In introducing his choice for secretary of state, President-elect Barack Obama said,

Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP

Obama is rolling out many of his cabinet picks, and while the media
are trying to figure out what they signal, the loudest buzz heard right
now is over the gamble he took with Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama’s foreign policy and national security
appointments – Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Robert Gates as
defence secretary and James Jones as national security adviser – have
won praise from the moderate centre of the Democratic party and even
from many Republicans. So far, it is mainly those on the left of the
Democratic party who are expressing doubts.

As well they might. They campaigned for Mr Obama this year believing
him to represent – in foreign policy above all – a clear alternative to
Mrs Clinton, to the administration of George W. Bush (in which Mr Gates
currently serves as defence secretary), and to John McCain (with whom
Mr Jones, a former commandant of the marines, appeared during the
campaign). Mr Obama has chosen a centrist if not centre-right team
which, whatever its merits, calls into question the posture he adopted
during the campaign. Has Mr Obama been subverted even before taking
office?

Depends on who’s defining subversion. Obama’s transition team claims he is acting out of “pragmatism”.

For the moment, therefore, the main question to ask of
these appointments is not about Mr Obama’s foreign-policy aims, but
whether he has chosen competent and effective lieutenants.

Mr Gates and Mr Jones arouse little concern on this score, but the same cannot be said of Mrs Clinton.

And coming to the job with the “irrepressible” Bill Clinton makes
her, say the FT editors, makes her a risk that is “difficult to
justify.”

However, others are very pleased. Last night, Jay Leno rejoiced on
behalf of all late-night comedians that the Clintons will be back for
at least four more years.

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....