A modern-day Simon Cameron

Bill Richardson, president-elect Obama’s choice for Secretary of Commerce, has dismissed the idea that the Obama cabinet is a “team of rivals.” Richardson is correct to this extent — he does not rival Obama and never has. “Team of self-promoting hacks” would better fit Richardson’s case, but it’s not very catchy. If this really is, somehow, Lincoln’s Cabinet redeux, then perhaps we can cast Richardson as Simon Cameron. This relatively undistingushed (to my knowledge) Pennsylvania Senator ran for president in 1860, threw his support to Lincoln at the convention, and was rewarded with the job of Secretary of War. He lasted a year.

If my assessment of Richardson seems harsh, consider that, despite being the nation’s leading Hispanic politician, Obama had nothing better to offer him than Secetary of Commerce. You can also consult my past posts about Richardson.

The Washington Post notes that Richardson’ selection “breaks with tradition” by “putting a longtime public servant in a position that has recently been held by private-sector executives.” Stated differently, Obama has put the Commerce Department in the hands of someone who, as far as appears, knows little if anything about business. Richardson entered the political world straight out of college, becoming a staffer for a Massachusetts Congressman. He has never really looked back at the real world.

The Post notes that Richardson has considerable diplomatic experience, which includes face-to-face meetings with Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, and “a host of North Korean officials.” What these meetings accomplished is unclear. How they translate into a qualification for Secretary of Commerce is equally unclear, but also largely irrelevant. What matters is that Obama has found a place to park the modern-day Simon Cameron.

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