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Road to change goes through Washington

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We clearly need a lot of change in domestic policies, and Obama must be given time and support to achieve a new direction.

If people are to feel disappointed with Obama, the cause will most likely be a sense that Obama has abandoned them. We will only know the extent of Obama's real concern with the less fortunate once he's in office.

If evidence of change is slow-coming, it could indicate Obama's changes may be less radical. Or a failure to implement change could simply mean the government is slow to change. Until the results begin to come in, and are carefully dissected for their effectiveness, we can't assume Obama's regime is an effort to revive Bill Clinton's.

Several of Obama's advisers do bring a lot of baggage. I think this attests more to the way Washington does business than any act of misrepresentation by the new administration. Any President seeking change needs to work within the context of a bureaucratic system.

Policy changes might be best adopted by using insiders to advance specific components of Obama's agenda piecemeal, winning over the Beltway over time.

In order to change the system, Obama could have brought in outsiders, but has sided instead with Clinton-era "known quantities." Obama's appointments have sent a very friendly message to Washington insiders, which could indicate that he's got a good feeling for how Washington works, and isn't afraid to work through existing channels to get things done.

The chief benefit of such an approach is consolidation and coordination of existing resources. The US government can do a better job of running itself. For far too long, partisan loyalties have been placed ahead of competence. It shows nowhere better than in the haphazard relief package granted the banks, which stinks of a putrid blend of bureaucratic inefficiency and naked cronyism.

People from outside the Beltway who come in with constructive agendas for change get swallowed up by Washington. Its culture is too power-obsessed to relinquish it, even if the cost to American society is far higher as a result of inadequate or delayed action. Obama can't afford to alienate the government which he will lead.

The huge bureaucracies that run the government tend to look on the Old Guard rather fondly. By recycling Clinton-era folks, Obama can reassures rank and file bureaucrats that changes at the top won't mean they'll all get tossed out of their jobs, if such a thing were even possible.

Some Bush appointees have been "wormed" into the ranks of lower-rung Federal employees whose jobs enjoy restrictive covenants on firing, thanks to collective bargaining provisions by federal employee unions. Bush appointees will try to derail whatever plans Obama has.

The best example of avoiding political risk is J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, who throughout numerous changes in government kept his statutory rank at least three spots from the top, to avoid appearing too close to one administration out of fear of alienating another.

Bringing Clinton-era people back has not been without its risks. Critics of the last administration have re-emerged; also the old animosities directed at the Clintons have resurrected themselves. Exposing himself to these criticisms must be a risk Obama considers worth taking in order to advance his agenda.

Rather than represent an abandonment of Obama's campaign positions, these appointments demonstrate an acute awareness of the importance of making friends and winning over enemies.

"Even the purest of romantics compromise." -Grateful Dead, Victim or the Crime

Obama has already received a great deal of criticism. Thankfully, so far there's been no widespread backlash for the appointments among his more ardent supporters.  Still, I'm concerned that due to their general lack of political experience, many of his supporters might not grasp the nature of political expediency. That's the theory that all politicians will act in their own interest first.

All politicians compromise. To achieve political goals, Obama needs to set his own pace, and compromise. Yes, compromise is the ultimate political expediency--give up some of what you want in order to fulfill other more important goals. 

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www.jbpeebles.blogspot.com

The author lives in small-town Indiana and is a Web-based writer and analyst covering economics, politics, and international affairs.

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