Seasoned Advisers Can Take Clinton Only So Far

In selecting leaders of his economic team, President-elect Bill Clinton seems to be off to a good start at filling the most important jobs in his Administration. His early choices, short on fresh faces and long on Capitol Hill experience, are safe, intended to convey a commitment to competence and moderation rather than innovation.

Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) built a solid reputation as a student of the economic impact of government policy during his six years as Senate Finance Committee chairman and his earlier tenure as Joint Economic Committee chairman. His passion is tilting the tax code to promote savings and investment, which should sit well with the Clintonites.

Representative Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, would run the Office of Management & Budget with a fervor for cutting the deficit. The plan to nominate him is a welcome signal that Clinton is serious about cutting the deficit in half during his first term.

Others who seem headed for senior jobs--investment bankers Robert E. Rubin and Roger C. Altman, and former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice M. Rivlin--are also familiar with the levers of power in the capital.

In his desire to staff up with folks who know how to get things done in Washington, however, Clinton could overload his Administration with the sort of insiders who have given Washington a bad name. Experience is a virtue--but only to a point. We also hope to see some of those bright faces from state governments, business, and the universities that Clinton told us he was going to bring to the capital.

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