Richard Cohen: Appoint 'Custodian of the Planet' Al Gore as Secretary of State

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has taken a divorce from reality in recommending that Barack Obama appoint the "Custodian of the Planet," Al Gore, as Secretary of state. Cohen submits this proposal, along with other wacky ideas, in his latest column (emphasis mine):

If there is a single appointment Barack Obama could make to signal how dramatically things will change in Washington, it would be to name Albert Gore Jr. -- former House member, former senator, former vice president, former presidential nominee and current Custodian of the Planet -- as secretary of state. For all the other aspirants to the job, sorry -- this is an inconvenient truth.

Can you imagine a bolder statement about a new direction when it comes to global warming and the general care of our abused planet? Gore has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in this area (and an Oscar, to boot), and his appointment would signal a dramatic shift from the indifference of the Bush era with its cold shoulder to the Kyoto treaty. In one stroke, the United States would emerge as the leader of nations in the effort to save the planet from ourselves -- and could prepare for the consequences of a changed world.

Great timing. Just as Global Warming (now being renamed "Climate Change") is being discredited in much of the scientific community. With "luck," Gore's announcement as Secretary of State, if it does take place,  would occur on the coldest day in years. After a brief flirtation with rationality by suggesting Lawrence Summers for Treasury secretary, Cohen drops off the deep end again by suggesting that the Department of Education be upgraded to the level of the Defense Department:

Normally, the next most important Cabinet post would be Defense. But next to Gore at State, nothing would show how much the Obama administration will break from the past than by elevating the secretary of education to the inner Cabinet. My choice: Joel Klein, New York City's schools chancellor.

Many people lament all the energy that is not being drilled for offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But far fewer people get as exercised over the brainpower that is not being tapped in this country on account of an inexcusably awful education system. Klein would change that by, among other things, altering the way teachers are compensated. Good teachers would earn more than average teachers and teachers who want to teach in the toughest, meanest and most desperate schools would earn most of all.

Teachers unions -- another Democratic Party interest group -- hate merit pay, so here's another opportunity for Obama to prove his mettle. The object is to reverse the current situation, in which most teachers are recruited from the bottom quarter of college classes, and instead go for the top quarter -- as do Finland and South Korea, two countries with excellent education systems.

It's a sad commentary on our schools that Obama is probably going to have to send his girls to a private school in Washington. It's also inexpressibly sad that so many kids pass through school -- and go straight to jail, often leaving a victim in their wake. It's good that Klein's belief that public education can be redeemed is so deep that he quit a high-paying job in private industry to take on the immense New York school system.

Also a hypocritical commentary by Obama. This would fall under the "Do as I say, not as I do," category. But, hey, he might boost the standing of the Education Department to that of the Defense Department so perhaps Richard Cohen will give him a pass on that hypocrisy.

Appointments Washington Post Richard Cohen

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