Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain Should Announce His Front Line Today: Romney, Portman, Schwarzenegger

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 10/13/08

By choosing Sarah Palin as his vice president, John McCain has upset the apple cart here and abroad. All of the expectations have suddenly flipped.

On the first initiative it was a masterful move: It brought him full into the race on an equal par with Obama when Obama’s ratings were soaring. It was a maverick move at just the perfect turning moment. It is time for another maverick move: McCain should publicly name his Cabinet today, particularly his minister of finance and that should be Mitt Romney.

A maverick should be the sparkling agent among the burghers and lawyers who carries the theme and keeps them alive and vital. But if McCain followed up with another maverick, or an odd ball or an edge city agent, the results would be disastrous.

And because of the global financial crisis we need to know now who the candidates would chose as Treasury secretary and perhaps chief of staff as well. The fiscal crisis is felt more deeply here and abroad than the war in Iraq: war is avocation, money is real.

What makes McCain an interesting man and an empathetic politician is his ability to get along with so many different kinds of folk; Ted Kennedy, the Dalai Lama, John Glenn, Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the other hand he has gambling pals and is chummy with a few crack pots. It makes for a full life.

The choice of Governor Palin has brought both flair and acrimony to the campaign. Not since the Baudelaire orphans encountered Count Olaf has the liberal press been so disarmed. The establishment press and its associated culture are seeing a vision of the future and they are not in it. But there is one legitimate question which arises from the choice of Palin. Will McCain fill the rest of his cabinet with mavericks?

A president’s cabinet should work best as a kind of “TQM quality circle”; a group of balanced personalities which form a kind of round table in which the chief executive is complemented, fulfilled and extended. The soul of such a team is best a rising spirit, and Palin well brings that spirit from the heartland much as Andrew Jackson did. But that spirit needs to be contained and institutionalized; managed and amended if it is to make progress and join history. It needs to be ordered and marshaled into a coherent package.

Naming the cabinet ahead of time is a fairly new idea brought up in the 2004 race. But what is the point of a maverick if not to open new ideas? If McCain named his cabinet today Obama would name his by Friday.

When Henry Paulson first rushed into the Oval Office with his bail out proposal, McCain first answered a few questions with Mitt Romney by his side. The country would respond to Romney as a stabilizing strength in this fiscal environment and while he wouldn’t be my first choice if war with Russia was on the horizon, I’d like to see him today – right now – committed to the McCain administration as an agent in the world fiscal crisis in a tangible way. A public announcement to that effect might even help stabilize the world markets, as the Republican agents in the Bush White House today appear to have lost their influence. And the Obama advisers who can potentially be seen in the Oval Office as per 2009 are a varied lot; some of whom bear responsibility for bringing about the disaster in the first place. It would be nice to know who Obama would chose as well. The age is upon us and it changes radically in just over two weeks. Part of what is driving the crash is a crisis of authority in Washington driven by uncertainty. This would help in that regard.

Romney said this weekend that what the country needs and what McCain needs is not a tactical plan, as we have been seeing from Paulson and the G-7, but a strategic and long range vision and plan. And possibly Romney alone understands what is freaking out the unfortunate Baudelaire children of Wall Street and the NYTs and causing this bad beginning: As he said in his speech at the Republican convention, the philosophical core of this series of unfortunate events which will invariable proceed, is a cultural division between Eastern Establishment and the rising identity of the western states.

An announcement of Romney might not only stabilize the rough financial seas. It would also accentuate the essential theme rising with the McCain candidacy. As NYTs columnist David Brooks has said, McCain is torn between the libertarian West philosophy of Barry Goldwater, and an actual heart-felt eastern liberalism found through collegial friendships in Congress with people like Joe Lieberman and Ted Kennedy. With the choice of Palin McCain has made his life’s decision and he has chosen the rising West. Romney is the perfect agent to materialize and advance this awakening spirit into policy and process.

McCain might announce a full front line. My choice would be Romney, Rob Portman and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger is on the fence with a difficult condition in California, but it has now become a dilemma for clerks he seems bored with it. He would likely find a place in either Obama’s administration or McCain’s. McCain might seek a commitment.

A McCain administration featuring Palin, Schwarzenegger, Portman and Romney would form a Quaternity; an inspired package of spirit, order and managed execution – a “TQM quality circle” of excellence like we have rarely seen in post-war history. But the world outside lacks the psychological resources, character and imagination of the Baudelaire children and to some extent the faint-of-heart journalists who have gone apoplectic at the choice of Palin have legitimate concerns as to weather Body Miller, Madonna or the Bat Boy will suddenly appear in a McCain administration. But even Phil Gramm, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman in a McCain cabinet would have the country running to the Obama or Hillary camp well before 2012.

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