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Thursday, March 04, 2004
 
Shadow Government

Ezra Klein of Pandagon has an intriguing idea about how to keep the media focused on Bush & Co.'s, er, shortcomings: form a shadow government. Name a VP soon, and a "cabinet" in June. Each member of the shadow cabinet would comment on Bush administration actions and proposals in his/her area, point up shortcomings and contradictions, and put forward what a Kerry administration would do instead. The press would eat it up, and the nation would benefit from a democratic counterpoint on every issue.

I only see one major problem with this approach, and it could prove a deal-breaker: it's an awful lot of cats to herd.

All the participants have to be lined up ahead of time and commit to making themselves available to serve in a Kerry administration. They would have to abandon government positions and careers in exchange for tenuous futures. Further, the scheme would greatly telescope the usual vetting process.

If a member of the shadow cabinet were to say something out of tune with the rest of Kerry's platform, the republicans are sure to jump all over it and say that Kerry can't manage people and isn't fit to govern. If their collective message is to be effective, Kerry has to come up with concrete, detailed policies for each department in a very big hurry. Then he has to get each of the participants to sign onto the program, even and especially where it conflicts with his/her own position. Should Bush win, these people will have undermined their credibility for nothing. If there are perceived differences among the "cabinet," the press will find itself with an irresistible drama to follow that can only help Bush's cause.

As prospective cabinet members, participants' backgrounds and character would be fair game for the other side, which could target them at leisure, unconstrained by the rules and decorum of the Senate chamber. Anything the slime machine came up with on these people would stick to Kerry, before the election.

Instead of a shadow government, Kerry should round up 3 or 4 high-profile Democrats as "official spokesmen," one for foreign policy, one for budgetary issues, one for labor issues, etc. They'd be perceived in much the same way as shadow cabinet members, and receive nearly as much press coverage, without giving the other side such a big target to shoot at.