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Forum Editorial: Impressive nominees for security

So far, the only people unhinged by President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet nominees reside in the chronically unhappy left wing of the Democratic Party. Obama, himself a former card-carrying member of that club, seems to be applying the principle...

So far, the only people unhinged by President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet nominees reside in the chronically unhappy left wing of the Democratic Party. Obama, himself a former card-carrying member of that club, seems to be applying the principles of "post-partisanship" he articulated during the campaign. His selections range from Democrats of the pragmatic middle to Republicans of the national security right. At this writing, he's put no irredeemable liberals in the big jobs.

The national security team Obama announced this week is impressive, not only as a group, but also as individuals. All bring significant experience to their jobs. None can be characterized as a rubber stamp for the president-elect. Each has a record of personal and professional accomplishment that stands on its own without the singular honor of being tapped to work for a president. All are strong personalities who will do what Obama apparently wants: bring ideas to the table even when they conflict with their boss's beliefs.

The retention of Robert Gates as secretary of defense and the inclusion of James Jones as national security adviser are especially instructive. Neither has been defined as an Obama fan. Neither, we suspect, was on the short list of potential Cabinet members among Obama's supporters.

Gates was named to the top defense job by President George W. Bush in 2006, and since has distinguished himself as a steady, realistic leader, who has enjoyed the support of President Bush. Jones' pedigree includes a brilliant military career with time in the Defense Department about 10 years ago. His last stop was with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy. The national Chamber was not in Obama's camp during the campaign.

So, Gates and Jones give substance to Obama's rhetoric about reaching out to the best and the brightest, regardless of their political histories.

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The remainder of the team has roots in Democratic politics, but none is so ideological that party politics hamstrings their professional conduct. They have proven records of service that appear to be well-suited to advising a president. That includes Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, Obama's former rival for the presidency. The national press has been having "fun" (the president-elect's word) with trying to convert comments made during the campaign into enmity between Clinton and Obama. The president-elect has good-naturedly deflected such questions and comments, stressing that "the buck stops with him," and all his nominees share his vision.

We'll see. History is replete with a new president's good intentions. After all, it wasn't long ago when President Bush was praised for assembling what was believed to be the most experienced, seasoned, skilled domestic and foreign policy teams ever. Eight years later his teams don't look so good.

At this point, however, Americans will give Obama room to succeed. The people he's chosen really are among the best the nation has to offer. A year from now we'll know if they've lived up to their billing.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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