Meet the Cabinet: A Zagat-inspired Primer

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Meet the Cabinet: A Zagat-inspired Primer Meet the Cabinet: A Zagat-inspired Primer
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Meet the Cabinet: A Zagat-inspired Primer

by Zach Frechette

January 31, 2009
There is no shortage of information on the internet about Obama's new cabinet, but it's scattered in a lot of different places, and sometimes it's a bit much to digest. So, like the nice folks at Zagat, we've taken the scattered ephemera of the 44th cabinet and collected it below, in an easy to digest format.
AGRICULTUREName: Tom VilsackAge: 59Education: Hamilton College, Albany Law SchoolPrevious job: Governor of IowaWhat he's supposed to do now: Make sure farmers are happy, and the food we eat is safe.Survey says: Tom Vilsack served as the "40th Governor of the state of Iowa" before "kicking off his 2008 presidential run." While considered a "shoo-in" for confirmation, sustainable agriculturalists worry that "You can't be a politician from Iowa and not be identified with a pro-corn, pro-ethanol stance," and that he "promoted the interests of large agribusiness."

DEFENSE

Name: Robert GatesAge: 65Education: College of William & Mary, Indiana University (M.A.), Georgetown University (Ph.D.)Previous job: Director of the CIA; President of Texas A&M; Secretary of Defense (under George W. Bush);What he's supposed to do now: Coordinate all the functions of the United States's armed services.Survey says: While some lament the "stay-the-course feel" of keeping Gates on in his current capacity, and that appointing a Republican to this positions "makes [Democrats] look like they're too wimpy to be trusted to run the building," many agree that "it suggests an awareness of the importance of continuity at a time of war." Obama-bonus: Gates "would not have to be reconfirmed by the Senate."

EDUCATION

Name: Arne DuncanAge: 44Education: HarvardPrevious job: Professional basketball player (Australia); C.E.O. of Chicago Public SchoolWhat he's supposed to do now: Foster educational excellence.Survey says: Playing basketball in college, Duncan was described as "one of the most talented players in the city whom no one ever heard about." In Chicago, he and Obama used to play pickup games that "flowered into frequent discussions of education policy." He brings seven years experience working as the head of the nation's "third-biggest school district," though critics worry he has "little of the national political experience that education secretaries often need in representing the White House's educational agenda before Congress."

ENERGY

Name: Steven ChuAge: 60Education: University of Rochester, University of California, BerkeleyPrevious job: Nobel Prize-winning experimental physicistWhat he's supposed to do now: Deal with energy policy, especially nuclear development and nuclear safety.Survey says: Chu "gets the urgent need to act on global warming," which has scientists and politicians alike dancing in the aisles as another member joins "Obama's Green Dream Team." While he has limited "experience inside the Beltway," he is a hardcore nerd who recognizes that we need to deal with climate issues, because "there's nowhere else to go."

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICESName: Tom DaschleAge:  61Education: South Dakota State UniversityPrevious job: U.S. Senator from South DakotaWhat he's supposed to do now: Improve the health, safety, and well-being of all Americans.Survey says: Daschle brings "A knowledge of Congress, especially the Senate, far deeper than President Obama," along with some "snazzy red glasses"(though some argue that "It's all the geek with none of the chic.") His Senate office was targeted with "the strain of anthrax that caused a skin infection" in 2001, but everything turned out fine. "Health policy wonks and universal health care advocates celebrated the move."

HOMELAND SECURITYName: Janet NapolitanoAge: 51Education: Santa Clara University; University of Virginia Law SchoolPrevious job: Governor of ArizonaWhat she's supposed to do now: Protect the United States from terrorist attacks and respond to natural disasters.Survey says: Named one of America's "5 best governors" in 2005, Napolitano is postpartisan to a fault, "even if it infuriates the left and the right." She brings "law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State's first female attorney general," though some Republicans are still pissed about her role "as an attorney representing Anita Hill."

HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENTName: Shaun DonovanAge: 42Education: HarvardPrevious job: Head of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and DevelopmentWhat he's supposed to do now: Execute policy on housing and cities.Survey says: Obama's pick of Donovan signals his understanding that "HUD can play a big role in the economic recovery" of the country. With his "hands-on experience managing the vast bureaucracy and special interests involved in housing in New York City," he should transition nicely to a federal agency that is derided by critics as "a dysfunctional mess." He also has the "shortest Wikipedia page of any cabinet nominee."

INTERIOR

Name: Ken SalazarAge: 53Education: Colorado College; University of Michigan Law SchoolPrevious Job: U.S. Senator from ColoradoWhat he's supposed to do now: Manage and conserve all federal land.Survey says: People love this man. This sort of says it all "He is respected in Colorado by politicians of both parties for his measured approach and is praised as an honest broker, particularly by environmentalists, but also by business interests." He often wears a dope "cowboy hat ... and bolo tie."

JUSTICE

Name: Eric HolderAge: 57Education: ColumbiaPrevious Job: Deputy Attorney General; attorney at Covington & BurlingWhat he's supposed to do now: Enforce the law, and ensure fair and impartial administration of justice.Survey says: Holder holds (nyuck nyuck) "a heavyweight résumé bursting with legal and law enforcement credentials." His role in the "infamous Mark Rich pardon" has divided democrats and republicans somewhat, but during his confirmation hearing, "witnesses prais[ed] Holder despite past disagreements."

LABOR

Name: Hilda SolisAge: 51Education: Cal Poly PomonaPrevious Job: U.S. House of Representatives, CaliforniaWhat she's supposed to do now: Enforce and suggest laws regarding unions and the workplace.Survey says: Solis has "A reputation as an advocate for low-wage workers" and is also a big time union booster ("I know that my seven siblings and I would not be where we are today without the wages and other protections my parents earned with the help of their union"). Solis would be tasked with implementing the Green Jobs Act, which she faught to "smuggle through" a hostile Congress in 2007.

STATE

Name: Hillary ClintonAge: 61Education: Wellesley College; Yale LawPrevious job: First Lady; U.S. Senator from New YorkWhat she's supposed to do now: Be the United States's diplomat-in-chief.Survey says: Described as "a naturally gifted diplomat," Obama's appointment of Clinton was seen as an example of his ability to "turn a rival into a partner." Some wonder if "Hillary's appointment as secretary of state could pose a conflict of interest" with her husband's numerous business and philanthropic contacts the world over, most just agree that "Hillary is seriously popular" right now.

TRANSPORTATION

Name: Ray LaHoodAge: 63Education: Bradley UniversityPrevious job: U.S. House of Representatives, IllinoisWhat he's supposed to do now: Make our transportation system fast, efficient, and up to date.Survey says: Most regard Obama's appointment of LaHood as a "surprise;" "It appears as though others with longer, more distinguished résumés were bypassed." Even so, LaHood brings "a centrist reputation and a proven ability to work across party lines." The Republican congressman from Illinois would "play a major role in overseeing the huge public works program the administration plans to implement to stimulate the flagging economy."

TREASURY

Name: Timothy GeithnerAge: 47Education: Dartmouth; Johns HopkinsPrevious job: International Monetary Fund; President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New YorkWhat he's supposed to do now: Manage government revenue (or lack thereof).Survey says: "Tim Geithner, this mess is yours." Thankfully, he seems equipped to handle it: he has "a deep understanding of monetary and fiscal policy and broad experience in international trade issues," and is "smart but not arrogantly so and has a wry sense of humor."

VETERANS AFFAIRSName: Eric K. ShinsekiAge: 66Education: U.S. Military Academy; DukePrevious job: Four-star generalWhat he's supposed to do now: Administer benefits for veterans.Survey says: He and Obama share the view that "the Iraq war was botched by the Bush administration." He is seen as hero to troops for his insistence that you would need a force "on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" to successfully occupy postwar Iraq.

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