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Presidents Should Never Name Sitting Office Holders to Appointed Positions

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One lesson of the Alabama Senate race that does not seem to ever sink to either party is that there is no good reason for a president to name sitting office holders in critical positions to the Cabinet. I’m sure when Trump named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as Attorney General, Republicans thought there was absolutely no way they could possibly lose that seat. Whoops! And they should have known that in off-cycle elections, anything is possible. All you have to do is to go back to Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts as evidence of this. Barack Obama certainly did not understand this. There are plenty of capable candidates for the majority of Cabinet positions. Why on earth did he have to take Democratic governors out of red states for these jobs? I have no idea if Janet Napolitano or Kathleen Sebelius would have won reelection. Maybe they would have lost in the 2010 wave. Probably they would have. But I do know that taking them out of the fray to run minor Cabinet agencies was a massive gift to Republicans. Health and Human Services does not required an elected politician to operate it. Giving Kansas to Sam Brownback sure wasn’t worth it. And while we held Massachusetts and Ed Markey has been a very good senator, Obama’s job was not to allow John Kerry to cap his career by serving as Secretary of State. Granted, State is important enough that perhaps you make an exception to this rule here.

So when I hear rumors that either Mike Pompeo will replace Tillerson and Tom Cotton will be nominated to head the CIA or that Lindsey Graham will replace Tillerson, while both of those options are extremely frightening for America and the rest of the world, from a strictly political perspective, I say great! It’s entirely possible that in an off-year election, Democrats might win a Senate seat in Arkansas or South Carolina. It’s not as if a Bannon-stoked base isn’t going to nominate someone completely insane to be the Republican nominee. And while the Democratic bench in those states isn’t particularly deep, as Doug Jones demonstrates, you simply need a capable and smart person to run in opposition to extremism to have a chance.

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