Ambiguous tea-leaves

Melanie Phillips takes little comfort from Obama’s “centrist” appointments. In this post, she makes what I think is an indisputable point — the president-elect’s selection of Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gates, Jim Jones, etc. is consistent with either of two theses: (1) Obama intends to govern from the center-left in about the same way Bill Clinton did and (2) Obama intends to govern from the left but does not intend to “torpedo his presidency at the very start by displaying a radical bent.” Naturally, the appointments are also consistent with a scenario somewhere in between these two.

Phillips also notes that the appointment of Republicans to key defense positions should not be a source of complacency for hard-line, pro-Israel conservatives. For there are many in the Republican ranks who “share with the left the desire to neutralise American power and throw Israel under the bus.”

Phillips elaborates on this point here. She explains that in Great Britian, “the anti-western left, the isolationist right and peace-process zealots all come together in common cause” as “the Iraq war shaped the entire British political zeitgeist into 1930s-style defeatism.” Phillips detects this same prospect in “the developing Obama administration.” She characterizes NSA-designate Jim Jones as “unfriendly” towards Israel and points out that Hillary Clinton’s record is mixed in this regard.

I doubt that Obama will move markedly in an anti-western, anti-Israel, isolationist direction, at least in the short term. But his appointments leave him well positioned to begin such a movement, or not.

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