Why so many old Washington hands?

One by one, beginning with Joe Biden, Barack Obama is filling key positions in his administration with old Washington hands. Jim Geraghty provides the details.

Why, after promising “change” and deriding (as Geraghty notes) the notion that you can get improved results with “the same Washington players,” is Obama taking this approach? One theory is that Obama doesn’t have much of a palace guard of Washington outsiders, as a governor would. (Obama plucked Samantha Power from relative obscurity, but her erratic behavior during the campaign may have relegated her to a purely unofficial role in the administration for now).

But there’s a deeper reason, I think, It’s the need for the appearance of competence.

At one point, competence looked like it was going to be the defining issue in 2008. Opinion polls and focus groups suggested as much, which made sense given the perception that President Bush’s alleged lack of competence had led the nation into a ditch. Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani were considered front-runners at various times largely because they projected “competence.”

Eventually, an inexperienced but impressive outsider managed to catch lightning in a bottle. But that outsider, ahead of the curve as usual, realized that his best bet in a running mate was a figure who oozed Washington experience instead of, say, an outsider like Tim Kaine.

Now, with the economy in such dire condition and a panic mentality setting in, the case for appointees with familiar names, or at least a solid Washington pedigree, seems more compelling than ever.

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