To calm skittish Americans facing financial difficulties, President-elect Obama, lacking experience in every major policy area, has appeared onstage recently surrounded by seasoned economists.
To reassure those concerned about national security in the midst of two wars, Obama has asked Bob Gates to stay on as secretary of defense and chosen retired Marine General James Jones as national security adviser.
And according to the wire services, Obama is set to name Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Monday. Clinton brings in-depth experience in both economic policy and foreign affairs to the top diplomatic post in the Obama Administration.
A NY Times op-ed this morning confirms Clinton’s qualifications for serving at state by effectively linking current economic woes to security and foreign policy goals.
Robert Hormats and David M. Kennedy write:
“A crucial test of governing awaits the Obama administration. It must pursue economic recovery at home and around the globe and the reinvigoration of multilateral coordination abroad. Failure to revive the sagging domestic economy will make broader security and foreign policy goals more difficult to accomplish, as Americans seek refuge in economic nationalism and foreigners lose confidence in Washington’s leadership. The political and economic cooperation needed to resolve the current crisis is as essential to America’s domestic well-being as it is to the successful pursuit of our worldwide strategic interests.”
In response to criticism from his left-wing base for staffing his administration with experienced operatives from the Clinton era, Obama has let it be known that despite all the star power he and his transition team have assembled, he will – like his predecessor - be the decider.
We are asked to believe the judgment of the neophyte Obama will bring the much-heralded change we can believe in?
Despite Obama’s confidence in his innate wisdom, not everyone is convinced. On the PBS News Hour the other night, David Brooks confirmed that for the most part conservatives were well pleased with Obama’s picks, but Brooks expressed a little nervousness. What if, he asked, Paul Volker tells Obama one thing regarding the economy, and Larry Summers tells him the exact opposite? How will a clueless Obama decide what’s best in the midst of a global financial crisis?
Here’s another cause for worry: I’ve recently come across several blatantly chauvinistic opinion pieces regarding Clinton’s appointment at state. For example, Clive Crooks and Christopher Hitchens are essentially demanding that as the Obama Administration’s top diplomat, the more experienced Clinton acquiesce to Obama’s every whim; in other words, she should adopt the model of the voiceless subservient wife in fulfilling her duties around the globe.
In describing the quandary that President-elect Obama poses for not only his followers, but for all Americans, David Sirota at Salon writes:
‘“This is the mythic ‘independence’ we're supposed to crave -- a czar who doesn't owe anyone. It is the foreseeable result of the Dear Leader-ism prevalent in foreign autocracies but never paramount in America until now -- and it will have its benefits and drawbacks.
‘“…The point is that Obama alone gets to choose -- that for all the talk of ‘bottom-up’ politics, his movement's structure grants him a top-down power that no previous president had.
“For better or worse, that leaves us relying more than ever on our Dear Leader's impulses. Sure, we should be thankful when Dear Leader's whims serve the people -- but also unsurprised when they don't.”