Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama's risk-adverse, centrist-leaning Cabinet appointments suggest that there may be a lot less "change you can believe in" coming out of his administration.

There are dyed-in-the-wool liberals in this pack, to be sure. Rep. Hilda L. Solis of California, chosen to be Labor secretary, has a knee-jerk, pro-union voting record and will toe the line for the AFL-CIO's agenda. The labor federation called her "an inspired choice."

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who will be in charge of shaping and pushing Obama's healthcare reforms as Health and Human Services secretary, supports a government-run health-insurance system. Indeed, he wants to go further than Obama toward universal healthcare.

You can't get more liberal than Carol M. Browner, who will be White House energy czar. She comes out of Ralph Nader's holy war against corporations and capitalism and was joined at the hip to Al Gore's radical global-warming agenda as head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton.

But there were many other appointments to what the Washington Post disappointedly called "a team of moderates" that suggested caution and timidity as Obama shapes the Cabinet that will run his administration over the next four years.

Let's start with his trade representative. In the Democratic presidential primaries, Obama was breathing fire against the North American Free Trade Agreement, and just about any other trade agreement, saying that he would renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. His trade rhetoric became increasingly protectionist as he battled Hillary Clinton for labor's support.

But he chose former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who has been a supporter of NAFTA to be his chief trade representative. It turns out that when Austan Goolsbee, the University of Chicago economist who is one of Obama's top advisers, was telling the truth when he told Canadian envoys earlier this year not to take the freshman senator's anti-trade rhetoric seriously -- creating a storm of controversy.

Or consider Obama's choice for Education secretary, Arne Duncan, chief executive of the Chicago school system, who is being praised to the hilt by President Bush's Education Secretary Margaret Spellings for his support of Bush's No Child Left Behind educational program.

Then there is his decision to name Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to be his Interior secretary. Oil-industry leaders were especially happy to see Obama pick someone who is a supporter of offshore exploration and drilling. Exxon-Mobil couldn't be happier.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.