Saturday, November 29, 2008

Does The Appointment Of Clinton Veterans Undercut Obama's Message Of Change?



At a press conference on November 26, President-elect Barack Obama addressed concerns that placing Clinton veterans in key economic positions undercuts his campaign theme of change. Obama presented a buck-stops-here message:

But understand where the vision for change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me. That’s my job–is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure that my team is implementing it.

Obama responded to the same issue raised in a New York Times editorial pointing out that under Clinton, Lawrence Summers, Obama's choice for director of the National Economic Council, championed the deregulation that led to the financial industry meltdown. The editorial concluded:

Mr. Obama must challenge and question his advisers’ recommendations and decisions. He has chosen tough advisers. He must be even tougher than they are.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com expresses confidence that Obama will do just that:

In the case of Barack Obama, however, I would argue that there is not as much need to worry about tactics. If his campaign was any indication, Obama is not much of an outsourcer–he will dictate the tone of his administration.

Based on proposals from Obama's Web site, Silver feels that the new president will have a liberal agenda in terms of domestic and economic policies and a centrist one in terms of defense if he does two out of three of the following: rolls back the Bush tax cuts, decreases Pentagon spending (which contradicts the defense centrism) or discovers that the economy recovers more quickly than anticipated. I recommend reading Silver's analysis: click here.

Whatever his mistakes in terms of deregulation, Clinton handed Bush an economic surplus. Bush is handing Obama an exploding deficit and a tanking financial industry. Were Obama to appoint neophytes, he'd be criticized for doing so under dire economic conditions. Hiring veterans, he's asked, "Where's the change?"

Ultimately Obama has no other choice than to bring in experienced hands, and it's no surprise, as he stated in his press conference, that they come from the previous Democratic administration. Those who are worried about retreads in Obama's cabinet need to give him the chance to implement the change he promised and recently reaffirmed.

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