Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice.
Nominating Gates to stay, “would be a violation of the mandate for change that Obama says he represents,” said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the anti-war group CodePink.
A better bipartisan fit for Obama, they say, is Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who brings out what they like about Gates – his ability to deal with Russia, Iran and Syria – without the direct link to Bush’s policies.
So which will it be? The administration of the candidate who insisted even in retrospect that he would not have supported the surge? Or the administration of the candidate who fuzzed up his call for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the election drew nearer? The Left is correct about one thing: personnel is policy. The choice of Gates–which would signal a desire for stability–would cheer moderate Democrats and conservatives. The reverse is true of the selection of Hagel.
Choices will, of course, bring disappointment to one side or the other. The problem with running as ambiguous a campaign as Obama did is that both sides have legitimate claims to expect a certain set of policy/personnel outcomes. But the time has passed when Obama can be all things to all people. Let’s hope he disappoints the right ones.