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Center Game

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In England, when the left wins, the government starts running immediately because the shadow secretary team already is rife with capitulations to the center. In France, conversely, the left wins elections so infrequently that when it wins it forgets how to govern and stalls for a long time; it took Mitterand ages to start governing.

Here in America, the left wins just infrequently enough for the base to forget that fast starts to governing make centrists essential to early governing. Clinton also forgot this, but the Obama team has not---though many progressives outside of government have.

I know a lot of people on the left are upset about Joe Lieberman retaining his Homeland Security chair. But the reality is that this is nearly meaningless: he'll be on a short leash and he'll be farming out Homeland Security money and reviewing tedious Homeland Security reports---so? He won't be making war policy, he'll be wonking terror and obliged to support the man he campaigned against. The grief is all his.

People may also be upset about Eric Holder, for a very limited reason (he was involved with a presidential pardon that because of politics became far more controversial than it should have been) as they have been with Rahm Emanuel, etc. Some are calling it Clinton's third term; some witchhunters who didn't oust Lieberman are pledging to run a strong campaign against Harry Reid in 2010. These are the Democrats who have forgotten that in America, where we don't suddenly call elections but fix them to a specific cycle, fast starts to first terms of power transitions are necessary. These are the Democrats who have never been burdened themselves by governing.

So far, Obama's transition team has made very few mistakes; it needed to grab the center to begin to govern effectively, and it has. Indeed, the GOP are so aware of this that they aren't even commenting on the transition decisions, and nor are the most dependable rightie pundits. The wisened GOP leadership knows the game and they know they are in some deep trouble yet again. It's fun to watch; the left should calm down and wait to see what actually happens after January 20.