Kerry Should Stay in Senate, Romney for Secretary of State

President Obama had lunch yesterday with Mitt Romney and one of the topics they discussed was Romney’s plan for making “government more efficient.”

Obama has praised Romney for his work in running the Olympics and for his skills that could lend themselves to making the government work better, said Jay Carney, White House spokesman.

Certainly Romney has great passion and experience for restructuring and downsizing inefficient companies.

If any organization is dysfunctional and outrageously expensive for what we get in return, it is the Department of Defense… a Mitt Romney, when not catering to right-wing Tea Party zealots, surely recognizes that. Maybe Romney could outsource some of these defensive duties to our erstwhile allies overseas.

Does the Pentagon really need to keep up 234 golf courses around the world?

Do we really need more than a 1,000 foreign military bases ?

Does the U.S. need to spend as much on its military as the next 14 powers combined?

Who is our significant enemy — a few thousand terrorists, a couple of feeble outlaw nations — and, more critically: are our 14 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers the right way to protect ourselves?

Are increased drone strikes the best way to retaliate against terrorists, or are they creating more animosity and terror against the United States in the long-run?

Romney is a numbers guy and a great businessman; he should be able to figure out what we need, what we don’t need, and how to trim the fat. These business skills could be put to great use at the Department of Defense.

Traditionally, the best secretaries of defense have come from a business background. Think  Robert McNamara and Charles Erwin Wilson. Wilson was brought in to downsize the military under the New Look program in the 1950s after WWII. General Eisenhower didn’t think a military man could do it. And most people think Wilson did a good job.

FDR was roundly criticized for appointing Joe Kennedy as head of the newly-founded SEC in the 1930s, the depths of the Depression. It would be like “putting a fox in a chicken coop,” most people said at the time. But Kennedy knew what the bad guys did and was able to do a good job keeping them in line.

Moreover, Romney has some credibility in the Republican Party. His appointment to defense secretary would be a step toward fusing the bipartisan rift that has been growing for years, and now gapes ever wider after our last election.

Another added benefit, if Obama names Romney instead of frontrunner Senator John Kerry, is keeping Kerry in the Senate — (and keeping wannabe-Republican Senator Scott Brown out.)

We know that Obama has great admiration for Lincoln’s “team of rivals,” and in this contentious age, when so much needs to be done and everything is stalled, a Romney appointment might be just the move to break out of this gridlock.

If a cabinet post is not in the offing, perhaps Romney could head a commission examining our two most expensive and bloated programs, defense and health. Ex-presidents have had valuable public service roles, (how about Bill Clinton for the next secretary of state?) but we should not overlook the role that competent ex-presidential candidates can play. It might just make governing a little easier.

Wouldn’t this be a more fitting final chapter for Mitt Romney than a life of downsizing companies, jet skiing around Lake Winnipesaukee, or fighting with his California neighbors about the size of his car elevators?

Write to Jfleetwood@aol.com

Much of this material was published in Huffington Post

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About Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood Blake Fleetwood was formerly on the staff of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic and the Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to New York City at the age of three. He graduated from Bard College and did graduate work in political science and comparative politics at Columbia University. He has also taught politics at New York University. He can be reached at jfleetwood@aol.com.
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