CHANGE…. We’re still quite a ways from knowing what Obama’s entire team is going to look like, but this debate seems to be increasingly common.
“I think several individuals are very frustrated to think that President-elect Obama may just cut and paste from some of the Democratic operatives from the Clinton administration and put them into his White House,” said Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor.
Republicans aren’t the only ones who want Obama to branch out. Robert Kuttner, a liberal and author of “Obama’s Challenge,” says the president-elect should broaden his recruiting efforts.
“It’s not as if the only competent people who ever served in government or who are capable are serving in government are veterans of the Clinton administration, so he’s got to be careful how many Clintonistas he appoints to top level government posts,” Kuttner said. […]
Lanny Davis, President Clinton’s former special council, lobbied publicly for Obama to choose Sen. Hillary Clinton as his running mate during the campaign. Despite what critics say, Davis says real change is about policy, not people.
“What this conversation is about is laughable if you ask people in America what they care about. They care about the economy, jobs, education, health care. They don’t care about whether somebody who fills a particular box is from a prior administration,” he said.
Nine-and-a-half times out of 10, if Bob Kuttner and Lanny Davis disagree on something, I’m with Kuttner. This is a rare exception.
Look, there’s been exactly one Democratic president since 1980. If Obama’s team is going to recruit like-minded officials for high-ranking government posts, there’s a practical hurdle here that’s very hard to ignore. As Kevin noted yesterday, “There are some fresh faces around for Obama to tap, but for the most part, when you’re staffing highly visible and responsible positions, you want someone who has at least some experience to fall back on. And since Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to hold the presidency in the past 28 years, that means someone who served in the Clinton administration.”
Or, as John Cole put it, “Where, exactly, is Obama supposed to find qualified people with government experience if they did not cut their teeth in the Clinton administration? From the Bush administration? Clearly, Obama is bringing in a lot of new blood, but I have no problem with old hands like Eric Holder being tapped for administration jobs.”
Neither do I. I’m looking at qualifications and an ability to help execute Obama’s agenda for change. I can’t think of a reason why “worked in some capacity in the Clinton administration” should be some kind of disqualifier.
The team is still coming together, so some of this chatter is moot, pending additional announcements. But as far as I can tell, some key posts will be filled by those with Clinton-era experience (Holder, Emanuel, Craig, Sutphen), those who aren’t “Clintonistas” (Daschle, Orszag, Axelrod, Gibbs, Jarrett, Schiliro, Rouse), and those who fall somewhere in between (Napolitano was a U.S. Attorney under Clinton; does that count?).
Are these capable, competent officials? If the answer is yes, and I think it is, whether they’re affiliated in some way with Clinton strikes me as irrelevant.