17 December 2008

On the Obama cabinet, Part II

A follow-up post on our earlier remarks on the president-elect's cabinet seemed appropriate.

In addition to being pleased by the general makeup of his advisory team, I also offer my full endorsement for the selections of Bill Richardson, Ken Salazar, Tom Vilsack and Larry Summers -- all moderate Democrats -- to the Changemaker's cabinet.

I'm further heartened by the direction Obama appears to be headed vis-a-vis foreign policy. In particular, I'm extremely pleased with the nomination of Gen. Jim Jones as national security adviser and the retention of Bob Gates as defense secretary -- two men, who Sen. McCain noted, would probably would have been part of his own cabinet. The third key member of the foreign policy team is of course Sen. Clinton, who will replace Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State.

Many on the right revile the Clintons, Hillary in particular. Much of their distaste stems from President Clinton's marital infidelities, and the acrimony toward HRC seems to be a result of her efforts to socialize American health care during the early part of Bill's first term. In terms of her voting record, Sen. Clinton was rated the 16th-most liberal senator in 2007, according to the nonpartisan National Journal. That means that in general, while an extremist by no means, she's a reliable liberal vote. 

However, the many faults I find with her are mainly on the domestic front. She is by no means anti-war; in fact, she continues to stand by her vote in favor of the Iraq War resolution. She has criticized Obama's laughable, weak-kneed stance toward negotiating without preconditions vis-a-vis Iran and Cuba, and has criticized her boss-to-be for his faux-hawkish attitude toward military action in Pakistan. Furthermore, she is regarded among her Republican colleagues on the Hill as hard-headed and pragmatic, and she has the deep respect of Sens. McCain and Lieberman, among others.

Had Obama chosen Sen. Clinton as his chief of staff or HHS czar, I would have a completely different opinion. On the domestic front, I agree with her on very little. However, she is a far better choice than the waffly, dovish Sen. John F. Kerry-Heinz (the other frontrunner for the State Department post). She is nothing if not tough, and if she is to have a position within the new administration, taking charge of foreign policy is fine with me. 

However, the HRC choice is revealing in another way. As Dick Morris pointed out, the case Obama made for his candidacy was his divergence from Sen. Clinton on foreign policy issues -- Pakistan, Iran, Cuba and especially, what to do with Iraq. Completely ignoring the feedback from commanders on the ground, Obama maintained that a cut-and-run strategy was the only practicable way out. (Even his own vice-president criticized this view as dangerously naive.) He claimed that, as an esteemed member of the Illinois State Senate, he was prescient with his anti-war views in 2002 and 2003. He built his case to the Democratic Party on this alone. 

And now he has chosen his main rival -- whose main, and really only, difference, concerned foreign policy -- to be in charge of ...

Foreign policy.

*Bangs head against table.*

Secondly, the presumed appointment of senator-turned-lobbyist Tom Daschle to head up Health & Human Services is another ludicrous appointment. Not only is Daschle's only qualification for the post the fact that he was a brash, obstructionist Washington insider for years, but it's hypocritical vis-a-vis Obama because Daschle has worked as a lobbyist since he was unseated by John Thune in 2004.

Obama spent much of his time assailing Sen. McCain for stacking his campaign with former lobbyists. The Hopemonger promised "change we can believe in," a new kind of politics, and a post-partisan Washington that will do away with the old, tired politics of yesterday. Lobbyists were barred from working on his campaign. He took the moral high ground, decrying the influence of big money and promised to make government responsive to the needs of the common man.

Now, he has picked a guy who has worked as a lobbyist at one of the premier K Street firms since he was ousted in 2004.


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