The Spine

They Fall One By One

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The cons
and the neo-cons had worked themselves into such a hysteria that one
might have imagined Barack Obama would invite Dr. Ahmadinejad for a
house visit. Maybe not at the White House but certainly at Blair House.

Even
Commentary seems to be questioning the fearful anticipations of the
crowd, or at least Peter Wehner, one of the regular commentators
on the magazine's website, Contentions, is. And this was before a
statement on Mumbai was issued in Obama's name. The epistle was
ice-cold, as it should have been, and it gave no room for anybody to
believe that the president-elect thought that what had occurred was
nothing if not evil.

 

Good News on Gates

Peter Wehner

Posted on Commentary magazine’s blog Contentions

 

The
news reports that President-elect Obama will ask Defense Secretary
Robert Gates to remain at the Pentagon are heartening. For one thing,
it would be a reward for excellence. Bob Gates is a model public
servant who has performed extremely well, in enormously trying
circumstances. It would also be an example of authentic bipartisanship
and a demonstration of continuity for the man who promised “change” at
every stop along the campaign trail. The Gates appointment, along with
retired Marine General James Jones as national security adviser, also
has the added benefit of being, in the words of a friend of mine, “a
line-up that makes the Kossacks’ [readers of the Daily Kos] teeth
gnash, and that is a very good thing.”

 

Secretary
Gates is close personally, and in his worldview, to General David
Petraeus, the head of Central Command and who now oversees (among other
theaters) Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gates and Petraeus worked very well
together in turning around the Iraq war; it is reasonable to hope that
they can make progress as well in other areas.

 

The
choice of Gates, combined with many of Obama’s new economic team
(Geithner, Summers, Orszag, Christina Romer and Paul Volcker, said to
be the chair of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which will
provide Obama with outside advice) are encouraging. It may not be an
ideal line-up from a conservative perspective but, if you had said a
month ago that this would be the composition of the new Obama
Administration, most conervatives would have taken it in a heartbeat.

 

Many
of the people who voted for Barack Obama were doing so as an act of
faith; they were not voting for his past record (which was quite
liberal) or his past achievements (which were, by the usual standards
for selecting a President, fairly minimal). Friends of mine who are
lifelong Republicans voted for Obama because they were impressed with
the quality of his mind, his manner and approach, and the discipline of
his campaign. They believed that if he were elected President, he would
act in a prudent, responsible, non-radical way. But they readily
admitted they weren’t sure what we would get; Obama, more than any
other presidential candidate in recent memory, was an unknown quantity
and something of a mystery in terms of how he would govern. I found
myself going back and forth on Obama, sometimes in the course of a
single day.

 

It’s
far too early to make any kind of firm judgment on President-elect
Obama; he has not even taken the oath of office. People who are viewed
as strong picks at the outset of an administration can, in retrospect,
look bad. Managing a team is harder than selecting one. And the acid
test for Obama, as for all public officials, will be the policies he
pursues and the actions he takes while in office. For example, my
suspicion is that Obama will, in the areas of the courts, culture of
life, and health care, take actions that conservatives will view as
quite problematic. And I would prefer a stimulus package which reduces
tax rates on individuals and businesses, which is the best way to
increase productivity and wealth.

But
for now, those who did not vote for Mr. Obama have reasons to be
somewhat hopeful about the direction in which he appears to be heading.
His actions to date are not those of an ideologue. If this trajectory
continues - and it cannot be said often enough that we are only at the
dawn of the Obama era - America’s new President may pleasantly surprise
conservatives and agitate the Left. He just might turn out to be more
like John Kennedy than George McGovern. It remains an open question;
but right now, that possibility is reason enough to be grateful.

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