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Borger: Obama chooses experience over politics

  • Story Highlights
  • President-elect Obama unveils security team on Monday
  • Gloria Borger: Obama fills Cabinet with experience, diverse views
  • Choices all united in wanting to present U.S. in a new way to world, she says
  • Borger says his picks show "ideology for its own sake is out; problem-solving is in"
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By Gloria Borger
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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(CNN) -- No doubt about it, the lineup is impressive. Choose any cliché: All-stars, A-Team, The Best and the Brightest and, of course -- this season's favorite --Team of Rivals.

Gloria Borger says President-elect Obama's choices show he is putting aside politics and choosing the best person.

Truth is, these folks -- Clinton, Jones, Gates -- are not rivals at all, although one of them famously battled the president-elect for a couple of years.

In fact, they're united -- in a worldview that is prepared to give America a makeover to the rest of the world, and that understands the limits of the use of force and the benefits of the use of social diplomacy.

If elections are always about what came before, then this team is a reaction to the recent past, too.

It's an evolution from the Bush years -- a group that, in retrospect, seemed mostly devoted to proving its ideology correct, no matter what the circumstance. (Remember Donald Rumsfeld's dedication to remaking and downsizing the military that led to a now-widely acknowledged inadequate troop strength at the outset of the Iraq war?)

Indeed, those ideologues who called themselves either neo-conservatives or conservatives -- and who battled famously for President Bush's ear (talk about team of rivals) -- are headed back to their think tanks. Time to retool the worldviews.

Enter President-elect Barack Obama, the alleged liberal who seems to be saying that the problems in the world are too great now to worship any ideological devotions.

So the unbending and unyielding -- and annoyingly arrogant -- ideologues have been replaced with the experienced pragmatists of both parties: Consider former NATO commander Gen. James Jones, for instance, who has been critical of the relatively small presence in Afghanistan. He has called Afghanistan key to winning the war on terror, a favorite Obama refrain. And he's an energy maven, too -- calling energy a national security issue, which is right where Obama places it, too. And by the way, Jones is very close to Sen. John McCain.

Not to mention current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is also close to McCain -- and is staying on.

He has been public about his views on unwinnable wars in this era of orphan enemies -- faceless terrorists with no loyalty to any nation. He's spoken about the need for America to understand -- and speak -- the languages of not only our allies, but our enemies. And when it comes to withdrawal from Iraq -- or the closing of Guantanamo -- Gates will be at Obama's side.

And then there's Sen. Hillary Clinton, another McCain pal. This obsession we seem to have about her relationship with Obama is not unfounded, to be sure, but maybe it's time to give the odd couple a shot: They're both smart patriots who want to succeed in their new jobs. And remember: They need each other.

The lefties will argue that all of these pragmatists are a yawn, even not worthy. How can the great change agent Barack Obama appoint all of these a) former Clintonites (including Clinton herself) or b) practiced Washington hands or c) people who have worked for Republicans or who are (brace yourself) Republicans? Isn't this more of the same? That's a good question, for which there is an obvious answer: No, it's not.

When was the last time a Cabinet had so many top-flight people regardless of political labels? When was the last time we had a president self-assured enough to entertain -- even welcome -- dissent? When was the last time we had an incoming president with these kinds of problems -- two wars and an economic crisis -- on his plate? The real change here is that ideology for its own sake is out; problem-solving is in.

This does not mean that belief -- of which this national security team has plenty -- should be checked at the door. Just the opposite: bring it on, as someone once famously said. But understand, as Obama likes to say, there is only one president at a time. And he's it.

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