A bipartisan cabinet

A BIPARTISAN CABINET…. Last week, the Politico ran an item suggesting Barack Obama’s cabinet may not have enough Republicans in it. Keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates at his post isn’t quite enough, the argument went, in part because “Gates is not a sharply partisan figure.”

Yesterday, Congressional Quarterly raised similar concerns.

Now that President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet is, by his count, half picked, the odds are fading that he’ll have more than one Republican on his team — suggesting that his campaign promise to include Republicans may have meant nothing more than the usual token appointment from the other side.

Obama did attract a lot of attention by asking Robert Gates to stay on as Defense secretary, and liberals have debated whether he’s the right man to oversee a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But that debate overshadows the fact that Gates isn’t likely to have much, or even any, company. Of the Cabinet jobs that are left at this point, virtually all are domestic policy positions that would be hard to give to a Republican without prompting vicious internal fights, and it’s almost impossible to find Republicans who have been mentioned as candidates for any of them.

CQ noted that former Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, a Republican, is reportedly a possibility for Agriculture secretary, but his nomination also may not count towards bipartisanship, because he was a “borderline Republican during his House years, and spent so much time campaigning for Obama.”

It’s a pretty unpersuasive argument. As Josh Marshall put it, “Obama’s put not only a Republican but his predecessor’s choice in charge of the Pentagon. He’s also named as his National Security Advisor a retired general who appears also to be a Republican, albeit one who was advising Obama during the campaign and not a particularly ideological sort.”

It’s not altogether clear what would satisfy critics here. Gates and Jones, apparently, aren’t enough. Obama could also find roles for Leach and someone like Chuck Hagel, but that apparently wouldn’t be satisfactory, either, because they’d likely be deemed “borderline” Republicans.

Obama, in other words, needs partisan Republican ideologues, who disagree with him, to fill at least a third of his cabinet. Anything else is “tokenism.”

Who made up these rules?

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