A partisan cabinet

Romney's cabinet would be strictly partisan.
Romney's cabinet would be strictly partisan.
White House photo

Unless Mitt Romney suddenly became the favorite to win the 2012 presidential race, it seems a little premature for Politico to publish a 1,300-word piece on what the Republican’s cabinet “will” look like. There was, however, something interesting about the report that jumped out at me.

Mitt Romney said his Cabinet and White House staff will be stacked with men and women from the business world, but his top advisers sketched out for POLITICO a team composed of many familiar faces in Washington.

Already on the inside track: several veterans of George W. Bush’s administration and a number of women – but not necessarily a single Democrat…. Interestingly, he would not commit to putting a Democrat in his Cabinet, although he noted that he had in Massachusetts.

Presidents are, of course, free to nominate whomever they please for positions in their administrations, and there is no requirement, or even expectation, about bipartisanship.

But there’s a larger trend to keep in mind, which speaks to Romney’s message as a candidate.

Twelve years ago, then-Gov. George W. Bush told voters he’d worked with Democrats in Texas and would have Democrats in his cabinet. In 2008, John McCain was eager to promise voters a “very bipartisan approach” in his administration, assuring the public he would have more than one Democrat in his cabinet.

It matters that Romney is offering no similar assurances. For the Republican, sending bipartisan signals just doesn’t matter.

Keep in mind that President Obama has given more administration positions to Republicans than any modern president has given to members of the other party. For all the talk on the right about Obama being a bitter partisan, the president appointed former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as a co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board; he made former Republican Rep. John McHugh the Secretary of the Army; he made former Republican Rep. Ray LaHood the Secretary of Transportation; he put former Republican Rep. Jim Leach in charge of the National Endowment for the Humanities; he named former Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman as U.S. Ambassador to China; and he put former Republican Rep. Anne Northup in charge of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Obama also kept Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in his post, and for a while, nominated former Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as his Commerce Secretary.

But Romney isn’t even talking about the possibility of bipartisanship in his cabinet. Putting aside whether Bush and McCain were sincere, they at least wanted voters to believe they’d have diversity of thought in their administrations.

Romney, however, doesn’t care. His campaign is of, by, for, and about Republicans. Period.

That is, to be sure, his right. But it sends an unmistakable signal to independents, moderates, and center-right Democrats that Romney isn’t even trying to get their support.

Cabinet and Mitt Romney

A partisan cabinet