Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Team of Rivals, Obama Style

Since our last episode, PE Barack Obama has introduced his Green Team (as advertised here), his Sec. of Education, and Wednesday he is scheduled to introduce his surprise choice for Interior--Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado--and as Agriculture Sec., former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. So how can we characterize his picks so far?

First, high-powered. Senators, governors, former cabinet secretaries, heads of this and that, and a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Lots of midwesterners and westerners (as predicted here), and lots of diversity: Latinos, Asian Americans, women (including a member of the LGBT community), African Americans and whites of both genders. Not a lot of what you might call ideological diversity: instead, a marked preference for get-it-done types who share Obama's policy goals and his professed belief in reaching out to opponents and often-opposing stakeholders.

That's the striking MO of Ken Salazar, a political centrist, maybe not a great fit in the Senate, but whose nomination, says the Washington Post, most environmentalists interviewed praised Salazar's selection, as did leaders of pro-business groups, who described him as a willing listener who recognizes the need for domestic energy and agricultural production, although some green activists really don't like him., and probably some business types don't either. According to the LA Times: " Karen Schambach, the California coordinator for the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, described Salazar as more of a centrist. Still, she expected he would be a "sympathetic soul" in a department that had offered a cold shoulder to the environmental community."

In another area of contention based at least partly on ideology--education--Obama appointed Chicago Supe of Schools Arne Duncan, who has managed to enact and back reforms while maintaining good relations with teachers unions. According to the Chicago Tribune, Many describe Duncan as conciliatory, open to new ideas and realistic about disconcerting trends—but he has not always avoided controversy.... 'He's been pretty willing to fight some political battles about closing dysfunctional schools,' said John Q. Easton, executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. 'I think he's got a willingness for a lot of ideas, and checking out how they're doing and making changes based on that."

Vilsack is also a midwestern centrist, who ran for prez briefly in 08 before backing Hillary (though if I'm not mistaken, his wife backed Barack.)

So Obama's version of a "team of rivals" seems less about point/counterpoint representatives of different ideological positions than an actual team of former rivals (who either ran against each other or backed different candidates) with the expertise and approach to get things done. One assumes that they professed to be willing to get done what Obama wants done.

It's also a particular kind of team: another area where there isn't much diversity is in the sport of choice. Most of them play hoops: Duncan has been playing in Obama's games for 10 years, and played professionally in Australia after starring at Harvard. But there are others: National Security Advisor Jim Jones played forward for Georgetown, and Reggie Love--Obama's personal aide, played for Duke.

There are a number of high school players, too: UN Ambassador Susan Rice was a star point guard at the National Cathedral School in DC, AG Eric Holder played high school hoops in NYC, and Treasury Sec. Dan Geithner apparently has got some game. Even Hillary played the half court.

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