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THE ARMCHAIR STRATEGIST | DAN PAYNE

Kerry's Cabinet? Here goes

ALL POLLS, national and swing state, now show John Kerry leading or surging. So it's time for someone (me) to think about his Cabinet.

For Defense, usual suspects are Wesley Clark and John McCain; but I like Romeo Crennel, Patriots' Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator. At State, safe pick is ex-UN ambassador and know-it-all Richard Holbrooke, who helped end war in Bosnia. National security adviser would fit Gary Hart, expert on all things military, but Richard Clarke would be sweet justice.

FBI goes to America's most famous cop, Bill Bratton, formerly of Boston and New York, now LAPD chief. Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (ret.) gets Homeland Security; Army's only female three-star general was deputy chief of staff for intelligence. As attorney general, John Edwards would fight for little guy; solicitor general is natural for Dennis Archer, ex-Detroit Mayor and first African-American head of American Bar Association. CIA chief would come from Yale's secret Skull and Bones society, so director's name could not be spoken.

College president Bob Kerrey would turn Education job into bullhorn for reform. For Agriculture, I'd skip bland South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle in favor of Jim Hightower, colorful Bush-whacker who went from Texas farming commissioner to national liberal wit overnight. Example: "The only difference between a pigeon and the American farmer is that a pigeon can still make a deposit on a John Deere."

Give Health and Human Services to Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, left on steps of orphanage as baby and adopted by an alcoholic, abusive mother (true). Howard Dean would whip us into shape as surgeon general. Housing should have US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. in the house.

Environmental Protection for Bill Weld, if he promises not to jump into Potomac. At Interior, Fab Five from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" could do wonders with whole country.

Max Cleland for Veterans Affairs; he lost three limbs in Vietnam, then lost his US Senate seat when Republicans attacked his patriotism. (Don't know which is worse, that GOP did it, or that it worked.)

For Energy, smart pick is Daniel Yergin, authority on global energy and economics. Transportation goes to Fred Salvucci, who conceived and won approvals for biggest construction project in US history, Boston's Big Dig. Labor is Richard Gephardt, who seems to have been in Congress since 1894 -- even back then had 100 percent AFL rating. Commerce goes to Donald Trump; at Cabinet meetings he'd make everyone feel better about his hair. Treasurer is Madame Heinz, who'd be comfortable around amounts smaller than her bank account.

Securities and Exchange is Eliot Spitzer, New York's crusading attorney general who'd bring extra muscle against CEO abuses. For UN ambassador, Georgia congressman and civil rights warrior John Lewis would project new US image to world. Who better to unlock huge China market as US Trade Representative than Gary Locke, third-generation Chinese-American and governor of Washington?

To chair Council of Economic Advisers, I'd tap economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Head of space program is no-brainer: William Shatner, Star Trek captain, would boldly go where no man has gone before; with Priceline, he'd save billions on travel. And who in White House press corps would tangle with American Idol's acerbic Simon Crowell as press secretary?

For Vice President hot name (again) is McCain, after his public dissing contest with Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert over sacrifices during time of war. Hastert (who dodged Vietnam) had gall to tell McCain (who endured 5 1/2 years as POW in Vietnam) to look for sacrifice at military hospitals. More popular with Democrats than Republicans, McCain said he doubted Democrats would want "prolife, free-trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk." His lifetime American Conservative Union voting record is same as Senator Orrin Hatch's.

Bill Richardson's VP stock is up; New Mexico governor is most famous Latino politician in United States. Besides NM (42 percent of population is Hispanic) he'd help in California 32 percent, Arizona 25 percent, Florida 17 percent, Illinois 12 percent. Negotiated with treacherous North Korea, which prepared him to deal with Boston as chair of DNC convention. He has liabilities: As UN ambassador, agreed to hire intern from White House named Lewinsky. As Energy chief, botched nuclear secrets case at Los Alamos -- which cost him shot as Al Gore's VP.

Edwards remains my choice because he's dazzling speaker and skilled trial lawyer who'd make case against Bush every day; but lacks foreign policy experience and his star power could outshine Big Guy.

And for Kerry slogan, I recommend Harry Truman's eloquently brief, "Had enough?"

Dan Payne is a Boston-based media consultant who worked on John Kerry's Senate campaigns and for Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential primaries. His column appears regularly in the Globe. 

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