It’s been Republicans who’ve been heaping praise on Obama’s national security and economic teams — at times gushing more than even some Democrats. The GOP is finding little to criticize in Obama’s choices, defanged, in part, because their earlier charges of radicalism have been rendered inoperative by the individuals Obama has appointed.
Honeymoon aside, it’s not hard to see why Republicans are flummoxed: Obama has, so far, tapped a range of figures who are not only ideologically moderate but are serious and respected leaders in their field.
Further, Obama has installed people who make it politically tough for Republicans to find fault. In nearly every position so far, he’s named the individual who offered the least inviting target for the right. A few of them would have fit right into a McCain administration.
This extreme role-reversal for the GOP also speaks to that party’s beleaguered fortunes — where its own economic and foreign policy ideology has been sharply rejected by voters. Republicans also say they must tread lightly for now in dealing with Obama, or risk looking like sore losers to an election-weary public.
Much like his well-oiled campaign, Obama’s deft moves are drawing admiration from GOP pros — only now they can say it openly.
"Since election day Obama has been staying one move ahead on the chess board of politics,” observed Brian Jones, a Republican consultant and former aide to John McCain’s campaign. “Good policy is good politics. And there is a positive political by-product that comes with the selection of these individuals."
It’s been Republicans who’ve been heaping praise on Obama’s national security and economic teams – at times gushing more than even some Democrats.
For Obama, the lack of sniping has helped him find his post-election footing, both to give a smooth start to his administration-in-waiting, and to roll out his picks with a storyline of bipartisanship and competence that is going unchallenged from the right.
The announcement of Obama’s national security team Monday and subsequent response by the Republican National Committee crystallized the Republican challenge.
Obama’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, is a being held over from the Bush administration, where he has won almost unanimous praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The incoming national security adviser, Jim Jones, has been friends with John McCain for nearly 30 years, advised the GOP nominee during the campaign and even appeared with him once on the campaign trail in his native Missouri.
Both served as lifelong, non-partisan national security officials, Gates in the CIA and Jones in the U.S. Marine Corps, before taking leadership posts at, respectively, Texas A&M and the Chamber of Commerce.
Not exactly the sort of institutions that lend themselves to a conservative critique.
And Hillary Clinton, the third member of the national security team rolled out Monday, isn’t any easier to attack.
She may have been the Republicans’ favorite target — and unrivaled fundraising draw — for a decade, but Clinton was wooed more than she was whacked by the GOP since losing the nomination to Obama.
Fervently trying to appeal to Clinton’s blue-collar and female supporters, McCain lavished praise on his colleague from New York, featured her in robocalls and mail pieces — and even picked a female vice-president with her constituency in mind.
As related to Obama, Clinton became a vehicle in the GOP campaign to criticize the then-Illinois senator as left of the Democratic mainstream.
Gone was the pre-2008 charge that she was a radical liberal. In its place, Republican used her as a character witness against Obama.
“Senator Clinton questioned Obama’s willingness to meet with rogue leaders without precondition, his policy on Pakistan, and his stance concerning Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, among other positions,” said committee spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson in a statement, again using Clinton’s positions to hit Obama. “One has to wonder whether Senator Clinton still carries those same, real concerns about President-elect Obama and his stances on critical issues confronting the nation.”
No criticism of Clinton was offered, and Gates and Jones weren’t even mentioned in the statement.
“The reality is that had McCain been elected, his national security team would have looked much like Obama’s,” observed Dan Senor, a Republican strategist and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. “Jones could have easily wound up as national security advisor to a President McCain. And McCain would have kept Gates at the Pentagon. As for state, swap Lieberman for Clinton, and you have an almost identical worldview.”