The desire for constructive social and foreign policy does not require rose-colored glasses, but is sustained by a simple recognition that the question comes before the answer. Such is my hope for the incoming administration, and it ought to be a considerable gauge of its success. Not all expectations will be met as the Bush years fade into painful memory, yet the wide-spread optimism following Obama’s victory has yet to be disappointed. For my own purposes, certain events of the past week have done well to undermine my political naivete, while others have altogether strengthened my conviction that rational idealism is not beyond grasp.
Senate Democrats determined that the best course of action leading into the next legislative session would be to allow Joe Lieberman to continue to wear the D badge he has pretended to wear over the last several years and which he used as a prop for bipartisanship during the downward spiral into bigotry of the McCain campaign. That was on Tuesday, and his initial attempts to play nice have been altogether unconvincing. Then, after conceding his electoral defeat on Wednesday, convicted felon Ted Stevens got a standing ovation on the Senate floor, including a singing-of-praises by Harry Reid. Seriously, are you kidding me?
Thankfully, the Democrats taking over the executive branch seem to have their act together. Last week, I focused on potential appointments at State and Defense, and news this week seems to confirm those observations. As the cabinet takes shape, the announcement of Clinton as the country’s top diplomat is all but made, Gates appears to be sticking around for a while, and now it looks like James Jones will be asked to serve as National Security Adviser. Jones’ hesitant relationship with politics and his NATO credentials are particularly worthy of mention, and combined with Joe Biden’s position in the administration (and the possibility that John Kerry will take over the chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), it seems safe to say that the American front office to the world is looking rather more qualified than it has of late.
So, while Congressional Democrats are sending the usual signs that they are, in fact, their own worst enemy, the Obama team continues to surprise with its absence of unpleasant surprises.