Now that the biggest parlor game in the world “Who will be the next President” is over, the next parlor game that has us obsessing here in Our Nation’s Capital is: Who is in and who is out in President Obama’s second-term Cabinet and senior White House staff?
Putting together the senior team for a second terms are far different from the first term. Typically – unless the incoming President has been the VP – no one has a clue as to where they’re going and how they’re going to get there.
Oh, there are professional members of the Transition Team who have served in previous Administrations, but the boss is likely to be overwhelmed with the number of decisions that have to be made in the relatively few weeks between election day in early November and Inauguration Day on January 20.
It sounds like a long time – about 75 days – but take a weekend off here, and some trips out of town there; packing to move into the White House, and trying to answer questions from your family about how that whole White House thing works.
The fact is, first term transitions tend to be a blur of meetings, interviews, decisions and, yes, the exhilaration of knowing you are going to be the President of the United States.
After four years, everything is different. The President is much more comfortable being President and his closest advisors know what he (or, someday she) wants in the senior team.
The first public activity is setting up the second term Cabinet. In the next few days Hillary Clinton will announce her resignation as Secretary of State, Eric Holder will announce he is leaving the Justice Department, Steven Chu will go back to being a physicist and leave the Department of Energy, and Timothy Geithner will return to Wall Street leaving the Treasury Department happily in his rear view mirror.
It is also likely the Leon Panetta will resign as SecDef and who knows who else will leave on their own volition or go, having been told by the President that he appreciates their service but it’s time for a new direction.
There are 16 Cabinet Departments and many – perhaps most – of the men and women who hold Cabinet level jobs today, will not have them when January 20th rolls around.
Cabinet Departments are all organized the same way. There is one Secretary and one Deputy Secretary. There is some number of Undersecretaries and many more Assistant Secretaries. In man departments there are dozens of Deputy Assistant Secretaries and thousands of political appointees actually getting the work done.
Many of those underlings will leave as well. Some just want to go home. Others want to cash out by joining Washington, DC based law, lobbying, or public affairs firms.
Over the next 50-something days there is still a sense of excitement about putting together the second term team. It is a little harder filling some of the third- and fourth-tier jobs than it was four years ago.
In 2008, resumes were piled high to the ceiling at the transition office. It is not unknown for the staff making the first cut to throw out a resume because he or she didn’t like the color paper, or the font, that was used.
Now, the true believers (and this is true for Republicans as well as Democrat second terms) have taken all the trips on Air Force I they want to take; or have sat in all the high-level meetings with a Cabinet Secretary in which they ever want to sit.
Filling all those political appointee jobs is a little harder this time around and it gets harder as the second term rolls along.
In December 2008 people had to have a degree from Harvard or Columbia. By midway through the second team a degree from Transylvania will be plenty.
There really is a Transylvania University. It’s in Lexington, Kentucky and I know this because when I was graduating from high school I thought going there would be a life-time of amusing anecdotes.
My parents, wise to my wise-guy ways even then, told me that they weren’t paying for four years of college just so I could say I went to school at Transylvania for the rest of my life.
So, I went to Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750
The guessing game is on in Washington. Who will have what job and who is the best person to approach that person, if and when it becomes necessary, is how we are spending our time.
And you thought we weren’t doing anything productive.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to a list of the current Cabinet and to Transylvania University’s website.
Also a Mullfoto from my death-defying ride across the George Washington Bridge last week.
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