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October 30th, 2008
09:59 AM ET

Priorities for the New President

Joe Klein
TIME.com

In the days before the great election of 2008, your nation's capital was consumed by a single question: If Barack Obama wins, what's in it for me? A week before the balloting, I sat in the dining room of one of Washington's finest hotels and, eavesdropping madly, realized that my neighbors at every one of the adjoining tables were consumed by the vagaries of appointive politics — as I was, after my guest arrived.

The game of turbocharged, Cabinet-level musical chairs is the autumnal version of the summer speculation about vice-presidential picks: lots of fun, but not very nourishing, and I'm not going to indulge in it here (O.K., maybe a little). There are bigger fish to fry, like what's the new President — Obama is universally, prematurely, assumed the victor — actually going to do?

It was possible, in this rotisserie of naked self-promotion, to discern some larger themes. For the first time since Franklin Roosevelt, the next President will face the prospect of neither peace nor prosperity — and there seems a consensus that, as much as Obama (or John McCain, for that matter) wants to play in the world, the financial crisis will demand most of his time and political capital. From that assumption flows another.

For the sake of continuity and the absence of drama, it might not be a bad idea for Obama — if elected — to stick with the current national-security players in the battle against Islamic extremism.

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Filed under: Joe Klein • Raw Politics
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