Commentary: Sam Donaldson on Obama's 'Change' Potential

The following is a commentary by ABC News' Sam Donaldson.

One week after this historic election, and change prepares to come to Washington. Let us count the ways.

Rahm Emanuel is to be White House chief of staff. He worked in the White House for President Clinton and comes from Capitol Hill, where he was appointed by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Transition team co-chair John Podesta is helping to find other qualified people to serve. Podesta himself was President Clinton's last White House chief of staff.

Lawrence Summers is said to be the front-runner to be the next secretary of the Treasury. He certainly knows the job as he served as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

pio of abc news sam donaldsonPlay

Jim Steinberg, President Clinton's deputy national security adviser, is said to be in line to be President-elect Obama's national security adviser.

Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader when Bill Clinton was president, is being talked about for secretary of Health and Human Services; and Robert Reich, once secretary of labor in the Clinton era, is said to be in line for a top Cabinet or White House post.

And if Democratic Sen. John Kerry becomes the next secretary of state, as gossip has it, well, he is not a Clinton man … but someone new? Hardly.

And of course, waiting in the wings to help the new president with all of this is that old Washington hand of 37 years – Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

Only Barack Obama knows whether any of these "names" will actually get nominated, but if they do, let me make the case for why it should not really upset people who thought they had voted for the good ship "change" and find the crew is made up largely of old familiar faces.

Successful presidents surround themselves with experienced people. That doesn't always work out – consider the outgoing Bush administration – but when they don't do that, it almost never works out – consider the Carter administration.

I mean, when you have a toothache, chances are you go to a dentist who has a record of successfully drilling teeth … not the new guy right out of dental school, no matter how attractive he may be on the dance floor.

It this sounds like a "kickback" from one of the old Washington crowd, well, it is (hey, I've been here for 47 years). But consider -- if a President Obama surrounds himself with a good number of people who know how Washington works, where the bodies are buried, where the pressure points are and how to apply the pressure, the new president's chances of success, while not guaranteed, are heightened.

Change is important…but only if it succeeds.

Sam Donaldson, a 41-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News, from 1977-1989 and from January 1998 to August 1999, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored, with Diane Sawyer, "PrimeTime Live," from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," from December 1996 to September 2002. Currently, Donaldson appears on ABC News Now, the ABC News digital network, in a daily show called "Politics Live."