Rising Up To The Challenge Of Our Rival

The big question I had when Obama was getting ready to announce his national security team was whether he would present the contours of a first-term agenda for them to debate and enact, as he did with his economic team. If he didn’t, the team might look like the mid-2000s New York Yankees: a collection of All-Stars with little mutual warmth and dubious internal cohesion.

Instead, Obama presented a clear picture of what he intends to do. Withdraw from Iraq along his 16-month timetable,  "but I will listen to the recommendations of [military] commanders." Renew efforts against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Confront the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Reduce the dependency on foreign oil. And, as my last post indicated, recalibrate the balance between civilian and military efforts in U.S. national security to use what Vice President-elect Biden called the "totality" of options.

What’s more, Obama gave an indication of his governing style — or, at least, an indication of what to look for to judge the success of his governing style. "I am a strong believer in strong personalities and stong decisions. That’s how the how best decisions are made," he said at his press conference. "But understand that I will be setting policy, [and will be] responsible for presenting the vision [that]… this team will implement." It was significant in that regard that, for instance, right as he announced his choice to retain Bob Gates at the Pentagon, Obama said, "I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office: responsibly ending the war in Iraq." In other words, Obama will expect debate to proceed within the parameters of his agenda. And that agenda is a progressive one.

I wonder: is Obama the chief executive that George Bush always thought of himself as? Discuss.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman