With A Compass Not A Roadmap

The complaints are starting on the new Obama administration. Some are concerned that he filled his administration with former Clinton hands, reflecting the old school (if more competent), not the change we need.

“What worries me is there is not one person in the senior group who is the outsider to this club,” cautioned Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect. “Where is the diversity of opinion in this economic team?”

David Sirota of our own Campaign for America’s Future observes that some terrific progressives have been appointed to high-level positions in the Administration, but they are political jobs, not substantive ones. They are “positions that are focused on selling policy, whatever that policy may be. “ In contrast, the “policy advisers who actually craft policy are almost all right-of-center, Establishment choices.”

Discontent is coming from the other direction as well, as Democrats increase estimates of the cost to revive the economy. During the campaign Obama pledged roughly $150 billion in spending over 10 years to create new jobs for clean energy and rebuilding schools. Now Congressional Democrats are estimating immediate expenditures in the $700 billion range. The GOP has created a spendometer to track the continuing increases.

Obama himself dodges questions about cost. “It is going to be of a size and scope that is necessary to get this economy back on track,” he said in his November 24 press conference. “I don’t want to get into numbers right now.”

The question for progressives is whether to demand the details or question his choices.

Both seem premature. Political change happens with a compass, not a roadmap. Obama has clearly indicated which way he wants to lead: in the direction of clean energy, massive public investments, an exit from Iraq and “affordable, accessible health care for all Americans.” These are important and fundamentally progressive goals.

Digby sees a positive side to the appointments to political — if not substantive — positions. Simply using progressive language drives our country in a positive direction.

Let’s hope that those old Clinton hands will have the skills and experience to navigate the changing terrain. Obama’s job is to set a direction. Our job is to push him forwards and keep him on course.

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