Knowing that many of the Obama faithful (and a number of skeptics) have been disappointed with some of his choices to fill various Cabinet positions, I found this article in Thursday’s Financial Times to be quite astute.
The campaign poetry is long forgotten. Barack Obama is promising business at usual. Look at the emerging line-up of his administration. Many are holdovers from Bill Clinton’s White House; the rest stand out for their small “c” conservatism and competence. Whatever happened to change?
That, anyway, is the widely taken impression from the president-elect’s personnel choices in recent weeks. Economic policy had already been placed in the hands of a phalanx of Clintonites. This week we got Mr Obama’s national security team. If this latest set of appointments carried a single message it was a promise of no sudden swerves.
Familiar faces, Washington observers yawn, promise familiar policies. After all, what stronger signal could Mr Obama have sent of the premium he now places on continuity than the decision to keep Robert Gates at the Pentagon? There will be no rush from Iraq.
This is the most telling part of the article, however:
The more interesting question, I think, is whether Mr Obama’s apparent conservatism militates against change; whether in opting for Washington heavyweights over faithful acolytes and for grey hair over youthful exuberance he has already ruled out a sharp change of course in America’s foreign policy. Will these strong personalities impose continuity? On two counts, I think the answer is no.
Even were Mr Obama’s instinct to lean towards caution – and the evidence is otherwise – circumstance demands a radical change in America’s attitude to the world. Steady as she goes is simply not an option in the face of a profound upheaval in the global geopolitical balance. To drift with the tides would be to be swept on to the rocks.
This was followed a couple paragraphs later by:
This week he repeated his commitment to ensure that the US retains the world’s foremost military. But he put the emphasis of his remarks on the need to deploy the full spectrum of America’s soft power.
Seen in this light, Mr Obama’s choice of foreign policy heavyweights is significant for its ambition rather than its caution. If he really does want to recast America’s relationship with the world, surrounding himself with seasoned players will make the task easier rather than harder. Why would a president who wanted to change things put the task in the hands of inexperienced acolytes
And the decisions he’s making lie not only with foreign policy but with domestic and economic policy as well. If you want to change things, you need to bring in people who are capable of driving change; people like Paul Volcker and Timothy Geithner.
From what I’m seeing, Obama is making wise decisions on his choices to fill the various Cabinet slots.
But time will tell.