CAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri (CNN)– “Are we really in such great shape as a country that we can afford to throw any of these people out?”
Amy Yeager, 35, was talking. Yesterday we wrote about her two-and-a-half hour drive across Missouri so she could visit the restaurant that calls itself “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls”; the throwed-rolls experience, she told us, was fulfilling enough that several times a year she does it: drives a total of five hours round-trip for a meal that lasts considerably less than 90 minutes.
When the conversation turned to the presidential election, though, it became serious, and she brought up an idea that many political professionals might consider lunacy.
Which is why the idea is so good.
“Think of all the candidates from both parties that we saw on those debate stages during the primaries," she said.
There are days when it’s a little hard to remember all those names, but you can certainly envision the crowded stages back when the snow was on the ground in Iowa.
“It just seems wrong to have so many really smart people, who care about our country, and then get rid of all of them but one or two and not take advantage of the others’ talents and willingness to serve," she said.
She referred to the tradition of one winner from one party in the primaries becoming president, and not using the defeated candidates from both parties– from both sets of debate stages– as important members of, and advisers to, a new administration.
Once in a while– the Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket is an example– a presidential candidate selects someone he surpassed in the primaries to serve as his running mate. And sometimes vanquished primary candidates end up in a Cabinet position.
“But I’m talking about really changing things and putting the people who ran and lost to work for a new president," she said. “There were too many good people on those stages who were too smart and too concerned about the country’s future for a new president just to act as if they’ve disappeared.”
So– and this is the part that will make the political professionals’ heads spin as if they are auditioning for a remake of “The Exorcist”– Amy Yeager suggests that, whether Barack Obama or John McCain wins on November 4, the new president consider naming Hillary Clinton as attorney general of the United States.
“Why wouldn’t you at least think about doing that?” she said.
If Obama wins, she said, he could do far worse than naming McCain as secretary of defense.
“With his knowledge of the military, and his long experience, I don’t see how you could pick a better person,” she said.
If McCain wins, he should immediately ask Obama to join his Cabinet as either the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services or of the Department of Education.
“Obama has shown a real commitment and caring on issues of health care and of education in our country," she said. “If he doesn‘t win, he could bring that commitment to McCain’s administration."
Other candidates from both primaries– Republicans and Democrats who didn’t make it to the tickets– should also be brought into a McCain-Palin or an Obama-Biden White House, she said. Chris Dodd, Mitt Romney, Bill Richardson, Mike Huckabee– politicians on all those debate stages from the primaries each impressed the country in different ways, each has talents and ideas that would help the nation, and none should simply be tossed aside.
At least that is Amy Yeager’s theory.
“Why couldn’t it work?" she said.
Well, one reason is that the Republicans and Democrats have different basic ideologies, and the supporters of each party– not to mention the new president– would not accept bringing in the rejected set of beliefs, even if almost half the country endorsed those beliefs in a close election.
And there is also the suspicion that behind their friendly public smiles, many of these candidates– the ones who made it to the final tickets, and the ones who didn’t– despise each other. Competing for the biggest prize of all can do that to a person.
“But what’s more important?” Yeager said.
Meaning: In troubled times, a nation needs the best minds, and the most devoted and patriotic leaders, it can find. From disparate thoughts and ideologies emerge the best solutions. Sometimes former opponents can surprise each other.
“It happens at the community level all over the United States,” she said. “In communities, when there are problems to solve, people don’t think about political affiliations. They just get the best people in the community to come together and get it done.”
She acknowledges that it’s not going to happen: Hillary Clinton is not going to run John McCain’s Department of Justice; John McCain is not going to oversee the armed forces under Barack Obama. That’s not the way life works.
Actually, sometimes that is the way life works. But it’s not the way political life works.
“Just an idea,” she said, on her way through the heart of Missouri in pursuit of rolls hurled across a busy restaurant toward the waiting hands of eager diners.