« Wittgenstein References In Everything | Main | Actual Democracy Promotion »

Shadow Cabinet

Dan Drezner and Bruce Bartlett both say it would be a good idea for challengers to run with "shadow cabinets" of future appointees to key positions. I've been advocating that Kerry do that for quite a while now. My preferred method would be to roll people out in dribs and drabs rather than one "big bang" since that would generate a stead drip, drip, drip of basically positive media coverage. There are, however, two downsides besides the ones Dan mentions. The first is simply that the vetting and decision-making process would distract key campaign staff at a moment when they have the non-trivial task of running a presidential campaign. The other is that presumably anyone you would appoint would be expected to participate in the campaign, complete with harsh denunciations of the other guys, which could make the confirmation process much harder down the road.

On balance, though, it still sounds like a pretty good idea to me, and Bartlett's specific suggestions don't seem bad either, except for the notion that Felix Rohatyn is a serious contender for Secretary of State, which is just weird. Nor would I write Gene Sperling off at Treasury, seeing as how he's officially in charge of the Kerry economics team.

July 16, 2004 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Shadow Cabinet:

» Bruce Bartlett beats me to the punch from Daniel W. Drezner
Bruce Bartlett's latest column opens with a suggestion that I've had in the back of my head for some time: I have long believed that presidential challengers would help themselves by announcing at least some of their top appointments before... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2004 1:15:58 PM

» Reducing political information costs from Fester's Place
I like this idea a lot because it is one of the few that has great policy implications as a well informed electorate is a key to democracy, and right now great political pay-offs for my party. A rare bi-fecta. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2004 1:26:45 PM

» A Shadow Cabinet for Kerry? from Bloodless Coup
Dan Drezner and Matt Yglesias have posts up today suggesting that John Kerry might want to name a shadow cabinet before the election. Jacob Levy explains here why that is bad idea.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2004 1:47:45 PM

» A Shadow Cabinet for Kerry? from Bloodless Coup
Dan Drezner and Matt Yglesias have posts up today suggesting that John Kerry might want to name a shadow cabinet before the election. Jacob Levy explains here why that is bad idea.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2004 1:49:49 PM

» Cabinet-making: from The Volokh Conspiracy

Dan Drezner and Bruce Bartlett and [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2004 5:13:21 PM

» http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/6892 from Outside The Beltway
Matt Yglesias Jacob Levy explains quite well, I think, why it would be a bad idea in practice, at least from the vantagepoint of the presidential nominee. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2004 7:48:39 PM

» shadow cabinet from riting on the wall
i'm generally in favor of the idea of a candidate presenting some sort of shadow cabinet, and it appears that the idea is getting a certain amount of discussion right now. bruce bartlett gives my essential reason to support such an action: I would feel... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 18, 2004 3:48:31 AM

» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 6, 2005 9:18:04 PM


Sorry for the offtopic post, but I thought Matt, that you might be interested in this study showing how even the smallest plants are strongly linked to environ

Plankton Cool Off With Own Clouds, Wired, By Amit Asaravala

Phytoplankton may be small, but that doesn't mean they can't do big things -- like change the weather to suit their needs.

A recent study funded by NASA's Earth Science Department shows that the tiny sea plants release high quantities of cloud-forming compounds on days when the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays are especially strong. The compounds evaporate into the air through a series of chemical processes that result in especially reflective clouds. This, in turn, blocks the radiation from bothering the phytoplankton.


"The take-home message is that all the processes that are going on in the ocean and the climate are very tightly connected," said David Siegel, co-author of the study and director of the Institute for Computational Earth System Science in Santa Barbara, California. "This is really the impetus for other researchers to look into the whole cycle of how biology and climate interact."

Since you hate the planet, I'll show you the the key paragraph for you to focus on.

The entire process takes place very rapidly, ensuring that the plankton aren't under the sun's rays too long. In their study, Siegel and Toole found that the upper layer of DMS in the atmosphere could be replaced in just a few days.

That the process happens at all may be a sign that the Earth is better prepared to handle climate forces like the depletion of the ozone layer, which also blocks ultraviolet light, than previously thought. However, Siegel believes it's too early to make such assessments because it's unclear just how widespread the phenomenon is. It's also unclear just how much ultraviolet light and other forces the system can tolerate.

Posted by: Philo.Plankton | Jul 16, 2004 10:34:38 AM

Dude... what the hell? Just send him an e-mail if you're so concerned.

Posted by: JP | Jul 16, 2004 10:39:28 AM

it seems like every four years political pundits debate themerits of a shadow cabinet and every four years political professionals on both sides of the aisle reject the idea.

rather than hear inexperienced people muse about campaign strategy, i'd like to see a reporter actually ask people in the field why this never happens.

Posted by: bisged | Jul 16, 2004 10:55:22 AM

Many years ago, Pat Moynihan endorsed Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who, at the press conference, said that Moynihan would make an excellent Secretary of State. Moynihan replied that Scoop had just committed a felony. Apparently, there's a federal statute on the books forbidding offers of federal jobs in return for political support.
I've never checked this out myself, and I have some doubts that it would apply to a party's candidate announcing a "shadow cabinet" of fellow party members, who, presumably, are supporting their candidate anyway (if, perhaps, with more enthusiasm now).
Still, better than having a defense is not having to defend at all.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Jul 16, 2004 11:23:39 AM

I think Holbrooke is close to being a lock for State. Not much diversity on Bartlett's list, although all the people seem well qualified.

Posted by: Levi | Jul 16, 2004 11:24:35 AM

I disagree, I think. While I agree it would be good for the nation to know what to expect, and it might make for a swifter transition, it would hurt the candidates chance to be elected.

Opposing a nominee in a confirmation hearing has little pay-off. You just get another nominee. Opposing one in an election has a huge pay-off - so big it is worth wholesale slander. Sitting nominees are part of the race, but they have cover from a sitting president as the ultimately responsible party for anything they've done.

Posted by: Njorl | Jul 16, 2004 11:28:55 AM

wouldn't sperling be more likely to be head of the NEC or something?

Posted by: praktike | Jul 16, 2004 11:29:59 AM

OK, how's this for a hypothetical: Kerry decides he wants Bill Clinton as his Secretary of State (actually, I'd love to see that). Would he be more likely to win the election if he announced it before or after the polls close?

Posted by: Michael | Jul 16, 2004 11:36:05 AM

also, couldn't this be accomplished via a series of calculated leaks to the WSJ?

Posted by: praktike | Jul 16, 2004 11:40:44 AM

I don't know if it would be good Kerry, but I'm pretty sure it would be bad for government. If cabinet positions are decided after elections, they will be chosen on the basis of merit. If cabinet positions are decided before the election, they will be chosen for political advantage. That can't be good.

Posted by: Xavier | Jul 16, 2004 1:06:39 PM

Two thoughts:

Matt, do you seriously think that Kerry nominees will have an easier time with the current crop of New Republican Tribe Senators if they don't have a campaign track record? It won't make a damn bit of difference -- they'll have exactly the same set of problems simply because they're not Republicans.

Xavier, have you not noticed that we're in an all-campaign, all-politics, all-the-time world now? And though I'm sure we disagree on this, I can't see how Kerry cabinet picks of qualified, but partisan, appointees could conceivably be any worse for government than the Bush Administration's operate-in-secrecy, we-know-what's-best, Orwellian NewSpeak cabinet has been.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 16, 2004 1:32:44 PM

Xavier's point is a good one.

Besides, all it does is give more targets for ads distorting the proposed cabinet member's record.

"X will appoint Y, who voted to raise taxes 8,245 times, wants to dismantle the Navy, etc."

Nobody is going to vote for Kerry because of who he's going to name as Secretary of Labor, but they might vote against him because of attacks on the presumptive nominee.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | Jul 16, 2004 1:35:15 PM

I like this proposal, although the concerns about comptence being placed below political considerations for the opposition candidate are pretty significant. Over at my blog I am defending the proposition that a shadow cabinet or even a partial shadow cabinet has the duel advantage of creating lower political information costs for undecided voters while also providing, at least in this election cycle, a damm good piece of reassurance to voters like Drezner that Kerry will not go protectionist on their asses, and thus allow for the blueish swing states (like PA) to be strong blues, and therefore releasing Kerry and Edwards to campaign in the reddish swing states.

Posted by: fester | Jul 16, 2004 1:35:41 PM

"Nobody is going to vote for Kerry because of who he's going to name as Secretary of Labor, but they might vote against him because of attacks on the presumptive nominee."

Yeah, but consider how any US treasury nominee - e.g. Larry Summers, Laura Tyson - would stack up against the empty suit that is Jon Snow (with apologies to the textile industry for comparing their product to Mr. Snow).

On the downside though, any halfway competent nominee to the economics team would be asked if they agree with Greg Mankiw's outsourcing remarks, which they would (or would be on the record of having said something similar - although Laura Tyson, being one of the Strategic Traders in the early 1990s, might be able to finesse it).

Posted by: Tom | Jul 16, 2004 2:00:04 PM

Um, I thought they couldn't do this, because it would be violating a law against political patronage (promising people jobs). In fact, as I recall, Bush's campaign debated doing this in 2000 and decided it wasn't legal. I mean, seriously, Bush decided it wasn't legal. Think about how outlawed it must be for that to be true.

Posted by: Josh | Jul 16, 2004 2:08:34 PM

Aside from legal issues, this whole thing seems a bit of pointless Brit-envy. It's one thing for hopeless political geeks to engage in the fun of speculating on whom they think ought to serve in an adiministration. But I strongly suspect that if a candidate were to announce proposed cabinet appointments in advance, any advantage would be outweighed by the ammunition it would give the opposition ("look at all the radical lefties Kerry proposes to bring into office!"). Avoiding that really WOULD require a massive and time-consuming vetting process. One little mistake (Kerry's people, say, overlook some minor sexual indiscretion in a shadow officer's past) and it could potentially cost a challenger big-time as a result of the questions his opponents would raise about his "judgement".

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 16, 2004 2:20:01 PM

I'm with the nay-sayers on this.

In addition to the attacks on the individual, the naming of a shadow cabinet would also generate a demand for more policy specifics from the shadow secretaries, and giving specific policies -- which will always help some while hurting others -- during an election campaign is nearly always a bad move.

Posted by: Alex R | Jul 16, 2004 2:58:48 PM

I think people are reading too much into this proposal. Not every member of a shadow cabinet gets the ministry that he shadows. Especially when there are coalition governments, many of the best jobs go to coalition partners.

But it is precisely the ability of a candidate to broaden his coalition by naming unexpected choices to his cabinet BEFORE the election that intrigues me. It now seems off the table for Bush to replace Cheney with McCain. But what if he were to announce that McCain will replace Rumsfeld if he is re-elected? Who doesn't think that would help Bush?

Since Democrats tend to be distrusted by Wall Street-types, I can certainly see Kerry being aided by announcing his Treasury secretary before the election. At least it would give him someone to debate John Snow who is of equivalent stature.

I am mindful of the legal argument against promising jobs before an election. But this is easily gotten around by calling someone the principal Treasury or State spokesman or something like that. It goes without saying that post-election developments can alter such things anyway. But it is a place to start.

Alternatively, how about a candidate announcing his transition team for various departments before the election? The head of each team would be considered a de facto shadow cabinet member, but without any overt promises. The press would treat them as secretaries-in-waiting, which would accomplish the same purpose.

Seems to me that I remember George Bush publicly promising the State Department to Colin Powell well before the election in 2000. I think this probably helped him. If we knew who Kerry would appoint Defense Secretary and it was someone experienced and responsible, I think it would help him as well.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett | Jul 17, 2004 2:55:01 PM

Why would a shadow cabinet hurt the confirmation process ???

Send General Clark out as the presumptive NSA

let him criticize George and Condi, AND the Congress that refuses to investigate these war criminals

turn this shit back on the repuglicans who decided to elect simple simon as President AND refuse their duty to protect the country from the simpleton and his criminals

sound like a good plan to me

Posted by: free patriot | Jul 17, 2004 6:26:51 PM

Seems to me that naming names before the election would help the confirmation process, because the Senate would know that the American people have, in effect, ratified the choices.

It's important to remember that right now we have an unequal contest. We know the incumbant's cabinet and they are free to campaign on his behalf without restriction. And if one of them should appear on some TV show to debate the issues, who is the challenger going to send?

Remember also the importance of coalition building. Suppose Kerry were having trouble with the unions over something, wouldn't it help him to be able to say that Dick Gephardt will be secretary of Labor? And who doesn't think it would help Kerry if he named Sam Nunn as secretary of Defense?

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett | Jul 18, 2004 6:03:18 PM

"I am mindful of the legal argument against promising jobs before an election. But this is easily gotten around by calling someone the principal Treasury or State spokesman or something like that."

Then I don't disagree with your idea at all, at least as long as the spokesperson title is just informal. But I think this is already going on. I said upthread I thought Holbrooke was close to being a lock for State. The reason I think so is that I have seen several media discussions in which Holbrooke was designated by Kerry to represent his views on foreign policy.

Anyone following the campaign closely can get a pretty good idea about likely appointments (and I don't think the list you give is all that far off the mark). But I don't expect it to affect the election much if at all. Most voters are still only dimly aware of who Kerry is. They couldn't pick Richard Holbrooke out in a police line-up.

If what you are really saying is that you want some assurance you won't have to move to Singapore after November, then relax, it should be clear to you by now that you will be safe.

Posted by: Levi | Jul 18, 2004 7:33:24 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.