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U. Iowa Students And Faculty Admire Obama's Picks

This story was written by Shawn Gude, The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa student Nicole Dziuban said she wasn't surprised when President-elect Barack Obama tapped Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to be his secretary of State.

News of the pick, after all, trickled out weeks ago.

But she was happy nonetheless, calling it a "positive step in the right direction."

"I think that, ultimately, [Obama] wanted to have the best representation and have all of America's views being represented," the former co-president of UI Students for Hillary. "And I think that choosing Hillary accurately reflects the needs of the American people."

Dziuban also touted the strengths Rodham Clinton brings, chiefly her experience and the worldwide respect she garners.

Obama also announced on Monday his appointments for secretary of Defense, national-security adviser, U.N. ambassador, Homeland Security secretary, and attorney general.

But was Obama's ubiquitous "change" campaign message reinforced with the latest selections?

That question depends on "what you mean by change," UI political-science Associate Professor Brian Lai said.

"If change is bipartisanship, then it is consistent with change," Lai wrote in an e-mail. "If change is implementing a vastly different foreign policy, this might be a sign that change will be more gradual than some Obama supporters might have expected."

Another political-science associate professor, Tim Hagle, agreed, rejecting charges that Obama's latest selections represent a break from his mantra of change.

While many of his appointments have ties to former President Bill Clinton's administration, Hagle said, the president-elect "can't go back to the last presidential Democratic administration - Jimmy Carter - because those people have been out of office for two or three decades."

"They're out of the loop at this point."

The selections also assuage potentially lingering concerns about Obama's inexperience, Hagle said.

While some liberal backers of the former Illinois senator have called the Cabinet overly hawkish, moderates on both sides of the aisle have lauded it as pragmatic and devoid of ideologues. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, labeled the team "excellent," while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said it was "strong, bipartisan, and highly competent."

The picks also reflect the foreign-policy direction the president-elect may take the country in - pragmatic, Lai said, "given the different viewpoints" in the team.

But Hagle argued events could change those views, pointing to President Bush post-9/11. While the president campaigned in 2000 against nation-building, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were underway in his first term.

Obama campaigned on a diplomacy-heavy foreign policy, "but events may dictate otherwise," Hagle said.

Despite the team's divergent outlooks, Hagle said the war Cabinet will ultimately have to acquiesce to the boss.

"I can't imagine all these people are going to agree on everything. Obama is, as president, going to have the final say in this," Hagle said.

In a Monday press conference, Obama asserted his team was relatively cohesive ideologically.

"I would not have asked them to be part of this administration unless we shared a core vision of what's needed to keep the American people safe," he said.

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