Last week I wrote a column in the New York Post, which set out some ground-rules for George W. Bush's appointments (yes, I knew it was all over even then).
The basic gist of it was this: the Democrats would resist the temptation to indulge in a lot of confirmation funny business if Bush would come to grips with the dubious nature of his election and appoint a moderate cabinet. One passage read:
He is simply not in a position to appoint more than a few token conservatives to his cabinet. Certainly none to the marquee positions at State, Justice, Defense and Treasury. And none to Cabinet positions dear to the hearts of his Democratic opposition, i.e., no paycheck-protection activists for Labor Secretary, and no supporters of regulatory rollback at the EPA.
Well apparently W. didn't heed my advice. According to several published reports Bush is considering James M. Talent as a possible Labor Secretary. (Talent retired from congress to run for governor of Missouri this year, and lost.) Democrats should and I believe will see this as an insult, a slap in the face. Dems really care about what the Labor Department does, for obvious reasons. For them it's not just a place to fob off ideologues and hacks who are out of a job.
Why is Talent such an objectionable candidate? Well, he's just very, very anti-labor. Consider his congressional ratings from the National Federation of Independent Business (a conservative business lobby) and AFSCME (the big public employees' union). In 1998 NFIB gave Talent a 100% rating; AFSCME, a 0% rating. That doesn't mean Talent's a bad guy (well, okay â¦ actually it does mean that.) But it does mean that he's about as hostile to unions as you can get.
Senate Democrats should simply say, Jim Talent may be a decent guy. But he's unacceptable for Labor Secretary, period. If Bush wants to go to war, fine. Go ahead. But they should try to make an example of Talent he if does.
The electoral college determines who is president (of course, even here Bush needed 'help'.) But the popular vote determines who gets a mandate. And Bush's 300,000-plus loss in the popular vote is so much less than a mandate that it's not even funny.
So Senate Democrats should say to Bush: Listen, it's cool you're president and all. Someone's got to be president. The Supreme Court says you're president. So you're president. But, between us, we don't really even think you got elected legitimately. So appoint your dads buds. Put in some solid Republicans at State and Defense and Treasury. For Transportation, Commerce, Energy, have at it. Appoint whatever wackos you want. But try to push through someone like Jim Talent for Labor Secretary and we'll eat you alive.
P.S. And in case you're wondering. Yes, Tom Daschle reads Talking Points religiously.