Replay that 90’s Tape
As the Obama team runs trial balloons on their presidential appointments, the first few don’t appear to be “Change We Can Believe In”, but rather “Replay That 90’s Tape”! Rather than new faces and new ideas in Washington, President-Elect Obama is floating names and looking to appoint Washington and New York insiders to key positions in the new Obama administration. In fact, it appears that former members of the Clinton years are reappearing with a regular frequency in an Obama administration. Even the Obama supporting Washington Post (Pravda on the Potomac) is coming to the President Elect’s defense, “Some critics are unhappy about the number of Clinton administration veterans -- the derogatory word is retreads -- in the new administration. As we've said before, we have no sympathy for this complaint. The best thing the new administration has going for it in comparison to the last Democratic president is the amount of executive branch experience it has to call on. Mr. Obama's willingness to do that and to bring on board those who supported his chief rival -- indeed, to enlist his chief rival herself -- underscores his own confidence.” Washington Post, 11.22.08, Page A14 www.washingtonpost.com
This is the typical liberal and progressive defense offered by the press advocates at the Post. If your motives are pure and liberal, and we like your progressive policies, then the actual facts on the ground really don’t matter. And further, the Washington Post editorial writers, use moral leverage, “we have no sympathy for this complaint” (of appointing Clinton retreads). Rather, the progressive writers compare the replaying of the 90’s tape to the wonderful Obama willingness to appoint his chief rival, none other that Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton herself as the Secretary of State.
This is part of the legacy media and Obama team storyline of the “Team of Rivals”, popular book by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005) about President Lincoln and his cabinet picks in the 1860’s. This Lincoln-esque approach is being promoted as how the new Obama administration is being put together. While this story line is classic and lends the Obama as the “next most famous president” imagery to his manufactured resume, even the liberal LA times www.latimes.com is having a hard time swallowing the “team of rivals” story line.
From the editorial by Matthew Pinsker in the November 18, 2008 edition of the Los Angeles Times, “People love Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on the Lincoln presidency, "Team of Rivals." More important, for this moment in American history, Barack Obama loves it. The book is certainly fun to read, but its claim that Abraham Lincoln revealed his "political genius" through the management of his wartime Cabinet deserves a harder look, especially now that it seems to be offering a template for the new administration.
"Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet," is the way Obama has summarized Goodwin's thesis, adding, "Whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was how can we get this country through this time of crisis."
Matthew Pinsker, a civil war historian concludes the well written editorial, “Over the years, it has become easy to forget that hard edge and the once bad times that nearly destroyed a president. Lincoln's Cabinet was no team. His rivals proved to be uneven as subordinates. Some were capable despite their personal disloyalty, yet others were simply disastrous. Lincoln was a political genius, but his model for Cabinet-building should stand more as a cautionary tale than as a leadership manual.” LA Times, 11.18.08
So what will become of the newly minted Obama administration that has a large share of Clinton administration retreads? How will the 1990’s tape of liberal ideas and policies replay in the context of more challenging 21st Century problems facing the United States? What most of our progressive friends and liberal politicos are silent on is the fact that from 1994 to the end of his term (during the impeachment debate), former President Clinton had a more conservative Republican Congress to balance his liberal agenda. The negotiated policies (reform of welfare, more responsible fiscal policy, a Federal government surplus) of the 1990’s, which the Clintons claim full credit for, were in fact a negotiated bipartisan outcome between a Republican Congress and a Democrat Congress.
The President Elect, in his weekly radio address continues to push the idea of reform and change in Washington, “That is the chance our new beginning now offers us, and that is the challenge we must rise to in the days to come. It is time to act. As the next president of the United States, I will.” Barack Obama, Saturday 11.22.08
So in 2009 we are back to one party rule, Democrat style. This is something the United States hasn’t seen since 1992, or during the “new society” Democratic Lyndon Johnson years. It appears that we are gearing up to a replay of the early 1990’s. And it is clear that our new President-Elect will act. The question is how will a self proclaimed “change” president lead the US forward with a host of 1990’s retreads pulling in the opposite direction. Or is “change we can believe in” really a move backward “to the 20th Century past” with Clinton era cabinet appointees?© 2008, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media www.jasperwelchorg