With the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and keeping on Robert Gates as the Secretary of Defense, a clear message is being sent by Team Obama to those that believed he would shift the country to the left. While Hillary Clinton is no Alexander Haig, she is likely to be less progressive in leading the State Department than some, including myself, would like. Couple her with Robert Gates and more moderate Democrats and Republicans are going to rest easier in the transition period.
Still, is this the change that Obama supporters expected? What these moves seem to indicate is that President-elect Obama is a pragmatist and is not willing to waste his political capital coming out of the gate. In this time of uncertainty he seems to be choosing to inspire calm by making safer, more calculated choices.
As he did in his campaign, Obama is building a core around himself that will allow him to lead from his strengths--calm resolve, well-turned phrases and themes, and executing legislation with calculation.
Does this apparent turn to easing the anxiety of the middle mean he won't accomplish his more progressive agenda? No, it means he is working on the middle to trust his judgment. If he is successful at doing this, it will be easier to accomplish the more difficult tasks that lie further ahead. Developing things like a new energy policy that is far greener than anything we've seen, investing in the infrastructure to create the new economy and transportation options we need, and moving us closer to a health care system that covers all of us--these are longer term battles to be waged. But to do this, the Obama team needs us to simmer down so that we can embrace the change he campaigned to bring.