I’ve seen lots of people on the left freaking out about Obama’s recent cabinet choices. Let’s review.
- Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton
- Secretary of Defense: Bob Gates
- Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle
- Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano
- Attorney General: Eric Holder
- Rahm Emanuel: Chief of Staff
All familiar names to people who remember the Clinton administration. Hell, one of them is a Clinton. So is this change we can believe in?
Hell yes. Malcolm Gladwell points out that it takes 10,000 hours to master any complex skill. Writing, playing piano, or even running a government. 10,000 hours. If you work a 40-hour work week and have two weeks off for vacation, you work 2,000 hours a year. So we’re talking 5 years at a regular job before you’ve mastered it. I understand the need for fresh faces and fresh ideas, but shouldn’t someone in the new administration already have those 10,000 hours under their belt?
Let’s take a look at each one of these choices and see if just maybe they’re not as bad as the hard core left is saying.
Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton
This is the big one that no one can shut up about, least of which the people who keep leaking every step of the process to the press. Bill Clinton has agreed to do anything the Obama people want to make this happen, so I don’t think he’s going to be the baggage people thought he’d be. The big question here is whether Clinton can and will be a faithful instrument of Obama foreign policy, the single point on which she and Obama seriously disagreed in the primaries.
I think she will be. Everything we’ve seen so far shows that Clinton is a team player. And we also know that Obama won’t hesitate to replace her if she goes off message. More importantly, Clinton knows that being very good at this job is a great stepping stone to the Oval Office in 2016, since Biden almost certainly won’t run at age 74.
Secretaries of State have to be good at two things: talking to foreign heads of state and bypassing foreign heads of state by talking directly to foreign media when necessary. Clinton can do both, maybe better than anyone else. Obama knows this, so he’s willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Secretary of Defense: Bob Gates
We knew there would be some Republicans in Obama’s post-partisan cabinet, and as we prepare to get out of Iraq, continuity of command is important. Gates knows the current state of the military, and can enact a withdrawal plan faster than someone who has to be brought up to speed. Plus, Gates has already taken a stand on securing our nukes by firing the top military and civilian heads of the Air Force over nuclear weapon safety. I think he’ll do a good job, and will probably be replaced once the transition out of Iraq is well under way.
Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle
He knows health care backwards and forwards and he knows how to get votes on the Hill. No one is better suited to drive legislation on universal healthcare, not even Teddy Kennedy. Daschle knows where enough bodies are buried to get votes through on this, something we’ve tried 4 times in a century and haven’t done. This time it will work.
Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano
Napolitano has been a voice of reason on immigration and border security, even riding horseback along the Mexico border and walking in the sewer tunnels illegals use to cross over. She’s ideally suited to secure our borders and ports, while not pissing off our legitimate immigrant population.
Attorney General: Eric Holder
Yes, he was Deputy AG under Clinton, but he’s also the best man for the job. He knows Washington and he has an up close look at what Ashcroft and Gonzales have done to break the Justice Department. He can put it back together.
Rahm Emanuel: Chief of Staff
Every administration needs a DA, a Designated Asshole. A Bad Cop to Obama’s Good Cop. Rahm Emanuel was born for this job. He’s the attack dog that Dick Cheney was for Bush, but hopefully he won’t shoot anyone.
So to wrap up, what we can tell from Obama’s picks so far is that he doesn’t care where people worked previously. Working for Clinton’s or even Dubya’s administrations isn’t a deal breaker. What he’s looking for is excellence. People who can do the job they’re given superlatively. In a way, it’s a very anti-Bush policy. There will be no “Brownies” in this administration, no one given a job for political reasons whatsoever. Instead, we’ll have the best people possible in each position, leading with competency.
And after eight years of naked patronage, that’s change I can believe in.