If Romney wins, who staffs his administration?
posted at 9:16 am on June 4, 2012 by Karl
Politico reports on the possible Romney Administration:
[Mike] Leavitt, the former Utah governor and Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush, has been tapped to head Romney’s transition process and has quietly taken the first steps toward drawing up the blueprint for a new administration, according to multiple GOP sources.
As the point man for what is internally called “Project Ready,” Leavitt is stepping into a post that historically gets little attention during the campaign but becomes the focal point of a government-in-waiting beginning the day after the election. And already, plugged-in Republicans from Washington to Salt Lake City are buzzing that Leavitt could make his own transition next January into the job of White House chief of staff or as a Valerie Jarrett-like personal counselor to a President Romney.
The job traditionally is filled by political insiders who enjoy the trust of the candidate — Bush picked prep school friend and gubernatorial Chief of Staff Clay Johnson while Obama chose former CAP chief and former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta — and the selection always says something about the man aspiring to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
So what does Levitt’s key slot say about Romney?
Republicans who have worked with Leavitt describe him in almost eerily Romney-like terms — a hands-on executive who’s driven more by data than by ideology, a high-energy if vanilla technocrat who reads heavily in his spare time.
“He would make a great chief of staff in the White House,” said former Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, who served when Leavitt was in office. “He was a very pragmatic governor. He was not particularly ideological and I think the tea party folks would not be that happy with him. … He and I saw the world a lot alike. He can also be very tough.” (Emphasis added.)
Quite the endorsement, eh? Moreover, as Ben Domenech highlighted on Twitter, Leavitt is one handful of Republicans who supports Obamacare’s healthcare exchanges — because they are a cash cow for Leavitt’s private business. As Politico notes: “The size of his firm, Leavitt Partners, doubled in the year after the bill was signed as they won contracts to help states set up the exchanges funded by the legislation.”
Team Romney dismisses this last concern, despite the fact that the left will make hay out of it. Yet the situation goes beyond raising fresh concern that Romney is not fully committed to repealing Obamacare — and worse, what he might do if the law is not struck down or repealed in its entirety. It also throws into doubt Romney’s ostensible opposition to the sort of insider-dealing crony capitalism he supposedly finds so repugnant when it comes to firms like Solyndra.
The notion that personnel is policy is an old one, but no less true today. It is even more a truism for Republican administrations, because the career civil service has a vested interest in growing the government in both size and intrusiveness. As Reagan Education Secretary William J. Bennett has often joked, he felt like he stood at the ship’s wheel turning it from starboard to port all the while not realizing that the cables connecting the wheel with the rudder had been removed. Moreover, an outgoing Obama Administration would likely do all it could to “burrow” political appointees into career positions.
According to Politico, some conservatives, e.g., Grover Norquist, have nothing critical to say about Leavitt. But if conservatives and libertarians don’t want a rerun of George W. Bush’s big government conservatism, they will need to speak up now about who will be staffing a Romney Administration. I personally doubt that Romney would throw a close friend and non-ideological soulmate overboard, but Team Romney should at least be made aware Mitt is burning political capital before he’s been elected.