I did not vote for Donald Trump and admit to being baffled by his political success. But now that he is the president-elect — a feat many thought improbable, if not impossible — it is vital that he find a team that can help him navigate the political and policy waters in Washington.
Here in Minnesota we know a little something about outsiders being elected to the highest office. In our case, we watched as then Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura wisely chose to capitalize on his historic win by recruiting and appointing a Cabinet of eminent quality. Most observers acknowledge that it was – in terms of qualifications and talent – one of the best Cabinets ever in our state.
Trump would do well to follow the Ventura example of seeking people with eminent talent. But there is another historic example also worth noting. Abraham Lincoln chose a Cabinet composed, in part, by those he defeated for the presidential nomination. Accordingly, as Trump begins the process of building a Cabinet, he could start by taking a close look at some of his competitors for the Republican nomination.
For attorney general, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, would fiercely pursue justice and assure that the laws are faithfully enforced.
Renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson would bring health-care expertise to the Department of Health and Human Services at a time when Obamacare (at the least) needs to be fixed and a broke and broken Medicare needs to be saved.
Trump could do no better than to appoint South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham – with his military background and foreign policy expertise — to lead the Defense Department.
Achieving trade agreements more favorable to America was a central pledge in Trump’s campaign. For a tough and smart trade negotiator, Trump could name Carly Fiorina to the critically important post of U.S. trade ambassador.
Kasich for Treasury?
And, why not Ohio Gov. John Kasich for Treasury? Kasich’s stint as House Budget Committee chairman during his years in Congress, where he was a chief architect of the only balanced budget in decades and, his time as governor, where he turned Ohio’s $8 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus, should make him an obvious choice.
Certainly, important roles could be found for other rivals. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, given his passion for education reform, could perhaps assist Trump as secretary of education. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – an oil producing state – could bring expertise as secretary of energy.
But what to do with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz? Now that Republicans have successfully blocked Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, who better than Cruz to replace the strict constitutionalist voice of Antonin Scalia? Of course, Trump’s nomination of Cruz might face choppy waters in a Senate where Cruz has few (if any) friends. But, then again, maybe his colleagues would welcome the opportunity to remove him from their midst.
Tim Penny is president of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and a former member of Congress.
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