Obama Defends Cabinet: The Change Will Come From Me

Speaking to reporters for the third time in three days, Barack Obama was asked directly whether the staff choices he had made for his cabinet and advisory positions conflicted with his campaign message that the next president simply couldn't tap the same people for different posts.

Obama, who announced earlier that he was appointing former Fed Chairman Paul Volker to his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, took a bit of umbrage at the implication that staff assignments undermined the meme that defined his run for office.

"Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," he said. "It comes from me. That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing [that vision]."


The question of whether Obama's Cabinet undermines his message is, in many ways, a media creation (though there are some legitimate understandable gripes from the labor community). As the president-elect rightfully noted, the issue is a lose-lose proposition. Either he appoints some experienced hands to deal with the economic crisis (and gets labeled as more of the same) or he taps new people to handle the situation and is accused of leaving the country at risk.

"The last Democratic administration we had was the Clinton administration," said Obama. "So it would be surprising if I selected a Treasury Secretary who had had no connection with the last Democratic administration, because that would mean that the person had no experience in Washington whatsoever. And I suspect that you would be troubled and the American people would be troubled if I selected a Treasury Secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council, at one of the most critical economic times in our history, who had no experience in government whatsoever. What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking."

"I think when you ultimately look at what this advisory board looks like, you'll say this is a cross-section of opinion that in some ways reinforces conventional wisdom and in some ways breaks with orthodoxy in all sorts of ways," he went on. "And that's the kind of discussion we want. We want ideas from everybody. What I don't want to do is to somehow suggest that somehow suggest that since you served in the last Democratic administration, that you're somehow barred from serving again. Because we need people who are going to be able to hit the ground running."

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