Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 14, 2002
POLITICS/BUSINESS: The Treasury Job
More inside-the-Beltway stuff in Bob Novak's column on the impending doom of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, which will leave the Bush Administration looking to fill the Treasury and SEC jobs as well as Larry Lindsey's economic-adviser job all at once.
While there are several candidates, all have their shortcomings:
Zell Miller, a decidedly Bentsenish choice, seems happy to serve out his term as a contrarian Democratic Senator, although joining the Administration seems likelier than switching sides in the Senate.
Rudy Giuliani's been mentioned for the SEC job, but he could have any job he wants; except for the vice presidency or Attorney General, neither of which is available, the only one I could maybe see him taking is the new Secretary of Homeland Security.
Phil Gramm would be great, but I assume if Gramm wanted to stay in government he'd have stayed a Senator.
Jack Kemp has the name recognition but probably too much of a reputation on issues like tax cuts and the gold standard.
Steve Forbes is absorbed with his magazine and easily caricatured as a rabid right-winger.
James Baker's been Treasury Secretary before, isn't a tax cutter (on a similar level, Dick Darman is probably even below Michael Moore on Bush's list of economic advisers) and probably doesn't need the headache of the SEC.
If Bill Simon had run well in California he might be an option for one of the jobs - his dad was Treasury secretary - but his disastrously tone-deaf campaign and the (unfair) ethical questions about him make him unattractive.
On a larger level, there are few Republicans out there who ran good campaigns and lost, the way Ashcroft and Spence Abraham did in 2000 (John Thune comes to mind, but he hasn't made a name on economic issues, or maybe Steve Largent).
I liked Christie Whitman as a Treasury choice two years ago, but the last thing Bush wants right now is to find a new EPA chief, when the environment is one of the Democrats' few enduring strengths (John Engler? again, a guy who has some tax-cutting experience but isn't the type to inspire confidence in financial markets).
A CEO looks like a bad pick these days, although some Wall Streeters have been bounced around for at least one of the jobs.
Other GOP veterans seem to be settled outside government, like Vin Weber and John Kasich and the recently-retired, although Kasich is a guy with real political experience, TV skills and conservative credentials.
In other words, Bush may wind up looking more to businessmen types with low political profiles, because the likely former officeholders are mostly unavailable or unlikely. And he has to do this while running the war . . . it's a tough job.