New boss, same as the old?

Thanks to a prolonged battle with pneumonia, I’ve had a lot of time to lay on the couch and watch, via TV, the actions of our incoming President — Barack Obama.

I’ve also had time to dissect the media and blogger feeding frenzy — pro and con — over his appointments to the cabinet and senior administration positions.

The whole thing is enough to put me into a relapse and on oxygen therapy.

On the surface, Obama’s appointments defy the conventional wisdom of what we might expect from a President-elect who won on the promise of change.

The man who promised us a non-partisan approach to governing announced, as his first appointment and chief of staff, the most partisan member of Congress, a former political operative from the Rovean school of win at any cost.

Then he turned to enough former members of the administration of former President Bill Clinton to staff his cabinet and senior staff that White House meetings will seem more like reunions of the Washington power brigade that ruled from 1992 to 2000.

Today, he tops all of that by putting his former rival for the Democratic Presidential nomination in charge of the State Department and our diplomatic dealings on the world stage.

Some call all of this groundbreaking. Others call it a risk. I just call it more of the same from a man who promised us things would be different. To compound things, Obama’s bow to bi-partisanship is to leave the defense department in the hands of the same Secretary of Defense who has run lame-duck President George W. Bush’s failed Iraq war for the past few years.

One can argue that Obama must turn to experienced personnel to run the various federal agencies and advise him in the White House. Jimmy Carter tried bringing in too many outsiders and they turned his Presidency into a disaster.

But Obama has turned to many of the same power brokers who represent the past he campaigned against. He correctly questioned the claimed accomplishments of the Clinton administration during his campaign against Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination. He properly challenged the status quo that has controlled Washington not only for the past eight years but for preceding administrations from Bill Clinton to Richard M. Nixon.

But his Presidential appointments to date cannot reverse the practices of the past. They affirm them by turning to the very architects of past abuses of power.

Perhaps incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel can bury his highly-partisan past and do things the way Obama wants. Perhaps.

Maybe incoming Attorney General Eric Holder, who brokered the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the waning days of the Clinton administration, can remember that his post is the top law enforcement officer in the country and he has to operate within the law. Maybe.

And we can hope that new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can overcome her own enormous ego and lack of experience on the world stage and learn the serious nuances of a job that some, myself included, doubt she can handle without letting her personal agendas clash with the President’s. We can hope.

Speaking of hope, that’s what Barack Obama offered this nation in his historic run for the Presidency. Here’s hoping we haven’t been had — again.


  1. spartacus

    Give the man a break already!!!!! Would you have him pick newbies like Carter did and fall flat on his face? At this time in our history, we can hardly afford that. Where else can a Democratic president go for experienced governmental hands but the Clinton adminstration??????? I know you didn’t like Bill Clinton, but there are still an awful lot of people who do, and who remember how well the economy did under his stewardship. Would you rather that Obama picked other members of the Bush administration, other than Gates?


    Hillary would never have given up her Senate seat if she had any intention of jeopardizing her job by plotting her own course at the State Department: this is a great opportunity for her to leave a permanent mark on history, and she knows it. Before you get too judgemental, look at the reactions of our allies overseas to her nomination: they are very enthusiatic and approving.

    Would you also rather have a president, like Bush, who picked nothing but yes-men (and women), or who picked people with strong, sharp minds and opinions, who won’t always agree, but in doing so will undoubtedly give our president many different options and every side of an issue, not just the ‘my way or the highway’ we’ve had for 8 years? Bush was not known for appointing deep thinkers to ANY position; Obama seems determined to do just that. He’s appointing people who are smart; perhaps, being as smart as he is, he simply can’t work with inferior minds. With George Bush, that wasn’t much of a problem.

    Give him a break already. Barack Obama is perhaps the smartest man we’ve elected president in maybe a century. I have to believe he’s smart enough to know what he’s doing; he’s been ahead of everyone else’s thinking so far. What makes you think that ends with an election?

  2. AustinRanter

    There Is No Consensus About Anything!

    I can’t think of any job on earth that would be as difficult as President of the United Sates. I can’t think of any job on earth that carries with it as many critics and criticisms as there are people who have the ability to voice an opinion.

    Obama’s cabinet and staff choices to some may seem like a total disaster. But, as Doug pointed out, to others, they see individuals chosen who are experienced and have willingness to do whatever the hell their boss says.

    I can’t say that I’m overly joyed at all of Obama’s selections. But regardless of our personal opinion, we have to accept his choices and hold him responsible for their performance…or lack there of. He said in his announcement today that the Buck Stops With Him. Let’s all hold him to that.

    If we are to condemn Obama as a failure and/or as a promise breaker because we disagree with him for his choices in his cabinet and staff… and even before he officially takes office…then all is lost. There is absolutely no hope for America.

    We must accept that there is no single one Savior among the American people who can step into such a horrendous set of circumstances and do the laying on of the hands…and all will be right with the world. There is no single human being who has the ability to satisfy all of the pundits of the world…or even electorates…since no elected official has ever received 100% of the vote from all citizens.

    The vast majority of folks who voted for Obama did so because they trust him to do what he said he’d do… So is he already a geniune failure?