Salena Zito

Goldstein reminds us that Obama is not our first "change" president and that his predecessors in change all blended old and new: “John F. Kennedy ran on generational change. Jimmy Carter promised change from an ‘imperial’ president. Ronald Reagan, change from a D.C.-centered government. And Bill Clinton, change from an ‘out-of-touch’ president.”

Every one of them embraced D.C. insiders except purist Carter, notes Matt Lebo, political scientist at Stony Brook University. “By the time President-elect Carter’s cronies from Georgia figured out how Washington worked, they had squandered whatever mandate he had,” Lebo says.

Goldstein suggests Edmund Muskie as a role model that may work for Obama.

“As a senator, he worked effectively with Republicans, even very conservative Republicans,” he explains. Muskie tried to mobilize large margins, for instance, on the environmental legislation of the early 1970s; he thought legislation supported by broad consensus was more likely to deliver the goods.

Change is relative. While some on the left cringe every time a Clintonista is tapped to become part of Obama’s inner circle, a collective sigh of relief can be heard inside the Washington Beltway, where people know government for the good (and for the bad) will go forward seamlessly.

If Obama wants to be effective, it is practical for him to change his rhetoric, his approach and his standards for what “change” means.

After all, people are looking for a sign that he is not an ideologue and not risky -- and that will be a good sign.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.