ELIZANDRO: Change: can you feel it?

John Elizandro

“Change We Can Believe In” has become “The Clinton Administration: The Sequel.” Only a few short weeks after Obama’s election victory, many of his supporters are already scratching their heads. Instead of the cherished new kind of politics promised by Obama and so passionately desired by those who voted for him, the president-elect’s new administration is shaping up to be a cabal of recycled Clinton-era officials shuffled around from post to post.

Obama continues to insist that change has come to America. If change has indeed come, it certainly isn’t reflected in his choices for senior cabinet posts.

Even before Election Day, Obama showed that his idea of “change” was less than what many of his starry-eyed supporters had hoped for. His choice for vice president was Sen. Joe Biden, a 30-year Washington insider. Even more disappointing was his first post-election appointment. For White House chief of staff, Obama chose former Senior Assistant to President Clinton Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is known throughout Washington as a ruthless and rabid partisan, infamous for sending a dead fish to an out-of-favor pollster. As chief of staff, he will be Obama’s senior adviser, enforcer and gatekeeper.

But Emanuel and Biden were not the only Washingtonians to be appointed to Obama’s administration. After a campaign brutalizing President Bush for his waging of the war in Iraq war, Obama appears to have decided to keep on Bush’s own Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Another Bush veteran, John Brennan, is a contender for director of the CIA.

Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was an undersecretary of the Treasury for Clinton. Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson served as energy secretary for Clinton. At Homeland Security, Obama will appoint Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, who had served as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona under Bill Clinton. To lead the National Economic Council, Obama turned to Larry Summers, one of Clinton’s treasury secretaries.

Hillary Clinton, whom Obama blasted during the campaign for “playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result,” has been nominated for secretary of state.

Are you feeling the change yet?

And it’s not only the “change” theme that Obama seems to be backing off from. His decision to retain Gates suggests he will continue Bush’s Iraq policies. He is said to be shelving his pledge to repeal the Bush tax cuts and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Though he campaigned against the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, he seems to be having trouble coming up with what exactly he will do with the terrorists incarcerated there.

How can we reconcile Obama’s guarantees of a radical change in the way Washington does business with the appointment of old-school Washington insiders and his abandonment of key campaign promises? Either Obama was simply using a cynical vote-snatching ploy to rally voters disenchanted with the federal government, or Obama has realized that such fabulous statements are easier to proclaim from behind a podium than to implement from behind the desk.

Obama, of course, should be commended for abandoning the malarkey that infested his campaign. All Americans can take comfort from the knowledge that much of the nonsense he promised is unlikely to be put into practice. Such promises were easy to make without the responsibility of leadership, but now that Obama is actually about to be the man sitting in the chair making the decisions, he’s discovered that the presidency involves far more than making inspirational speeches. The president-elect’s sharp turn toward pragmatism is encouraging, but it only proves how vacuous his campaign truly was.


John Elizandro is a freshman from Radnor, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].