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Whoever wins this November – Barack Obama or John McCain – success in government comes more easily with talented people around you.With this in mind, we have dared to suggest who those people should be. But we have also taken the liberty of creating some interesting new posts and ventured wide in our search for top talent.

To those who passionately advocated impressive figures who did not make our list, we say sorry. A popular choice for some was Sam Nunn, former senator from Georgia, and there was deep support (more wine anyone?) for Lisa Simpson for environment secretary. But we felt cartoon figures might not pass the vetting process. Not all our choices are so surprising. There was no competition when it came to reforming healthcare.

Without apology, this is the Cabinet that we dare dream of, regardless of whether the new tenant of the White House is Republican or Democrat. Being a global news brand, we also paid special attention to people who could revitalise America’s image overseas.

There are a few posts we haven’t filled. And there is another we have filled with a fictional player – we know the kind of person we would like as press secretary but haven’t been able to find anyone in real life who fits the bill. Maybe you can.

Secretary of State

Richard Holbrooke

Former UN ambassador

This is the job he was born for (and just missed when Bill Clinton went for Albright as secretary of state in his second term). And his CV includes the brokering of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia. “There is hardly an area of the world he doesn’t understand,” says Peter Reid of the Carnegie endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. “His tough but intelligent style would allow the US a softer, more multilateral foreign policy.” Also nominated by Mark Leonard, executive director of the european Council on Foreign Relations, was George Mitchell: “Appointing one of the most famous peace-makers in history would help to bury memories of the military adventurism of the Bush era.With a father from Ireland and a listening style, he would be better placed to build up friendly links with european governments than other Democrats. But the killer argument for Mitchell as secretary of state is the fact that his mother comes from Lebanon: imagine the impact in the Middle east of having an Arab American as the face of the US in the world.”

Youth Director

Russell Simmons

Co-founder of Def Jam records

Not all rappers are so young any more, we know, and Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, celebrated his big five-0 last year. But the man who has managed acts including the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Tupac Shakur and Run-DMC knows how to get things shaking. As a philanthropist, he is close to causes focused on helping disadvantaged kids and he has seen the consequences of growing up in poverty or surrounded by violent gang culture. His potential influence over a whole generation – of every ethnic mix – could be dynamic. As well as heading Rush Philanthropic, which helps children in need, he is the chairman of the Foundation for ethnic Understanding. To put it simply, people respect him. Simmons blogs for The Huffington Post, and is a keen supporter of animal rights. He is also an avowed Barack Obama sup- porter. Simmons should have no trouble coping with the stresses of government – he is a vegan yoga nut and disciple of japa meditation.

Urban Affairs

Michael Bloomberg

Mayor of New York

As Mayor of New York, he rides the subway from his Upper east Side apartment to City Hall in Lower Manhattan. A small gesture maybe, but his support of mass transport speaks of his wider passion for turning the once-untameable Gotham into a city that works. He has also dared to tackle urban environmental concerns with zeal. High poll numbers suggest he is doing it right, so why not use his talents across the map? Detroit, New Orleans... the list is long and they need you, sir. Paula Scher, principal at Pentagram, goes further: “I would create a ‘Department of Cities’ that would merge urban housing development with inner-city infrastructure planning, healthcare, security, mass transportation, energy and education. The point of this new department would be to help cities solve their problems through holistic planning and programming. The various agencies in the department would work collaboratively with local mayors to advise, support, monitor performance and make appropriate aid available. I would select Bloomberg to be its head.”

National Security

Samantha Power

Professor at the Carr Centre

“In a world increasingly characterised by realpolitik, raw power and compromises for political expedience, Power stands out as a pragmatic idealist committed to principles and human rights. History has shown that justice must be at the centre of any peace that is to last.That’s why she would make an excellent, if unlikely, secretary of state,” says Mabel van Oranje, recently picked by Nelson Mandela to lead The elders, a group of eminent thinkers on world affairs. So what if Power had to resign as a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama for being rude about Hillary Clinton (she described the senator as a “monster”)? It was a political thing, and even at the time many thought her apology should have sufficed (be fair, many worse things have been said about Hillary). Power is currently the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leader- ship and Public Policy, based at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. Born in Ireland, she moved to the US aged nine and is a graduate ofYale and the Harvard Law School. She reported in Darfur for The New Yorker and covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia for The Boston Globe.

Spokesperson

Maria Park

Political commentator

If not in the White House press room, she will be spinning the reporters on Air Force One or holding them at bay at the presidential retreat. Our candidate is a Korean-American with a degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in Middle eastern Studies. She spent a year at the Sorbonne for her Masters and has also made it her mission to stay in touch with her Asian roots – a year working as a think-tank researcher in Tokyo was particularly instructive. Back in the US she founded a successful political blog, View from the Park, an experience that has left her with just the right mix of irreverence, discipline and savvy. This would be the first time there’s been a spokesperson in the White House who can speak French, Arabic and Japanese fluently – and, of course, english and Korean. This is the sort of east-West dialogue that America needs right now. Park’s skills mean she is able to win over hardened international foreign correspondents and give the president’s words an aura of passion – and under- standing. Suddenly Al Jazeera is welcome to hang out on presidential trips and the world’s view of the US begins to change.

Innovation Director

Steve Jobs

Apple supremo

Perhaps one of the greatest threats to the national security of the US has nothing to do with cave-dwellers in Afghanistan or a bored Putin but simply that the country will lose its pioneering spirit of innovation. In aviation it’s been the europeans who’ve been capturing imaginations with their Airbus a380, in defence there a technological challenges from every corner of the planet and in the business of mobile phones Motorola places third. There are no shortage of contenders for the post of national innovation director but we reckoned if Apple’s Steve Jobs can capture the attention of thousands by donning a black polo neck and talking about an aluminium tablet, imagine what he could dream up with 50 states to play with. One of Jobs’s first challenges in his post-Apple assignment would be to shore up the US’s position as a leader in innovation. This would mean creating public and private iniatives to keep the brightest minds from going to schools such as Kaist in Korea (see issue 14) and also seeing if he can create an updated vision of his “Designed in California, Assembled in China” – perhaps “Designed in America, Made in America” would be a vote winner.

International Branding

Millard Drexler

Chairman of J Crew

Having worked magic at Gap and J Crew, Drexler has made a career of selling American classics to both Americans and the wider world. Drexler’s first assignments would be a new programme for re-building tourism that doesn’t rely on a weak dollar but more architecturally interesting embassies and a new dress code.

Trade

Indra Nooyi

CEO of PepsiCo

Recently named the world’s top-earning female Ceo, Nooyi might find it hard to drop the tiller at PepsiCo for the thickets of world trade. But with the Doha Round recently collapsed and recriminations between developed and developing nations still fresh, Indian-born Nooyi has the background – professional and ethnic – to turn this round.

Energy & Environment

Amory Lovins

Chief scientist

From his perch at the Rocky Mountain Institute, he has been badgering governments for 30 years about energy efficiency and kicking their oil addictions. We think it’s time he started enacting his policies. With America echoing with calls to “drill here, drill now”, Lovins knows what the alternatives are, from cutting emissions to building hydrogen cars.

Overseas Development

Jeffrey Sachs

Director of The Earth Institute

His professional home is The earth Institute at Columbia University. Sachs, who is an adviser to Ban Ki-Moon at the uN, has dedicated much of his career to the cause of eradicating poverty and hunger and is a frequent traveller to Africa, where he offers advice and economic prescriptions to governments who are often grateful for his wisdom.

Health

Hillary Clinton

Former first lady

Healthcare in the US remains a disgrace with almost 40 million people completely uninsured. There is no politician in America who has given more thought to ending this scandal than the former first lady. She famously tried to forge a form of universal healthcare in her husband’s first term in the White House and botched it. But 15 years later, she could – and should – pull it off.

Housing

Majora Carter

Sustainable South Bronx founder

Youth and feistiness come together in this New York artist and environmentalist who almost came a cropper running the pre-Olympics torch relay in San Fran- cisco when she was set upon by police after taking a Tibetan flag from under her sleeve. As founder of Sustainable South Bronx she has overseen a widely praised redevelopment plan for its waterfront and she deserves a wider remit.

Defence

John Nagl

Counter-insurgency expert

After much debate over Sam Nunn, Admiral William J Fallon and John Nagl, we have gone for Nagl for this position. He is a counter-insurgency expert and former Rhodes Scholar with an intellectual streak. Some Washington think-tanks thought at 42 he was too young, but we think new blood is just what the Pentagon needs. Deployed to Iraq in 2003 after a short stint teaching at West Point, Nagl has recently retired from the US Army – to join a Washington think-tank.

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