Some of the commentary on the transition to an Obama Administration has been quite maddening. I have thought quite a bit about this, and I have come to some conclusions about why he is doing things the way he is, and specifically why, for example, he is signaling to Senate Democrats to keep Lieberman in the caucus.
First, on the Clinton retreads with which he is consulting, and possibly seeking to name to various offices. THEY'RE FREAKING DEMOCRATS! Come one, people, get a clue. Not only are they Democrats, they are among the few Democrats with real Federal Administrative experience. While I was not happy with everything the Clinton Administration did, it was a positively rosy time compared to now, and we have much to do just to return to the level of those relatively heady days.
Specifically on keeping Bob Gates at Defense, after some reading and much consideration, I think it only fair to say that while I would much prefer a Democrat at the Pentagon, I believe he is a good keeper for a couple reasons. First, he has been extremely unpopular with Bush supporters because, above all else - before party, before being a Bush man - he is an able administrator with a realistic approach to what the US military can and should do, and has some interesting ideas on reshaping the military for the future. At a time when our military is, for all intents and purposes, broken, we need someone in charge who has been an advocate for the troops and for some kind of rational approach both to defense policy and structural change in the military . Gates has been these things, and a thorn in the Bush Administration's side since he took office. No ideologue, I would think him a good choice if for no other reason than he has hit the wall on any number of policy recommendations.
From a larger perspective, please consider Barack Obama's conduct of his campaign for the White House, as well as his background as a Chicago politician. Whether they are Clinton re-treads, Republicans, or Joe Lieberman staying in the Democratic caucus, all these people will owe their positions, in the end, to one person - Barack Obama. Unlike the kind of Mafia-like omerta practiced by Bush and Cheney, this is a far more traditional approach to administration and loyalty. Obama has shown himself to be very, very disciplined, keeping his cards very close and preventing leaks by not telling anyone what he is planning until he announces it publicly. Those who are elevated to cabinet and sub-cabinet positions in the Obama Administration will, I am quite sure, be given very clear instructions, the first of which will be - you will be implementing my policies. You have a problem with that, here's the door, and don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out. Obama holds every single card in this game, and is playing them like a master.
This is why I do not think it necessary to get all upset about his move to keep Lieberman in the Democratic caucus. He will most definitely exact a price from Holy Joe, the first of which will be, "You come after me with your committee, and the only place anyone will listen to you is a Washington TV studio." Make no mistake, Obama will make every single cabinet officer, the major players in Congress, and even the detestable Lieberman his.
We are seeing the way machine politics works, writ large on a national stage, and I have to admit I like it.