Traverse City Record-Eagle

Columns

October 28, 2012

George Weeks: Who's next as a state cabinet appointee?

Michiganians have been prominent in presidential cabinets going back to the 1800s, even before statehood in 1837.

Territorial Gov. Lewis Cass became President Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War in 1831 and President James Buchanan's Secretary of State in 1857.

Also in that century, 1852-53 Gov. Robert McClelland became Interior Secretary in 1853, as did 1857-75 Sen. Zachariah Chandler in 1875.

Among Michigan's more recent politicians tapped by presidents were 1937-38 Gov. Frank Murphy as Attorney General in 1939 and 1963-69 Gov. George Romney Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Many Michigan business leaders joined cabinets, including, from the auto industry, Defense Secretaries Charles E. Wilson in the Eisenhower Administration and Robert S. McNamara in the Kennedy-Johnson Administrations.

A more recent fixture in Washington was 1995-2000 Sen. Spencer Abraham, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who in 2001 became President George W. Bush's Energy Secretary.

Who's next from Michigan, in an Obama or a Romney Administration?

The National Journal asserted Oct. 20 "also on the list" among several prospects for Energy Secretary is ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, "who is another big supporter of Obama's clean-energy agenda but hails from a Midwestern state where affordable fossil-fuels are an essential part of the economy."

In looking at possible Obama appointees to the Supreme Court, the magazine said that Granholm, who before becoming governor was attorney general, "has also been widely mentioned as a possible candidate who could provide a Sandra Day O'Conner-like prospective to the Court."

By that, I assume the point is that she would not be a rigid ideologue.

The Journal also cites Ann Arbor native Gene Sperling, now director of Obama's National Economic Council, as a possible contender for Treasury Secretary or head of the Office of Management and Budget.

It said the longtime Clinton Administration official "is well-versed in budget battles, having helped to negotiate the 1993 and 1997 deficit-reduction acts."

Should Labor Secretary Hilda Solis not stay on for a second Obama Administration, there's a long list of prospects mentioned to step forward, including ex-Congressman David Bonior of Macomb County, who ran for governor in 2002.

Likely to stay on in a second Obama Administration is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has Michigan ties through family summer digs in Leelanau County.

Few names with Michigan connections have been advanced as cabinet prospects in a Romney administration.

Dan Senor, former aide to ex-Michigan Senator Abraham and later spokesman for President Bush's Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, was cited by the National Journal as an "outside possibility" for National Security Adviser.

While ex-Michigan Gov. John Engler, now president of the Business Roundtable, would be a solid Romney choice for Commerce Secretary, there's no public indication that this is contemplated.

Spectulating on how Romney would approach the matter, Engler told the National Journal:

"I tend to think this will bend conventional wisdom on its ear. I don't think it will be very easy to be predictive here. He would be looking for a point person who could really go out and lead the charge for U.S competiveness and winning globally. It would not be a passive role."

Engler thinks Romney's Commerce Secretary would be an activist in the mold of Malcolm Baldrige under President Ronald Reagan and Ron Brown under President Bill Clinton.

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