Confidence man

In assembling his leadership team, Obama helps Americans feel better about the future

It’s been fascinating to watch President-elect Barack Obama try to fill the void created by President Bush’s extreme lame-duck status at a time when the country is in crisis.

As Obama has said often, “There is only one president at a time.” Clearly, though, he has also understood that when the sitting president is virtually powerless to respond to a crisis, it’s up to the president-elect to step in and reassure the American people.

To a remarkable extent he’s done just that, largely by using the process of assembling his Cabinet team to demonstrate his determination to select only the very best people to join him in leading the country.

As many commentators have noted, Obama’s willingness to create a “team of rivals” that includes four former opponents in the Democratic primary, a Marine general who backed John McCain for president, and Bush’s current Republican secretary of defense is an indication of just how confident a man he is.

Nothing shows this more than his selection of Sen. Hillary Clinton, with whom he fought an epochal primary battle for months, to be secretary of state. That position makes her one of the most powerful women in America. As Obama well knows, she has strong opinions and the intelligence and skill to argue them forcefully. That he is willing—indeed, wants—to put her in the senior-most Cabinet post shows just how confident he is that he can sculpt a vision for America and the world, one that he and she and the other members of his team can share and promote.

Things are tough right now. Obama won’t be president until Jan. 20. But already he’s made us feel better about the future. His confidence is contagious.