reform. However, he “withdrew his name from consideration on February 3, 2009, amid a growing controversy over his failure to accurately report and pay income taxes.”(Wikipedia 19 Apr2016). If he had been a Republican I would have said, “Typical,” thus showing the bias observed by newsletter editor Kevin Omel.
My argument for the other cabinet nominees was that they were expert in their cabinet department’s focus. John Holdren, an accomplished academic, was at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University when nominated for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren remains in that position today. I probably called that one right.
Jane Lubchenco, also an academic, served as head of NOAA from 2009 to 2013. I see no mention of scandal at Wikipedia.
Eric Lander remains co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology today.(Wikepedia). Called another one right it seems.
Harold Varmus, a Nobel prize winner and former director of the NIH, was named by the President-elect as one of three co-chairs of PCAST (the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology). He resigned from that post to assume the Directorship of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on July 12, 2010. Probably no scandal there, no undeserved “Good job, Brownie,” so I am 4 for 5 based on superficial research.
updated April 2016