Thursday, November 20, 2008

A little caution, please

There have been many comments in the right-leaning blogosphere that President-Elect Obama's personnel decisions thus far (to the extent that they've been made public with something other than anonymous sourcing) have been something less than as bad as it could have been. Surrounding himself with advisors from the somewhat moderate Clinton era is probably seen as a move to the center by folks on the right who, like me, were concerned that his liberalism had the potential to undo this great country of ours.

I am not celebrating anything about these appointments, however.

Here's why: I think Clinton's terms were moderate to the extent that they were because that is who Bill Clinton is. He was a consummate politician, smarter than just about everybody in the room and desperately needing to be adored.

Clinton's advisors and inner circle may have tried desperately to lurch him further left, I don't know. But ultimately Clinton was a "third way" kind of a guy, and he was also a man with a stubborn streak a mile wide. Not cajones, mind you--he wouldn't stick up for anybody but himself. But he would stick up for himself to the ends of the earth, no matter how far short he had fallen.

Obama is no Clinton. He is smart, don't get me wrong--but he isn't really the smartest person in the room. He speaks eloquently to a yearning in a large part of the electorate, but I'm not sure how much of that was him and how much of that was a good message being crafted by somebody else who had the ability to go and find a great messenger (Soros, Axelrod, folks like that. Honestly, I'm willing to bet that ANYBODY with the same "exciting, outsider" vibe who espoused the same policies as Obama likely would have won this year--although anyone else would have had to make a better choice for VP than Biden). When tried, Obama has shown a political tin ear (think of his defense of Jeremiah Wright and the various fiascos with his VP vetting team). I am under the impression that he can be bullied, not because of anything that he's done but rather exactly because he has never stopped anybody around him from doing what THEY have done. Obama is, literally, a go-along-to-get-along guy.

And he may be thinking that by deferring to these Clintonistas that he will be able to fly on autopilot and his cabinet will guide the administration to end up in the center-left of the political spectrum, where the aforementioned Clinton governed from.

But without Bill to keep these folks in check, there is absolutely no guarantee that Holder, Napolitano, and the rest will play moderate. That goes double for Emanuel, not because the man is more liberal-leaning than the rest, but rather because Obama desperately NEEDS his CoS to keep one foot within earshot of "the middle" if Obama is going to do maintain a center-left administration.

And Obama can expect little weight to be carried by his Veep. (Do you get the feeling I have no respect for Joe Biden?) This is his show, The One.

And I think he'll find governing a lot harder than he thought it to be.


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