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Encouraging Signs from Obama

I worked for the other guy in the presidential race, but I have been cheered so far by the early indications of how the Obama administration is shaping up. Scuttlebutt has it that the front-runners for Treasury secretary are economist Larry Summers and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner. Either one would be a good, centrist choice. So, too, would be Jim Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser for Bill Clinton, who is now a rumored choice for national security adviser in the Obama administration.

It goes almost without saying that nothing would signal Obama’s moderate credentials more than retaining Bob Gates at Defense. So it is encouraging to read in the Wall Street Journal that the president-elect is “leaning toward” such a move, and that Gates “would likely accept the offer if it is made.” As the Journal notes: “the defense secretary strongly opposes a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, and his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010.”

Another Journal article implies there would be similar continuity in the intelligence community. This is hardly unalloyed good news, since the intel community is in desperate need of a shakeup. But at least it suggests that Obama has no intention of neutering most of the techniques that have kept us safe from Al Qaeda since 9/11. Another sign of that resolve comes in the list of rumored candidates for Homeland Security Secretary, which includes such reassuring names as Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, and Jane Harman, a centrist Democrat who was formerly head of the House Intelligence Committee.

The biggest question mark so far concerns the Secretary of State position. John Kerry is apparently lobbying like mad to get the job. It is hard to imagine a less propitious choice than the preening, self-regarding, leftist senator from Massachusetts. There are far more reassuring candidates out there, such as former Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke. If Obama keeps Kerry in the Senate and sends Susan Rice to a second-tier job (such as UN ambassador), he would signal that he is not going to allow liberal ideologues to grab control of his foreign policy.



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