Panel on Obama's Appointments and the Left

Panel on Obama's Appointments and the Left

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - November 26, 2008


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking.

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


HUME: OK, so never mind that Bob Gates will stay on as the Secretary of Defense, the man who was hired to supervise and to put across the surge strategy that Obama opposed, and never mind that his Treasury Secretary will be one of the architects of the Bush plan to rescue the economy, the one now being executed by Hank Paulson.

And never mind that so many of these White House officials and others are, not holdovers, but veterans, let me put it that way, of past administrations, not one of them with a particular reputation for shaking things up enormously and making big and dramatic change.

So what about this now? What is in store for Mr. Obama having embarked on this course in his appointments? Some thoughts from Fred Barnes, executive editor of "The Weekly Standard," Jeff Birnbaum, Managing Editor Digital of "The Washington Times," and Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, FOX contributors each and every one of them.

What do you think, Juan? The left is not happy?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Exactly. There is a lot of people on the left who may be having some buyer's remorse tonight.

When you look at, especially, the Gates' decision--this is unprecedented, and never have you seen a president decide to hold over a secretary of defense from another party.

And what the question is, you know, what was the deal made between Bob Gates and president-elect Obama? Because you can't imagine that the defense secretary would stick around if, in fact, there was going to be an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, which would be directly contradictory to what he suggested, which is a more gradual approach for pulling the troops out.

And, also, when it comes to the budget, when it comes to don't ask, don't tell, you must imagine that Gates has been reassured that for that first year, he and Obama are on the same page.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, the deal is, as we've heard it, is that Gates would stick around for one year.

HUME: Right. But mind you this--we know from Gates -- I know from talking to Gates myself, he isn't in love with that job. He did it, and he did it as a public service, but he isn't crazy about that job.

BIRNBAUM: No. He had a countdown clock in his office. He was very proud of showing that he will be out of there. He had to be persuaded to give up a very nice job in charge of a Texas university to come up and take this.

So, clearly, I think what might have attracted him to this job, Gates, that is, is the chance to follow through on some longer-term initiatives dealing with weapons, of getting are rid of some antiquated weapons, modernizing the armed forces.

And I think it's an indication of how serious a problem Iraq and, more importantly, Afghanistan really are. I believe that the shuffling of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, which Obama had put at the center of his foreign policy agenda, is something that Gates must also agree with.

And the logistical trick and the policy trick of doing that, and pulling it off in a way that will make it work and improve the situation in Afghanistan, where things are really quite dicey, I think must have been a policy challenge and important enough to Gates that he was willing to take on this extra assignment which, you are correct, he really didn't want to do it.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Look, when the guy who is going to be the next president says you're indispensable, I have to have you stay as defense secretary, you say yes. It's as simple as that. You do. And Bob Gates did, and I think he should have.

I'm glad he's staying. He is liked by everybody. He gets along well on the Hill. He has gotten along very well with General Petraeus in Iraq. And the war in Iraq has been won.

And then there is another thing. Who else was Barack Obama going to name as defense secretary? In the past when Jimmy Carter became president, you had people like Harold Brown, the great defense intellectual who became the defense secretary.

And Clinton had Les Aspen, who not only was a defense intellectual, but was a chairman of the house armed services committee.

And then there was Bill Perry, how is another defense intellectual. There is nobody like around there now. They were obvious people to be defense secretary. Obama doesn't have anybody like that now, and so Bob Gates, it was obvious for him to stay there.

HUME: So the people on the left should think this is fine?

BARNES: Well, they ought to be mad, but what are they going to do?


BARNES: Of course they're mad, because Bob Gates is certainly not dumb. He is certainly not a part of the surrender at all costs lobby. And they're not going to like him. But what else was Obama going to do?

WILLIAMS: I think there were other options. First of all, look at the combination. You have a combination with people like--


BARNES: Richard Danzig, who will be the number two, is a Washington lawyer. He was Navy Secretary for a while. He doesn't have a whole lot of experience. Bob Gates has been doing this, this national security stuff, for 30 years.

BIRNBAUM: But don't you think that that's what that was about, giving Danzig a chance to learn on the job so he could move up to become defense secretary in a year?


WILLIAMS: The complaint from the left, though, is Barack Obama ran and separated himself from the pack of other Democrats by saying I'm getting out of Iraq, clear and simple.

Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, James Jones as the national security advisor, and Bob Gates as defense. Do you see any indication that's going to happen?

BARNES: Look, the only person so far of all these people named who was a strong public opponent of the war in Iraq is Barack Obama. The other people weren't. So I can understand why all the left is mad, because they're being shut out.

BIRNBAUM: It gives credibility to withdrawal strategy if Gates is in charge.

HUME: One question--post Election Day, who should be happier, the right or the left, with Obama?

BIRNBAUM: I think the Republicans have reason to think that they may have actually won here.

BARNES: No, no!

It is certainly the right rather than the left. The left is furious, and for good reason.

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FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


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