You can't please everybody in politics. You can't even please your fans all of the time. Remember back when President-elect Barack Obama was battling opposition to his promise of "change"? That was so last month.
Now critics on his left complain that his cabinet selections don't change things enough. Hey, don't feel betrayed, folks. Obama mostly promised "change" from the era of President Bush. The Bill Clinton years? Not so much.
That approach made sense during the campaign. Former President Clinton left Obama with a lot fewer headaches to run against than Bush handed his party's candidates.
But now that Obama is in a position to bring change that he said we could believe in, he does not get a free pass from his base, especially the believers in left-progressive purity who tried to hold Clinton's feet to the fire when he was in office. And they can be expected to do the same to his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, now that she is Obama's choice to be secretary of state.
Yes, that's the same Sen. Clinton who seemed, as Obama's Democratic primary opponent, to agree with him on almost everything except foreign policy. Oh, you know, that was just the heat of the campaign, they tell us now. Right. Still, left-progressives weren't the only ones who felt the choice, as Arianna Huffington opined in her Huffington Post, "turned 'No Drama Obama' into 'Mo' Drama Obama'."
Over at The Nation, editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel had a bigger problem with Obama's appointment of Robert Gates to stay on as secretary of defense. "Obama may believe that Gates will give him the cover and continuity he needs to carry out his planned withdrawal from Iraq," she writes. "But so could many others, including Republicans like (Nebraska Sen.) Chuck Hagel who, at least, opposed the Iraq war."
Going in for the big sting, she argues, "Keeping Gates actually worsens the Democratic image on national security sending the message that even Democrats agree that Democrats can't run the military." Ouch. Of course, Hagel, who vanden Heuvel prefers over Gates, isn't a Democrat, either, but I guess the jab at the Dems was too tempting for her to pass up.
And let's not underrate the value of cover and continuity. Gates has received bipartisan praise as a healer at the Pentagon after Donald Rumsfeld's arrogant leadership. He could help Obama with the big job of withdrawing American troops from Iraq in the way that another popular moderate, Secretary of State Colin Powell, helped the Bush administration to sell the Iraq invasion to the United Nations.
It is frustrating for ideologues of the right or the left to see presidents turn to the middle, but it is in the political center that broad support is built and that big political changes get done in Washington.
Still, Obama probably could do without the unusual praise that came from Rush Limbaugh in an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters. The nattering nabob of right-wing talk radio called Obama's selection of Clinton "a brilliant stroke" if only because it discourages her from mounting her own possible White House challenge in 2012.
With roses coming from Rush and barbs from the left, Obama's head would be spinning around if he tried to pay attention to everyone who wants to give him advice these days. Fortunately, he showed himself during his long campaign to be steadier than that. He pretty much ignored the constant and conflicting advice that various pundits including me kept giving him on whether to speed up or slow down, get smart or get folksy, along the campaign trail, and he won anyway. I don' t think it was just luck that won the day for him.
The Clinton appointment is a big surprise, although it probably is not nearly as big a problem as its many critics suspect. The former first lady does have experience and a respected name overseas. She also has more reasons to do her best possible job in the lofty post than to go renegade on the man who gave it to her.
And by making the job conditional on a new public transparency for Bill Clinton's international speech making and philanthropy, Obama reduces nagging questions about the former president's international deal making. It also helps the Clintons to make their argument that they didn't have all that much to hide in the first place. That's a change I hope we all can believe in.