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.