In this transition period between his election and his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama is sending positive signals that he is following through on his pledge to be inclusive. He met privately with Sen. John McCain on Monday in Chicago. He has met with Sen. Hillary Clinton and reportedly is considering her for secretary of state. And in his first postelection television interview, he pledged to appoint at least one Republican to his Cabinet.
This is the tone and approach to governing so many voters found appealing in Obama's candidacy. With serious challenges ranging from two wars to the economic crisis, the emphasis should be on finding the best talent and embracing the best ideas regardless of their source. One of Obama's most compelling qualities is his willingness to listen and seek advice from a broad range of sources. After such a historic victory, a president with a relatively thin political resume might have ignored the old guard he defeated or felt threatened by their suggestions. Instead, he has embraced them.
McCain could be enormously helpful to the next president. The Arizona Republican sounded like his old self in a heartfelt election-night concession speech, embracing Obama as his president and offering an "earnest effort to find ways to come together.'' In the Senate, McCain could work with the new administration in areas ranging from ethics reform to climate change to immigration reform.
Clinton also could be a valuable asset to Obama, either as secretary of state or in an enhanced leadership role in the Senate. If he does not intend to appoint her as secretary of state, the incoming president needs to be careful about letting expectations get too high among Clinton supporters who already have been disappointed once this year by her defeat in the Democratic primary. But she would be preferable to others reportedly under consideration, such as Sen. John Kerry.
If Obama's administration proves to be as inclusive as this opening round of discussions, it will send a strong signal to the world that change really has come to Washington.