Ezra asks a question I think of a lot of Democrats are asking now and were asking in early 2009–Does Barack Obama want Mitch McConnell to be Majority Leader? Obama has always had a political blind spot when it comes to cabinet appointments. He has tended toward well-known political leaders for important positions, even if that means pulling them out of their states where they could extend the Democratic advantage and do more good. Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius were major political leaders in difficult states for Democrats. It’s completely unclear whether their ability as administrators in a cabinet position proved to me more valuable than running for the Senate in their respective states, but I am doubtful. Democrats managed to hold onto Hillary Clinton’s and Ken Salazar’s seats in the Senate, but with the latter it was only because the Tea Party took over the Colorado Republican Party and ran an insane person.
And now Obama is doing it again by floating John Kerry’s name out for Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. The upshot of this is that Scott Brown will probably return to the Senate. With 2014 looking like a tough year for Democrats in the Senate (hard races to win combined with expected lower turnout among Democratic base voters), why make it easier for Republicans to control the Senate?
I’m a bit more understanding of why you would do this for John Kerry than I would be for others. He is an old liberal lion who was the presidential candidate in 2004. If he wants the job that bad, maybe he has the right to demand it. Certainly he’s well-qualified. But he can probably do more good in his existing role in the Senate than in the Cabinet.