Beginning Obama’s second term



Sector: Security Importance: ****

Level: National Scope: USA only

Period: Shortrun Process: Elite power

MAIN TOPIC: PRESIDENCY Treatment: Commentary



Obama’s second term cabinet 1.1

Republican second term resistance 1.2

A representative Republican Representative 1.3


Room on Washington’s agenda is limited 2.1

Executives must deal with the unexpected 2.2

Agendas reflect and affect political power 2.3


Approval often delayed 3.1

Appointments as power 3.2

Appointments as policy 3.3


This Post highlights three main themes in American politics this week (130106-130112). One is competition between policy issues for the lead place on the national political AGENDA. Another is partisan maneuvering over APPOINTMENTS for Obama’s second term. Having just been reelected convincingly, Obama has much POWER to pursue both of these. However, both Agendas and Appointments will affect for how long that Power will last.


Let’s start with a simple description of current personnel arrangements and partisan relations in Washington.

Obama’s second term cabinet 1.1

The cabinet for Obama’s first term reflected the “post-partisanship” on which he had run in 2008 and recognized groups that had helped to elect him. Also, in policy areas that were then in crisis (wars, recession), Obama chose a cabinet that maintained much continuity with the previous Bush administration (Gates, Geithner). Imitating Lincoln, Obama appointed a “TEAM OF RIVALS.” In domestic politics, Obama brought the factions of the Democratic party together by appointing his defeated rival Hilary Clinton to the top cabinet post of Secretary of State. (Doris Kearns Goodwin 2006. Team of rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York NY: Simon & Schuster, 944 pages.)

In his first term, on defense policy, Obama preempted Republican criticism by retaining a Republican as Secretary of Defense, a strategm that worked. In economic policy too, to combat the Great Recession, Obama continued the kinds of appointments and policies that Bush had initiated. Here however – and in all other non-defense policy domains – the Republican response was absolute non-cooperation. Nevertheless, to the dismay of many Democrats, Obama persisted in trying to conciliate Republicans. To no avail: radical-conservative Republicans repudiated any eventual attempts by “moderate” Republican leaders to negotiate with him (e.g., to solve the late 2012 fiscal crisis).

This week, Obama’s nominations for his second-term cabinet reflect some of the same themes. He has again sought continuity of personnel and policies, this time with his own first term. Evidently he intends to forge ahead with what has proven most successful during his first term, NOT brainstorm for a new round of ideas or bring in a new cast of characters. Some complain that the administration has closed in on itself. (See Ezra Klein 130109 “Where are the White House’s new voices?” at washingtonpost.com.)

Thus evidently Obama’s second term cabinet will represent the OBJECTIVES that, in light of his first term experience, HE now wants to pursue (basically, adapting the New Deal social-democratic legacy to the 21st century). Obama has again attempted to elevate defense policy above partisan politics by nominating a Republican as secretary of defense. He has again turned to someone sympathetic to American financiers to manage American finance (Alexander Bolton 130112 “After Lew nomination for Treasury, Obama pressured on Wall Street reform” at thehill.com.)

Obama’s second-term cabinet will include the PEOPLE he likes and trusts (those he has worked with most closely since coming to Washington – as it happens, mostly white males). Michael Hirsch of Politico has called it a “TEAM OF MENTORS.” Several are older Senators whose judgement Obama respects and whose loyalty he trusts, many of them close to Joe Biden. All have complete mastery of the policy domain for which they will be responsible and complete familiarity with the network of personal relations that runs that policy domain. Most are tough negotiators who can stand up to Republicans during policy battles to come. Evidently, Obama has learned his lesson: In his second term he will stop trying to placate Republicans. (Michael Hirsh 130106. “What Obama's senate mafia means for America” at nationaljournal.com. Also Chris Cillizza 130109 “Meet the new President Obama” at washingtonpost.com. Also Scott Wilson 130110 “Obama turns to like-minded allies, advisers to fill out his second-term cabinet” at washingtonpost.com. Also Jill Lawrence 130110 “Why Obama's white-guy problem seems worse than it is” at nationaljournal.com.)

Republican second term resistance 1.2

Historically in American politics it has been assumed that whoever voters elect as president has the right to choose a cabinet to implement the policies on which he ran. Currently, Republicans are continuing to try to rewrite the rules of American politics. In Obama’s first term they opposed virtually any and every policy he put before congress. At the beginning of Obama’s second term they are – at least ostensibly – opposing virtually any and every person he is considering for his cabinet, even BEFORE he has nominated them! The opening salvo was the Republicans post-election take-down of Susan Rice, the forceful African-American woman ambassador to the United Nations whom evidently Obama wanted to nominate as Secretary of State. Now Republicans are producing all sorts of objections to Obama’s current nominations. Astonishingly, Republicans imply that, for cabinet nominees, it is a disqualification if they agree with Obama instead of occupying a position well towards Republicans! (Jonathan Chait 130109 “Treasury nominee Jack Lew linked to Barack Obama” at nymag.com.)

(Republicans claim that “the Democrats started this” back in 1987 by defeating Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. Bork was clearly qualified, but was rejected because his judicial philosophy – that of interpreting the Constitution only in terms of its notional “original” intent. Democrats considered this too far out of the American mainstream at the time. The claim that Democrats too reject nominations on policy grounds deserves more consideration than I can give it here. A famous example is the Democratic Senate’s rejection of president George H. W. Bush’s 1989 nomination of Republican ex-senator John Tower as secretary of defense. The Senate almost always confirms ex-senators. Nevertheless, Democrats accused Tower of extensive womanizing, heavy drinking, and conflict-of-interest (he had worked for defense contractors). The Tower case may be more relevant to the present than the Bork case, because it is NOT inappropriate for the Senate to consider the judicial philosophy of a nominee to the Supreme Court.)

There MAY be a glimmer of hope here. The hope is not so much for Obama success at obtaining confirmation of his nominees (he wouldn’t have sent them to the Senate if he doubted he has the votes to confirm them). Instead the hope is for second-term policy politics in general. Some Republicans have vociferously objected to one Obama nominee or another and have vowed to examine them stringently when they arrive for hearings. If such examination invites debate on major policy issues – as opposed to exaggerating minor faults – such an examination is of course legitimate and useful. Or Republicans may be creating leverage with which to extract reassurances from nominees on particular policy issues, which is also legitimate. (Some Democratic senators, such as New York’s Charles Schumer, have made their support conditional on reassurances of support for Israel.) Conversely, Republicans may not bother to try to block a nomination when doing so would NOT create such leverage. (Stacy Kaper 130108 “Blocking Lew gets the GOP nowhere in debt ceiling fight” at nationaljournal.com.)

Nevertheless, Republicans have NOT said they would filibuster any of the nominations, or put a personal “hold” on a nomination. (Individual senators are allowed to delay consideration of a nominee, without specifying a reason, and even anonymously!) This restraint suggests that Republican resistance to Obama’s nominees may be mostly for show. Even radical-conservatives MAY agree that a president has a right to his own cabinet, unless it is discovered that a nominee has some crippling disqualification. So evidently some Republicans are making a dramatic performance aimed at their constituents in the 2014 election, to preempt any challenge to them in a Republican primary from a still more radical conservative claiming that the incumbent was “soft” on Obama’s nominees. (For example, this may be true of the usually reasonable senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a relatively moderate Republican who faces a potential primary challenge in 2014.) This holds out SOME hope for agreement on the many major issues to be decided in 2013, despite partisan bluster.

A representative Republican Representative 1.3

Then again, some radical-conservatives may NOT agree that a president has a right to his preferred cabinet if, as some think, that president and cabinet will lead the USA to catastrophe. Congressional Republicans, at least in the House, are now effectively dominated by radical conservatives – mostly from the South. Their constituencies – predominantly rural, white, and conservative – do not resemble the USA as a whole. Those Republican congressmen are NOT willing to follow their Republican leaders in congress. They respond to the district from which they were elected and in which they will have to seek reelection. Or perhaps one should say, they respond to the national conservative Political Action Committees who can intervene in a Republican primary to sponsor an even MORE radical conservative to defeat them.

A vivid illustration is a portrait in Politico this week of Republican congressman Tom Cotton. In 2012 he was elected for the first time from a very conservative rural district in Arkansas. He had fought in two wars and earned two degrees from Harvard. Nevertheless, the main reason for his winning his district was the intervention of a wealthy conservative PAC (Club for Growth) to support the MOST conservative candidate it could find in that very conservative district. Cotton now says he has no intention of compromising with anyone about anything – not even Republican House leadership, not to speak of Obama. Cotton considers it virtually a moral imperative to threaten to allow the USA to go into default on payments of its debt obligations, if Democrats do not allow huge cuts in spending on social programs in exchange for Republicans’ agreeing to raise the ceiling on the national debt. (Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen 130108 “The 'hell no' caucus” in their weekly Behind the Curtain series at politico.com, with a video of an interview with Cotton.)

Cotton is representative of radical conservative Republicans Representatives. As a result, a significant change this week was that Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner – who in 2011 and 2012 tried to negotiate “grand bargains” directly with president Obama – has announced that in 2013 he will no longer try to do that. Instead he will turn negotiating power over to “regular order” – in other words, to what the majority of House Republicans want. So there are really no House Republicans whom it makes any sense for Obama to conciliate. His only alternative is to mobilize as much power against them as he can. How can he do that? To a limited extent by taking executive actions that do not require congressional approval. Mostly by adopting popular positions and campaigning for them around the country, bringing pressure from an “outside game” to bear on the “inside game” within Washington. Win or lose, if he makes the Republicans look bad enough, they may suffer further losses in the 2014 election – and they know it.


The setting of Agendas has been a big theme in American political science for the past several decades.

(The mainstream American political science formulation was John W. Kingdon, 1984/2010.Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Boston MA: Little, Brown, 240 pages. [The 2010 reprint has a new epilogue on health reform from Clinton to Obama.] The most recent main reformulation of agendas is Bryan D. Jones and Frank R. Baumgartner 2005 The politics of attention : how government prioritizes problems. Chicago IL : University of Chicago Press, 316 pages. See also Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones 1993/2009 Agendas and instability in American politics. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 339 pages. The original inspiration for the agenda literature – which remains more analytically incisive – was Michael D. Cohen, James G. March and Johan P. Olsen 1972 “A garbage can model of organizational choice”Administrative Science Quarterly 17,1 (March), 1-25.)

Room on Washington’s agenda is limited 2.1

The basic idea of “agenda setting” is that the room for major issues on Washington’s agenda is EXTREMELY limited. This is particularly so at the TOP of that agenda, where deciding anything major requires the hard-to-arrange attention – simultaneous and concentrated – of BOTH President and Congress (sometimes with an eye on the Supreme Court as well). Work can proceed concurrently on several major issues, but final showdowns occur only one at a time.

A further limit is political time. A convincing victory in a major election increases a president’s power – but only for a few months or, at most, a year. By then, members of congress are turning their attention to the next biennial congressional election. As Obama enters his second term, he has to accomplish as much as possible as early as possible. It was early in his first term that Obama accomplished most of the reforms a which he did succeed. Then the 2010 congressional elections gave Republicans control of the House, largely stopping Obama’s momentum. (See Edwin A. Winckler 1101 “Obama reform politics” Nankai Xuebao 2011, 1 (January) 32-44. in Chinese. Also Skocpol, Theda and Lawrence R. Jacobs eds. 2011. Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious governance, economic meltdown, and polarized politics in Obama's first two years. New York NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 320 pages.)

So one main story this week has been competition between issues for room on the early 2013 policy agenda. More FISCAL crises have already scheduled themselves for the near future (please see my 130105 Post). During the 2012 election, President Obama has promised (again) to make IMMIGRATION reform an early priority in 2013. Then the Newtown tragedy – and Obama’s horrified reaction to it – put GUN CONTROL on the agenda. Meanwhile Obama had indicated that he hopes to make some progress on ENERGY, partly to promote the American ECONOMY, partly to protect the ENVIRONMENT. (Anna Palmer 130108 “Immigration's new rival: Gun control” at politico.com)

Executives must deal with the unexpected 2.2

Another main point about agenda setting is that agendas are set as much by events as by political leaders. The president in particular has to deal with whatever problems arise, regardless of whether he wishes to deal with that problem or not. At the moment, the main policy intruders are recovery from super-storm Sandy and reform of gun regulation after the Newtown shooting tragedy. Subnational executives such as state governors too have to deal with whatever happens. For example, super-storm Sandy put recovery from that disaster at the top of the agendas in the affected areas (New York and New Jersey). For the governor of New York, the Newtown shooting put gun control too at the top of his agenda. (Danny Hakim 130109 “Cuomo calls for state to return to progressive ideals” at nytimes.com.)

However, what affects a particular region may not affect the rest of the country. A recent political disaster for Republicans was that the Republican House – dominated by southerners – failed to authorize money for post-Sandy recovery in northern states. That failure produced outrage among northeastern Republicans, particularly the governor of New Jersey, a rising star within the Republican party. (Michael Powell 130103 “Christie takes a swing at his party, possibly hurting his political future” at nytimes.com.)

Agendas reflect and affect power and policy 2.3

Aside from agenda items imposed by events, obviously the ability of a partisan “side” to get an item onto the agenda (or not) reflects that side’s political power. Moreover, ability to control details of the agenda (or not) can affect what policy results. The order in which items on an agenda are considered affects outcomes. The leaders of the two chambers control both of these within their chamber. (The analytical background for agenda order includes some brilliant economics which showed that, in themselves, the preferences of individuals can leave social choices indeterminate. That creates the possibility that other factors, such as agenda order, can affect choice. The classic is Kenneth J. Arrow, 1951/1963. Social choice and individual values. New York NY: Wiley, 99 pages and 124 pages.)

The choice of issues to put on the agenda can also be a tool of political strategy. The classic advice is to raise issues on which you are likely to win: issues that mobilize the public on your side, that unify your “side,” and that divide the opposing side. Many of both the issues and appointments that Obama is promoting have the potential to divide Republicans. (Josh Kraushaar 130109 The Republican identity crisis: From fiscal cliff to disaster spending and Chuck Hagel, big rifts are developing in the GOP” at nationaljournal.com. The classic analysis of the strategic selection of issues is E.E. Schattschneider 1960The semi-sovereign people: A realist’s view of democracy in America. New York NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 147 pages, particularly 62-77 “The displacement of conflicts.” )


The “Appointments Clause” of the American Constitution (Article II, Section 2) provides that the president:

shall nominate, and by and with the ADVICE AND CONSENT of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(For running commentary, see the Presidential Appointments page under Research/topics at brookings.edu. )

The appointments clause provides the title of one of the best films ever made about American politics, the 1962 Advise & Consent. In the movie, the president is dying and fears what his vice-president might do in foreign policy. So he chooses a senator for Secretary of State and sends the nomination to the Senate for approval. The senator is well-qualified for the job but has offended many of his senate colleagues by his uprightness. A battle ensues between the nominees’s supporters and opponents. Supporters arrange for a senator sympathetic to the nomination to chair the subcommittee that will hold hearings on the nomination. Opponents view the candidate as “soft on communism” and the hearings become a witchhunt for communists. In denying any affiliation with communism, the nominee lies by covering up the fact that he did once attend some meetings of a communist cell. Meanwhile the chairman of the subcommittee receives threats to reveal a homo-sexual affair he once had if he does not support the nomination – torn between his duty and his secret, he commits suicide. Before a vote on the nomination can be completed, the president dies, and the vice president succeeds him. (See Wikipedia for plot summary.)

Truth is richer than fiction. Fifty years later, in the real world, a Democratic president has nominated a Republican senator for Secretary of Defense. Again the senator is well-qualified for the job, but again has offended many of his senate colleagues by his uprightness. This time the nominee, going against his party and its president, had correctly warned that invading Iraq would prove disastrous. His Republican colleagues still resent his having been right, so now charge that he is insufficiently “hard” in his support for Israel – indeed “anti-semitic” – because he has criticized some aspects of Israel’s policies. The hearings on the candidate’s nomination are likely to become a forum for denouncing Obama’s policies rather than for examining the candidate’s (obvious) qualification for the job. The president also nominates another senator (the 2004 Democratic nominee for president) for Secretary of State (where Obama’s main rival for the 2008 Democratic nomination is retiring). Meanwhile the president has also had to appoint a new CIA director, because the previous one had been discredited through a sex scandal. (Jonathan Weisman and Jeff Zeleny 130110 “Hagel’s Confirmation proceedings will be short on old senate allies” at nytimes.com.)

What a movie!

Approval often delayed 3.1

“The process of nominating and confirming appointees for posts in the federal government has been a mess for decades, and in recent years it has only gotten worse. By the eighteen-month mark of Barack Obama’s presidency, a quarter of the key policymaking positions were vacant, and nearly 20 percent remained unfilled by the midterm elections in November 2010. More than just statistics, these facts point to real challenges for the governance process. In March of 2009, for example, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner found himself dealing with the worst financial catastrophe in 70 years without most of his principal deputies in place.” (William A. Galston 110707 "Efficiency for Senate confirmation of presidential appointments” at brookings.edu.)

The problem is most conspicuous for very high-level appointments but more pervasive for lower-level appointments. As Galston reports, in 2010 he and the liberal Washington columnist E. J. Dionne convened a conference on the problem of delay in confirming president appointments. Amazingly – partly in response to that report – congress actually did reduce the number of “inferior Officers” requiring Senate approval, in order to increase the efficiency of government.

Nevertheless, appointments to “superior” offices remain subject to Senate confirmation and remain a mess.

(See E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William A. Galston 101214 “A half-empty government can't govern: why everyone wants to fix the appointments process, why it never happens, and how we can get it done” at brookings.edu. Also United States Senate, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, 2011.Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011. Washington : U.S. G.P.O. On judicial appointments during 2009-2010, see Sarah A. Binder 110104 “Confirming evidence: the breakdown in advice and consent” at brookings.edu. For an update see Russell Wheeler 120113 “Judicial nominations and confirmations after three years—where do things stand?” at brookings.edu, and other Wheeler articles on that site at that time.)

One way or another – and contrary to the Constitution – such appointments have come to require a supermajority. Of course, senators can always filibuster an appointment. However, historically, they did so only when the gravest issues were at stake. Meanwhile, to speed up the processing of nominations, senators agree to deals to break supermajority opposition to a nomination even when the opposition does not in fact have a supermajority with which to oppose the nomination. (See Sarah A. Binder 120517 “Confirming by supermajority: another look at today’s Fed nominations” at brookings.edu.)

Appointments as power 3.2

Media commentary uses at least two different versions of the relationship between appointments and power. In the first version, the power of a partisan side is a limited resource that gets “used up” as sides struggle over successive issues. That underlies the view – noted under 1.1 above – that presidents have the most power at the beginning of a new term.

In the second version, success (or failure) at one issue produces greater (or lesser) power over the next. From this point of view, Republicans’ late 2012 prevention of Obama from nominating Susan Rice as secretary of state was a significant defeat from which he must now recover. From this point of view, Obama’s nomination of a Republican whom many Republicans dislike – to many observers, virtually daring Republicans to vote against him – could be regarded as reaffirming Obama’s power. (Glenn Thrush and Reid J. Epstein 130109 Why president Obama is picking fights with congress at politico.com. Also Amie Parnes 130109 “Raring for a fight, Obama heads into his second term swinging” at thehill.com.)

The pattern of staffing immediately around a president is not specified by law. It all depends on the president’s working style, particularly how much power he wants to keep in the White House and how much power he is willing to devolve to cabinet departments. Either way, the institution of the presidency has become a very large organization.

Accordingly, particularly critical for managing a president’s power is his chief of staff, arguably the second most powerful position in Washington. Ideally, chiefs of staff recognize their president’s main weaknesses and try to correct for them. Ideally, chiefs of staff are appropriate to the particular political and policy situation the president faces. In 2009-2010,Obama’s chief of staff was Rahm Emmanuel. A hard-driving Democratic former member of the House of Representatives, he was appropriate for helping push Obama’s reforms through the then Democratic House. However, after the Republicans captured the House in the 2010, Obama changed his chief of staff to less dramatic insiders. (Matthew Cooper 130108 “The 6 habits of highly effective chiefs of staff” at nationaljournal.com.)

Appropriate for the increasing importance of fiscal issues, most recently the chief of staff has been budget expert and tough negotiator Jacob Lew. For those qualities, Obama has now nominated Lew as Secretary of the Treasury, from which position he will probably be Obama’s chief negotiator with Republicans on budget issues. (See Zachary A. Goldfarb+ 130109 “Obama selects White House chief of staff Jack Lew to head Treasury” at washingtonpost.com. Also Nancy Cook 130109 “Jack Lew: The man who could save Obama's legacy” at nationaljournal.com. Also Sheryl Gay Stolberg 120101 “Trusted aide to Obama faces test in budget showdown” at nytimes.com.)

To replace Lew, Obama has considered Denis McDonough (current deputy national security adviser, very close to Obama) and Ronald Klain (former chief of staff to vice president Joe Biden and, before that, Al Gore). Klain may be problematic because, if Hillary Clinton does not run for president in 2016 and Joe Biden does, Biden’s candidacy might create some conflict of loyalty for Klain between Obama and Biden. Both of Lew’s deputies were women but evidently neither has been considered for promotion to full chief of staff. (Caren Bohan 130109 “What will the pick of chief of staff say about Obama's management style?” at nationaljournal.com. Also Jackie Calmes 130110 “Obama’s chief of staff pick is said to be down to 2" at nytimes.com. Also Brendan Sasso 130112 “Report: Obama leaning toward McDonough for next chief of staff” at thehill.com.)

Appointments as policy 3.3

In itself, the fact that Obama is replacing many cabinet members does not indicate policy change. Being a cabinet-level official is an exhausting job that few people can perform longer than one presidential term. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clearly was exhausted at the end of four years of endless crises and incessant globe-trotting. She wants to rest up and assess her chances in the 1216 presidential election. (Overall, see “Who’s in, who’s out” under The Obama Transition at washingtonpost.com.)

Nevertheless, personnel change can create policy change. At the beginning of his first term, Obama relied on relative hawks such as defense secretary Robert Gates, secretary of state Hillary Clinton and, later, General David Petraeus. Obama’s second term replacements for them DO to some extent indicate further shift in his policy priorities.

Thus Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Republican senator Charles Hagel, is famous – to Republicans, infamous – for his vociferous criticism of Bush’s assertive foreign policy and expansive defense budgets. A country is not increasing its international influence if its “defense” budget is bankrupting it. At the same time, Hagel served in the military in Vietnam and many military leaders respect him. So he is a good person to lead the Department of Defense during a period when, one way or another, the defense budget will be shrinking. One can regard the appointment of Hagel, a sharp critic of Bush foreign policies, as a further break by Obama from Bush foreign policies. This is significant because, during his first term, Obama was cautious and slow about moving away from some Bush policies. One can also regard the Hagel appointment as indicating that Obama is likely to remain moderate in the ongoing crisis with Iran (and North Korea) over their development of nuclear weapons.

(Scott Shane and David E. Sanger 130106 “Obama’s Pick for defense is an ally, and a lightning rod” at nytimes.com. Also Alexander Burns 130109 “Chuck Hagel pick: Final snub of George W. Bush”at politico.com. Also, Jim Rutenberg 130112 Hawks on Iraq prepare for war again, against Hagel” at nytimes.com. Also Diane Barnes 130108 “Hagel pick could signal U.S. policy shift on Iran” at nationaljournal.com.)

Obama’s nominee to run the CIA is his unsmiling adviser on anti-terrorism, Donald Brennan. He helped Obama shift from reliance on large ground armies (the “surge” in Afghanistan) to reliance on small precise forces (low-cost low-casualty surgical strikes by unmanned drones, cyber attacks, and special forces). Many of these precision strikes were run by the CIA. A question for Obama’s second term is whether such precision attacks will be transferred from CIA to DOD, to allow the CIA to concentrate on intelligence analysis. Some say that Brennan favors that trnsfer.

An interesting take on Obama’s simultaneous appointment of Hagel and Brennan is that they represent Obama’s synthesis of contradictory legacies from the Bush period: Hagel’s critique of militarism and Brennan’s implementation of a “light footprint” version of military power. Another possibility is that the “synthesis” still contains tensions. (See Ross Douthat 130112 “The Obama synthesis” at nytimes.com, Also Michael Hirsh 130107 “Will Chuck Hagel and John Brennan fight? Inside the future battle over targeted killing ” at nationaljournal.com.)

Obama’s nominee for secretary of state is another Vietnam veteran and skeptic of militarism, senator John Kerry. All of this national security team – Hagel, Brennan, Kerry – will accommodate themselves to Obama’s practice of running national security policy directly from the White House, through his national security adviser Thomas Donilon. (David E. Sanger 130108 “In step on ‘light footprint,’ nominees reflect a shift at nytimes.com.)



Importance of Post: ***** Big development. **** Small development. *** Continuing trend.

Scope of Post: USA only. USA-PRC. USA-other.

Type of Process Treated: Elite power struggle. Elite policy politics. Mass participation.

Type of Treatment: Current commentary. Comprehensive background. Academic analysis.


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