Possible Kerry Cabinet

SUN JOURNAL

Advisers: It's kept hush-hush, but the Democratic candidate has to be setting up his administration now.

October 20, 2004|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - This is a story of absolutely undeniable, certifiably well-documented, highly credible and most assuredly airtight and rock-solid RUMORS, HUNCHES and SPECULATION.

That said, there are a few things that are, in fact, facts: Whoever wins the election in little more than two weeks will have to quickly put together an administration - in John Kerry's case, calling on former Clinton officials and staffers, campaign advisers, perhaps fellow lawmakers, past and present, to put together a White House from scratch.

Another fact: You're more likely to hear a candidate say he botched a question in last week's debate than admit he's talking to a buddy about being secretary of commerce.

But, to be sure, such personnel planning is in the works on both sides.

A Kerry aide said yesterday that the campaign had named James A. Johnson, a Washington lawyer who headed the Democrat's search for a running mate, and former Clinton Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman to start transition planning.

"If they're not planning and selecting people for the key jobs, then they're not behaving responsibly," says Paul C. Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in political appointments. "But they've got to do it very discreetly."

And they have. This year especially, say those who unapologetically traffic in such rumor and innuendo, there is remarkably little name-dropping, with the Kerry team fearful of appearing overconfident or presumptuous and the disciplined Bush team fearful of straying from message.

"It's amazing how few names are out there," says Jay Farrar, a vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's unusual at this point."

Still, there is always some Beltway buzz. So here's a look at some of the conventional wisdom and informed speculation - what former Maryland Del. Leon G. Billings calls "K Street restaurant talk" - about who might land where.

Today, The Sun looks at a possible Kerry Cabinet. In coming days, a prospective Bush second-term Cabinet.

State - Earlier in the campaign, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, was seen as a likely secretary of state. But Berger was forced to resign as a top Kerry adviser this summer because of a Justice Department investigation into his removal of classified documents from the National Archives.

Now the odds-on favorites for the post are Richard C. Holbrooke, a former assistant secretary of state under Clinton who has been a top Kerry foreign policy adviser, and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

While Holbrooke helped bring peace to Bosnia, Biden could have the edge - he and Kerry have been close friends for 20 years and speak regularly.

If Kerry should want someone with a more understated persona, there are many other Democrats he could turn to: former Senate Democratic leader George J. Mitchell, a peace mediator for Northern Ireland and the Middle East; or former Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia and Gary Hart of Colorado and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana, all of whom have been working in the national security and counterterrorism arena since leaving Congress. (Mitchell or Holbrooke could end up as envoy to the Middle East if passed over for the top State job.)

Not out of the question: former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, a Kerry adviser who is expected to land someplace high up in the administration - if not here, possibly as Federal Reserve chairman, succeeding Alan Greenspan, who is expected to step down in January 2006.

Defense - No glaringly obvious choice, but instead a number of possibilities including John J. Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former defense official in the Clinton administration; Nunn, chairman of the Armed Services Committee during some of his 24 years in the Senate; or Richard Danzig, Clinton's secretary of the Navy and one of the nation's leading experts on biological warfare.

Other names heard: Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, senior Democrat and former chairman of the Armed Services committee; or Ashton Carter, an assistant secretary of defense under Clinton now advising Kerry on terrorism and counterproliferation.

Just as Clinton did in appointing Republican Sen. William S. Cohen of Maine to head the Pentagon, Kerry could reach across the aisle for this position. Kerry could turn to Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a decorated Vietnam veteran and influential moderate who has been critical of Bush's handling of the war, or John McCain, although the Arizona senator has said he's not interested in the job under either Kerry or Bush.

National security adviser - Kerry is thought to be considering a number of former White House aides such as Clinton's deputy national security adviser, James B. Steinberg, and Dennis Ross, who was special Middle East coordinator for Clinton and a State Department official for the first President George Bush.

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