Gates

Word is that Barack Obama has decided to keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, and Gates will remain in that position for at least the first year. I think this is good politics on numerous fronts, from giving Obama better political cover to withdraw from Iraq and pursue a new policy in Afghanistan to potentially co-opting the traditional realists (the Scowcroftians if you will) for the Democratic Party. But not everyone is happy:

This should be an open and shut case. If there was one message that Obama ran on loudly, clearly, and indisputably, it is that he was going to bring “change” to Washington, D.C. ┬áIf Gates were kept on as Secretary of Defense, it apparently would also mean that all of his top advisors would also stay on, and that it all happened because long-time D.C. operatives said it should. Keeping the same guy and all of his advisors at the behest of old establishment types is about as far from change as possible.

Secretary of Defense is the big enchilada. Arguably, due to the vast percentage of federal spending it receives, it is more important than all other cabinet secretaries combined. The President may be Commander in Chief, but it is the Secretary of Defense who is decides how most federal revenue is spent. We need change in the Department of Defense, and keeping Gates along with his entire team of advisors and assistants doesn’t fit the bill.

Now, there’s a lot of factual inaccuracies in that that should probably be corrected. For starters, the Secretary of State does not have the inherent authority to decide how “most” money is spent. Congress can direct spending and, technically, the President can override any decision any cabinet Secretary makes. If the President is inclined to broadly defer to a Secretary, then you have a different practical matter, but there’s nothing inherent about that, and it’s strictly a function of how the President wants to run his shop. Also, I don’t necessarily know which “advisers” Bowers is worried about staying on, but what we know about staffing thus far would seem to leave Bowers completely wrong on this front. Richard Danzig, who had been one of the only other people ever floated for the job and has been an Obama supporter all along, will be Gates’ deputy and, presumably, his eventual replacement at the top. And, according to Ackerman, the #3 job will be held by Michelle Flournoy, a Clinton administration veteran and Obama supporter. In other words, it looks like Bowers is just totally wrong, and other than Gates the Pentagon’s management team is going to be solidly composed of Obama’s people, people who one would assume will be elevated if and when Gates leaves.

But to be be frank, this is all getting a bit tiresome. We’ve been discussing the pros and cons of retaining Gates since July, Obama had said outright in the campaign that he’d be “open” to keeping Gates, and in the past few months the “informed specualtion” had more or less come to a consensus that Gates would remain at the Pentagon. No one was hoodwinked by this pick, and indeed it’s probably been one of the least surprising Obama has made thus far. Indeed, you haven’t really heard anyone else’s name discussed for the position in months. If he’s been paying attention to what Obama has said, there’s absolutely no reason he couldn’t have known about this months ago, and if bothered him so much he should have said as much, and voted for Ralph Nader. But you don’t get to support a guy, vote for a guy, tell other people to vote for a guy, and then complain when that guy does what he said he was going to do.