The problem with retaining Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense is the same as the problem with the idea of appointing Chuck Hagel or when Bill Clinton about William Cohen — these guys are Republicans. It’s desperately important for the Democratic Party’s leaders to avoid re-enforcing the idea that Democrats can’t run national security. If you find a moderate Republican with sound views on key environmental issues and make him or her head of the EPA, that says “climate change is an important issue and there’s bipartisan support for taking action.” If you put a Republican in charge of the Pentagon it says “Obama likes diplomacy, but even he knows that when the going gets tough you need to call in the GOP.”
Meanwhile, in the annals of cabinet speculation, why not wonder which Bush administration secretaries John McCain might keep on? Will he keep Bob Gates at Defense? Condi at State? Paulson at Treasury? And why or why not? Answering those questions would give us a better sense of where Obama stands vis-a-vis the status quo.