Tuesday, November 25, 2008


With the imminent naming of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, the retention of Robert Gates at Defense will raise questions about exactly what Barack Obama means by "change."

One thing is clear: The new president does not equate change with personal revenge (Joe Lieberman's survival even more than Clinton's appointment proves that) or even, as with Gates, new faces.

Idealistic as he may be, Obama is also a pragmatist and keeping Gates is a practical solution during the necessary emphasis on the economy in the early days of the new administration.

Next week, Obama will be naming the rest of his foreign-policy team, which will reorient our Middle East policy away from Iraq toward the dangers posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his two years at Defense, Gates has clearly been as realistic as could be expected, while serving Bush, on that subject.

Moreover, as soon as he replaced Rumsfeld, he saved American lives by giving priority to mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks (MRAPs) that had been stalled for two years by Pentagon bureaucrats and, in succeeding months, aligned himself with Condoleeza Rice in blunting the push of Cheney's Neo-Cons for attacking Iran.

"Off with their heads" ideologues won't be satisfied by the arguments for retaining Gates, but he will be a reassuring figure as Obama goes about saving the economy and getting us out of Iraq.

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