Being Right – Radicals or Rivals?

Editors’ Note: Because of the broadened interest in “What’s Left” and “Being Right,” The Maroon-News has decided to open up authorship of the political columns to new writers, though the original writers will still participate. For this issue, the last issue of the semester, the editors-in-chief present opposing viewpoints on President-elect Obama’s recent cabinet appointments. The editors-in-chief wrote together to jump start the new format, which we hope will allow for a greater diversity of viewpoints.

Conservatives have been terrified of Barack Obama, the most liberal person ever to be nominated for President, for over a year now. When Obama won, the right braced itself for radical policies and appointments. It is hard to believe that a man as decidedly far-left as Obama would be able to govern from the center. But it is starting to seem as though our fears may have been overblown. Obama’s appointments have ranged from the hypocritical (Hillary Clinton) to the downright brilliant, (Robert Gates) but none of them has caused a real conservative backlash. Republicans aren’t tied down by a lack of votes; they are simply tongue-tied. The Obama administration is turning out to be more than conservatives hoped for.

Hillary Clinton was supposed to be our 44th president. She’d been planning her White House bid from the White House itself. The superdelegates and party faithful had all but handed her the nomination and were ready to bring the Clinton years back to America. Barack Obama challenged her. The basis of his challenge was that he disagreed with her foreign policy positions. Now, Obama has appointed her to lead foreign policy.

Clinton and Obama have virtually consistent positions on domestic policy issues like health care and education, but they disagree on every major contemporary foreign policy issue. This is not “a team of rivals,” as Lincoln had, but a team of downright adversaries. Historically, presidents who are weak on foreign affairs appoint secretaries of state with strong credentials. George W. Bush nominated Colin Powell; Ronald Reagan tapped Alexander Haig. Clinton certainly has more foreign policy experience than Barack Obama, but that is not exactly a great distinction. Clinton’s training, beyond her short tenure on the Senate Armed Services Committee, mainly consisted of riding camels with Chelsea for photo-ops. Obama himself diminished Clinton’s foreign experience as First Lady, saying his own experience was “not just of what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador’s house who I had tea with.”

Obama particularly attacked Clinton for voting for the war in Iraq. Obama’s stance during the election was that Iraq had been a mistake, and that it continued to be a failure. Obama pledged to withdraw troops within 16 months of taking office. His election made Conservatives fear the power vacuum and chaos that would ensue in Iraq after Obama forced through a precipitous withdrawal. Now, Obama appears to be softening his stance on Iraq. The people at and Code Pink who helped get his candidacy off the ground are not happy. In a stunning move, Obama has asked George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to stay on. Obama campaigned more against Bush than against McCain, and now he wants to hire Gates, who helped spearhead the surge policy which Obama won’t even admit is a success? Keeping Gates is just about the only thing Obama has done in regards to Iraq that isn’t irresponsible. But the Gates appointment goes directly against everything Obama claimed to stand for during the primary. Code Pink is officially calling a Code Red.

If Obama governs the same way that he appoints cabinet members, he may end up winning the respect of some Republicans and losing the support of the base which got him elected. Republicans have been shocked at the overall mildness of his appointments. It seems that Obama is so radical that anyone he nominates seems mild in comparison. Eric Holder may have helped Bill Clinton pardon criminals, but at least he didn’t say the Warren Court wasn’t really that liberal, like Obama did. Bill Richardson has been tapped for Commerce Secretary, but the person most upset about that is Bill Richardson, who was so desperate to be Secretary of State that he even shaved his beard. Janet Napolitano’s record on fighting crime may not be what we’d hope for in a Director of Homeland Security, but at least he didn’t nominate his close friend, domestic terrorist William Ayers. Obama is drawing on Lincoln for inspiration, and trying to put together “a team of rivals.” Maybe someone should remind Obama that Lincoln was a Republican.