Over the weekend on Inside Washington Jack Germond said that while George W. Bush was making it clear he wants Colin Powell to be his secretary of state, Bush was precluded by law from announcing his selection. Is there a law against a candidate saying who would be in his Cabinet?
No. For one thing, it would be a violation of free speech. But to announce such choices is riskily presumptuous. No one wants to fall victim to “Thomas E. Dewey Syndrome.” So confident was Dewey that he would beat Harry Truman in 1948, that his staff started calling him Mr. President, and he began working on his Cabinet choices before the election. Since Dewey didn’t become president, he didn’t get to appoint John Foster Dulles secretary of state. Dulles had to wait until Dwight Eisenhower was elected in 1952 (Eisenhower didn’t announce the choice in advance) in order to fill the post. W.’s father also knew whom he would be appointing as secretary of state, but George H.W. Bush waited until the morning after the election to say it was James Baker.
Explainer thanks Donald Ritchie of the Senate Historical Office and Akhil Amar of Yale Law School.