Regarding the Gates appointment/retention:
Unlike the stubborn W, Obama recognizes necessity and deals with it. Like Bush’s prudent policy on stem cells, Obama accepts the Iraq damage that has been done and wants to move on, taking Republicans (and Hillary Dems) with him. Republicans must now defend the Obama foreign policy, at least in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Whether Gates will keep some of his key people, especially some who go back to Rumsfeld, is yet to be determined.)
The retention gives Obama more room for maneuver on the financial crisis. As I have noted before on this blogsite, there are multiple Obamas--the pragmatist, the radical community organizer, the dreamy post-modern rhetor, and cunning tactician. He hasn’t showed all sides yet.
It’s certainly possible that he is in fact clueless; that he is assembling a cabinet like some kid who collects baseball cards and builds imaginary teams; that he has a bodyguard of experts who surround a naked emperor. Of course that’s what a person without any experience would do. But I prefer to see a clever Prince behind these maneuverings.