By Michael Winship
The Bush administration made the economic disaster worse, but both Barack Obama’s designated Secretary of the Treasury -- Tim Geithner -- and his choice to direct the National Economic Council, Larry Summers (a former Treasury secretary), are pals of Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who left Treasury to join Citigroup, where he’s now a director and senior advisor. Yes, folks, Citigroup -- the bank the government now has agreed to insure against projected losses of $306 billion -- on top of bailouts totaling $45 billion.
Same old, same old in national security and foreign policy, too -- Bob Gates, Donald Rumsfeld’s replacement, stays on at the Defense Department at least for a year; General James Jones, seasoned military man and friend of John McCain’s becomes national security advisor. And, of course, there’s Senator Hillary Clinton, the next Secretary of State. At Monday’s press conference, President-Elect Obama was asked pointedly about their past differences:
PETER BAKER, New York Times: . . . Going back to the campaign, you were asked and talked about the qualifications of the -- your now -- your nominee for secretary of State, and you belittled her travels around the world, equating it to having teas with foreign leaders; and your new White House counsel said that her resume was grossly exaggerated when it came to foreign policy. I’m wondering whether you could talk about the evolution of your views of her credentials since the spring.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Look, I’m in -- I think this is fun for the press, to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign.
BAKER Your quotes, sir.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: No, I understand. And I’m -- and you’re having fun. (Laughs.)
BAKER I’m asking a question.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: But the -- and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not -- I’m not faulting it. But look, I think if you look at the statements that Hillary Clinton and I have made outside of the -- the heat of a campaign, we share a view that America has to be safe and secure and in order to do that we have to combine military power with strengthened diplomacy.
So let me get this straight -- we weren’t supposed to take seriously anything that was said during “the heat of a campaign?” Doesn’t that invalidate the time and effort we spent evaluating the differences between the candidates before we cast our votes? I’m just asking.