Moderately misguided

I’m a bit surprised by the equanimity, at a minimum, with which many conservatives have greeted Obama’s decision to appoint the likes of Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, and Rahm Emanuel to key positions in his administration. But I probably shouldn’t be. We’ve seen this before.

President Clinton’s selection of Stephen Breyer for the Supreme Court was greeted by conservatives with the same sort of relief now being expressed over Obama’s selections of mainstream liberals. In fact, most of the criticism of Breyer at that time came from the left over his supposedly pro-business posture. Left-winger Howard Metzenbaum was the only member of the Judiciary Committee who gave Breyer a hard tie. Yet as a Supreme Court Justice, Breyer has been a reliably “liberal” vote, and this really should not have been a surprise given his close connection to the Democrats, particularly Ted Kennedy.

Many conservatives “in the know” also reacted positively to the nomination of Madeline Albright as Secretary of State. Some tough talk at the United Nations was enough to have them “cooing” that Albright was an “assertive interventionist.” But Albright proved less than assertive when it came to the issues that mattered most — dealing with North Korea and dealing with Osama bin Laden.

Why are conservative intellectuals so quick to detect “moderation” in liberals? Perhaps optimistic conservatives are simply being optimistic, while pessimistic conservatives are fixated on the fact that things could always be worse. Somehow realistic conservatives always seem to be in short supply.

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