BOSTON – Bill Richardson as secretary of state? Max Cleland running the Pentagon? Dick Gephardt (search) leading the Department of Labor?
All of the above are named by delegates as their choices for a John Kerry Cabinet should he win the presidential election in November.
With months before Election Day, Kerry is mum about whom he wants in his Cabinet — a longtime tradition of silence meant to keep party leaders focused on the candidate instead of engaging in rows over who gets what post should he win. But, with Democratic luminaries floating around the FleetCenter and Boston’s hotels, delegates were happy to name their top choices for the spots.
Ohio Delegate Daniel P. Troy, a member of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, speculated that retired Gen. Wesley Clark (search) could lead the Defense Department, with Gephardt at Labor and Cleland somewhere in the mix. He added: “I’d support Dennis Kucinich (search) if Kerry would create a Department of Peace.”
Dominga Lopez, a delegate from Oregon, wanted to see New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search) as secretary of state and Rep. Bob Menendez, N.J., in charge of the Department of Education or Health and Human Services.
As a registered nurse, Lopez was particularly concerned about health care and, in addition to Menendez, thought that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton could ably lead HHS.
“She knows the facts, and she has the sensitivity and intelligence to know what’s needed for the country,” Lopez said.
Steven Reece Sr., an African-American delegate from Cincinnati, Ohio, said it was important to him for Kerry to choose a Cabinet that is reflective of the nation. “I don’t think we can gain the respect of the world unless we have a Cabinet that is a rainbow, because the majority of the world is of color.”
Citing the congressman from Tennessee, Reece said, “Harold Ford would be a good guy. Harold Ford would be an excellent choice.” He did not designate which post Ford should assume.
Some delegates aligned with leaders from their own state as they looked to the prospective Cabinet. Rosemary Gibson, a delegate from New Mexico representing the Navajo nation, said her governor would make a good secretary of state. “Richardson can get our allies back in our good graces. He’s been secretary of energy. He has connections abroad.”
Gibson also expressed a second concern. “We need someone in the Interior Department that knows Native American causes. Maybe [Arizona Gov.] Janet Napolitano."
Napolitano has made several moves to support the sovereign rights of Native Americans since she took office in 2001.
Democratic activists have swarmed Boston, holding meetings with delegates and politicians. And many have strong opinions about who they would like to see Kerry appoint to oversee their particular causes.
Ann Flener, a Pittsburgh-based official with the United Steelworkers (search), was sure about whom she wanted at the Labor Department. “Definitely Richard Gephardt for Labor because he’s been right with labor as far as standing up for workers' rights.”
Acie Byrd, a Vietnam veteran from Washington, D.C., said, “One of the people I’d like to see is Max Cleland considered, given his military background, as secretary of defense.” Byrd would also like to see places found for Clark as well as some of Kerry’s other primary opponents. He suggested former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) for HHS.
“Lots of women,” was the top priority for NARAL Pro-Choice America (search) volunteer Jessica Copeland. “I’m tired of seeing a bunch of old, white men,” said the Northeastern University law student.
Asked about Hillary in a Cabinet post, she responded, “I would love to see her in that position, but I don’t want to see her leave the Senate.”
Copeland’s partner in handing out NARAL material, Gus Steeves, cited the former vice president's performance at Monday night's convention when he said, “Al Gore might make a good secretary of state.”
As delegates and activists speculated, some of the same names, like Richardson, Cleland and Gephardt surfaced repeatedly. Others, such as Gore, at least from this unscientific poll, seemed like a long shot.