Robert Gates Uncertainty Principle

Sorry to keep writing about this topic, but it comes up too frequently:

The most likely Republican for a top Obama post, based on published speculation and reporting within his transition team this weekend, is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who might keep his job in at least the opening phase of the new administration. Obama has said foreign policy is the area most in need of more bipartisanship, and the likely appointment of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) leaves few other openings.

A Gates reappointment would send a message of caution and continuity within national security circles — not exactly the message that Obama’s most ardent anti-Iraq war supporters are yearning for.

The reappointment of Gates would be neither tokenism nor a message of “caution and continuity,” at least not with respect to the Bush Administration’s neoconservative ideology. Gates is closely associated with Brent Scowcroft, a notable critic of George W. Bush, an informal Obama adviser, and former national security adviser under Bush I. Matt Yglesias is right to note that cooperation with Republican realists actually counters some of the views advanced by Hillary Clinton during the primary. There’s been a lot of talk of the disappointment of these suspiciously unsourced “anti-Iraq war supporters” (by the way, wouldn’t a better way to say that be “Iraq war critics”?) have been disgruntled about the Clinton pick (rightly, to a degree), so if they are also disgruntled about the apparent Gates nod, they don’t know what they are talking about. But wait, this is Jonathan Martin we’re talking about, so more illogic can’t be far around the corner…

But it would hardly signal a dramatically new style of partisan bridge-building. For one, Gates is not a sharply partisan figure. Before becoming president of Texas A&M, he was a lifelong national security official, spending most of his career in the CIA and heading the spy agency under the first President George Bush. For another, he almost certainly would be a transition figure, rather than one expected by the public or colleagues to stay put or be a decisive policymaking voice for a full term.

Nor would there be novelty in Obama reaching to a moderate figure from the opposition party to lead the Pentagon. That was exactly what Bill Clinton did in 1997 when he tapped then-Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) to be his second-term defense secretary.

So let me get this straight, Gates is a moderate, so picking him as Secretary of Defense wouldn’t signal bipartisanship, but at the same time, he’s not a moderate figure from the opposition party that can serve as a token? And war critics have been disappointed in the Clinton pick because she has been a Liberal Hawk, and yet, they’re also disappointed that someone from the Realist camp will serve as a Defense Secretary?

When did Politico start applying quantum mechanics to political appointments? (And on a somewhat related and completely immature note…lawlz. Sorry, mom).


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