US News has an org chart that supposedly floated out of the Obama transition team, showing the short list for each of the Cabinet-level positions in the incoming administration.  The above-the-fold news comes from the inclusion of Al Gore as climate-change czar and Caroline Kennedy as a potential UN Ambassador.  More interesting, though, are other key positions in the chart:

Obama transition team boss John Podesta threw open the curtains of his operation today to reporters, signaling that the president-elect wants to move quickly, but not hastily, to set up his government. In a pen and pad meeting with reporters—that means no cameras—Podesta, tieless, was at ease and confident as he proposed ethics rules governing the transition, promised top cabinet picks by December, and gabbed at length about the friendly and professional relationship he has with the Bush chief of staff, Josh Bolten. He made little news at the packed briefing but pledged that news was coming as he promised to conduct the most transparent transition in history. What we know: He has a budget of $12 million, $5.2 million in federal money with the rest from donors. Some 450 aides will be picking through résumés and policies as they create the government for the 44th president. …

Now the above transition flowchart. It is making the rounds in Washington tonight, though our source would not reveal the actual source of the document.

You can see the names clearer in the PDF version, as well as get the background on each of the listed candidates.  Some of these names will garner little more than a shrug, but a few raise serious questions:

  • Al Gore as climate-change “czar”: Why does this need a “czar”, the term used in this org chart?  Wouldn’t this be the responsibility of the Department of Energy?  Both Republican and Democratic presidents have used “czars” for various issues like energy, the drug war, and so on, and all have had the same thing in common: they never work.  Gore himself is no surprise as a selection, but Congress should insist he give up his interest in his carbon-trading firm.  That would be a big conflict of interest.
  • Colin Powell for the Department of Education?  He’s also shortlisted at the DoD, which makes a lot more sense, but what qualifications does Powell have to head Education?  Other than giving an endorsement to Obama, that is?  He’s also listed at State, but I’d be very, very surprised if he returned to that position.
  • Penny Pritzker at Commerce: So, Obama would nominate someone who cost taxpayers millions in a bank collapse to a Cabinet position, eh?  Why not exhume Charles Keating and put him on the Cabinet at Treasury as well?  I can’t wait to watch the confirmation hearings for a Pritzker nomination.
  • Eric Holder at Justice: Holder pushed the Marc Rich pardon through the DoJ as a Clinton-appointed deputy AG, bypassing the prosecutors despite procedures being in place to get their input on proposed pardons.  It turned into the biggest scandal in the last days of the Clinton administration, and prompted a Congressional investigation into potential payoffs for pardons.  So much for a higher ethical standard from an Obama administration.
  • Richard Clarke at Homeland Security: Actually, the line-up there looks decent, with Tim Roemer, Raymond Kelly, Bill Bratton, and James Lee Witt on the list.  Witt’s the weakest of the five, and Clarke was part of the team that failed pre-9/11.  Bratton might make the best selection, but I wonder if Obama might appoint Joe Lieberman instead to resolve the standoff in the Senate?
  • Artur Davis at Justice:  This is the same Artur Davis who took part in the intervention against OFHEO regulators in 2003 on behalf of Franklin Raines.  Can he be trusted to enforce the law?  Not after that performance.
  • Republican Watch: Chuck Hagel at State, Powell in the slots mentioned above, Robert Gates to potentially stay at Defense … and that’s it.  That’s exactly what I predicted.  I’m a little surprised to not see either Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins on this list, but maybe Obama thinks he can use them in the Senate.