EDITORIAL: Obama Assembling Solid Cabinet Team
If Cabinet-level appointments are any indicator -- and they are -- then the Barack Obama administration is off to a good start.
Whether it's the economic task force he named last week or the national security team he introduced Monday, the president-elect seems to have inspired confidence from members of both parties for putting together such a remarkable assemblage of strong, experienced and independent-minded associates to help to guide this nation through the treacherous waters ahead.
Those out on the left end of the political spectrum (and perhaps even some on the right who are looking for something to excoriate) may be disappointed that this supposedly extreme liberal or even "socialist" president-elect has recruited such a bunch of pragmatic centrists.
The Hillary Factor
If any of these nominations has raised doubts and eyebrows, it is that of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. That choice, unlike most of the others, may have been driven as much by domestic political considerations as diplomatic ones.
By picking the woman who was recently his main opponent in the bitter Democratic primary battle, Obama clearly wants to keep her inside the tent shooting out instead of outside shooting in. He is also perhaps pre-empting a possible 2012 primary opponent. In any case, it will be fun to watch how the relationship between these two strong-willed and ambitious individuals (not to mention Clinton's problematic husband) unfolds.
Clinton does bring significant strengths to the job in her own right. Obama described her appointment as "a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore our alliances." Heaven knows such a renewal is sorely needed in the wake of the damage America's image abroad has suffered in the past eight years.
Though both Clinton and Obama will have to live down all the carping they did during the campaign about each other's weaknesses in foreign policy, no animosity was in evidence at Monday's press conference, during which Clinton pledged to Obama that she would "give this assignment, your administration and our country my all."
Lively Debate Assured
Obama promised during the campaign to put at least one Republican in his Cabinet. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appointed to that job by President Bush and wisely held over by Obama, may end up being the closest thing to a fulfillment of that vow.
Though Gates has presided for two years over a war that Obama strongly opposed, the president-elect praised him Monday as having won the respect of both parties for the progress he has made toward getting the Iraq situation under enough control to permit a U.S. disengagement. If he and outspoken war opponent Clinton should end up at odds, the new national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones (another extremely solid choice) may find himself playing mediator.
Three other appointments were announced Monday: Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security, longtime Obama adviser Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador and Clinton Justice Department retread Eric Holder as attorney general.
Though Obama made it clear that he'll be the ultimate decider, he seems serious about wanting spirited debate among the key members of his team. Given the nature of these experienced and uniformly competent hires, he seems sure to get it. The nation will be the ultimate beneficiary. As the proverb says, there is wisdom in a multitude of counsel.
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