What to say about George W. Bush’s final three cabinet picks? Norm Mineta’s a decent enough guy, certainly. And he clearly decided that six months wasn’t enough time to spend as a cabinet secretary for one lifetime (I hear that before the election he was nudging Al Gore to keep him on.)
Linda Chavez has always struck me as a bit of self-promoter and someone with very bad politics. But she’s better than Jim Talent and about what I’d expect for a Republican Labor Secretary. Not someone who cares much about any of the issues that labor cares about. But, hey, that’s the price of acquiescing in Bush’s theft of the election. So what are you going to do?
But Spence Abraham â¦ Now you’re talkin’. I’ve gotta give Spence a big thumbs up. Sure he’s a lousy pick to run the Energy Department (a department he voted to abolish). He’s got terrible politics. And he’s a complete oaf. But you’ve got to think of this one in terms of comedic potential.
Before the voters of Michigan tossed him out on his ear two months back, I always used to think of Spencer Abraham as the ‘Mikey’ of the Senate. You know, like ‘Mikey’ from those Life Cereal commercials from back in the 1970s.
I could just imagine it â¦
Trent Lott: Who’s gonna carry water/eat $&%# for irredeemable corporate interest X?
Mitch McConnell: I’m not gonna eat it (slides the bowl over to Trent)
Trent Lott: Well I’m not gonna eat it (slides the bowl back over to Mitch)
Mitch McConnell: Hey, I know, let’s get Mikey!
Trent Lott: Yeah! He’ll eat anything.
And that pretty much tells you what Spence Abraham’s career in the senate was all about. He was the dorky little mascot for the most craven money-conservatives in the senate – the eager bumbler who the cool kids always kept around, if for nothing else than to give him noogies and have him man the keg at their parties.
Enough metaphors? Okay, I’ll stop. But you get the idea.
Abraham was always carrying someone else’s water, most often some corporate types who couldn’t find a first-tier senator to do their bidding. Which sort of tells you why Bush and Cheney put him at Energy.
I’m not saying that Abraham’s such a bad guy, or really any worse than anyone else Bush might have nominated. He’s really just a party man who happened his way into the senate when the Republicans destroyed the Dems back in 1994 and lost the seat in 2000 after the fever had passed.
My colleague Nick Confessore wrote an excellent piece on Abraham which is well worth a read. Okay, sure. Nick said Abraham was gonna win. But, hey, give the kid a break. He’s young. He can’t get ’em all right. And besides Nick was the only one to tell the comical tale of how Abraham’s senate buddies tried to pull out all the stops (and thankfully failed) to bring their bud over the finish line.
P.S. Extra laughs on the Abraham subject can be found in Tuesday’s article on him in the Washington Post. The article explains pretty nicely why, for Spencer Abraham, the phrase ‘pathetic hack’ isn’t so much derogation as painfully precise description.
The prospect of life outside government did not appeal to Abraham, some Senate sources say. His selection as energy secretary has baffled many environmentalists, political observers and even some of his closest colleagues. “I really think the answer is that once the cards were shuffled, that was the only one [Cabinet position] left,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst and editor of the Rothenberg Report, an independent newsletter. “It was one of the slots they had open, and this is a multicultural Cabinet if they ever had one.”
Remember, comedic potential.