A secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who once headed the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. A secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who supported the invasion of Iraq, voted to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and called direct, unconditional talks with Iran "irresponsible and frankly naive." A national security adviser, retired Gen. James Jones, most recently employed at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who served as a special adviser to the Bush administration on the Middle East. A secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, who is one of Henry Paulson's closest allies outside the administration. A head of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, whose writings and research seem to favor low tax rates, stable money and free trade.It is tempting for conservatives to crow -- or liberals to lament -- that Barack Obama's victory has somehow produced John McCain's administration. But this partisan reaction trivializes some developments that, while early and tentative, are significant.
First, these appointments add evidence to a debate about the political character of the president-elect himself. Conservatives have generally feared that Obama is a closet radical. He has uniformly voted with liberal interests and done nothing to justify a reputation for centrism.
Until now. Obama's appointments reveal not just moderation but maturity -- magnanimity to past opponents, a concern for continuity in a time of war and economic crisis, a self-confidence that allows him to fill gaps in his own experience with outsized personalities, and a serious commitment to incarnate his rhetoric of unity.
All the normal caveats apply. It is still early. Obama is benefiting from being the only player on the stage -- all his pretensions of moderation could be quickly undermined by a liberal Congress, unhinged by its expanded majority. And Obama's social liberalism could still turn Washington into a culture-war battlefield.
But honesty requires this recognition: So far, Barack Obama has the instincts and ambitions of a large political figure.