17 July 2008

Is the world really that scary?

The NYT ran a curious op-ed this morning by Jamie Gorelick and Slade Gorton, formerly of the 9/11 Commission, calling for a complete rethink/reallignment of the current presidential transition process (to the extent that any real process exists). While the idea of having presidential nominees line up people for key national security posts before they've won the election, and having those people be given access to lots of sensitive information well before November sounds nice at first blush, I wonder if the proposal is worthwhile or even plausible.

Candidates at this juncture are rightly concerned with campaigning. To be able to name their future cabinets in the summer before the election, they would have to expend incredible resources and take time off the trail, when they should be meeting with the American people writ-large, and not a few bright national security and foreign policy luminaries. Both McCain and Obama had difficult primary campaigns to endure, and it just doesn't strike me as realistic that they could name a whole slate of people for cabinet posts when it takes a few months just to identify a running mate. This is not to say that presidential candidates shouldn't think about who their final teams should be -- indeed, their campaigns likely reflect the inner circle that will follow into an administration -- but the timing may not be right. Further, is it a good idea to name the cabinet early on, and thus create bad blood among those who might be useful for the campaign?

The other major question I have about the proposal is whether or not it's smart to be doling out sensitive information to two potential National Security Councils before the election takes place. While I'm no fan of the Bush administration's secretive policies, at the same time there is some intelligence information out there that is rightly distributed to a limited audience. It seems to me that the dangers of leaks and all the rest grows higher if you put highly politicized people (campaigning campaign advisors/cabinet members to be) into that fray.

I do agree, though, that key posts need to be filled early on, and that the Senate should confirm as many nominees as possible on January 20. Yet doesn't this usually happen? Have we ever really gone weeks without a Secretary of State or Defense in recent memory?

The proposal has good ideas, I guess, but is maybe a little too far removed from reality to be useful.

No comments: