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Who wants a cabinet position?

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, November 15, 2004

The next few weeks will prove to be interesting to say the least with recent shakeups within the Bush administration cabinet. As for liberal pundits still sore over the election, the firing range is now open for you to take potshots at the administration. Being a survivor myself of the Clinton years, I understand it will provide some much needed therapy. However, in all seriousness, these changes in controversial policy arenas will have very important implications on the U.S. agenda of the next four years.

Monday morning, it was confirmed Secretary of State Colin Powell is on his way out. According to the Associated Press, he still plans to continue work on the Middle East and North Korea until a successor can be named. Possible successors reportedly include National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Lugar. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has also expressed interest in the job, but chances are slim to none that such a controversial figure will be appointed as Secretary of State.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Secretary of Commerce Don Evans and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham are also on the way out. Controversy and stressful conflicts over policy have been the norm in all of these offices. In agriculture, the controversy over genetically engineered foods has heated up over the past four years. The Department of Education has had its hands full quarreling over details and funding for the “No Child Left Behind” Act. Evans has also had his hands full in dealing with the World Trade Organization, outsourcing and the continuing U.S. trade deficit.

While other columns may focus in on some obvious differences of opinion within Bush’s cabinet, I believe there are other more simple explanations for the departures. These explanations run contrary to the hypotheses of Bush haters who will use this as vindication for their own biases. The most compelling I believe is the shear workload these jobs must have carried over the past four years. Although we have not even begun the second term of the administration, these people are exhausted. To use a baseball analogy, they have all pitched a hard fought eight-inning game.

Imagine for a moment what Powell’s day-to-day schedule must have been like. Placing yourself in his shoes, what would your plan be to lead the foreign policy of the United States? So, beginning in 2000, you must deal with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, the United Nations, as well as reviewing the successes and failures Clinton’s foreign policy in a Post-Cold War world. No, that doesn’t seem like enough to keep you busy.

Let’s add the first attack on the continental United States by a foreign power since the War of 1812, organizing an international coalition to deal with Afghanistan and a global war on terror. If that doesn’t keep you busy, how about proving to a skeptical world why intervention is needed in Iraq as half the Security Council stands to benefit from the continuation of the status quo and eventual oil contracts once sanctions are lifted? At the same time, you and the Defense Secretary are at each other’s throats over questions of policy and implementation of the war on terror. Just for kicks, let’s also throw in new complications with Iran, North Korea, Haiti and the Sudan.

Yes, foreign policy seems a bit overwhelming. Perhaps it would be much easier to run the Department of Justice. Things will be just as easy as the Clinton years, right? Perhaps the occasional Elian Gonzales controversy or crazy right wing anarchist militia plot against the government to deal with would pop up, but it couldn’t be that hard. Instead, let’s throw you Sept. 11 nine months into office. Your new assignment is to address the complete failure to apprehend twelve terrorists that were trained under your nose on U.S. soil to carry out two highly lethal terrorist attacks.

So, in some highly controversial moves, you are granted the tools you need to carry out your job against the terrorists through the Patriot Act. These tools are the same as have been used for years against organized crime and drug dealers regarding wiretaps. Under your watch, Al Qaeda operations within the United States are dealt a severe blow and no terror attacks occur for the rest of your time in office. In the process, you are branded a right-wing extremist enemy of civil liberties for doing your best to defend your country. Would you like to take over this job, balancing civil liberties with the prospects of biological, chemical, or nuclear attack?

No, I do not believe I could begin to handle any of these jobs. These men and women have been unsung heroes for the past four years that have done much for their country. They have taken their best shots at effectively keeping the United States effective in the global economy, trying to solve the energy crisis, making the largest changes in U.S. foreign policy since the Truman administration and trying effectively to prosecute terrorists hidden within our borders. The time has come to give them a well-deserved break, and send in some strong closers to finish out what may be the most extensive changes in policy in our history.

Tom Rippinger is a senior political science major. He supports President Bush and is the co-President of the Notre Dame College Republicans. He can be contacted at trippin1@nd.edu.

The views of this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.