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Closer than a black person has ever been to the top job on earth, Barack Obama is already looking beyond the convention, planning, and firming up policy. And well that he might. If his primary campaign means anything at all, it means he is a consummate organizer, communicator, fast on his feet in unfamiliar situations, and quick with a comeback. Beyond that, he is able to weather blows that would unsettle a lessor person. Given all that, he has some deficits in experience. How he handles them will define his probable presidency--for better or worse. He needs a team of experts, each capable of leading in his own area of expertise. Will he find them? Some comments follow:

His Veep selection will perhaps be most critical. For many of the issues he faces it appears can only be resolved after a long haul, more than his four or eight years as the case may be. In making that decision Obama needs to focus on what may be now and 2020. Who are the people most like himself, forward looking, charismatic, revolutionary?

At the same time he must be practical, for unless he wins comfortably, there may be no tomorrow for his vision. Jim Webb comes to mind as a rather decent fit, and he should solidify the state of Virginia to the Democrats for the first time in decades. There are other possibilities of course, but Webb has already demonstrated an ability to change and make the most of it when he changed parties and won a seat to the Senate against a popular Republican.

Obama and Webb each has something special going for him. None of Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards, Speaker Pelosi, or Senator Kerry are in their league when it comes to creating political upsets and working hard on follow through. Bill Richardson, Chuck Hagel and Rocky Anderson are interesting personalities. They would add dimension to the ticket but not much to electability. From the expedient point of view, Senator Clinton would be the ultimate for electability. But her management style and campaign blunders foretell problems we do not need in the White-House back up. We think Obama can win without her on the ticket. John Edwards would add "know how" and "can do" to the slate, as well as some electability.

The 14 June issue of The Economist suggests some interesting possibilities for Obama's inner circle.

  • Counsel of Economic Advisors:
    • Austan Goolsbee, Univ of Chicago professor.
    • Jason Furman, Obama campaign Economic Director, Bill Clinton economist, top aide to Kerry.
  • National Security Advisor
    • Tony Lake - Bill Clinton's national security advisor.
    • Susan Rice - Bill Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State.
  • White House Advisor
    • David Axelrod - made change into a campaign theme; helped elect two Chicago mayors.
    • David Plouffe - Obama's campaign manager, orchestrated caucus victories.

With these and many other talented folks such as Tom Daschle, John Edwards, and an array of moderate Republican to choose from for his cabinet, a winning Obama administration could have unusual talent to put to work solving an unusual set of problems. We recommend that at least one, better two, Republicans be invited to serve in his cabinet.

Could Hillary Clinton help? Undoubtedly. But would she accept anything less than the veep position with real power? Probably not, for she still has her eyes on the White House. As a senator answering only to herself, she can keep a high profile. For these reasons, we think she will prefer to keep her options open, alive, and well. Her pull with women voters is remarkable and she would certainly help the ticket.

Two things give us pause about Hillary: 1) Her campaign was too inept for the supposedly best-qualified candidate, and 2) her leadership style is antithetic to Obama's at a time when it is Obama's demonstrated style and new politics that is sorely needed at the helm in Washington. She would make a better president than McCain, but would do little or nothing to fix what basically ails America's political system--now essentially controlled by special interests of various types. These things really do matter.


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