Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin jumps on the “picking fights” bandwagon and writes that the nomination of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary shows that Obama is “going to seek confrontation” in his second term. This is a problematic line of reasoning, given that the Republican Senate minority is doing everything it can to ensure confrontation, but Rubin teases out a broader criticism of Obama's nominations thus far, writing in her January 10 post:
It is not merely that President Obama has put up confrontational nominees. He is also replacing senior people with standing and reputations derived independent of his administration (e.g., Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Tim Geithner) with confidants who are like-minded, disinclined to question the president or rebut his (often erroneous) thinking.
This is utter hogwash. Let's run down Obama's second term high-level nominees thus far: Sen. John Kerry for State; former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense; John Brennan for CIA director; and Jack Lew for Treasury.
Both Kerry and Hagel have standing and reputations derived from a combined 40 years spent in the Senate. Kerry and Obama obviously see eye-to-eye on most issues, but Hagel is a Republican and on more than a few topics he and the president are not “like-minded.” Before his name was put forth as a potential Obama nominee Republican senators were singing Hagel's praises as someone who “understands the world better than almost anyone,” and John McCain said Hagel would make a “great Secretary of State” in 2006, as McCain was preparing for his own presidential run.
As for Brennan and Lew, both have spent the last four years in the administration, but Brennan's “standing” and “reputation” come from a career spent in the CIA. He was also the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Jack Lew is the only nominee for whom Rubin's criticism is even close to accurate, but it's still a stretch. Lew was Bill Clinton's director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1998 -2001, a job he held again under Obama.
There are still at least two nominations to go, now that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has tendered her resignation and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson has said she will step down. Given the trajectory of the commentary it seems likely that (for conservative bloggers at least) their replacements will be controversial and confrontational figures who owe their careers and reputations to Obama's largesse, no matter who they may be.