- - Sunday, August 16, 2015


Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry deserves a lot of credit for pointing to an enormous opportunity for Republicans. At the Fox debates, by recommending Carly Fiorina as a possible secretary of State, he reminded the audience that only one of the 17 candidates will lead the Republican ticket next year but that will leave a huge pool of talent on the table — successful governors, senators, business executives and a world-renowned surgeon. Beyond the group of 17, the Republican bench is similarly strong. Gov. Nicki Haley of South Carolina and Gov. Susan Martinez of New Mexico come to mind immediately. In short, the Republicans, if they win in 2016, could put together the strongest cabinet in a generation.

The gold standard for Republican cabinets over the past 100 years would be Ronald Reagan’s first term cabinet. In those days national security council meetings were usually held in the Cabinet Room containing a long narrow table where President Reagan sat in the middle with his back to the windows, Vice President Bush opposite him, and the cabinet around the table. From my perch behind CIA Director William Casey, and looking left to right, I could see Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Vessey, an up-from-the-ranks soldier who had seen a lot of combat, including the Battle of Anzio.

Other notables around the table would be U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Secretary of State George Shultz, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, Attorney General Edward Meese, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan and Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige — all of them accomplished, smart, capable, patriots. It was an honor to be in the same room with them.

With Reagan in mind, the Republican president-elect in 2016 will have a lot of superb potential cabinet officers to choose from. After eight years of President Obama, there will be four areas of immediate need for action — national security, justice, health and homeland security — and the new team will have to hit the ground running. They won’t have the luxury of six months of transition. If the new president is clever, and a bit tolerant, Team GOP should be up to the difficult tasks ahead of them.

There is no doubt that, if she is not on the ticket, Carly Fiorina would make an excellent secretary of State. However, the national security situation facing a new president in January 2017 will be so dire that her talents are best put to use as national security adviser at least for the first term. As a former CEO, she has the experience and capability to manage the Republican national security team for the president. She could then follow in the footsteps of Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice who were national security advisers in the first term and secretaries of State in the second.

If Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, should become secretary of State, the Castro bothers would know they had an implacable enemy in a position

of power and the Cuban people would be jubilant. With his on-the-job-training on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he should be ready for anything.

Mr. Perry is the obvious choice for secretary of defense. A former C-130 pilot who knows the military from the inside out, he has had 14 years of experience as an administrator of a large complex organization. He has also dealt with a legislature that had as much power as he had and was not always on the same page.

In the fall of 2000 there was a rush of Clinton illegal campaign donors cutting no-jail-time deals with the Clinton Justice Department before the Bush Administration came in. Something north of 50 people either pled guilty or fled the county. A similar stampede, perhaps led by Lois Lerner, could be expected in the fall of 2016 at the mere rumor that Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, might become attorney general. An Attorney General Cruz would be in an excellent position to snap a dysfunctional Justice Department into line. He would also be able to vet potential federal court judges, until he, himself, went to the Supreme Court.

At the age of 24, non-Gov. Bobby Jindal was put in charge of the State of Louisiana’s health system. He did an excellent job, especially for someone who is not a medical doctor. If the new Republican president teamed him up as COO of health care reform with the brilliant Dr. Ben Carson as CEO, they should be able to bring some sort of order out of the chaos of Obamacare.

By some estimates, 30 percent of the violent crimes are committed by illegal aliens. That suggests that the next secretary of Homeland Security

would have to be an able administrator with a prosecutorial bent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would fit that bill, if he is willing to take policy guidance from the White House.

So, big problems, but fortunately, big problem-solvers on the Republican side.

William C. Triplett II is the former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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