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Barack Obama: Governing From The Center

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For all the rhetoric from John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the right-wing scream machine that Barack Obama was a socialist who would drag America further to the left, his first few weeks as President-Elect reveal something entirely different:

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.

The choices are as revealing of the new president as they are of his appointees — and suggest that, from its first days, an Obama White House will brim with big personalities and far more spirited debate than occurred among the largely like-minded advisers who populated President Bush’s first term.

But the names racing through the ether in Washington about the choices to follow also suggest that Mr. Obama continues to place a premium on deep experience. He is widely reported to be considering asking Mr. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, to stay on for a year; and he is thinking about Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine Corps commandant, for national security adviser, and placing Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary whom Mr. Obama considered putting back in his old post, inside the White House as a senior economic adviser.

“This is the violin model: Hold power with the left hand, and play the music with your right,” David J. Rothkopf, a former Clinton official who wrote a history of the National Security Council, said on Friday, as news of Mrs. Clinton’s and Mr. Geithner’s appointments leaked. “It’s teaching us something about Obama: while he wants to bring new ideas to the game, he is working from the center space of American foreign policy.”

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If Mrs. Clinton is taken from the “Team of Rivals” model, Mr. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is from the Team of Neutrals.

“He’s no liberal,” said a former colleague at the Treasury Department, where he managed the American response to the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s.

At the time Mr. Geithner developed a reputation as the ultimate pragmatist, putting together a package of more than $100 billion in aid to halt the financial contagion. That turned out to be a training session for his role, a decade later, in the bailouts of Bear Stearns, A.I.G. and the injection of nearly $350 billion in Congressionally authorized money, whose exact use has become something of a political football.

Further evidence in this regard can be seen in yesterday’s report that Obama was considering a pre-packaged, Federally guaranteed, Chapter 11 route for the automakers rather than the direct bailout that some Congressional Democrats are advocating.

And Cabinet choices like Bill Richardson for Commerce, Eric Holder for Attorney General, and Janet Napalitano for Homeland Security don’t exactly fall into the far-left category, either.

All of this suggests that the Obama Administration will be more like the Clinton Administration than some ascendant Far Left nightmare concocted after listening to too much Sean Hannity.

So far at least, the fears stoked by the right seem to be greatly overblown.

Cross-Posted from Below The Beltway