First Presidential Appointments: I like what I see

So far, I have seen no signs that Barack Obama, in making his first appointments, has bowed to any pressure except to his personal preferences and his own liking of those whom he trusts and in whom he has confidence.

This is the first major, refreshing change from Bush's administration. His pandering to the right-wing religious base during the attempt to appoint the woefully unqualified Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court being one of the worst examples.

Rahm Emanuel's appointment has not been enacted to find an appeaser who can work with the Republicans in getting half-baked compromises through Congress. He has been appointed because he is capable, tough and able to drive matters through Congress.

Obama promised in his acceptance speech that he would work with both sides of Capitol Hill. So immediately, House Republican Leader John Boehner reacted angrily: "This is an ironic choice for a President-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center.”

Well, it is Boehner who doesn't understand the nature of the first change that the new administration is bringing in. It appears that it won't be discreet discussions in corridors to reach ineffective deals. It will be straight-forward tough negotiation. The GOP had better get with the programme fast.

The leftish bloggers also have had reservations about Emanuel. Disregarding what he has achieved for the party, many criticise him for what he has not done. All that can be said is that, by not following all the demands of the left, he was one of the important architects of Obama's stunning victory.

I read the comment today of David Corn, who questions if Emanuel is an agent for change.

"Emanuel, a highly effective partisan, is indeed a guy who gets things done. As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he led the House Democrats back to majority status in the 2006 elections. Yet his selection--the first pick of the Obama administration--could {be}the wrong signal. I would have advised--not that anyone is asking--the Obama camp to open up with a more bipartisan (or less partisan) appointment, if only for show....

.....Emanuel might make a good CoS for Obama. He knows how the White House operates. He knows how Congress works. He's fierce; he's smart. And Obama needs someone with experience and brains for this tough job. But should the White House of a president seeking change be run by a fellow who has done so well in the conventional and monied ways of Washington?"

To the bloggers I would say that Emmanuel is not intended to be the initiator of change. His role is to make sure that the change that is deemed necessary happens and to implement it. There seems no one more competent.

To David Corn, I can only respond that the appointment of someone who had no experience of running the White House nor practice in the idiosyncrasies of Congress would be exactly the sort of person who would not be capable of being an enabler of change. Objections that Emanuel is a classic Washington insider are hollow. The most depressing thing would be to see someone who is different for its own sake but who has no track record of making things happen.

What makes me feel particularly good is that I had a concern about Obama when I read that he was very much a hands-on sort of guy. This can be disastrous for a president, who needs to see the broad picture and not the detail.

In appointing Emmanuel, I am now beginning to interpret the "hands-on" comment as meaning that the President Elect will take personal and detailed control of the agenda for change but will leave the "geeky" bits of implementation to trusted enablers. This is the true role of a Chief Executive. It is why he is appointed. Many holding this supreme post in the past have been unable to make this differentiation.

Very much the same comments about Emanuel can be made about the new Press Secretary, Gibbs. He is liked by many because he took on Hannity in a bare knuckle fight and won. He also fronted the successful campaign. I like him because I am tired of photogenic White House spokespeople who do not have the depth of intellect or the closeness to the President to speak intelligently of serious matters that profoundly affect a nation and the world. I will accept the Chicago relationship between him and Obama in exchange for the press briefings becoming meaningful again.

Stage One of the transition is good. If Obama goes on like this, it may remove the distaste that I had, despite equal feelings of elation, about the "Hollywood" nature of the content and staging of the acceptance speech two nights ago.

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