Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Evaluating Obama's "Centrist" Cabinet

Pundits, political analysts, and concerned citizens are hard at work evaluating the political moves of President Elect Barack Obama with the goal of interpreting these actions to predict his style of governing. Generally, the ideological positions of cabinet appointments are believed to reveal the political leanings of the incoming President. This has traditionally been a reliable method and often produces a reasonably accurate picture of a future President's objectives. As an example, in hindsight the selections of noted war-hawks Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle by President George W. Bush were clear indicators that his Administration would pursue an aggressive militaristic foreign policy. In that case, cabinet selections were quite indicative of both the incoming President's ideology and governing style.

President Elect Obama's non traditional leadership style creates a new political paradigm which renders many of the traditional methods of analyzing politics ineffective. Though mild mannered and pragmatic, President Elect Obama is a powerful visionary leader in the mold of JFK , Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. Visionary leaders are exceptionally self confident and typically select the most competent subordinates even though there may be some slight ideological differences. The leader provides the vision and tasks the subordinates with making it a reality. The leader envisions a synergistic environment which requires loyalty and dedication but not unanimous agreement on all issues.

President Elect Obama's National Security Team selections reflect his commitment to the competence and diversity required to fulfill his vision much more than his ideological inclinations.

The National Security Team:

Defense Secretary - Robert Gates
Born in Wichita Kansas, 1943

Secretary Gates has a master's degree in history from Indiana University and a PH.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. He served on the non-partisan Iraq Study Group whose findings were much criticized by right wing war-hawks. The recent Russian incursion into Georgia and the cold-war like conflict over the European missile defense shield create a necessity for an experienced soviet expert. As a former CIA director he will also be able to combine military and intelligence resources to address President Elect Obama's foreign policy priority of accounting for missing soviet nuclear weapons. He is widely viewed as a centrist in Washington political circles.

Admiral William Fallon, a known center-left military leader, recommended that Secretary Gates be kept on as Defense Secretary. President Elect Obama is known to have consulted with Former "Bush 41" National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of Robert Gates, for foreign policy advice.

Ambassador to the United Nations - Susan Rice
Born in Washington D.C., 1964

A Rhodes Scholar, Ms. Rice earned an M.Phil. and a D.Phil. from New College, Oxford. In 1990 the Chatham house-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation as the UK's most distinguished in international relations. Rice's classmates and professors at Oxford included advocates of the role of the United Nations and international law. Ms. Rice's nomination is a clear indicator that right wing anti-U.N. policies based on American exceptionalism will be no part of the Obama foreign policy.

National Security Adviser - James Jones
Born Kansas City, 1943

The former four star General served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander and as Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corp. Jones is known to have a placid demeanor, a methodical approach to problems, and boasts impressive negotiating skills.

Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton
Born Chicago Illinois, 1947

The bad news - if you choose Hillary you get Bill.
The good news - if you choose Hillary you get Bill.
Though somewhat hawkish on foreign policy of late, Senator Clinton is a smart politician and unlikely to jeopardize one of the premier political appointments in the world. Few can argue the strength and competence of Senator Clinton or worldwide appeal of the Clinton brand. There will be few doors that Bill can't open for Hillary if his considerable skills and connections are needed. This appointment also serves to consolidate President Elect Obama's power within the Democratic Party and create an opening for a more progressive replacement in the Senate.

Homeland Security Secretary - Janet Napolitano
Born New York City, 1957

The former attorney for Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings was appointed as the United States attorney for the District of Arizona by President Bill Clinton. In that capacity she participated in the investigation of the Oklahoma City Bombing. She also served as the Arizona Attorney General and Chair of the National Governors Association. In 2006 she defeated her Republican gubernatorial opponent by a nearly 2-1 margin.

Attorney General - Eric Holder
Born, The Bronx, New York
Son of an immigrant from Barbados

Former Superior Court Judge, United States Attorney, and Deputy Attorney General of the United States.
After assisting in prosecutions for the ABSCAM sting, he was appointed as a Judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by President Ronald Reagan.
The Columbia Law School graduate once worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
His wife's sister, Vivian Juanita Jones, was one of the first two African Americans to enroll in the University of Alabama and became famous when Governor George Wallace blocked them from enrolling. Interestingly, Malone was refused entrance by Governor Wallace and an army of State Troopers when she arrived to enroll accompanied by U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. President Kennedy subsequently activated the National Guard and she was admitted. In 2007 Holder joined the amicus brief which urged the Supreme Court to uphold Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban. During his 1997 confirmation hearing for Deputy U.S. Attorney General he told Congress ""I am not a proponent of the death penalty, but I will enforce the law as this Congress gives it to us."

Attorney General Designee Holder's background seems to suggest that he will aggressively pursue a progressive agenda.

The Centrist, or even right leaning Cabinet that the mainstream pundits speak of never materializes when the Cabinet members are evaluated individually. The group rounds out as a collection of pragmatic intellectuals with exceptional experience and knowledge in their respective fields of assignment. The lone Republican Administration holdover, Secretary Robert Gates, comes highly recommended by one of the most visible anti-neocon military leaders in recent years, former CENTCOM Commander Admiral William Fallon.

The Obama political model will likely confound mainstreamers for years to come. Progressives who have accepted the mainstream assertion of Obama's move to the right and Conservatives who are beaming about the so-called right leaning/centrist Cabinet will be surprised to find that President Elect Obama will Govern exactly as he promised, bottom up politics at home and a cooperative spirit abroad. It is also remarkable that his Cabinet is conspicuosly absent representation from the Red States of the Deep South and the right wing of American Politics.

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