The McCain Administration

What can John McCain do to get conservatives to vote for him, enthusiastically and in numbers, while maybe even gaining votes from independents and sane liberals?  I think I have a way.  Senator, tell us who will be in your administration.  Speeches, especially at this point in the campaign, are all spin -- they tell us nothing.  Personnel decisions are real, and they can tell us a lot.

For conservatives, McCain must pick solid conservatives who are genuinely qualified for their positions.  We'd like to see high ACU ratings, for example.  If we see Mike Huckabee as VP, Arnold Schwartzenegger at EPA and Olympia Snowe anywhere, we conservatives are staying home or voting for someone else.  (At least this conservative.)

For moderates (liberals and independents who just might not vote for Obama), he must pick "non-scary" types, well salted with women and minorities.  Moderates tend not to be left brain thinkers; they go by feelings, not ACU ratings.  I offer the "Jon Stewart Test."  That is, could this person go on the Jon Stewart show and leave the audience with the impression that "he/she seemed kind of friendly and smart and almost hip, for a Republican?"  Can he or she avoid the dreaded Jon Stewart raised eyebrow?

Perhaps I flatter myself too much to think I could find a group of people to satisfy both camps, but I think I provide at least a starting point.  Let's first examine the groups of contenders.

The 2008 Presidential Candidates.

  • Mitt Romney
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Fred Thompson
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Ron Paul
  • Sam Brownback
  • Jim Gilmore
  • Duncan Hunter
  • Tom Tancredo
  • Tommy Thompson
  • Alan Keyes

In my assessment, most persons on this list would not pass the Jon Stewart Test.  The possible exceptions would be Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee.  Giuliani is a natural speaker and also a veteran of Saturday Night Live; he passes.  Fred Thompson is a veteran actor, Hollywood and TV; he should pass.  Mike Huckabee has already been on the Jon Stewart show and he got the audience to relax and laugh; he passes.  The rest, no matter how good they look to conservatives, scare moderates.

On the other hand, Mike Huckabee does not pass the conservative test.  The Cato Institute, for example, gave him an "F" in its rating of governors, and called him "the biggest big-government conservative."  The Club for Growth said the path Governor Huckabee chose "looks more like the path of John Edwards than it does a limited-government, economic conservative."  And I'm not so sure he wouldn't be dismissed as "religious right" by moderates, despite his Jon Stewart performance.

Mitt Romney is an interesting case.  If a Hollywood director needed to cast a typical Republican politician (in Hollywood's eyes), his first choice would be Romney.  Romney is the dream Republican -- in looks, demeanor, biography (except for that Mormon thing) and most issues.  But what is a dream for Republicans is a nightmare for moderates.  I don't think he'd pass the Stewart test; he will always be the Republican Robot to a Stewart audience.  And if we are talking Vice President, it sure looks like McCain needs a woman or minority and probably someone fresh, to garner any of the "change" vote.  Romney meets none of these criteria.

So I see only two possibilities among all these candidates:  Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.  But I don't think either one is VP material for McCain.  And Thompson has no other remarkable experience or expertise to recommend him for any particular cabinet post, and I doubt if he'd want any.

Giuliani is another matter.  He was a federal prosecutor, and a powerful and effective one at that.  He has the demonstrated executive experience both as prosecutor and mayor of New York City to run a large organization, especially one full of ambitious lawyers under political pressure.  And he is independent enough of John McCain to be considered credible; good soldier but no yes-man.  My choice is Rudy Giuliani for Attorney General

Bush's Cabinet.  Colin Powell, of course, would delight moderates.  He would pass the Stewart test with flying colors.  He is not only a minority, but African American.  Having been Secretary of State, the only suitable position for him would be VP.  A McCain/Powell ticket would probably clean up the moderate vote - and drive away what's left of the conservative base.

Wherever conservatives have doubts about McCain (immigration, Gitmo), Powell only makes them worse.  And wherever McCain is fairly solid (e.g., spending), Powell is unknown or more liberal.  Choosing Powell as VP would be the clearest signal McCain could possibly send to the conservative base that he doesn't care about their vote.  If he can win without it, let him do it.

There are few other stars among Bush's cabinet.  While Rumsfeld is a stud-muffin among conservatives, he is anathema to moderates, and too old and white, especially for a McCain administration.  Condoleeza Rice might pass our criteria, but having been Secretary of State, the only suitable position in a new administration would be VP.  She is just too tied to the unpopular Bush Presidency and Iraq to make the VP slot.  (Unpopular to moderates for supporting the Iraq war; unpopular to conservatives for not winning it already.)  Plus, she said she doesn't want it.  She also has never been elected to anything.

Most others in his cabinet are, or were, mediocre and/or under the radar.  Try to even name some. Look here for the current cabinet.  Are you impressed?  When Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security, speaks about the color orange and the border, do you feel safer?  When Henry Paulson, Treasury, talks about the dollar, do you relax about retirement?

I find one person in Bush's cabinet that might be ready for a promotion: Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor since 2001.  But she'll have trouble overcoming the taint of the Bush administration, being unpopular among unions ("Reagan Democrats"), and otherwise being generally unknown.

I'm afraid the entire Bush cabinet, past and present, will be able to spend more time with their families after 2008.

Governors.  Here we have lists  to choose from.  Governors are rated by the Cato Institute  and also ranked by popularity.

The only thing bad about those governor ratings is that the two biggest rising stars, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin, are too new to show up.  But new is good.  New means fresh.  New means "change."

With McCain being an older, white, male Senator with a perceived forte in defense and foreign policy, the attributes of his ideal running mate should be

  • Young,
  • Minority or woman,
  • With executive experience (as opposed to legislative),
  • And strength in domestic policy.

Both Jindal and Palin meet all these criteria.  Jindal is 37; Palin is 43.  Jindal is ethnically Indian; Palin is a woman.  Jindal is governor of Louisiana; Palin is governor of Alaska.  Both would pass the Stewart test, in my opinion.  And both appear to be genuine conservatives, in every good sense of the word.  And each is popular in his or her own state.

I think each would make a great VP choice, but for now, I lean Palin.  You can read more about her here (she had me at "lifetime member of the NRA") and here. Sarah Palin for Vice President.

For Jindal, I see Health and Human Services, with his prime directive being to "fix the entitlements" of Social Security and Medicare.  This is simply the biggest and most real domestic job to be tackled.  Read his biography.

"Jindal ... was appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) ... Jindal was successful in turning DHH's $400 million budget deficit he inherited into a surplus of $220 million... executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare... became president of the University of Louisiana System... Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services... elected to the U.S. Congress... and re-elected to a second term."

Who better for HHR, assuming  you really want some "change" there?  Bobby Jindal for HHS.

Felix Camacho is the governor of Guam.  Guam is an "unincorporated, organized territory of the United States" , administered by the Interior Department.  I'm thinking he knows a lot more about governing U.S. territories, the Interior Department and the environment, among other things, than your average bear.  Felix Camacho at Interior (if he can stand the cold winters on the mainland).

Jodi Rell  had a job-approval rating of 75% in her home state in 2006.  While she scored only a "D" from the Cato Institute, she is the governor of Connecticut, land of Chris Dodd.  It might be OK to have a woman from a liberal northeast state, and one who can win elections against Democrats there, even if she's less conservative than the late, great Jesse Helms, somewhere in the cabinet.  Jodi Rell for Labor.

Congress.  Congress is rated by the American Conservative Union , the National Journal  and the Club for Growth, among others.

There are plenty to choose from, but let me single out one group: the ACU's "standout" Congresswomen.  The following Congresswomen, listed with their lifetime ACU score, all scored 100% from the ACU in 2007.

  • Michele Bachman (R-MN) (100.0)
  • Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) (97.60)
  • Barbara Cubin (R-WY) (96.82)
  • Thelma D. Drake (R-VA) (93.33)
  • Mary Fallin (R-OK) (100.0)
  • Virginia Foxx (R-NC) (98.67)
  • Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) (99.2)

I think at least some of these women should be rewarded with a cabinet position.  Marilyn Musgrave at Agriculture , Barbara Cubin at Energy  and Mary Fallin at Transportation .

I also note that five Congressmen scored either 99% or 100% from the Club for Growth in 2007 :  Jeff Flake (AZ), Doug Lamborn (CO), Jeb Hensarling (TX), Mike Pence (IN) and Paul Broun (GA).  I think some room in the cabinet could be found for at least one of these gentlemen.  In 2005, Mike Pence was named "Man of the Year" by Human Events for his leadership on behalf of fiscal discipline.  And I think he'd do OK with Jon Stewart.  Mike Pence at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

As for female Republican Senators, there are five (with ACU 2007/lifetime ratings as shown):

  • Elizabeth Dole (NC), ACU = 92/91.2
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), ACU = 88/90.27
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK), ACU =67/73
  • Susan Collins (ME), ACU = 28/49
  • Olympia Snowe (ME), ACU = 36/52

I consider these last three as insufficiently conservative, with Collins' and Snowe's pictures being in the dictionary next to "RINO".  Dole and Hutchison are decent enough, but neither is exactly fresh and exciting.  (Personally, I still hold it against Elizabeth Dole that she was the Transportation Secretary who mandated air bags.  Don't get me started on airbags.)

There is one more Congressional standout in my mind: Senator James Inhofe (OK) , with a 2007 ACU rating of 100 and lifetime rating of 98.  He might not do so great on Jon Stewart, but this man has been a one-man army against the insanity of Anthropogenic Global Warming.  I think we can afford one white, low-charisma male in McCain's cabinet who would make Al Gore cry for mommy or Janet Reno.  James Inhofe for EPA!

Of course there are literally hundreds of Republicans in Congress, and I'm sure some are genuine conservatives who could pass the Stewart test, but in the interest of time and space I will leave it at that.

Other Standouts.  Need I say more than the name of General David Petraeus?  West Point.  Princeton.  Army College top graduate.  Once shot while training.  Anti-terrorism expert.  Bosnia.  Iraq.  Surge commander.  When this man speaks, I listen.  If he says things are OK, I believe him.  If he says we need more X, I say give him more X.  If he were Secretary of Defense, I would sleep easier.  This is a no-brainer.  David Petraeus for Defense (if he'll have us).

One man who seems to stay below the radar, but in my view should have been President before either George W. Bush or John McCain, is Christopher Cox.  He is currently head of the SEC.  He had been in the House, where in his last year he earned an ACU score of 100, with a lifetime rating of 98.  And he's smart.  Very smart.  Harvard MBA.  Harvard Law.  He's personable enough to make Jon Stewart vote Republican.  With the current worries in banking, he could end up a hero, but he could also end up the goat.  Given he doesn't grow horns, Chris Cox for Treasury.

James Woolsey has served in both Republican and Democrat administrations.  President Clinton appointed him as director of the CIA (then completely ignored him).  According to John McCain's website, "R. James Woolsey will accompany John McCain on the No Surrender Tour -- rallying for success in Iraq and defeating radical Islamic extremism."  He is a hawk in the War On Terror, saying it is World War IV (with the Cold War being WWIII).  His testimony was cited as a major reason U.S. Judge Harold Baer ruled that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was partly responsible for the 911 attacks .  (Bet you hadn't heard much about that!)  James Woolsey for State.

Michael Steele should be representing Maryland in the U.S. Senate right now.  He was Lieutenant Governor of that state.  As for the Jon Stewart factor, he's already appeared  on Real Time with Bill Maher and The Colbert Report.  As John Miller at the National Review Online said, "Michael Steele is a terrible thing to waste."  But where to place him?  Michael Steele for Trade Representative.

I don't know about you, but I'd like a military man in charge of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Our current military leaders are listed here.  Admiral Thad Allen has been Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, the largest component of DHS, since 2006.  He had been Principal Federal Official for the response and recovery operations (where our government really did help) in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Thad Allen for DHS.

Speaking of those military leaders, who better to lead the Veterans department and the Office of National Drug Control Policy ("Drug Czar")?  And who better than senior, seasoned and honored enlistees.  Take a look at the bio of Carlton Kent here , and tell me he wouldn't make one kick-ass Drug Czar.  Take a look at Joe Campa's bio here, and tell me he wouldn't be able to represent veterans well.  Carlton Kent for Drug Czar and Joe Campa for Veterans Affairs (if they don't prefer well-deserved retirements just yet).

Herman Cain knows business .  Former CEO.  Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.  Former Chairman of the Board and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.  Former Chairman of the Tax Leadership Council.  Current author, commentator and motivator.  Herman Cain for Commerce.

Another choice that would be as delicious as James Inhofe at EPA would be Clint Bolick at Education.  He was co-founder and former vice president of the Institute for Justice  and former president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice.  He has argued and won significant cases, including school choice cases, in both state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the U.S.. While true leftists and the National Education Association would be apoplectic, your normal moderate should find him reasonably non-scary. Clint Bolick at Education.

Carson Ross is the mayor of Blue Springs, Missouri, (population over 50,000) and a former State Representative in Missouri (my former home state).  Experienced representative and executive.  Decorated Vietnam veteran.  Winner of many awards, from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce "Spirit of Enterprise" to the Missouri Police Chiefs "Representative of the Year" and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference "Black Achiever in Industry."  Carson Ross for HUD.

McCain Cabinet, V1.0Here it is then, all wrapped up: a pretty good starting point for John McCain's administration.

Vice President:             Sarah Palin 

State:                            James Woolsey

Defense:                       David Petraeus 

Treasury:                      Christopher Cox

Justice:                         Rudy Giuliani

Homeland Security:       Thad Allen 

HHS:                            Bobby Jindal

Agriculture:                   Marilyn Musgrave

Interior:                        Felix P. Camacho

Commerce:                   Herman Cain

Labor:                          Jodi Rell

HUD:                           Carson Ross                              

Transportation:             Mary Fallin

Education:                    Clint Bolick

Energy:                        Barbara Cubin

Veterans:                      Joe Campa 

OMB:                          Mike Pence

Trade:                          Michael Steele 

EPA:                            James Inhofe

Drug Czar:                    Carlton Kent

That's all the cabinet and cabinet-level positions except Chief of Staff.  I'll let Senator McCain pick that one himself.  In addition to being competent, conservative and generally passing the Jon Stewart test, the people on the list also represent a cross-section of personalities, temperaments, age, race and ethnicity, and gender.  If you want "fresh" and "change", here it is.  Not bad I'd say.  Compare it to Bush's current cabinet, President Clinton's cabinet (e.g.,  Madeleine Albright, Janet Reno, Robert Reich, Federico Pena, Hazel O'Leary), or who Barack Obama might pick.

And for a bonus, I'll throw in some names for the Supreme Court.

That is my contribution to the McCain campaign.  Of course, if the campaign would like some real money from me, how about $100 for every personnel selection that matches mine.  That's a maximum of $2,000 if my whole slate is selected.  I think that's fair.

Randall Hoven can be contacted at or  via his web site,
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