Obama's Cabinet: Careful or Careless?
By Ben Pershing
President Bush has often bragged of his disregard for polls and his "thick skin against criticism." If he hasn't already, Barack Obama will learn soon how hard it is to find a middle ground between being too sensitive to the political winds, and not sensitive enough. Too cautious, and not cautious enough.
That balancing act is on display this morning, as Obama faces questions on whether he was careless in selecting Bill Richardson for commerce secretary and whether he was -- depending on how you look at it -- either too careful or not careful enough in choosing Leon Panetta for CIA Director.
On Richardson, Obama's camp and that of the New Mexico governor are now engaged in a blame game over whether Richardson failed to disclose everything or Obama's vetters just failed to play close enough attention. Either way, it's not a good sign that Robert Gibbs was reduced to defending "the totality of our Cabinet picks" rather than the specific pick at issue.
As a window into Obama's thought process, Panetta is a more complicated choice. On one hand, the incoming president picked Panetta because he clearly bent over backwards not to pick anyone connected to or supportive of the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies. That stance essentially eliminated nearly every experienced candidate for the CIA job, including Obama intelligence adviser John Brennan. Was that an example of Obama taking a firm ideological stand, regardless of the practical consequences, or was he too sensitive to the criticisms of the liberal blogosphere?
Posted at 9:15 AM ET on Jan 6, 2009
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