Thursday, December 11, 2008

New appointments, new blog

Oy. Well, owing to some technical difficulties with my first blog, I've had to set up a new one. David the American can still be viewed, just there won't be any new updates on it and it will probably be discontinued at some point because of inactivity; I just can't do anything with it.
Anyway, a lot's been going on since I was last able to write. I've got some catching up to do. A host of selections have been made in the soon-to-be Obama administration. Let's just move down the list:
The Foreign Policy/National Security Team
Not wholly surprisingly, Hillary Clinton was chosen to be Secretary of State, America's face to the world. While no Hillary fan by any stretch, I have to concede that within the context of an Obama presidency, she's not a horrible choice. She has unique experience in statesmanship, serving in official and unofficial responsibilities while First Lady, she serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and she's no fool. At least as likely to get her taken seriously, I think, is her association with her significant other, Bill. While it's sickeningly ironic that America's top diplomat-to-be is known for a less-than-diplomatic style, the unfortunate compromise we have to make with her is that when it comes to it, in a job like hers, it's more important to be respected than liked. The real question is whether she'll cooperate with Obama. I don't think a major rift between the President and Secretary of State of the United States- one of them being Hillary Clinton- is something that can be kept secret for long. It wasn't long before the Bush-Powell 'difference of opinion' was common knowledge, so I think we'll be the first to know when there's an issue.
His choice for UN Ambassador was kind of out of Left Field, but really has to be viewed the same way we view the president-elect himself: with cautious optimism. Susan Rice, a young former Assistant SecState for African Affairs with solid academic credentials, is experienced but isn't, much the same way Obama is. By that I mean they've delivered definite results in their respective spheres to this point, just they're kind of limited spheres and they haven't been in them for very long. The UN seems a little out of her league, but I'm willing to be surprised.
Presently-serving Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked to stay on for a little while, and has accepted. Obama did promise bipartisanship, and it can't be denied that he's followed through. But more than that, I think this was a good move because he's the head of the military, proven effective, and there's a war on. A change of the hand at the helm now could potentially result in, well, chaos. I'd say the same thing if this was a Democrat on a Republican team, if they were willing to play ball, and I'm sure Gates will be.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano was chosen, as expected (by me at least), to head the Department of Homeland Security. As the governor of a Border State who was the first to use the National Guard in response to a flood of illegal crossings from Mexico, I'd say she has the experience and the proven commitment to doing what needs to be done to keep this country secure.
Lastly, he's chosen retired Marine Corps Commandant and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Jim Jones to be National Security Advisor. Interestingly, prior to John Negroponte, Condi Rice offered Gen. Jones the position of Deputy Secretary of State, which he declined. I don't know what that's about, if he's an unofficial Democrat or what, but I have enough respect for his credentials that I don't really care, honestly. Only an idiot would have a problem with him getting this job.
The Economic Team
Timothy Geithner was the interesting choice for Treasury Secretary. I say interesting (not necessarily bad) because he is currently the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I don't think it will ever be clear how close he was to the action that sparked this economic downturn. My guess is close enough to have seen the writing on the wall, though probably not bearing any serious responsibility. He kind of embodies the conundrum Obama faces in having to balance insider experience with outsider freshness when it comes to ending our financial woes.
New Mexico Governor-and defeated Obama opponent- Bill Richardson was chosen to be Secretary of Commerce. I daresay he's almost overqualified for this job, but there are worse things I guess. In truth, I would have liked to see him get a more prominent position (like replacement for newly-jettisoned VP Joe Biden, as per my fantasy)-though considering his star-power and the current economic situation, he may bring the Commerce Department into a bigger spotlight (not that that's a priority or anything). He's been a member of Congress, served in sensitive diplomatic assignments including UN Ambassador, been a Cabinet Secretary, and now a governor. I don't think there are many politicians with as long a list of real qualifications anywhere. Well, lame post though it is, let no one expect a poor performance from him.
What IS worth bearing in mind is that in appointing Clinton and Richardson to his Cabinet, Barrack Obama has effectively eliminated his main competition in 2012. They're not imbeciles, so even if that's why they were chosen, we can at least be confident they won't screw things up too badly.
The Domestic Team
Attorney-General-designate Eric Holder is honestly the only of Obama's selections (so far) that I have serious reservations about. As Deputy AG under President Clinton, he played major roles in the legally-dubious seizure and deportation of 10-year-old Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzales and Clinton's last-minute pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. The latter case is still being debated, but in both scenarios, Holder is widely viewed as having demonstrated what could be charitably described as extremely poor judgement. Yeah yeah, he's the first African-American to be named to the post, blah blah hooray. We'll see how this works out.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was selected to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Health care has apparently become his pet project since leaving elected office, and considering this is not a very political post, it's hard to have particularly strong feelings on this appointment. He's an experienced statesman, and if Obama wants to give him this job, I say why not.
Honestly, the most interesting (sorry, I use that word a lot) of Obama's selections was of Eric Shinseki for Veterans' Affairs. Shinseki, I think, is Obama's nod to the far-left elements of his voter base, to whom he owes quite a bit for getting him elected so overwhelmingly. The reason is that Shinseki, a former 4-star general, was forced out as Army Chief of Staff in 2003 over differences with the Bush administration on Iraq policy. As such, he is kind of seen as Donald Rumsfeld's archnemisis; Obama can't easily justify choosing a partisan from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for a Cabinet seat- they would quickly prove too divisive even if they got confirmed- but what he can do is appoint the enemy of their enemy. That Gen. Shinseki knows the military can't be rationally denied, and I'm sure he'll do a perfectly acceptable job. But of all the people to put in, President-elect Obama probably could not have gone with a more subtle-but-not-really repudiation of the course taken on Iraq and of the outgoing establishment generally. And I refuse to believe that was an accident.
For me at least, the shock of the election is starting to wear off, and it's nice to see the future starting to take shape, at least because not knowing naturally creates anxiety, if not because I'm actually thrilled with the direction we're avowedly headed. Barrack Obama has an agenda, and his team looks competent to implement it so far. But only time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there David, I really enjoy reading you views and think that this last entry is worthy of a read by many. You have some great insights.
    Hope all is going well with your recovery!