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November 22, 2008

Comments

For "Congress" read "Commerce," above.

All this "captcha" nonsense, and spellcheck and everything, and no one tells you at the time of posting when you've stupidly written the wrong word.

Sheesh.

"I honestly don't know if hilzoy would be very good at adminitrating a large organization"

I wouldn't. I would, in fact, be really, really bad. But thanks. ;)

ThatLeftTurnInIraq:

I have already mentioned why I think Clinton is totally unacceptable - it's not a case of "oh noes, not Clinton", thank you very much. To recap once more: her Iraq decision, her dismissive stance towards diplomacy and her belligerent rhetoric towards Iran. If you cannot take these reasons seriously, then I'm afraid you're not taking foreign policy (and by extension war) very seriously. And the secondary argument: "oh she didn't really mean it, it was all political calculation" is rather self-defeating.

As for alternatives, there are plenty as I don't think name recognition is very important at all. Not many knew David Miliband apart from close followers of British politics, Joschka Fischer was virtually unknown internationally when he started, as was his successor Walter Steinmeier - as far as I'm concerned they all did/do a fine job, because they know how to run things. Colin Powell on the other hand was really well known, but when push came to shove, he caved in to to the Iraq debacle to save his @ss, and thus was a failure in my book.

@dr ngo 11:45pm

I was hoping for Bill Richardson as Sec. of State. I'm disappointed he wasn't chosen, but I wish him them best at Commerce if that is where he ends up serving. Perhaps his experience as Sec. of DOE and UN Ambassador will prove valuable in dealing with aspect of the job at Commerce that involve energy issues and international trade. We will see.

@novakant 2:50am


If you cannot take these reasons seriously, then I'm afraid you're not taking foreign policy (and by extension war) very seriously.

I'm afraid you are wrong - I do take foreign policy very seriously, albeit from a centrist viewpoint which is evidently completely unacceptable to you.

On most topics I try to be pretty tolerant of other points of view which I do not agree with. In this specific case I think your concerns about Hillary Clinton's possible performance as Sec. of State are reasonable ones but not so compelling that I feel they force me to jump to the conclusion that she will do a bad job - I'm inclined to wait and see, given that the person who has asked her to serve in that capacity has a better track record of making politically astute choices than I do.

I had hoped that you and I might be able to create a more constructive dialog than this, using your suggestion(s) as to a better candidate as a starting point. Please note that I asked you politely (or so I thought) three times for you to supply something very simple, just a single name of somebody you think would be better suited for the job. I also replied in detail to your request for a set of qualifications for the job.

You have chosen to repay my attempt at dialog with flat out refusal and at the end a childish insult based on the name I use on this blog. I'm sorry this happened. With benefit of hindsight I wish that I had never attempted to engage you. If you wish it to be so, I will never engage you again.

Thanks and good luck.

Yes, but do they have prior experience with being in public office, at a high enough level that they have the administrative experience dealing with a large staff, a complex organization, and the consequential burdens that come with that level of responsibility?

Well, some of them do but most of them don't. Consider those that don't, like hilzoy. Would she be able to learn those things on the job? Maybe. She's pretty sharp and she's smart enough to rely on trusted subordinates. So I'd say she has a 50-50 shot: there is some uncertainty and it could go either way. What about Clinton? We know she cannot do this. That is, we know that Clinton is incapable of the most basic management tasks. For example, we know that as an executive, she had no notion of how much money her campaign was bringing in and how much money it was spending. Moreover, we know that she failed to choose staff that would monitor finances and notify her as needed. She failed. There is no uncertainty here: Clinton has demonstrated her inability to manage large organizations.

Now, some might say that even if she failed during the campaign, she has since learned her lesson. I don't buy that. If you haven't learned by the time you're 61 years old that managers need to have some passing awareness of cashflow, then you're never going to learn it. If you made it through your first 61 years without ever having absorbed that most basic lesson of management, then God only knows what other gaps exist in your knowledge.

I think it is very hard for a public servant to spend much time in govt. without becoming damaged in the eyes of some portion of the public because of something they screwed up or overlooked, or unwise choices that they made.

I'm sympathetic to your point here, but I think you're glossing over differences. Getting a minor policy issue wrong is one thing. Failing to understand the concept that your budget is finite is not a minor policy dispute. These things differ in kind, not just degree. Beyond that, I'm not sure I buy your point. The public seems willing to accept all kinds of policy positions. Have you heard Obama's promises that Iran will not be permitted to get nukes no matter what? Do you think most of his voters really think that keeping Iran nuke free is so important that the US should launch a vast new war killing thousands of its own troops? I doubt it, but there's all kinds of stuff that politicians can say without suffering any real penalty, even when lots of people don't agree. I mean, Clinton consistently backed ridiculous wrong headed policies on Iraq during the 90s, but does anyone remember that? Of course not.


Is that really so hard? Just one or two little names? [holds up hand with thumb and forefinger just an inch apart]

I don't really see why this is necessary. You haven't convinced me that Clinton would be a better SoS than hilzoy. And the notion that Clinton is so perfectly suited for the role that there is literally no one in Washington who could do the job just as well strikes me as...silly. Nevertheless, since it is so important to you, here's a list of names: Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Bruce Riedel, Ivo Daalder, Lawrence Korb, and Robert Malley.


I am genuinely curious how you evaluate Clinton's failures to manage her campaign's finances. You don't seem to consider it a dealbreaker, so do you think the whole thing was overblown? Or what?

Ah, an of course I forgot to add to the list: Richardson and Kerry.

I'm agnostic on the choice, but I don't think that management of the campaign should be taken as a strike against Hillary. All of the names Turb mentions are interesting, but star power seems to be an essential part of the SecState job and while there are any number of people who could act just as well as, say, Tom Cruise, there is a difference between having him and someone else. In fact, the comparison to Tom Cruise might be particularly apt given that in some sense because Cruise is considered a bit of damaged goods.

As I said, this is not a full throated defense of HRC as SecState, but HRC brings some peculiar strengths to an Obama presidency that have been commented on by any number of blog posts, but I also like it because it, in a very real sense, is a poke in the eye to rabid Clinton hating Republicans in a way that is not obtained by putting Kerry in the job.

I forgot to explain why I don't think the campaign is necessarily a strike. While there are some points of similarity between running a campaign and running State, I think that the more defined lines of hierarchy in State will prevent HRC's weaknesses demonstrated in the campaign from being a factor. Unless Mark Penn becomes an under-secretary...


I am genuinely curious how you evaluate Clinton's failures to manage her campaign's finances. You don't seem to consider it a dealbreaker, so do you think the whole thing was overblown? Or what?

It is a problem. On the one hand I don't see the Sec. of State position as having primary CFO responsibilities for the State Dept. budget, I expect that close attention to the Dept. budget is at a lower level except for overall setting of priorities. On the other hand the way the HRC campaign mismanaged money strikes me as failure of delegation and supervision on Hillary's part, and reflecting a poor choice of who she picked to run the campaign. I think it is a problem and I'm granting a considerable amount of trust to Obama on this pick, thinking that if it isn't a dealbreaker for him then I may be wrong to be too critical in my evaluation.

I'm taking that with a grain of salt for a couple of reasons:

(1) I don't expect that Obama and his inner circle will stand idly by watching Hillary staff the State Dept. with the equivalent of Mark Penn and Patty Solis Doyle, so I expect better personel decisions at State than in the campaign.

(2) It is not all that unusual for political campaigns to have money problems. Obama's money machine this year was the exception to that rule, but if you look closely at most political campaigns, you'll see that mismanaging finances (in the sense of having difficulty balancing expenditures and income) is pretty common when the campaign is raising its own funds (a highly unstable and momentum driven activity).

Two of the candidates for Sec. of State whom I'd rather see (Richardson and Kerry) didn't do a particularly stellar job of managing their own campaigns either (in 2008 and 2004 respectively), either strategically or in terms of money management.

So it really is all relative (which is why I keep harping on the question of: Who else would be better? So we have some basis for comparison) - Hillary looked bad with regard to how she ran her campaign partly because her campaign was badly run, but also because she was up against possibly the best run campaign (in purely administrative terms) that I've ever seen in my lifetime. Almost anybody looks bad when compared with what Obama did this year.

lj: star power seems to be an essential part of the SecState job and while there are any number of people who could act just as well as, say, Tom Cruise, there is a difference between having him and someone else.

I just don't understand this. In my limited experience, adding celebraty star power to a challenging problem makes things worse not better, if only because the things one needs to do in order to become a celebrity are anti-correlated with the things that one needs to do in order to be really good at, well, anything. George Bush was just such a celebrity, a man whose star power vastly eclipsed his qualifications. I don't understand how specifically you think star power would help. I mean, let's say that SoS Clinton is negotiating with the EU to get more soldiers in Afghanistan. Do you really think the fact that her name is well known is going to materially advance the negotiations? Do you think that foreign ministers from France and Germany are going to be so star struck that in their rush to secure autographs and photographs with Clinton, they'll happily acede to her demands?

If star power is so important, then was Bill Clinton negligent in selecting Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher? I mean, neither of them projects star power, right? And, regardless of what their flaws were in office, I think it is fair to say that their flaws did not stem from a lack of star power, nor would extra star power have meaningfully alleviated any of those flaws.

While there are some points of similarity between running a campaign and running State, I think that the more defined lines of hierarchy in State will prevent HRC's weaknesses demonstrated in the campaign from being a factor. Unless Mark Penn becomes an under-secretary...

The campaign had well defined lines as well; Clinton chose staff poorly. And while Mark Penn won't be at State, there will be plenty of people like him: people who tell Clinton what she wants to hear instead of what she needs to know. Since she's already adopted a position on Israel-Palestine that is far to the right of both George Bush's position as well as the current Israeli government's, I shudder to think of what she might achieve.


ThatLeftTurn: On the other hand the way the HRC campaign mismanaged money strikes me as failure of delegation and supervision on Hillary's part, and reflecting a poor choice of who she picked to run the campaign.

Sure, and in that sense we agree: I don't expect Clinton to be scrutinizing State's budget line by line on a daily basis.

Two of the candidates for Sec. of State whom I'd rather see (Richardson and Kerry) didn't do a particularly stellar job of managing their own campaigns either (in 2008 and 2004 respectively), either strategically or in terms of money management.

I don't follow you here. There is a difference IMO between failing to generate enough cash (which all non-Obama campaigns suffered from) and catastrophically failing to remain appraised as to the status of the campaign's cashflow. Have you seen any articles suggesting that the later was a problem for Richardson or Kerry? I'm not aware of any but you're no doubt better read than I am in this regard. I would not fault Clinton for merely failing to raise as much money as Obama.

OCSteve: [Democratic Senators] got to vote by secret ballot so that no one could know who voted to keep [Lieberman] as chair. Pity that they don’t want to let the average worker keep that same option…

More uninformed snark about the Employee Free Choice Act. For those sincerely concerned about workers' access to the secret ballot, rather than simply being opposed to unionization: EFCA provides for a secret ballot if 30% of the workers want one.

The Secretary of Labor had better be someone who is an experienced, committed, and skilled-at-governmental-combat friend of labor. Capital's side if things is more than adequately represented with Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Carolyn Romer having Obama's ear. In fact, I'm not liking the signal sent by the characterization of the appointments announced today as constituting the Obama "economic team", given that the Secretary of Labor was not among them.

Here's a best-case scenario in which Sen. Clinton's "star power" might be useful: a negotiated agreement that materially reduces the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I'm not really expecting such a thing, primarily because of the sick state of U.S. politics with respect to the issue, but there are signs here and there that make it a conceivable initiative.

If star power is so important, then was Bill Clinton negligent in selecting Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher?

I think you would agree that not quite so much hinged on Bill Clinton's choice of SecState as hinges on Obama's choice now. Nell's example of getting a jump on the I/P conflict is one example of star power, if you view Obama's task as one that must be helped by the media, appointing HRC to the post gives the media a hook to hang its 'wow, isn't Obama different' story on.

You also didn't address the Tom Cruise aspect. While there are any number of people who could act as well as Cruise, his presence brings something. The same would be true with HRC as SecState. And you don't seem to acknowledge that the choice of a Clinton can be seen as way of routing, in advance, the revivication of those (like Newt Gingrich) who made their bread and butter as anti-Clintonites and who might try and revive the Republican party. Sadly, the notion that politics ends at the water's edge is no longer operative, so the choice of SecState is as much driven (or more) by how the choice is viewed by a domestic audience as it is by how the choice is viewed by those foreigners whose job it is to interact with the US on a diplomatic level.

Nell, what are you talking about? During the nomination struggle, Clinton announced policy positions to the right of both Bush and the Israeli government. Why on earth do you think she'd be a uniquely credible broker given that history? I mean, maybe her statements are something she can overecome, but surely that raises rather than lowers the buren she faces. In general, voicing support for the most extreme elements of one side makes it difficult to negotiate even handedly; it is the sort of thing that saps credibility.

Beyond that, I'm still not getting how specifically star power would help. Bill Clinton had star power. It didn't help him. In what specific ways do you expect Israeli and Palastinian leaders will behave differently due to star power? Do you think they'll be overwhelmed by the opportunity to talk with a real live star? That the crush for autographs will be so intense that they'll happily agree to whatever Clinton is proposing?

if you view Obama's task as one that must be helped by the media, appointing HRC to the post gives the media a hook to hang its 'wow, isn't Obama different' story on.

Do you seriously expect that the media will still be saying, two years from now, 'wow, isn't Obama different' because he picked Clinton as SoS? I see this as at best a very short term effect, after which the media will promptly forget all about it. I also don't understand why this is so very important. There are a lot of ways Obama can demonstrate difference.

You also didn't address the Tom Cruise aspect. While there are any number of people who could act as well as Cruise, his presence brings something.

Um, when last I checked, acting in a motion picture required a dramatically different skill set than running the State Dept. Film actors do not negotiate complex deals with heads of state. They do not manage large organizations with thousands of employees spread across the globe. So while having a film star be nutty or incompetent need not significantly affect their career (provided they can still act), having a SoS who is nutty or incompetent seems disastrous.

The same would be true with HRC as SecState. And you don't seem to acknowledge that the choice of a Clinton can be seen as way of routing, in advance, the revivication of those (like Newt Gingrich) who made their bread and butter as anti-Clintonites and who might try and revive the Republican party.

My apologies LJ. I thought you were making a joke. I don't think we should select officials for major offices based on how well such appointments will piss off losers like Gingrich. I don't see how such an appointment would rout any anti-Clintonites. Can you make the case? I mean, regardless of whether Clinton is SoS, Gingrich is going to try to get media appearances and is going to slime Democrats. Clinton's position will not change that. And no matter what happens to Clinton, some people will try and revive the Republican party. Making Clinton SoS isn't going to hinder their efforts in any way.

@Turb:
Bearing in mind the disclaimers in my earlier comment (that I don't consider this likely but possible/conceivable), what I'm talking about is the Nixon-to-China effect.

Domestic political resistance, primarily in Congress but also from Democratic donors, is the single greatest obstacle to a genuine push for an I/P agreement. Sen. Clinton is well positioned to disarm and quell such resistance, and to sell a deal if one should be within reach. So is chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Such tiny glints of hope as I might have on this subject come from the relationship that Pres.-elect Obama appears to have with Brent Scowcroft (which also has something to do with the likelihood that Gates will stay on at Defense). It's with grim irony that I could even describe my perspective as hope: This is one of many issue areas in which I'm far outside the boundaries of discussion of the foreign policy elite. But maybe for that reason I have a fairly keen sense of where those boundaries are. In that constricted universe, Scowcroft is at one end (the "progressive" end), and Joe Lieberman is at the other.

Nell makes a good point about the Secretary of Labor being left out in the cold.

President-Elect Obama has represented Wall Street well in his cabinet -- what about Main Street. What about labor?

I've always like Robert Reich, but that would be going back to the Clinton future yet again.

Or, since Reich broke with the Clintons, maybe he isn't qualified to be on the Change You Can Believe In Cabinet.

All of the Hillary backlash about her going to State is puzzling in that the man who is going to appoint her gets less critcism for doing so than she.

I figure all of those months going toe-to-toe against Hillary in the primaries must have earned her a heaping load of respect from Obama, who I give more credit for appointing her for reasons not based soley on getting her out of the Senate, where, by the way, she has been a team player (not that she couldn't make trouble in the future).

Obama must see more in Hillary than he does in John Kerry, who looks like he will be Secretary of Nothing. Obama is indeed a wise man.

So Obama's administration looks a bit like Clinton II. So what? Those eight years worked for me. Hopefully, Obama can improve on them.


I've always like Robert Reich, but that would be going back to the Clinton future yet again.

He fought the Rubin, and the Rubin won.

In other words, I like Robert Reich too, but he wasn't very effective at fighting for influence in the Clinon admin. We need somebody at Labor who can throw his or her weight around, not a bureaucratic pushover. Reich is too much of a nice guy to play that role.

Too bad John Edwards is persona non-grata. We need a fighter in the Labor spot. What about Ed Rendell?

Ed Rendell's lieutenant governor just died, and was succeded by the president pro tem of the state senate, who is a Republican. (Why yes, we do have a screwed-up state consitution; why do you ask?) He's probably off the board for a couple of years, much as he'd love to be out of Harrisburg.

Good points, TLTiA.

Reich -- too nice, too intellectual.

Edwards -- too toxic.

Rendell -- too invested as governor of Pennsylvania. I think he was sincere about not wanting to be chosen as veep, so Labor would be a no-go. Rendell would be the complete opposite of a pushover, though.

Jesurgislac:

"Even if you could show (as I do not think you can) that the US military did in fact completely quit torturing prisoners on or before 18th December 2006..."

-- that's a hard one. it's the old "disprove a negative" technique, eh?

"If Obama wants anyone to believe that the US has changed in that respect, and he does not intend to prosecute the criminals responsible to show that the lawless Bush regime was temporary and has ended, he can afford to do only one thing: ensure that no one senior in the Bush administration holds power under him. Meet the new boss - same as the old boss."

-- you're a hard one. it's the old "i'm a perfectionist, negative curmudgeon" technique, eh?

;)

As I said, Turbulence, I am agnostic on HRC as SecState, but I do think that the ability to make SecState a bully pulpit by virtue of the HRC's own personal biography is a plus. You keep saying that you don't see that, and I'm at the limit of my explanatory abilities so I guess we just have to leave it at that.

LJ, let's try a different track. Clinton has been in the Senate for several years now. Which issues has she gone to the bully pulpit and hammered? Which issues has she used her personal biography to publicize and propel through the media? I mean, she's a Senator and she has the ability to request hearings, right?

I think the fact that Clinton has some celebrity is not politically useful to her. She can't use to to call attention to important but underserved topics -- at the very least, she has not done that yet. Her celebrity is a reflection of the media's bizarre obsession with her. Being stalked by a lunatic is certainly interesting, but it is rarely beneficial.

It would certainly be very cool for the Secretary of State of the US to be someone who believes that women's rights are human rights. In a country where men can pass a law to deny women a lifesaving operation because they don't like the idea of it, you really need that...

Great speech, Jes -- not bad for a celebrity.

BTW, what's worse: A stage full of men legislating women's issues. Or looking so happy and full of themselves as President Dickhead signs it into law?

Turb, all of the things I've read about Hillary's time in the Senate have been complementary pieces about how she has deferred to others, worked to figure out the culture of the Senate. Here is a link discussing it. I think people who are wholeheartedly supporting this are those see reflections of Senator Clinton and not candidate Clinton. You are free to choose, but I don't think the person she is is written in stone.

A stage full of men legislating women's issues. Or looking so happy and full of themselves as President Dickhead signs it into law?

I have problems looking at that photo very long without throwing up in my mouth. The happy smug smiles on their faces, the look of men who are doing right to women whether the women like it or not... yeah, that's definitely a part of it.

With benefit of hindsight I wish that I had never attempted to engage you. If you wish it to be so, I will never engage you again.

I say we meet at the crack of dawn at the old oak down by the river to settle this real like gentlemen. The choice of weapons is yours.

Come on, TLTIA (I'm still having trouble remembering your alias, but rest assured that my previous effort to do so was an error without malign intent) we got off to a rocky start and it went downhill from there. I frankly didn't like your tone and felt that you weren't really responding to my arguments, but just pretending to be. It seems that feeling was mutual and it's obvious that on that basis a fruitful discussion was impossible. I'm hereby extending an olive branch and suggest we move on.

"I'd rather see comparisons made between candidate X and the wider circle of other people who also have some substantial experience in the Federal govt. (or something similar). Given that such a circle is finite but (I am being told by novakant) reasonably large, I would think it would not be that hard for critics of Hillary to just come up with a few names from that circle.

Is that really so hard? Just one or two little names? [holds up hand with thumb and forefinger just an inch apart]"

ThatLeftTurn--You usually strike me as very polite, but you weren't polite in your responses to novakant, IMO. I post the above as an example.

Also, I don't think it's necessary for a Clinton critic to have a list of alternatives on hand. I don't have a list, because I don't know the foreign policy community well at all. It ought to be someone who opposed the Iraq War. You know more about this than me--aren't there any people with the appropriate credentials who could fill that position who opposed the war, or is every qualified person an idiot?

So as to prevent any further irritation, I'll rephrase that last question. Is there no person in the United States who has the credentials background necessary to be Secretary of State who didn't oppose the Iraq War? It would be a remarkably depressing state of affairs if there isn't.


I say we meet at the crack of dawn at the old oak down by the river to settle this real like gentlemen. The choice of weapons is yours.

Styrofoam "Pool Noodles" and "Silly String" it is then...


Come on, TLTIA (I'm still having trouble remembering your alias, but rest assured that my previous effort to do so was an error without malign intent) we got off to a rocky start and it went downhill from there. I frankly didn't like your tone and felt that you weren't really responding to my arguments, but just pretending to be. It seems that feeling was mutual and it's obvious that on that basis a fruitful discussion was impossible. I'm hereby extending an olive branch and suggest we move on.

Thanks - that is a much happier result. I apologise for getting the conversation off to a bad start.

@Donald Johnson 10:28am

I thought that comment of mine you just quoted "I'd rather see comparisons..." was written in direct response to an immediately preceding comment by Turbulence, with whom I've shared numerous friendly if occasionally sharp-elbowed exchanges in the past. It was on the same topic as the one that novakant and I were at loggerheads over, but not directed at him. I would have used a more formal and less teasing tone if I had been addressing novakant directly.

This is something which I've observed in a number of sharp exchanges here and on other blogs - speakers naturally tend to adjust their tone as a function of the person spoken to (and the context provided by the prior relationship that has been established between them), but in a multi-person conversation there can be confusing and misleading shifts in tone because it is ambiguous as to exactly who is being addressed by whom. Thus sometimes people take offence at remarks which were not directed at them and would have been phrased differently if they had been.

On the other hand your general point that I could have started my exchange with novakant in a more conciliatory fashion is well put and well taken and I will try to do better in the future.


So as to prevent any further irritation, I'll rephrase that last question. Is there no person in the United States who has the credentials background necessary to be Secretary of State who didn't oppose the Iraq War? It would be a remarkably depressing state of affairs if there isn't.

I think there are people who would be better qualified, although I don't rate policy choices as high on the list of criteria as I think some others here (who object to the choce of Hillary) are doing, because I think the job of SoS is less to set policy than it is to competently and faithfully execute policy as decided upon by the POTUS and Congress.

I'm guessing that the number of people who might be better qualified to be SoS than Hillary is somewhere on the high side of dozen people or so, but much smaller than the "hundreds" estimate which was what set me off in novakant's original comment. And of that group, I think those who were against the AUMF are a distinct minority but not zero. Several of the senators who voted against the AUMF would be good choices.

Personally I'd prefer Bill Richardson from amongst the names of those who have received media mention thus far, but it didn't work out that way. That leaves me in the position of trying to decide if I have enough confidence in my own judgment to say that I think I know better than Obama who would be a good choice. I can't say that at this point.

Thanks, TLTIA. I think some Obama supporters are disconcerted by the choice of HRC because the primary battle last spring was seen in part by some Obama supporters as an attempt to move away from that sort of foreign policy expertise that saw the Iraq War as justified. It would have come as a surprise to such supporters if they'd known HRC would be the new SOS.

There are also progressive Obama voters who think (for some reason not clear to me) that Obama shares their view of the I/P conflict and how it should be resolved. If HRC's choice factored into that, it could only be in support of the theory that Nell mentioned, that only Nixon can go to China. HRC has been firmly in the camp of rightwing Israel supporters in recent years.

//"It ought to be someone who opposed the Iraq War."//

Given President-Elect Obama's strong opposition to the war and the vital part it was of his campaign, this makes sense.

As a big Hillary fan, I will forgive him this inconsistency. But I can see where diehard Obama backers would be upset by the Clinton choice on these grounds alone.

That said, it's time to move on.

---

Before coming to work for my 1-9 shift, I saw P-E Obama's press conference naming the latest members of his economic team. This makes back-to-back, carried-by-all-the-cables pressers.

The president-elect had seemed to want to stick to his one-president-at-a-time stance. But with President Bush relinquishing his leadership duites and the economic crisis continuing to worsen, P-E Obama wisely stepped up to the plate. He has (seemingly) calmed the markets and, hopefully, will do the same to consumers.

The next step is to go from calming to inspiring confidence. From what I've seen, he's up to the task.

btfb -- the cable talking heads seem to think Obama's drip-drip-drip strategy is deliberate; that each day he can stand in front of the cameras and answer questions is a day that people feel like there is some leadership in the country.

For whoever expressed a concern above that the Labor Secretary hadn't been named with the rest of the economic team, this is probably why. (Also, they may not have finalized that yet.)

farmgirl -- Every day Obama is at the microphone (and not Bush) I feel more secure.

I thought the juxtoposition yesterday was telling. Obama had the podium, surrounded by his cabinet, talking to the regular White House media corps. Bush -- with only the gangly, ghostly-looking Pauslon at his side -- marched down the steps, presumably, of the Treasury and talked (to an unseen press crew) with his trademark blank stare, outside on a gray, downcast day.

"As a big Hillary fan, I will forgive him this inconsistency. But I can see where diehard Obama backers would be upset by the Clinton choice on these grounds alone."

Perhaps so, bedtime, but I'm not an Obama fan or a Clinton fan. I voted for Obama twice (primary and then general), as lesser of two evils. Fandom doesn't belong in politics, IMO.

And the Iraq War is a reasonable sort of litmus test--if you (meaning people who do this for a living, not you bedtime) didn't get that one right then maybe foreign policy isn't your thing. That's even aside from moral issues.

Another centrist / Rubin-ista annoucement from Obama today:

Peter Orszag for OMB Director.

Leaving the politics aside for a moment, this paragraph illustrates why I am so hopeful regarding what the Obama admin. can acomplish:

Let me just give you one example of what I'm talking about. There's a report today that, from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. Now, if this is true -- and this was just a report this morning -- but if it's true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste that I intend to end as president.

[emphasis mine]

How refreshing it is to have a President who knows how to qualify information based on how reliable and/or unsubstantiated it is (and that this is something which is subject to revision over time) and is not afraid to do so in public.

"How refreshing it is to have a President who knows how to qualify information based on how reliable and/or unsubstantiated it is (and that this is something which is subject to revision over time) and is not afraid to do so in public."

Well, yeah, compared to what we've had for the past eight years, where bullheadedness and dead certainty (justified or not) were the order of the day. But this isn't a remarkably high standard. I'm happier about stuff like this.

It's not good that Brennan has Obama's ear, but it is good that Obama can feel pressure from liberal bloggers, if that's what happened.

DJ,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't recall any President using such explicit it's "just a report" sort of language in connection with a policy initiative he is looking to push. So that struck as a little bit more than just better than Bush.

In more appointment news, Politico is reporting that Gates staying on as SecDef is a done deal (with some haggling over subordinates) and Retired Marine Gen. James Jones will be the National Security Advisor.

So far this looks very much like a center-right team in the Scowcroft lineage, who are focused on Small Wars and while they won't go looking to start wars we don't need, will be very tough and aggressive about doing everything they can to win the ones we do get involved in.

None of this should be much of a surprise given the tough on Afghanistan talk that Obama used during the campaign.

There isn't much to like thus far in Obama's Cabinet from a progressive standpoint, but on the other hand if 4 years ago you'd told me the next administration would most closely resemble that of GHB (41) on foreign policy and Bill Clinton (42) on economic policy, I'd have respectfully suggested that whatever you were smoking, it wasn't fair not to share.

Donald: I suppose you can be a fan of someone without incorporating fandom, but that's semantics.

It sounds like you are not happy with President-Elect Obama.

You have a more-than legitimate point about the Iraq War being a litmus test for foreign-policy appointments -- especially since Obama's opposition to it was a centerpiece of his campaign. (Of course, opposition to the war, as proven by Congressional voting record, would eliminate a host of candidates.)

Seems to me Obama is more comprising than most suspected; not a bad thing after George Bush's rigid eight years.

Also, I'm with Left Turn on praising Obama's engaging and refreshing turn at his news conferences as President-Elect.

You're obviously right about the standard of the eight years being so low: Did George Bush even read about the kind of thing Obama quoted today?

But going back to Bill Clinton's eight years, he became less and less engaged in his news conferences and less and less flexible.

I like the way Obama has been inclusive and, while taking the podium with an obvious message, has shown the ability to think on his feet where every last little thing doesn't seem staged.

An aside: Realizing how unhappy the Hillary appointment-to-come has made so many people, I was amazed to hear some pundits last week talk about how she might prefer to hold out for the Supreme Court.

I'd think there would be even more outrage if he gave her that and never saw him doing so.

Then again, from what we have seen in his diverse, from-all-angles cabinet appointments, I don't think anyone could come close to predicting what kind of Supreme Court nominee he would select.

Tltia--The language might be better than I gave him credit for.

Bedtime--I'm expecting Obama to be good on some issues--on the economy, for instance. Though whether his Wall Street advisors will favor regulating their friends I don't know. But the more immediate problem is the recession, and Obama wants a massive stimulus package, which most economists (AFAIK) seem to agree is the way to go.

On foreign policy, I don't know which way he will go. As TLTIA says, his picks seem to be center-right, which does not make me happy. Conceivably it's a Machiavellian plan to favor more diplomacy while surrounding himself with hawks for political cover, but it could also just be that this is who Obama is.

I'm a bit more optimistic than DJ is, which has usually meant that I am wrong, but I was heartened to see this post by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com. My only complaint is this line

There is also a heavy overlap, however, with what might be called libertarian paternalism: "smart" policies which incent good behavior through tax credits or choice architecture

'incent'???

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