It’s a wise old rule of the heart, too often forgotten: When you choose a spouse, remember that you’re not just marrying a mate — you’re also marrying into a family.
There’s a corollary that’s worth remembering when you enter the voting booth in November: You’re not just electing a president. You’re electing an administration and the party that will staff it up.
Yes, you’re choosing the person who will answer the phone at 3 a.m. when a crisis erupts in some obscure corner of the world. But you’re also deciding who’s going to be placing that phone call and, in a broad sense, determining what that person will likely say to the sleepy, confused leader who’s just been jolted awake. How will the choices be framed? Will we try negotiating or immediately start bombing? And if we’re bombing, will we bomb the right country?
You’ll be choosing a head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to police Wall Street unless it decides to close its eyes and let the gamblers run the table. You’re choosing a head of the U.S. Forest Service, which protects national forests from developers, unless it’s headed by developers, and of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, whose scientists keep track of the terrifying trends in the earth’s climate while dodging the anti-science bullies of the Republican Congress.
You’re choosing the head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which was led at a key point during the last Republican administration by one Michael “Brownie” Brown, whose professional background was in show-horses, a pursuit that seems to have quite a following among Republican politicians.
You’re choosing a pool of Supreme Court nominees. The next president will likely decide whether the court’s pro-life faction is enlarged to the point where it can overturn Roe v. Wade. Ironically, this is the same pro-life faction that would rather risk executing an innocent man than risk setting a murderer free.
And you’ll probably be choosing a foreign policy team that yearns to resurrect the cowboy diplomacy of the George W. Bush administration, which did so much to discredit American leadership in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. It was the Bush administration that sent in the troops to democratize the Mideast, despite warnings that it was opening the door to Islamist takeovers. It was the Bush administration that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iran’s main regional enemy, thus unleashing Iran as a regional superpower, and then sulked in the corner while the European allies tried jawboning Iran into dropping its nuclear program.