Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Best and the Brightest

I’m not looking for a return to Camelot, but what JFK was trying to do might be a great idea again!
by Charlie Leck

Yesterday, Monday, 1 December 2008, will be a one of those days that may get indexed in the history of the United States as a historic moment. President-Elect Barack Obama named his national security team, including his choices for the cabinet posts, Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) and Attorney General (Eric Holder). He also named his Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice) and announced that the post will be given cabinet level status. He named his Homeland Security Secretary (Janet Napolitano) and as fully expected kept Robert Gates on as his Defense Secretary.

It is quite clear what the president-elect is doing. It is similar to the first moves of President John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and, oh yes, Abraham Lincoln. The idea is to surround oneself with the ‘best and the brightest’ (David Halberstam’s terminology) whether they agree with you or not. As a matter of fact, both Lincoln and Roosevelt were known for wanting around them people who would be willing to disagree so they could hear contrary opinions and ideas. Obama appears to be going down that route, too, and I applaud him for it. Obama is fascinated with the historic descriptions of Roosevelt and Lincoln, and the comparison of the two, by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and it captivated me. My appreciation for both Lincoln and Roosevelt grew immensely.

In the end, decisions will be made by the President. To hear a number of opinions and ideas, even if they differ with his own, is a courageous way to go. Obama has such courage. He is strong enough and secure enough that he is not afraid of debate within his administration and America will be better for such deliberation. But, in the end, he stated firmly, using Harry S. Truman’s language, “the buck will stop with me.”

The announcements that Obama made today, starting with Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, were nearly astonishing. None of the announced appointments was more curious that that naming James Jones as his National Security Advisor. In Congressional testimony early this year, Jones was rather critical of some of Obama’s positions. Today he was very positive about going to work for our new President. It is a sign, again, that Obama does not want ‘nodding head puppets’ around him. I’m hopeful about that.

Our new President is surrounding himself with the best and brightest and we will be a better nation because of it.

I remain very excited about
the big inauguration day.
I only wish it were sooner.
Are you planning to be some
place special on that day to
listen to the Obama speech?

Over a year ago, I wrote about Lincoln’s second inaugural address and posted a transcript of it here on my blog site. It was a remarkable speech by a remarkable speaker. I’m here to predict that the Obama speech will reach the level of the 1961 Kennedy inaugural speech or even the second inaugural speech of Abraham Lincoln. Sounds crazy, but I’m sticking by the prediction. Of course, it is really up to history to judge these things.

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