There is a tension here between the "hope and change" Obama promises and the issues he and the leading advisors he has recruited will face. On foreign policy, we have Hillary Clinton at State and Robert Gates at Defense. Our troops in Iraq will be withdrawn, but not completely, it seems -- and after something like victory, rather than the defeat and disgrace that so many Democratic politicians and voters craved as long as the hated George W. Bush was president. Less change than many hoped for.
On the economic team, we see Lawrence Summers and Paul Volcker among those tasked with handling economic problems -- a collapse of credit, deflation -- that no one anticipated as recently as six months ago. None of Obama's sophisticated economists, if they were starting from scratch today, would recommend the stands Obama took during nearly two years of campaigning: higher taxes on high earners, moves toward protectionism. Those were Herbert Hoover's policies in the 1930s.
So now we will see, as we have in recent months, much improvisation. We have had and will have in key places the men who probably know as much about deflation and financial markets as anyone else on Earth. Yet we have the sinking feeling the old team hasn't been batting 1.000 and that the new team won't be able to, either.
Much of the energy that fueled the Obama campaign came from a visceral hatred of Bush and all his works. The relaxed acceptance that those on the Democratic left have given Obama's moderate appointments and skinning back on liberal promises suggests they're satisfied, for now, with Bush's removal. But in time, they and the rest of us will be making more critical judgments on how this new-generation president is doing. Change is not all we hope for.
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