I am a fan of Karen Tumulty's work but, as Jon Cohn also notes, her outside-the-box suggestion that Obama appoint Mitt Romney to the HHS slot is clearly a nonstarter. If you could rewind the clock a couple of years to the time before moderate Mitt morphed into the GOP version of Tarantino's Superman, then maybe it'd work. But you go to war with the Mitt you have, not the Mitt you might want or wish to have, and this one is of no possible use to a Democratic administration.
But Romney is a sober, considered choice when compared to Craig Crawford's Newt Gingrich recommendation, which seems to be based in its entirety on the fact that Gingrich is a Republican:
Gingrich? Now before you lefties have a collective heart attack, think about it. Something as big as overhauling our entire health care system will be tougher to get done on a purely partisan basis. There are Republicans who want to play.
As much as it would infuriate liberals, picking Gingrich would be a hyper-bipartisan move. Would it confound the GOP into submission on health care? Maybe not, but it would be a bold move to change the political dynamics that has killed reforms in the past.
My own advice would be that, in the exceedingly unlikely event that Obama decides to pick a Republican, he confine himself to candidates who a) have some demonstrated clout within their party, and b) aren't nuts. Owing to his widely ignored requests that somebody please, please draft him to run for president or head the RNC, I think it's safe to say Gingrich fails the first test. As for the second, he is Newt Gingrich after all.
No, if you're looking for a phenomenally improbable, way outside-the-box GOP pick, I think Jon has one that is, at first glance at least, substantially less deranged.