If President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to keep Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his position raised red flags about the sincerity of the former’s mantra of change, those flags have surely given way to blaring alarms today with the announcement that the new administration will retain hundreds of Bush appointees in the Pentagon.
In a move confirmed by Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, Secretary Gates is asking, on behalf of the new administration, that “all willing political appointees” remain in their positions beyond the inauguration. Morrell says virtually all secretaries and undersecretaries will remain in their positions, until President-elect chooses to replace them. If the President-elect chooses to replace them.
The move is being presented, of course, as an effort to ensure continuity for a wartime transition of power. Yet given Obama’s national security team itself consisted entirely of hawks, they would seem to be at home with the idea of a Pentagon not just modeled after the Bush Administration’s, but consisting more or less entirely of Bush appointees. It may sit well with them, but how will it sit with millions of Obama voters who cast their ballot on the assumption that it would bring about genuine change?