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Might an Obama cabinet keep Bush appointee Robert Gates?

November 12, 2008 |  2:44 pm

Robert Gates staying on as the secretary of Defense in a Barack Obama Democratic administration?

The buzz about it being a possibility has been building, especially once some Obama advisors praised the quiet, tough Bush appointee. Now, word of Gates' silence on the matter from over in Estonia adds fuel.

President George W. Bush defense secretary Robert Gates in a Barack Obama cabinet?

The Times' Peter Spiegel has just reported from Estonia, where Gates is traveling (what else do Americans do there anyway?), that the secretary was asked at a news conference with Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Anzip if he (Gates) has talked with the Obama transition team.

Gates declined to answer. Hmm. Why not just say no?

Then the very careful secretary added, "I have nothing new to say on that subject."

Previously, Gates has said his staying seemed unlikely, despite some presumptuous early suggestions last summer by Obama people that he'd be good. Hmm.

It makes no political sense for Obama to keep Gates. How do you implement change by keeping the same guy?

And Obama's gonna need to disappoint the Democratic left on enough things next year without keeping a white-haired symbol of a conditions-based Iraq troop withdrawal instead of one promised firmly on the calendar for ASAP.

Sources for Spiegel and The Times' Julian Barnes now suggest that Robert Danzig, a top Obama defense advisor who once touted keeping Gates, is the leading defense cabinet candidate. Also, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, an Army vet who traveled to Iraq with the president-elect, causing speculation about him being Obama's vice presidential pick, which he ultimately declined.

What about Joe Lieberman, who was talked about as defense secretary for presidential loser John McCain? Is bipartisanship possible with an independent anyway? That would get Lieberman out of Harry Reid's mussed-up hair. But, wait. Then a Republican governor would name a GOP guy as replacement and slim the Democrat's new Senate majority.

Or what about former senator Sam Nunn, the old-timer who's leading the Obama search for the defense secretary? He could pull a Cheney and find himself to be the most qualified. How's Nunn's heart?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Robert Gates. Credit: Associated Press

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