Karen DeYoung at the WaPo had an interesting report on the change of style that Obama is bringing to the White House, particularly in how it approaches the military:
Obama has been careful to separate his criticism of Bush policy from his praise of the military's valor and performance, while Michelle Obama's public expressions of concern for military families have gone over well. But most important, according to several senior officers and civilian Pentagon officials who would speak about their incoming leader only on the condition of anonymity, is the expectation of renewed respect for the chain of command and greater realism about U.S. military goals and capabilities, which many found lacking during the Bush years.
"Open and serious debate versus ideological certitude will be a great relief to the military leaders," said retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations. Senior officers are aware that few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war, but they counter that they were not encouraged to do so by the Bush White House or the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"The joke was that when you leave a meeting, everybody is supposed to drink the Kool-Aid," Nash said. "In the Bush administration, you had to drink the Kool-Aid before you got to go to the meeting."
There's no better way to lose a war than to have your on-the-ground decisions be forced through an ideological prism. And it was obvious even to outsiders that this was how Bush was conducting the Iraq war -- indeed, it was the decisive factor behind the very decision to invade in the first place. It's even more telling that the military minds involved saw that this was occurring too.
But in truth, this constitutes not merely the entire Bush approach to governance, but conservative governance as well. Thus -- to use one example out of many -- during Bush's tenure there was not a single economic problem that could not be solved by anything other than tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of the financial sector.
Of course, we now realize that this was simply a prescription for gobbling PCBs after a diagnosis of cancer.
So when we hear conservatives tell themselves that the reason they lost this last election was their failure to adhere to "conservative principles," we know they're continuing to cling to the very reason they lost. Because such adherence inherently means that these "principles" -- that is, conservative dogma about how they believe the world ought to be, particularly the insistence that government itself is the problem, when the reality is that bad governance is the problem -- trump their ability to face realities on the ground.
From the outset, it's clear that reversing that approach is the most fundamental aspect of the "change" that Barack Obama intends to bring to the White House. And that is a very good sign indeed.