The Note: Not Just a Slogan

Call it change Washington can believe in.

The Cabinet that is emerging (still unofficially -- President-elect Barack Obama has yet to make a single formal announcement) looks so very . . . practical, maybe typical.

The faces are like the folks at a college reunion -- you knew these people once before, when there were a little younger, and sort of always had the feeling you'd see them again.

And -- surprise -- Obama picks top aides the same way previous presidents have: From the ranks of elected officials, old friends and allies, and people who have done it before -- yes, in Washington.

Your latest entries for the ledger of the likely: Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, at Health and Human Services; Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz., at Homeland Security; and Penny Pritzker, an early campaign supporter and a big Obama fundraiser, at Commerce.

Made formal Wednesday: David Axelrod, to become senior advisor to the president; Greg Craig as White House counsel; Lisa Brown as White House staff secretary; and Chris Lu (not Patti Solis Doyle) as Cabinet secretary.

"President-elect Barack Obama promised the voters change but has started his Cabinet selection process by naming several Washington insiders to top posts," Kevin Freking writes for the AP.

"President-elect Barack Obama campaigned on the slogan of 'change.' But his early appointees, including two top choices that emerged Wednesday, show that experience is one of his main criteria," Laura Meckler and Jonathan Weisman write in The Wall Street Journal.

"The latest transition news highlighted the three personnel pools supplying Mr. Obama with his picks," they write. "Most prominent are Clinton administration veterans -- including, possibly, former first lady Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. Some high-profile appointments are also long-serving members and staff from Capitol Hill. Then there are the influential Chicagoans -- a group that seems smaller than the hometown crowd that usually accompanies a new president to Washington."

And why is it that all the Cabinet picks come with what Al Kamen is calling a "Best Buy" contingency -- a 30-day return policy?

"Reminds us of the Hamlet-like performance of former New York governor Mario Cuomo when Bill Clinton offered him a seat on the Supreme Court and he accepted, then he didn't, and back and forth," Kamen writes in his Washington Post column. "In the end, if it doesn't work out, there was no Obama announcement, no photo op. There are no pictures of him walking out with Clinton, smiling. He's reached out to his former foe, he's been magnanimous. And of course he will be saddened that it didn't work out."

A transition plays to a few audiences -- the insiders and members of Congress who want people they can work with, and the outsiders who constituted the overwhelming bulk of the people who actually voted for the president-elect.

It matters approximately not at all right now -- but which group is happier with what they've seen so far?

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