Saturday, November 15, 2008

McCain as Obama's Defense Secretary

I've been on this planet a long time now. Long enough to notice how rarely the stars all line up in perfect harmony, converging to produce a fate that more romantic writers term "destiny." Such is the case with America's 44th president, Barak Obama. I doubt that anyone, anywhere could have more gracefully surfed the ups and downs of current events and landed in the Oval Office without getting his feet wet. The election of 2008 was, in common parlance, the perfect political storm.

I could cite all kinds of reasons why and how Obama managed to ace each challenge of the campaign. In the end, however, it all boiled down to one simple strategy: I'm not Bush. The I'm Not Bush strategy fared well on two platforms: First, it provided the foundation for Obama's message of change. Second, it allowed him to point to John McCain, who as a Republican, found it much more difficult to scrape George W. Bush from the bottom of his shoe.

The McCain/Palin ticket was so weighed down by its association with the Bush administration, that all Senator Joe Biden had to do in the Vice Presidential debate was stand there and be a class act. Which was tough, considering how tempting it must have been to cut Sarah Pailin off at the knees. But like Obama, Biden knew he needed to do nothing more than stand there while Palin self-destructed.

While media pundits belabor the Herculean economic tasks set before Obama, none of them seem to be aware of the president-elect's penchant for living under a lucky star. With a nation in turmoil and an economy tanking, the media has chosen to play down Obama's secondary message to the American public, that being unification. They shouldn't. Because unification is, I suspect, going to be the big brand strategy of the Obama administration. Remember how he opined that we were not red states, not blue states, but the United States? Well, folks, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Rumors may be flying about Hillary Clinton as Obama's Secretary of State, but I suspect there are even bigger, more media-stunning events in the offing. And one of the biggest I can think of would be Obama naming John McCain as his Secretary of Defense. Sound obtuse? Do the math and see if it adds up for you.

In the first place, nothing unifies a group more than the victor choosing to embrace his opponent rather than vanquish him. Obama, who's viewed as a class act by the general populace, would gain grandly by offering his former rival a seat at the Round Table. You want a guy to put his money where his mouth is? This would be the move.

Secondly, throughout the campaign, Obama's position was that McCain was a good soldier, but that a president needed to be more than that. Fine. Now he has a good soldier acting as the soldier in charge of all the other soldiers. Nice.

Third, for all those folks who thought Obama would be soft on military issues, placing McCain at the top of Defense immediately assures the military sector that they've got a friend in the Obama administration. Everyone from those uniformed boys and girls on foreign front lines to contractors cranking out bombers and missiles will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that one of their own is running the show.

Fourth, what better way to show the rest of the world that Americans are united in their purpose and passions, than to create a team that really can rise above partisanship for the greater good of its country? Do you see any Shiites and Sunnis breaking bread and forming any kind of working team in Iraq or anywhere else? Me neither. If McCain were to join Obama's cabinet as Secretary of Defense, the world would learn in one quick lesson that Americans fight it out, then stick together. A lesson that governments throughout the world need to hear after eight years of Bush/Cheney-inspired factionalism.

Finally, appointing McCain as Secretary of Defense would achieve one more goal that Obama has enjoyed throughout his campaign: A spectacular event like this -- naming a formal rival to a cabinet post -- has never been done before as far as I know. The media value alone is worth it.

Is there a downside to offering McCain the Defense post? Only one I can think of: It may prompt Sarah Palin to nag for a post of her own. Commissioner of Moose Hunting would be nice.


Blogger houstonmacbro said...

I doubt he would give up his Senate post. But no, I do not really see any downsides other than now you have the biggest Bush supporter in your cabinet - something Obama railed against during the campaign.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Ya think? I'm inclined to believe that McCain is in the twilight of his career and would want a beautiful end piece. He wanted it to be the Presidency, but age will have made that all but impossible. A better, more in tune legacy would be to embrace the changes and go out as "an old guard turned visionary," a team player. And, it suits his "reaching across the aisle" persona. Don't forget, he spent the last months of his campaign distancing himself from Bush....

3:15 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

It's a nice thought, Rob, but there's no way either person could do such a thing. Obama would never do such a thing as it would directly contradict all the statements he made in opposing McCain's policies in Iraq. Saying McCain was wrong and then giving him the reigns doesn't play. McCain also wouldn't accept, mostly for the same reasons, as he would be viewed as implementing a strategy he doesn't believe in. Senator is plenty of pride for the end of your career...

9:34 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

All true enough, but you have to remember that when this piece was written, the election results were barely hours old. Given that Obama's was still unknown, the loudest part of his brand was unification and an eclectic knack that echoed the "team of rivals" theory. Especially after the divisiveness of Bush/Cheney, plus conservatives' fear that Obama might be "too soft," at the time, it wasn't an entirely off-the-wall proposition. In the end, however, your arguments bear out...but then, it's already 2009! :D

9:51 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Never been done as far as I know -- except on West Wing. Santos was even based on Obama, though wonder if they thought of McCain at all when they came up with the Vinick character.

3:22 PM  

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