Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Charge

The response to the roll-out of President-elect Obama’s national security team was fairly predictable: everyone — left and right — seemed to be looking for a hint of validation of their conventional wisdom. The left was a tad chagrined that they all looked like the old Washington guard with Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder and no sign of Dennis Kucinich, and the righties were already betting when the shouting and screaming matches between Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton would hit Page Six. Rush Limbaugh called the appointment of Ms. Clinton a “brilliant stroke” because it echoes Don Corleone’s advice to keep your friends close and your enemies closer: Ms. Clinton would find it difficult to challenge Mr. Obama in the Democratic primary if she’s still in Foggy Bottom in 2012.

I may be incredibly naive, but I wonder if it has occurred to any of these pundits that the election of Barack Obama might just be the end of sixteen years of High School Musical – the Beltway Version and that the president-elect is actually planning to do something with national security, foreign policy, the economy, education, health care, and the hundreds of other items on his agenda with the novel approach of doing what’s best for the country, not for the polls and the politics?

Oh, sure; every new president says that they are done with the campaign and are now getting down to the mundane and granular business of governing. And there’s always the ritual of the show of continuity with the previous administration by keeping a token hold-over in some inconsequential Cabinet post (i.e. can you name the one Cabinet secretary President Bush kept from the Clinton administration?). But I’m having a hard time remembering the last time an incoming administration of an opposing party kept in place the Secretary of Defense from the previous administration. That says to me that while Mr. Obama may have enough of an ego to run for president, he also knows that he needs smart and confident people to run the country, not political hacks who owe their political fortunes to the election of someone else and who have demonstrated that they’re fully capable of coming up with an original idea on their own. And most importantly, they know who’s in charge.