NRO The Corner Blog
October 25, 2010
by Tevi Troy
The Washington Post’s Zach Goldfarb proposes a Cabinet full of Nobel Prize winners in the paper’s “Outlook” section. NRO readers will not be surprised to see that the list skews left, with Paul Krugman at the Commerce Department, Jimmy Carter at HUD, and Toni Morrison as secretary of education. The only two conservatives on Goldfarb’s list are Henry Kissinger (Homeland Security) and Gary Becker, an unconventional choice for attorney general.
This bias among the Nobel winners should come as no surprise: The Right has long found itself cut out of mainstream institutions. But conservatives have become pretty good at creating their own counterestablishment over the last three decades, and they even now have an analog for the Nobel of sorts, the annual Bradley Prize. While Goldfarb has a point in saying that a liberal president might want to look at the universe of Nobel Prize winners to fill out his cabinet, it turns out that a Republican president who looked at the universe of Bradley Prize winners would do pretty well for himself, and arguably better than a president who relied on Nobelists.
Here are my selections, with one caveat: Goldfarb tried to force Al Gore in as secretary of transportation, but I will try to limit my choices to those who are obviously good fits for the job.
State: John Bolton — He has already served as the undersecretary at state, and has been Senate confirmed for five previous positions.
Treasury: John Taylor — Like Bolton, he has already served as undersecretary at the Department in question.
Defense: Victor Davis Hanson — No one understands the mechanics and history of warfare better.
Justice: Gary Becker — He was Goldfarb’s choice for the slot, based on his groundbreaking work on the incentives of punishment. Since the overlap between the Nobels and the Bradleys is so small, I will defer to Goldfarb here.
Housing and Urban Development: Bob Woodson — A true expert and leader when it comes to community-based solutions to fighting poverty.
Commerce: Michael Barone — One of our nation’s most astute demographers, I can think of no one better to oversee the department that houses the census.
Health and Human Services: Charles Krauthammer — An M.D. and former White House aide, he is also a former member of President Bush’s bioethics task force, and has written some penetrating analyses of the Obama health-care law.
White House Chief of Staff: Bill Kristol — He has already served as a vice-presidential chief of staff, and he has a polymathic grasp of both domestic and foreign policy.
Labor: George Will — Men at Work may have been his best book.
Education: Alan Charles Kors — As co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, he would put the emphasis on the rights of students rather than bureaucracies, and he would never cave in to the forces of political correctness.
Veterans Affairs: Victor Davis Hanson — I know this would be double-hatting him, but anyone aware of his prodigious writings will agree that he is up to the task. More importantly, he understands the importance of the fighting man, and would work tirelessly to maintain the dignity of our veterans.
Homeland Security: Heather Mac Donald — As an expert on homeland security, immigration, and crime, she would ask some of the key first questions that still have not been asked regarding the mission and approach of this mammoth yet essential new department.
Agriculture, Interior, Energy, EPA, and Transportation: No obvious choices. The Bradley folks might want to pick some folks that fit the bill in these fields if they want to have an all-Bradley-winning Cabinet someday.
Supreme Court Justices: Founders and leaders of the Federalist Society for Public Policy Studies – Goldfarb did not have this as a category, but they are among the most important selections a president makes, and one can’t go wrong in picking the founders and leaders of the Federalist Society. If they can’t serve themselves, they will find the right people who can.
The best thing about this exercise is in looking at the bench strength that the Bradley winners have. Some of the tremendously talented people who did not make this first cut include Paul Gigot, Bradley Smith, James Q. Wilson (who could be my secretary of just about anything), Martin Feldstein, Leon Kass, Thomas Sowell, and Robert George. And since top officials in Republican administrations usually serve about 24 months, it’s important to have a lot of talent waiting in the wings. Now the trick for conservatives will be to find a Republican president wise enough to let the good folks at Bradley screen his Cabinet picks.
Tevi Troy is a Visiting Fellow at Hudson Institute and served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2007 until 2009.
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