A multiplicity of Clinton administration retreads. An attorney general who (1) led the Justice Department effort to return Elian Gonzalez to the arms of Fidel Castro and (2) worked to commute the sentences of two Weather Underground domestic terrorists. A labor secretary who is the daughter of a Teamster. A treasury secretary who has had to explain why he did not fully pay his income taxes. An education secretary who (1) as superintendent in Chicago oversaw schools whose students still greatly lag national averages in English and math, and (2) urged creation of a separate-but-equal school for students with alternative affectional preferences.
And, more broadly:
Communications-team recruits from adamantly leftist lobbies. Science and energy appointees who embrace Al Gore's "green" agenda on issues from drilling and the climate and automobile mileage standards to coal and nuclear power and "alternative" fuels. In foreign policy, those who stress rapping with terrorists and downplay the need -- even ultimately -- to intervene. But, on the economy, an army of militant interventionists who, with all barriers now collapsed, will roll the federal juggernaut into private (and private-sector) lives to an extent unscreened in even the most ghoulish nightmares.
So to borrow from the Johnny Carson Show, Heeeere's Barack!
He will be the nation's first minority president, and that is good. (Note: During the campaign, Obama reportedly met several times with the Episcopal Church's first homosexual bishop, Eugene Robinson, as he tried to get a handle on what it means to be "the first.") And unquestionably -- in concert with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, et al. -- he will accomplish change. But change to what?
Given the amalgam that is his constituency, will he oppose easing (or lifting) the military's Clinton-imposed "don't ask don't tell" policy? Will he resist Big Labor demands for still more anti-business advantages in union organizing drives? Will he, as he said in July, "end this war (in Iraq) -- my first day in office"? And bomb Pakistan, as he famously suggested? And talk Iran out of developing nuclear weapons to rub out Israel and terrorize the Western world?
Biographer David Mendell has noted about Barack Obama "an ingenious lack of specificity." That has helped make him, even now, essentially a blank slate. Some years back, a Democratic operative told Rolling Stone, "People don't come to Obama for what he has done. They come because of what they hope he can be."
He could be, likely will be, a transformational president. In his ideological predilections and in his appointments, one finds key indicators of what sort of transformation -- what sort of change -- he has in mind. They don't make for easy sleeping. Goodwill for Obama, and high hopes for his presidency? Of course. Still, for the nation, the signs provide little comfort. Maybe that is because not all change is for the better. Going to hell is a form of change, too.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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