Random thoughts after watching the Monday press conference…

The ever resourceful president-elect is widening his cabinet,
shifting his emphasis and controlling the message. Two of those things
are new.

The media are all on point, using unoriginal buzz phrases as new announcements are made. Like, the “team of rivals.”

Both choices, Robert Gates to stay on as Defense
secretary and James Jones as national security adviser, reflect Mr.
Obama’s stated desire to build a bipartisan cabinet that is also
effective.

In Secretary Gates, Obama chooses a Defense secretary popular with
both parties who will temper his ambitious campaign pledge to get out
of Iraq in 16 months. The choice of Mr. Jones, a retired Marine general
with deep Washington roots, will help Obama to establish his own
national security identity in a town wary of his military inexperience.

Smart moves, both of them. Interesting that Gen. Jones has a history
and familiarity with Sen. John McCain, far more than Obama. Like his
economic advisers, who share some core values with conservatives.

In making his choices, Obama said he sought foreign
policy pragmatists who may not agree with one another but who “share a
core vision.”

He also claimed to prize vigorous debate over “groupthink.”

“I am a strong believer in strong personalities and strong decisionmaking,” Obama said Monday.

Couple of things here….

The transition team is using a number of key words in their talking
points, and the ever-complicit and unoriginal media are parroting them.
One of them is “pragmatic” or some variation of pragmatism, ever since
it was first put out in a sound bite, probably by either Rahm Emanuel
or John Podesta. Interesting choice of words.

Also, though Obama eschews ‘groupthink’, the media are stuck on it,
and he mocked them today in the press conference after his cabinet
announcements. It’s his form of ‘command and control’, and it’s always
worked for him (speaking of pragmatic). Today, when members of the
press started quoting things Obama said during the long campaign about
ending the war…and about Hillary Clinton’s lack of foreign policy
experience….and how those things square with his choices today….Obama
scoffed at them and said they were playing a little game, and having
fun plucking out things he said in the middle of a campaign when the
atmosphere was different. He effectively played defense by going on
offense. Which is a continuation of how the media and Obama handled
each other during the campaign. There’s little to no serious scrutiny
in this particular press pool, which is another measure of how much
control Obama has maintained over information.

Last thought on the above snip is this…Obama has believed in ”strong
decisionmaking” as long as we in Chicago have known him. A Tribune
piece on him nearly a year ago said Michelle Obama asks him, at the end
of the day, to ignore polls and do his homework and after due
diligence, to do the right thing.

A lot has changed since then, and now he is about to become
president of the United States. Imagine the strength of the decision he
can make if, after doing his due diligence on health and human rights
issues to the fullest, he chose to uphold the Hyde Amendment, the
Mexico City policy, and the laws that have so diligently been passed
over the years to maximize the protection of life.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....