Today comes word from the Obama camp that they’ve formed a Senior Working Group on National Security. Reminiscent of the recent appointment of Jason Furman to a top economic policy job in the campaign, this group is also filled with safe, thoroughly establishment figures. William Perry? Warren Christopher?
David Corn also flagged the hiring of Jim Messina, Max Baucus’ chief of staff, as the campaign’s new COS. Messina was running Baucus’ shop when Baucus was helping push through the Bush tax cuts. Boo.
So between Furman, the national security working group, and Messina, we have three examples in the last week of the Obama campaign bringing conservative elements of the Democratic Establishment inside the campaign’s tent. For those Obama supporters whose support was motivated at least partly out of a desire to inject new blood into the party and not simply restore the government-in-exile of the Clinton years, these moves are a bit dispiriting. There are, I think, two plausible interpretations.
1) Experience matters: The fact is that much of the high-achieving, new blood out there was already drawn into the campaign from the get. Very few of the people involved with the campaign have ever been in a national presidential campaign before, and it’s essentially impossible for the campaign to staff up to levels necessary without bringing in a lot of old hands. This is particularly the case with Furman’s hire. His job is a very campaign-specific job, handling day-to-day economic messaging and it’s something he arguably has more experience doing than some of the other more progressive economists whom I might have hoped to see filling that role.
2) A signal: The other interpretation is that announcements like these serve as signals to high-information elites that for all the talk of change, they’d needn’t be worried. They’re not going to rock the boat too much. Some kind of signaling like this might be necessary in order to motivate party elites to put their nose to the grindstone in support of the candidacy, but it comes with a cost, which is the dilution of the campaign’s central rationale: change.
I tend to think it’s largely the first, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.