Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama in Washington as Nixon in China

I like this take on Barack Obama's opening style...

...Obama is planning big change, and has decided these individuals will be the most politically effective advocates of reform. Let’s call this the “Nixon to China” interpretation.

Let’s assume, for instance, that Obama is in fact “throwing long.” That is, he wants big change – e.g., new multilateral diplomacy; negotiations with Syria and Iran; and even cuts to the grotesquely-large and corrupting military budget. If these are truly his goals, then voices like Clinton and Gates and Jones will be powerful advocates indeed. It’s not merely that they’ll provide political cover across the national political spectrum. They’ll also provide political cover to nervous Democrats who remain afraid of their own shadow on these issues. Winning over the latter is a precondition of winning over the former. (For instance, you can’t have talks with Iran if half the Senate Dems are on TV saying it’s a bad idea).

Same deal with the economic team. Who better to provide political cover (both nationally and within the party) for a massive public works program than a bunch of old Rubinites?

Of course, there is a risk to the Nixon to China strategy – namely, you might get a Nixon without a China. There’s a very real possibility that these individuals (given their prior history and ideological leanings) will thwart this type of reform – or at least hesitate to really push for it. But if – just if – Obama can keep them on board, then these selections will prove to be an enormously savvy and effective strategy.

So the million dollar question isn’t so much about Obama’s appointees, but about whether you believe that Obama really means what he says, and has the ability to push them to make it happen. As for me, I do. For now.

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