By Brent Budowsky - 11/17/08 06:12 PM EST
President-elect Obama will take office with a mission similar to Franklin Roosevelt’s: establishing both a war Cabinet and an emergency economic Cabinet.
Facing tensions with Russia, multiple wars and the worst economic crisis since the Depression — with the possibility of a mini-depression if strong action is not taken — the president-elect has huge political good will at home and abroad with a clear mandate for seismic change.
The national security portfolio in a war Cabinet must be considered alongside the economic crises:
1. Instead of debating belated stimulus packages of $50 billion, America needs a $500 billion package at home, coordinated with a global stimulus far beyond the bromides of the recent Group of 20 summit.
2. Government must adopt a bold program to leapfrog the auto industry into the future with a JFK moon-shot goal of massive energy savings and millions of green jobs within five years. Letting auto companies go bankrupt would be disastrous. Mini-bailouts only prolong their death.
3. The wrath of God should descend on credit card banks to stop raising interest rates and cutting credit lines in a blunder as catastrophic as the Fed raising interest rates during the Depression.
The president-elect will choose his war Cabinet with multiple wars and a military suffering extreme damage to readiness, requiring a substantial and costly rebuild.
I would advise a war Cabinet tapping officials with decades of experience and a high number of veterans in top positions. Those in high diplomatic posts would have extensive military experience. Those in high military posts would have extensive diplomatic skills in a Rooseveltian war Cabinet of interchangeable, mutually supportive parts, such as:
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) at State with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) and Dr. Susan Rice as undersecretaries with upgraded roles. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) at Defense, with current Secretary Robert Gates remaining for six months as undersecretary. Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) as national security adviser. Retired Gen. James Jones as national intelligence director. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as Homeland Security secretary, with current Secretary Michael Chertoff remaining as undersecretary.
I would add for war Cabinet positions or very senior White House “wise men” with broad portfolios: Gen. Colin Powell, who embodies the height of combined military and diplomatic expertise, and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who has impeccable judgment, extensive networks and service with Air Force intelligence.
A word about John Kerry for secretary of State. The clear war Cabinet strategy proposed here involves the fusion of military and diplomatic experience that can only be achieved through decades of work. Kerry is a war hero with a deep understanding of military and veterans’ issues, is fluent in several languages and brings with him a decades-long network of international friends, contacts and allies at the highest levels on military and diplomatic matters.
This strategy would create a Cabinet of warriors, a Cabinet of diplomats and a Cabinet of giants fused together into one of the strongest war Cabinets in presidential history.
This would serve a president assuming office with worldwide good will and a brilliant vision backed by this sweeping array of military and diplomatic talent. It would help avoid wars that should be avoided, win wars that must be fought and achieve diplomatic, military, financial and environmental breakthroughs on multiple fronts at a moment of great crises.
Budowsky serves on the advisory council of the Intelligence Summit. He was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He can be reached at email@example.com and read on The Hill Pundits Blog .