Hildebrand’s advice

HILDEBRAND’S ADVICE…. Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a deputy campaign manager who oversaw the state, field and political operations for Barack Obama, has heard some liberal consternation about Obama’s cabinet choices. In an item for the Huffington Post, Hildebrand offers some pushback.

After noting the extraordinary challenges facing policy makers, he argues:

[O]ur new president, the Congress and all Americans must come together to solve these problems. This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren’t progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you, that isn’t the way he thinks and it’s not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn’t, suggest that our president surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the president of all the people — not just those on the left.

As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new president to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That’s his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let’s get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end climate change and restore our place in the world. What a great president Barack Obama will be if he can work with Congress and the American people to make great strides in these very difficult times.

Hildebrand, who is a self-described liberal Democrat, wasn’t clear on who he’s responding to in the piece. In fact, it seems he perceives widespread anger among progressive activists about the cabinet, but polls suggest that anger is quite limited.

Nevertheless, as one might imagine, this has drawn more than a few responses. Perhaps the most pointed comes by way of David Sirota, who makes the case that Hildebrand is attacking liberals who are asking reasonable, non-ideological questions about personnel decisions. Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld argue that instead of “mending fences,” Hildebrand seems to be unnecessarily stirring up trouble with the party’s base.

Tim Fernholz, meanwhile, read Hildebrand’s piece very differently, and believes Hildebrand is trying to “move the center” to the left, and get party activists to focus on Obama’s progressive policy agenda. “A real win for the left is when their ideas become the mainstream and ridiculous conservative ideas become the fringe,” Fernholz argues. “Hildebrand seems to be writing to defened that conception, and not to attack on liberals.”

At this point, I’m not sure what to think. As far as I can tell, Hildebrand’s goal was to effectively tell the left, “Don’t worry so much about these cabinet slots; Obama’s going to deliver.” And like Atrios, I’ll be quite pleased if Obama’s team convinces people that Obama is “a sensible centrist who wants to do sensible centrist things like build SUPERTRAINS, get out of Iraq, not torture people or invade random countries, strengthen labor protections, reduce income inequality, improve education, provide health care for people, and reduce poverty.”

Your mileage may vary.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.