Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

I haven't written very much about Obama's first round of appointments -- not really in love with them, but not hating them either, just trying to detect a pattern, and I think one is starting to emerge. There's been a national obsession, for some reason, over which great American president that No. 44 needs to copy, whether it should be FDR and his New Deal or Abraham Lincoln and his "team of rivals" . . . or even[Ronald Reagan]. Actually, I don't think Obama is copying anyone with his appointments as much as he trying to avoid turning out like a failed commander-in-chief of not so long ago. You may have heard of him: Jimmy Carter.

Reappointing Robert Gates as secretary of defense would be magnanimity with a purpose, a show of something better than cleverness, and that is wisdom.

Barack Obama has a tough dilemma. If he staffs his administration with talented outsiders, he satisifies citizen demand for "change," but the problem is that outsiders don’t have a clue about how to govern in Washington (case in point: Jimmy Carter’s 1977 Georgia team). Yet if Obama staffs his administration with insiders who do know how to govern (clearly, his chosen option), he undercuts his "change" mantra – mostly because so many of those insiders logged time with the Clintons, and, on occasion, became soiled by the association.

back during the primaries there was tons of talk of the most senior “foreign policy community” types in Clinton’s orbit “warning” younger national security professionals that there would be big-time payback if they backed Obama and he wound up losing. At the same time, while on the top level Clinton tended to attract a diverse group of people with personal ties to her, at the bottom level you tended to get a lot of very risk-averse careerists — the sort of people who just sign on with the frontrunner and don’t really have any passion or vision. I think that sort of thing wound up ill-serving Clinton during the campaign, when one advantage Obama had was a staff full of genuinely passionate supporters, and I doubt it’s a dynamic she deliberately wants to foster. But you could have a situation where Secretary of State Clinton wants to bring in as key subordinates loyalists who she’s comfortable with, and then those loyalists want to go about fulfilling their threat of punishing Obama supporters by locking them out.

Suffice it to say, that would be a bad thing.


Looking over the list of top players on President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, one gets the sense that serious people are coming back to power. On the national security team in particular, they're professional, thoughtful, cognizant of the world's complexities, engaged with cutting-edge ideas but not dogmatic about them. This may not sound exciting, but those who think it doesn't constitute "change" haven't paid enough attention to these last eight years of Jacobian zeal and blundering.

There was a time in our nation's history where striking that balance may have been difficult, even impossible. Now it's easier. The credit goes to years of expanding opportunity and breaking down doors along with hard work, sacrifice and achievement from legions of pioneers who carved out their version of the American Dream.

We've arrived at a place where you can hire someone with a diverse background who gives you a new and valuable perspective and still embodies excellence. If you doubt it, just look at the president-elect.

While the nation's capital obsesses over Barack Obama's next Cabinet pick, the president-elect's lieutenants are engaged with what may be a more important long-term issue: What will become of Obama's vast grass-roots network?

. . . Democrats believe (and many Republicans fear) that Obama allowed his party and its allies to take an enormous leap forward in both technological sophistication and grass-roots activism. Preserving those gains and building on them is a priority for a man who sees organizing not only as instrumental but also as a way of transforming democracy itself.

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we're screwed.

Cartoon by John Darkow/Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune

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