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A Trump team of rivals?

REUTERS/Larry Downing
For attorney general, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, would fiercely pursue justice and assure that the laws are faithfully enforced.

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.

Tim Penny
Tim Penny

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.

Lincoln’s Cabinet

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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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/11/2016 - 09:38 am.

    Respected Voice Here

    As much as I have always liked and respected Tim Penny’s intellect and political wisdom, I must contest his personal advocacy for John Kasich anywhere in a Trump cabinet.

    As recently as yesterday, Gov. Kasich has reinforced his primary positions against Donald Trump in public statement. Very good governors make very good governors, often nothing more than that.
    This one simply doesn’t meet the mark.

    Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has already sauntered back toward Trump [OK, I thought about using “slithered”], but he seems simply too “slick” for this moderate Minnesotan.

    Jeb Bush, Tim?! Really…Jeb Bush? Please, readers, help me with this one. Please. My brain jst froz

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/11/2016 - 09:38 am.


    Trump is not Lincoln.

  3. Submitted by Mike Sarenpa on 11/11/2016 - 09:44 am.


    More likely a team of sycophants and henchmen.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/11/2016 - 03:44 pm.

      Haven’t before known Mr. Penny to be an avid satirist

      But this is funny stuff. Only name missing is John Blutarsky.

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 11/11/2016 - 11:08 am.


    I spoke with a friend yesterday who had been an elected official in SE MN. Before I could get to my reason for the call, he launched into an anti-Trump tirade. I stopped him, agreed with him and then said I place the blame (credit?) on former elected officials in SE MN (where Trump signs were seen everywhere) who failed to provide even marginal levels of civic education. He laughed and said “you may have a point there”. In the most rural counties of the US, limited new opportunities lead to the best and brightest leaving for more populated areas. Those left behind, or should I say, elect to stay behind, are not exactly the pick of the litter, otherwise known as the Trump base. Tim Penny, you have a lot of work to do at the Southern Minnesota Initiative…

    • Submitted by TJ Jones on 11/11/2016 - 11:33 am.

      shaking my head…

      ..”not exactly pick of the litter”… Wow – it is exactly this attitude that got Trump elected. The level of condescension by that remark is revealing. The simple fact is that the Democratic base did not turn out to vote – that’s the reason Trump was elected

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/11/2016 - 12:07 pm.

    Just like Lincoln…

    The problem with the upcoming administration is that virtually everyone whose name is outfront are clearly “ethically challenged” (some even “legally challenged”). The remainder were outfront downright neo-con hawks who were all-in on the misbegotten war in Iraq (which our prospective leader was “against from the beginning”)


    Attorney general picks include Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions and Rudy Giuliani.

    Newt Gingrich, John Bolton and Bob Corker are listed as potential picks for the secretary of State.

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is the only name listed under chief of staff, while Sessions is also the only one being considered for director of Office of Management and Budget.

    Potential secretary of Commerce picks include Christie and Huckabee, while Carson is under consideration to be secretary of Education.

    Christie is also being weighed for secretary of Homeland Security, and Carson, Gingrich and Florida Gov. Rick Scott are potential picks for secretary of Health and Human Services.

    Sarah Palin also makes a surprise appearance on the shortlist, mentioned as one of seven potential candidates to become the secretary of the Interior.

    (end quote)

    And not to mention the 75 lawsuits that are currently standing against Trump and his various corporate incarnations.

  6. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/11/2016 - 01:03 pm.

    Ben Carson for HHS?

    “Renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson would bring health-care expertise to the Department of Health and Human Services . . .” Mr. Penny, are you referring to a Dr. Ben Carson who did not make a run for the Republican nomination? The one who did is unarguably a brilliant neurosurgeon, but he has no understanding of health care policy.

  7. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 11/11/2016 - 02:16 pm.

    Heaven Help Us

    Picking a bunch of also-fans is not the same as a team of rivals. Ventura showed more judgment than represented here.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/14/2016 - 12:45 pm.

      Typo? Or Freudian Slip?

      “Also-fans” sounds like an apt description of the sycophants and henchmen Trump is likely to call upon.

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/11/2016 - 04:16 pm.

    Let’s hope that the Trump transition team has better judgement than Tim Penny in suggesting Trump Administration figures for Cabinet or elsewhere. Although when Tim got to his Supreme Court nominee suggestion (and actually said that the current Senate under McConnell had “blocked” Garland, when they wouldn’t even bring the guy up for hearings and a vote!), I realized that he had been writing a satirical piece. These are ethically and morally challenged folks. surely the Republican party has better? Don’t they? . . . Don’t they?

  9. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/11/2016 - 06:28 pm.

    Brain freeze

    I think Mr. Penny is just trying to find a bit of levity in the situation. Nice to know he does have a sense of humor.

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