Obama’s pratical moves must be baffling his critics
December 7, 2008
I imagine some of our politically involved Grand County residents are feeling a little bewildered these days. I know there were those who wrote letters to the editor swearing up and down that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim and a socialist. President-elect Obama’s cabinet nominations and staff appointments must have left many scratching their heads.
A Grand County friend of mine came upon a satirical article written by Dave Barry of the Miami Herald on the eve of election night in advance for publication the day after the election. It sums up the spirit, if not the exact words, of what he heard in campaign ads and talk radio ginning up fear of an Obama victory. It also gibes with anonymously generated e-mails forwarded to me by some conservative-leaning friends.
To quote an excerpt from Dave Barry’s tongue in cheek piece: “Barack Obama is our next president, which is very bad because he is a naive untested wealth-spreading terrorist-befriending ultraliberal socialist communist who will suddenly reveal his secret Muslim identity by riding to his inauguration on a camel shouting ‘Death to Israel!’ (I mean Obama will be shouting this, not the camel) after which he will wreck the economy by sending Joe the Plumber to Guantanamo and taxing away all the income of anybody who makes over $137.50 per year and giving it to bloated government agencies that will deliberately set it on fire.”
These past couple of weeks have revealed quite a different kind of Obama. His nominations for cabinet posts and staff appointments have received accolades from both parties. In fact, probably some of his appointments and nominations could have been made by John McCain himself, such as Jim Jones, former Marine commandant and Supreme Commander of NATO, in the absolutely most powerful position as National Security Advisor, and the retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Even the remainder of his national security team is considered pragmatic and moderate.
The Bush administration has already laid the groundwork and time frame for withdrawal from Iraq so that the details of withdrawal will be the challenge left to the new administration. We will see a greater utilization of the tools of multi-lateral and bilateral diplomacy, and we will also see greater attention paid to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India than in the past.
President-elect Obama has made it clear that he wants to maintain the military might of the United States. This is not a “roll over and surrender” president-elect. It is a “speak softly, carry a big stick” Teddy Roosevelt type of foreign policy.
Of course, the most controversial nomination is Hillary Clinton for secretary of State. While New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had more diplomatic experience and his positions on foreign policy were closer to Obama’s, Hillary Clinton’s nomination made some sense. It is not so much because of her experience, but because of her public relations value and credibility worldwide. Her star power will bring attention and focus to the diplomatic tools used to advance U.S. security interests, tools that were intentionally downplayed by the Bush administration.
Is this a smart political move on the part of Obama? That remains to be seen since palace intrigue and behind the scenes power struggles sometimes plague a “team of rivals,” but I think her own ambitions will motivate her to do her best to make the entire administration successful. Her grit, political skills and intelligence ” and already established international contacts also will stand her in good stead as secretary of State.
President-elect Obama’s nominations and appointments to his economic team have gained the praise of both Wall Streeters and mainstreeters. None of them represents the abandonment of the capitalist system and none will require on the job training. In fact, while we will probably see more strings attached to government bailouts and some tinkering with the rules and regulations in the financial sector to prevent future market and mortgage meltdowns, the fundamentals of the free market system do not appear to be in jeopardy. The attitude expressed by Obama himself is “how little can we do and still be effective” so that we do not interfere with growth in the economic sectors.
These nominations appear to be to the right of what many assumed to be Obama’s political philosophy, but he may also be making the left wing of the Democratic party nervous. Obama has already hinted that he will not seek a restoration of Clinton tax structure with its higher tax rate for the wealthy, but he will consider allowing the tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations to sunset a couple of years from now, per the intent of the original legislation. What we may see is the middle class tax cut he promised, as well as education and health care programs, investment in infrastructure, energy independence and greening of manufacturing become part of the stimulus package he is proposing.
How much of this will be included in the stimulus package he will send to Congress remains to be seen. It may have moderating effect. Republican Sen. Saxby Chamblis’ re-election in Georgia last week ended Democratic hopes of a filibuster-proof Senate. Democrats will have to find some Senate Republicans to join with them to approve the package if they want to avoid the “checks and balances/ obstruction” some Republicans are threatening.
So far Obama is not backing down from the goals he laid out in the campaign, but he is employing whatever means will work and hiring skilled, moderate pragmatists to figure a way to get it done. I believe he is also a realist and knows what the priorities are. Failure to get the economy back on its feet or failure to generate confidence in his competence to protect the United States from a terror attack will scuttle any plans he has to realize many of the goals liberals treasure. My conservative, Muslim-phobic friends ought to also breathe a sigh of relief.