Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama is 44

Ever since I heard a panelist on The McLaughlin Group pass on that Lawrence Summers is all-but-assured to become Treasury Secretary under the new Obama Administration, I've been doing more reading and thinking about what the Obama Cabinet will look like. If it were anyone else (i.e. Hillary), I'd be a lot more worried: Summers is an acolyte of Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary under the Clinton Administration who bears no small role in engineering the current financial crisis. Furthermore, Summers, while President of Harvard, made some remarkably sexist statements, implying that innate genetic differences between men and women play a role (but not the only role, or even the most important role) are responsible for the gender imbalance in science and math careers.

Now there is an article in The New Yorker that supports the hypothesis of Summers as Treasury Secretary, as well as details other possible members of the future Obama Cabinet. The article reveals (to me, at least) the place of Rahm Emmanuel within the Obama think-tank, placing him almost as close to Obama as his confidante David Axelrod. Emmanuel is a leading figure in the DLC, tried to torpedo Howard Dean as chairman of the DNC, and then tried to frame the 2006 resurgence of the Democrats in Congress (which Dean's 50-state strategy deserves significant credit) as a triumph of conservative "blue-dog" Democrats rather than the netroots and new progressive-derived supporters of the party flexing their muscles.

Essentially, the article paints a portrait of the Obama Cabinet as riven with Clintonites and blue-dogs, and, like I said, if this was any other man, I would be very unenthusiastic. Not worried, because even these are the worst sort of Democrats, they are still Democrats and are unlikely to lead this country down a sequel to the eight years of hell that Bush and the Republicans who've supported/rolled over for him have brought us. But this is Obama, a man from a deeply progressive and liberal background who has consistently been willing to put pragmatism before dogma without betraying his core ideals: whether it was getting elected president of the Harvard Law Review (achieving the central goal of becoming the first African-American to do so) while disinviting controversy by allowing conservative Federalist Society members onto his masthead, to treating the American public like adults in his "A More Perfect Union" speech but finally repudiating Jeremiah Wright when he couldn't act like one. If Obama is surrounding himself with Clintonites, it makes the most sense for his Presidency as it will have to start running at day one (honestly, he's going to have start running the country from a shadow government on day minus 75), seeing as how they are the last Democratic advisors to hold these positions, and they (hopefully) have learned from their mistakes of Bill Clinton's disastrous early Presidency. As the New Yorker article quotes about Summers, he "knows the building" when it comes to Treasury, and won't need to be brought up to speed before he can start putting the new policies into effect.

Emmanuel's presence remains disquieting, but I can't argue that the priorities he lays out for the Obama Administration - "financial-regulatory reform, tax reform, health-care reform, and energy" - are among the most pressing issues on the docket, moreso than any kind of social reforms (which would define the Obama Administration as the kind of "out of control liberalism" that the Republicans were able to tar the Clintons with that ultimately lead to their taking control of the Congress) or ambitious issues requiring long-term development and full support (i.e. education reform) better dealt after the 2010 Congressional elections (assuming the Dems hold power). While I am getting the sense that Obama, at least until 2010, is going to come off a lot more conservative and measured in his agenda than progressives would care for, and that the netroots that are singing his praises now may start to turn on him starting January 20th, it can't be argued that this is the most responsible thing to do. And that, moreso than "hope" or "change" (or "socialist" or"Muslim" or "terrorist" for that matter) is what has defined the calm and measured Barack Obama up to this moment: responsible.

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