Right Wing Nut House



President Obama had a very difficult task yesterday. It wasn’t just the stratospheric expectations for his inaugural address engendered not only by his previous performances but also because of the frenzy whipped up by his sycophants in the press. I doubt whether even something along the lines of the Sermon on the Mount would have been good enough to live up to the build up given him by his cultists in the media.

Obama’s primary task to my mind - what I wanted to hear from him - was a commitment to bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a successful conclusion while maintaining the pressure on al-Qaeda around the world.

The sticking point, as always, is to define “success” in Iraq and Afghanistan. I must confess to cringing whenever I hear one of my fellow conservatives praise George Bush for bringing “democracy” to Iraq and how our efforts have created a “strong ally” in the war on terror.

Iraq may be a democracy some day. But it is far from being a free country today and even our own ambassador thinks things are still balanced on a knife’s edge. The situation is much better than it was two years ago but, all things being relative, Iraq is still a violent place that needs American assistance to keep from flying apart at the seams. Also, the latest Freedom House ranking for Iraq, based on very specific criteria is “not free.” Granted it is difficult to create a functioning democracy following so many decades of brutal dictatorship and there is no doubt that there have been some improvements even in the face of violence by terrorists who wish to destabilize the country. But for anyone to claim that Iraq is “free” or even close to being free is being disingenuous or ignorant. Holding elections does not make a nation free or democratic by itself. One glance at Gaza proves that.

We have yet to even see the beginning of the end game in domestic Iraqi politics that will play out among the various factions of Shias as they vie for power. Some of those factions are loyal to Iran or at least look to Iran for protection and leadership. The idea that Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror is still up in the air and it may yet devolve into a religious dictatorship like the one next door. The chances of that happening are ebbing but who can tell?

In short, Iraq is still messy - about what you’d expect from a nation that has gone through what the Iraqis have had to endure these last 6 years. Therefore, a definition of “success” in Iraq at a bare minimum would have to include a functioning Iraqi government capable of handling its own security. The longer we stay on in numbers capable of assisting the Iraqi government in achieving this goal, the better the chance for success. Right now, a clock is ticking on our presence in those kind of numbers with the alarm set to go off by the end of 2011. And it appears Obama wishes to speed things along. Do not be surprised if, after meeting with his military chiefs, the new president sets his own timetable for withdrawal.

In his speech yesterday, Obama said nothing about “success” regarding Iraq or Afghanistan:

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

Indeed, it is difficult to succeed if one does not wish to. This is especially true in Afghanistan where it is becoming increasingly clear that no positive outcome will be possible there as long as al-Qaeda and the Taliban are using Pakistani territory with impunity to attack NATO troops and train suicide bombers to wreak havoc in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I will watch with great interest as Obama deals with Pakistan. I predict he will have even less success than President Bush in getting the Pakistanis to reassert sovereignty over their own territory and kick the terrorists out. The post-Musharraf government is disinclined to make the all out effort required to defeat their enemies which means they will be at constant risk of being overthrown themselves either by the military or, less likely, a combination of forces sympathetic to the extremists.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan bleeds. And given the great reluctance most other NATO countries have shown to carry their weight in this war and commit their troops to combat, the burden of “forging a hard earned peace” will fall squarely on the shoulders of the US and the few nations who are already fighting. Will this mean that President Karzai will be forced to treat with the Taliban? He may have little choice if President Obama decides that the war is unwinnable and starts withdrawing US forces.

The key to Obama’s foreign policy can be found in this passage from his speech:

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Welcome words for the rest of the world - including our enemies. He is right when he states that our military power alone cannot protect us. But it goes a damn sight farther in doing so than “humility and restraint.” In fact, it appears to me that Obama is saying that “doing as we please” - protecting our own interests first which may not fit his definition of “justness” - is a mistake and that we should be “humble” and practice self-abnegation in abjuring what is in our best interests to show the world we will allow our nose to be blown off to spite our face.

An exaggeration but apropos of what Obama and the New Left have been spouting for years. If there is the stink of self-interest involved in a military action (or any other application of hard power), it is likely to be opposed. Darfur or the Congo is where we should be sending troops thus showing our selflessness to the world. Anyplace where war fighting advances or protects American interests is evil.

Just how “humility and restraint” will do anything besides make liberals feel good that the rest of the world doesn’t despise us anymore because we have subsumed our own interests to some other “higher” interest, including humanitarian goals or perhaps the will of the United Nations escapes me.

And then, there’s the idea that fanatics and thugs were just itching for George Bush to leave office so they could turn over a new leaf in our relations with them:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

On my radio show last night, Rich Baehr of the American Thinker pointed out that in the last decade we have freed Muslims from persecution and tyranny in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Praytell why is it the United States who should be coming hat in hand to the Muslim world? What more could we possibly do to prove our “respect?” Time for the moderate Muslims to stand up and start reciprocating. That is the true way forward with US-Muslim relations.

And who but a liberal could actually believe that the thugs and fanatics care one whit about “the people” in their countries and what they think? All they care about is if someone looks sideways at the regime, they are lined up against a wall and shot. Being “on the wrong side of history” is an occupational hazard for the Assads, the Castros, the Chavez’s, and the fanatical mullahs of the world. They seem to be surviving just fine, thank you.

And why should any of those peace loving gentlemen “unclench their fist” when they can achieve so much more dealing with a president who wishes to approach them with “humility and restraint?” Most of the animosity directed against America by the brutes of the world is, as Obama points out, manufactured internally in order to justify oppression. Only Iran has broadened their anti-Americanism to include proxies like Hezbullah and, potentially, Hamas. The question remains why should our enemies extend a hand in friendship or even civility? As we have already seen, the inauguration of Obama has changed nothing, altered no positions, softened any hearts.

I will not refer to Obama as naive in deference to my friend and frequent commenter Michael Reynolds who has almost convinced me that the new president has a realistic take on our enemies. But will approaching Iran with “humility and restraint” actually do anything except risk the overture being thrown back in your face with the typical derisiveness demonstrated by the Iranian leadership?

I have a feeling we will find out over the coming months.



Filed under: Financial Crisis, Government, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 12:50 pm

Barack Obama continually promised on the campaign trail that if elected, he would change the way that Washington works.

Yes, we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the rhetoric used by a candidate when he is running for office - especially someone like Obama whose Cotton Candy Candidacy was short on specifics and long on meaningless drivel.

But when you consider that the man made such a huge deal about bringing a “new kind of politics” to Washington and reforming the government, Obama’s attachment to Treasury Secretary Designate Timothy Geithner is both puzzling and troubling.

The DC Examiner thinks Geithner should get the hook:

Timothy Geithner, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, didn’t pay his federal self-employment taxes for four years because he “forgot.” That is no longer a credible explanation in view of yesterday’s reporting by National Review’s Byron York. The claim that he forgot simply doesn’t square with the fact that for four years Geithner accepted reimbursement from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cover federal taxes he had not paid, according to Senate confirmation documents examined by York. The IMF is an international agency and as such does not pay federal or state taxes owed by employees who are U.S. citizens.
More specifically, he failed to pay self-employment taxes - Social Security or Medicare - while employed at the IMF until he was audited by the IRS in 2006. At that point, Geithner made good on his 2003 and 2004 obligations, but still failed to pay the amounts due for 2002 and 2001. It was only after he was named by Obama to succeed Henry Paulson at Treasury that Geithner took care of the obligations for 2001 and 2002.

This is especially damning because on the IMF’s Annual Tax Allowance Request, Geithner promised to “pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments…” If, as The Wall Street Journal reported, Geithner was told by one of his accountants that he wasn’t obligated to pay the taxes, he shouldn’t have signed the IMF document promising to make the payments. Clearly, he should not have accepted the reimbursements.

Geithner also received an annual reminder from the IMF that he was responsible for paying his taxes. He applied for a reimbursement each year from 2001 through 2004, but then pocketed the cash instead of forwarding it to the IRS. Doing so four years in a row is not merely an “honest mistake,” as the Obama transition team maintains.

Geithner is lying when he says he “forgot” to pay his taxes. This is a given. It also insults our intelligence when he claims that his failure to pay the IRS what he owes is an “honest mistake.” We will now see if the rest of the Washington Democratic establishment plays along with Geithner and pretends they believe his lies, thus perpetrating a “business as usual” climate in the Obama government rather than the promised reform that so many believed so passionately he could bring about.

It is a little lie, a white lie, but telling nevertheless. And like Republican lawmakers preaching “family values” who get caught with their pants down around their ankles, anyone who preaches reform and changing the way Washington does business and then tolerates the bald faced lying of Geithner can and will be rightly accused of rank hypocrisy if they don’t do the right thing and yank this tax dodge from consideration for any high office in the Obama Administration.

Or are Democrats to be allowed a different standard of hypocrisy because of bad economic times? Politico’s Alex Burns thinks so:

It’s not that the usual voices are silent. But faced with a made-to-order personal financial scandal, there’s been only a half-hearted response in the political echo chamber, and the consensus among Washington and media elites seems to be that the economic moment is too serious to be distracted by Geithner’s tax problems.

It’s easy to imagine how things could have turned out differently.

Bill Clinton saw two nominees for attorney general go down when the public responded with fury to revelations that they’d hired illegal nannies. George W. Bush lost a cabinet nominee in the same way. And in 2006 members of Congress found themselves on the wrong end of totally unexpected outrage over a deal to lease American ports to a foreign company, Dubai Ports World.

In many or most of these cases, media commentators and even members of Congress initially reacted with shrugs. Only later, after public anger flared, did Washington join the frenzy.

To date, only a few major voices have spoken out to criticize Geithner. And if there’s a reserve of populist resentment over his appointment, it hasn’t yet erupted into the national media, as in previous nomination controversies.

Perhaps the “consensus” (read, Groupthink) among the press is that Geithner is irreplacable, that the Treasury position is so vital in these perilous financial times that any and all transgressions committed by the nominee must be overlooked for the good of the country.


I don’t think even the Bush Administration would have made that argument and they had a few doozies over the years. But incredibly, even Republicans agree with it:

Revelations that Timothy Geithner failed to pay some of his taxes have derailed Democrats’ efforts to install him quickly as President-elect Barack Obama’s treasury secretary, but senators in both parties say his tax problems won’t torpedo his chances for confirmation.

Obama said Wednesday that the disclosures that Geithner had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes between 2001 and 2004 were embarrassing, but added that Geithner’s “innocent mistake” shouldn’t keep him from taking the helm of the new administration’s urgent efforts to revive the economy. Several Republicans agreed that Geithner would get Senate approval and said their party had little appetite for a partisan fight at a precarious time for the economy.

GOP opponents of Geithner should “think this through,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah., a member of the Senate Finance Committee that’s considering his nomination. “They’re not going to get anybody better than him from this administration for treasury secretary.”

GOP Senators won’t make a stink because the issue of Geithner’s taxes isn’t on the radar. And the reason its not on the radar is because the press is not covering the issue the way they should and frame it as an “Epic Fail” (a term we will be using a lot over the next 4 years I suspect) of the Obama Administration to live up to their own campaign promise to reform Washington and change the way the government does business.

In a smart political move, the new Administration has put a temporary hold on Geithner’s confirmation hearing. They are waiting for the issue to blow over when, we assume, both Republicans and Democrats can spend the hearings trying to outdo one another in praise of the candidate’s qualifications and integrity.

Welcome to the new Washington. Same as the old Washington.



Filed under: Government, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 1:32 pm

By reaching outside the intelligence community and picking Leon Panetta for CIA chief, Barack Obama is sending a signal that he is not going to put up with the kind of nonsense that went on at the agency when George Bush was president.

The war carried out by partisans at the CIA where leaking classified information to undermine policy as well as attempting to defeat the president at the polls in 2004 will not be repeated under the leadership of Panetta, of that you can be certain.

This is a good, smart choice by Obama.The stated reasons - Panetta was not involved in the rendition or torture programs - are good, sound reasons but beyond that, Panetta was known both at OMB where he was director and at the White House where he was chief of staff as a ferocious in-fighter. Obama needs a bulldog at Langely if he is going to be free of the poisonous antagonism that made the relationship between the intelligence agencies and Bush so dysfunctional. Plus, Panetta will clearly be seen as “The President’s Man” - a perception that will come in handy for both men.

This makes him an excellent candidate to deal with the bitter inter-agency battles that destroyed Porter Goss (operations vs. analysis) and hampered Director Hayden whose fights with the Defense department over resources devoted to battlefield or tactical intel at the expense of strategic analysis roiled both shops during the last few years.

Apparently, the choice is not sitting too well with some on the Hill who no doubt had their own candidates in mind or perhaps wished General Hayden to stay on. As for the latter, Obama could not keep Hayden after all but promising his liberal base that he would end the “special rendition” programs begun under Bill Clinton and expanded by the Bush Administration as well as put a halt to torture.

And the shameful case of John Brennan being taken out of consideration for no good reason meant that he could hardly choose someone from inside the agency:

“They were fans of Mike Hayden and [were] hoping he’d be asked to stick around,” the former official said.

This former official said Obama’s transition team was forced away from selecting a career intelligence officer after having been “boxed in” by the withdrawal of leading contender John Brennan.

Brennan, a former senior intelligence official, withdrew his name from consideration last month over concerns about his role in the development of the interrogation and secret detention programs while he was at the CIA.

The official said the withdrawal forced the Obama team to look outside the intelligence community because “by ruling him out, they ruled out anyone who had been in the agency the last eight years or so. When you do that and look around for other people who have the capabilities and qualifications you are looking for, you quickly run out of choices.”

Just what was Brennan’s crime? Well, no one really knows. Those “concerns” about Brennan’s “role” in the development of rendition and torture were, according to M.P. MacConnell, the result of a lot of noise from the usual suspects on the left:

Contrary to false claims, American laws were not broken. No one is going to prison. Nothing even slightly unseemly has been uncovered — indeed, Brennan has a proven history of complete candor in discussing his views on those subjects with the media. There is nothing whatever to suggest that Brennan would disobey the now existing legislative prohibition on the use of waterboarding. He is as entitled to his views as anyone else, and has been both consistent and articulate in expressing them. As a direct result of Brennan’s counsel, some of President-elect Obama’s original national security positions have been reversed.

As Greenwald’s ally, Andrew Sullivan, makes clear, that is their real concern. They seem to be laboring under the impression that their iconic future president doesn’t possess sufficient willpower to resist the poisonous mumblings of a man like Brennan, leading him from the True Path upon which only they are fit to guide him. Their tireless efforts to find something — anything — damaging on Brennan that would discredit him failed abysmally, but the sheer noise that their protestations generated, along with the wild, unconditional, uncritical approbation of their followers, was sufficient to cause Brennan to step down.

My own research has led me to believe that Brennan is neither a zealot for enhanced interrogation techniques, nor an anti-torture advocate. From my view, there was no confusion. Brennan’s statements on the subject were quite consistent — in his opinion, rendition and interrogation were unpleasant and rarely carried out actions that nevertheless brought real, tangible results. In Brennan’s own words, “…lives have been saved.”

Unlike the Greenwalds of this world, he wasn’t a legal theorist, being paid to loaf in an office chair all day, rhapsodising on the ethical dilemmas posed by this program or that operation. He was an officer in a federal agency charged with the wartime security and wellbeing of American citizens. He clearly did bear the ethics in mind, but was also operating within the framework of the real world, dealing in harsh realities against a ruthless enemy, where innocent people died if you didn’t get the job done.

It is an unpleasant fact to contemplate but Brennan’s position on those two sensitive subjects would have been reflected by almost any current intelligence manager. To assuage the likes of Greenwald and Sullivan, then, Obama was virtually forced to seek someone outside the community.

He could not done much better by choosing Panetta. But as I mentioned, there are some detractors on the Hill as incoming Senate intel chair Diane Fienstien is grumbling about not being consulted. And there are a few in the agency who are not happy:

In an interview with ABC News, Scheurer, who headed the CIA unit that hunted Osama bin Laden, labeled Panetta “a Democratic Party apparatchik” who “may be a talented bureaucrat,” but who has little in his resume to suggest he “has any talent for this particular job.”

Scheurer predicts that Panetta’s leadership could have a chilling effect on the agency and that “morale won’t be good” as he “bends” to Congress and “harasses agency officials who ran the rendition and secret prison program.”

A senior intelligence official said that during his tenure Hayden has boosted morale at the agency and “done a lot of good over there at CIA.”

“If in fact such a decision has been made, Mike will leave the place in far better shape than he found it. That’s for sure,” the senior official said.

Scheurer’s comments seem gratuitous. Panetta is certainly not the most partisan Democrat Obama could have chosen and, as one analyst mentioned in the ABC story, the former White House chief of staff knows what the president needs in his daily brief - the PDB, which is probably the most important job the CIA performs in keeping the president on top of what’s going on in the world.

I don’t think Obama is much for radically reforming the CIA at this point which is too bad. In many ways, the agency is stuck in the past and jealously guards its prerogatives and perks while failing to improve its product. But Panetta is not going to CIA to change things. He is going to ride herd on all the competing interests in the intelligence community that have made our fight against Islamic extremism that much harder.



Filed under: Blagojevich, Ethics, Government, Media, OBAMANIA!, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 8:51 am

The irony in the left’s total absolution granted the Obama transition team regarding any unethical contacts with Governor Rod Blagojevich or his staff actually makes for some pretty good comedy.

This is the crew that swallowed al-Qaeda propaganda whole with regards to every war “atrocity” ever reported instead of giving their own military or government the benefit of the doubt - including the “Haditha Massacre” where many liberals tried to outdo one another in heaping calumny on innocent soldiers. And now a single report, issued by a politician who presents no other evidence that could clarify or contradict its conclusions, is being trumpeted to the skies as “proof” that no one in the Obama camp did anything wrong.

In short, the left is apt to unquestioningly take what al-Qaeda and Obama say at face value while dismissing the reports of their own government.

Now I will be the first to point out that there were many reports from our military regarding readiness of the Iraqi Army and other political benchmarks set by Congress that were less than honest. And there have been other instances where our government lied outright about the war, specifically in their overly optimistic assessments about progress in bringing peace and security to the provinces.

I am not saying that we should automatically believe everything the government says and not believe al-Qaeda propagandists. I am saying that the left is being hypocritical by not showing the same skepticism they direct towards the Bush Administration on anything and everything they come out with compared to their superficial, eager embrace of the one sided, sole source Obama report on staff contacts with Blago.

It is a selective form of information processing that proves two things; most on the left are partisan hacks and that we are in for at least four years of insufferable hypocrisy from people who are so clueless that they fail to recognize it.

Apparently, we are to suspend disbelief for the duration of Obama’s presidency. No matter that not one single taped conversation with the principles has been released to either confirm the information in the report or make Obama out a liar. Reports in the press on what Fitzy actually has as far as taped conversations between Blagojevich and the Obama team have been wildly overstated (at least according to the report). And yet, when the press assures us that because of the findings in the president-elect’s own manufactured report we can now put this controversy to rest.

In a front page diary at Kos from JedL, we get this bit of certainty about our new president:

Let me emphasize this point: the reason why the release of the Obama report was delayed was to allow Fitzgerald to complete his interviews with the transition team. In other words, everything that Obama’s team has said has been true.

Such unquestioning devotion based on nothing more than a politician’s word - an oxymoron to be sure - would be laughable if this same attitude wasn’t so prevelant on the left.

Steve Bennen:

And as expected, there was nothing to hide. The entire Craig memo is online (.pdf), and after reading it, everything we’d heard from Obama and his team was completely true. Obama never spoke to Blagojevich or his office about the Senate vacancy; no one on Obama’s staff ever had any inappropriate discussions with the governor or his office; and no one Obama’s staff ever had any indication that Blagojevich was engaged in alleged corruption.

The report is quite thorough - in a self serving kind of way. But what in God’s name does anyone expect? If anyone actually thought Obama would put one iota of information in that report that would have contradicted anything he or his aides have said on the matter they belong in an insane asylum.

So what’s the rush, guys? The exoneration of Obama and his team as a result of findings released in their own report after conducting their own investigation would make most people with a molecule of curiosity say “OK, fine. I’m glad they say they’re innocent of any ethical breach or lawbreaking as a newborn babe. Perhaps we might wait upon Fitzgerald for a release of, like, you know, some actual evidence that what they say is true rather than swallowing their report whole like a good little Obamabot?”

But why let a little reality slip into the “Reality Based Community” when anti-intellectualism is so much easier to embrace?


I note that Steven Benen makes the arguement that because Fitzy has the tapes, this means that the Obama camp was “forced” to tell the truth lest any information that came out a a later date would contradict what’s in the report.

One imagines that Obama detractors might not believe these conclusions — “the transition team can’t clear itself of wrongdoing!” — but the review was done with the knowledge that Blagojevich and his office was the subject of FBI wiretaps. The transition team, in other words, knew in advance that any false claims would be easily exposed, so they had a very strong incentive to be completely honest.

First, there is no certainty that the tapes in question will ever see the light of day and the Obama camp could certainly have been told this. No doubt Fitzy would play some of the tapes at any trial of Blagojevich and Harris but since there almost certainly was nothing illegal offered by Blago to the Obama camp, the chances of any Blago-Emanuel converstations aired at trial would be slim. What kind of horse trading that might have gone on would be irrelevant in a criminal trial but might be damaging politically.

Secondly, as we saw with Bill Clinton, parsing words is an art form and statements made in the report could very well contradict what the actual conversations might say because a good lawyer can twist words and facts until they reveal exactly what he wishes them to reveal. The report could have said the sun rises in the west and Obama could come out with a statement that if you are standing upsidedown and facing sideways, of course the sun rises in the west, dummy.

No doubt Bennen et al would swallow that one without any skepticism too.



Filed under: Blagojevich, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 1:16 pm

The Blago Blow-Up is beginning to churn like the contents of one’s stomach following a helping of bad escargot. You begin to realize you just ate a heaping, steaming plate of snail flesh and begin to wonder if it will just give you gas or perhaps end up deposited unceremoniously on the floor — a stinking, putrid mass that slowly spreads across the linoleum.

In Rahm Emanuel’s case, I think it about time that we officially begin the “Emanuel Under the Bus Toss Watch.” Reports are circulating that Obama’s trusty aide and Chief of Staff-designate met with Blago’s people several times regarding the open senate seat.

Is it possible Emanuel met with Blago’s people without the president elect knowing? This is important because Obama looked us all in the eye yesterday and said he wasn’t aware of any contact between his staff and Blagojevich regarding the senate seat. Emanuel will probably say he never informed Obama about the meetings but that doesn’t pass the stink test. Obama wanted his best friend and confidante Valerie Jarrett in that seat and simple common sense tells us that his #1 aide would keep the boss informed of his progress.

Not only Obama’s denial of contact rings hollow at this point but how about his solemn promise to have his staff canvass his transition team in order to ferret out anyone who had contact with the Blago crew? If he knew Rahm was dealing with Blago on the senate seat, it means that entire excersise is political theater and no more.

And what of Emanuel, the man who promised us transparency and openness in this Hope and Change administration? Here’s an example of transparency, Chicago style:

Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama’s news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago’s City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.

A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.

“You’re wasting your time,” Emanuel said. “I’m not going to say a word to you. I’m going to do this with my children. Dont do that. I’m a father. I have two kids. I’m not going to do it.”

Asked, “Can’t you do both?” Emanuel replied, “I’m not as capable as you. I’m going to be a father. I’m allowed to be a father,” and he pushed the reporter’s digital recorder away.

Now that’s the Chicago Way of ditching reporters.

Eventually, we may get another bit of political theater; the spectacle of Emanuel going before the cameras and tearing up as he talks about how he only wanted to give Obama a Christmas present of Valerie Jarrett’s appointment by Blagojevich which is why he wanted it to be a surprise and never told the president-elect. Obama will be by his side, give him a big hug, and the press will forget the whole thing.

That’s one scenario. Another, more likely chain of events ends up with Emanuel’s exposure as a willing participant in what the feds may consider a bribery scheme to secure Jarrett’s appointment as senator. Obama would have no choice but to throw Rahmbo under the bus while questions would continue to be asked about his own knowledge of what was being discussed between his chief of staff and the governor’s people.

How bad is it for Mr. Transparency? Caught in a couple of lies before you’re even sworn in as president would not be good but is hardly impeachable. Bribery is going to be very hard to differentiate from political horse trading which is not illegal but sure gives the lie to Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra. At the very least, the stink of this scandal will follow Obama into the White House.

He apparently tried to avoid it. Whether because he was unwilling to pay Blago’s price or recognized how exposed he was, this timeline by Jim Lindgren at Volokh shows that something strange happened between the time Obama let it be known that Jarrett was his choice to fill the senate vacancy and his announcement that he was appointing the Chicago machine pol to a White House position:

1. On the weekend of Nov. 8-9, Obama lets it be known that his choice for Senate is Valerie Jarrett. Aides tell WLS-TV in Chicago and CNN, which announces Obama’s choice on Sunday. Nov. 9.

2. On Monday, Nov. 10, Blagojevich holds an incredible 2-hour conference call with multiple consultants: “ROD BLAGOJEVICH, his wife, JOHN HARRIS, Governor General Counsel, and various Washington-D.C. based advisors, including Advisor B,” discussing his corrupt schemes. He follows this with two calls with Advisor A.

3. That very night, Monday, Nov. 10, at 7:56pm, CNN reported:

Two Democratic sources close to President-elect Barack Obama tell CNN that top adviser Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

“While he (Obama) thinks she would be a good senator, he wants her in the White House,” one top Obama advisor told CNN Monday.

Over the weekend, Democratic sources had told CNN as well as Chicago television station WLS-TV that Jarrett was Obama’s choice to fill his Senate seat.

So what happened? The likeliest scenario is that one of the many participants in Blagojevich’s Monday phone calls either floated his plans to the Obama transition team to assess their response or tipped off the Obama camp about the reckless ideas that Blagojevich had planned.

In any event, within hours of Blagojevich substantially expanding his circle of confidants, the Obama camp withdrew Jarrett’s name from consideration and attributed that withdrawal to the President’s wanting Jarrett in the White House. And the Obama staffers went out of their way to depict this as Obama’s choice, rather than Jarrett’s, which would have been more common. The report claims Obama’s involvement in the decision and suggests a direct effort to undercut the idea that Obama was pressuring Blagojevich to appoint Jarrett.

I tend to believe that Obama saw a train wreck coming and yanked Jarrett away from trouble while trying to cover his own tracks with double talk about needing Jarrett in the White House. At the time, of course, he didn’t know about the wiretaps on Blago’s phone that could trip him up later.

As a Chicago pol, Obama has a well developed sense of potential exposure to the kind of cesspool politics played out in this entire affair. His instincts must have been on full alert once he was sure that Blago was shopping his seat to the highest bidder - no doubt informed of this by Emanuel who it is inferred through a phonecon between Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris (also arrested) was being threatened with the appointment of someone unpalatable (”Candidate #5″ - Jackson) unless Obama upped the ante.

And speaking of Jackson, this bit of news dug out by the Chicago Tribune is very bad for him. Jesse The Younger’s Campaign finance surrogate had a meeting with Blago’s representative back in October where he offered $1 million in campaign contributions for the senate seat. Jackson had a press conference where he said he had no knowledge of this offer and yet, just last Saturday - three days before Blago’s arrest - he held a fundraiser for Blagojevich where the express purpose was to help him secure the senate seat.

As Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to pick Illinois’ next U.S. senator, businessmen with ties to both the governor and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign as a way to encourage him to pick Jackson for the job, the Tribune has learned.

Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.

Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for the Senate.

Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.

That meeting led to a Blagojevich fundraiser Saturday in Elmhurst, co-sponsored by Nayak and attended by Jesse Jackson Jr.’s brother, Jonathan, as well as Blagojevich, according to several people who were there. Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side.

Blagojevich and the congressman met to discuss the Senate seat on Monday, one day before federal prosecutors arrested Blagojevich and charged him with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. As part of the charges, prosecutors alleged that Blagojevich was considering awarding the seat to a politician identified as “Senate Candidate 5″ because emissaries for that candidate were promising to raise as much as $1.5 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

Not only does this put Jackson totally out of the running for the senate seat but it is obvious he has not been forthcoming about what he knows with regards to Blago’s attempt to sell the senate seat. The fact that his own brother attended the fundraiser guarantees he knew about it and also knew what price he had to pay in order to get the appointment. This makes the statements he made at his press conference “inoperative” as they say in Chicago.

And what of Obama’s statements? Will they be identified as “misstatements” or perhaps there will be claims that Obama “misspoke?” And what of Emanuel? His reluctance to talk to the press is understandable in light of the fact that there is no good explanation for how he could have spoken to Blago’s people and not told Obama.

The right thing to do would be for Obama, Emanuel, Jarrett, and anyone else who had contact with Blago’s people to stand before the press and tell us what they know - “full hangout route” as they said during Watergate. More likely is the “limited hang-out route” where some minor things will be admitted and other, more serious allegations denied.

That’s the “Washington Way.”



Filed under: Blagojevich, Ethics, Obama-Rezko, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 7:56 am

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Those of us who have followed Illinois politics for any length of time are tempted to give the Rod Blagojevich arrest and pending indictment a quick shrug, a knowing smile, and a cynical sigh of know-it-all arrogance. “We’ve seen this before in Illinois, nothing new here, just move along” is the condenscending response to questions from out of staters that usually suffice when some Illinois politico is caught with his fingers in the taxpayer’s cookie jar.

But the Blagojevich True Crime Drama is not criminality as usual in Illinois politics. The malfeasance of Governor Rod Blagojevich is so outrageous, so brazen, so breathtaking in its scope and character that even  jaded journalistic hacks whose beat has been the statehouse for years are shocked. In the long history of official Illinois corruption, the Blagojevich schemes to personally enrich himself, enrich his cronies, and use the power of his office to further his nefarious designs are unprecedented.

“I want to make money” the governor was heard admitting on tape. Evidently, the opportunities that presented themselves for Blagojevich to clean up were too tempting to pass up. Here’s a partial list of the charges via the Chicago Tribune:

Prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services, secretary of the Energy Department or gain an ambassadorship in the new Obama administration, or get a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate. An Obama spokesman had no immediate comment.

Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year’s end when a new tougher law on campaign donations, prompted by the governor’s voracious fundraising, would take effect.

Even Blagojevich’s recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and “green lanes” on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. “If they don’t perform, (expletive) ‘em,” Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Blagojevich and Harris also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

In addition, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.

The big news, of course, is the governor’s attempt to sell the senate seat of Barack Obama. Incredibly, it appears that he tried to get the best deal by shopping the seat to as many as 7 potential candidates - including, indirectly, Barack Obama.

Blogger Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire details the offer to an unamed high level Obama advisor (evidence suggests it is newly-designated chief of staff Rahm Emanuel). Blagojevich was pushing what Cannon calls “a wacky scheme” where the governor would take over control of a not for profit group - a 501(c)(4) - set up by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (who would act at the behest of Obama) in exchange for appointing Obama’s choice for the senate seat - his long time friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett.

This is directly from the criminal complaint: (PDF) that details several conversations caught on a federal wiretap:

The advisor asked ROD BLAGOJEVICH if the 501(c)(4) is a real effort or just a vehicle to help ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that it is a real effort but also a place for ROD BLAGOJEVICH to go when he is no longer Governor. The advisor said he likes the Change to Win idea better, and notes that it is more likely to happen because it is one step removed from the President-elect.

“Change to Win” is a labor NGO that the governor was interested in heading up. In order to get that job, Blagojevich had to approach the head of the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Andy Stern. The governor was willing to name a candidate who would be little more than a union toady in order to secure that position. And he was asking “Advisor B” (Emanuel) to make it happen.

according to Advisor B from the President-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer “fingerprints” on the President-elect’s involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, “you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.”

Was Rahm Emanuel (read Cannon’s reasoning on why the evidence points to the chief of staff) making a counter offer to the governor’s bribe? It’s an interesting question and one that the press may wish to ask the new chief of staff.

In addition to the Obama team, Blagojevich was trying to sell the senate seat to as many as 6 different candidates. One candidate’s representative - “Candidate #5 in the complaint - allegedly offered Blagojevich a substantial bribe for the office. The governor liked that idea and told an aide that if Obama “didn’t give him anything” he would choose Candidate #5.

Who is “Candidate #5?” Speculation is zeroing in on Jesse Jackson, Jr. From the actual complaint via Marc Ambinder:

Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided
Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.” Noting that he was going to meet with Senate
Candidate 5 in the next few days, Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to reach out to an intermediary (Individual D), from whom Blagojevich is attempting to obtain campaign contributions and whi Blagojevich believes is close to Senate Candidate 5. Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that Senate Candidate 5 was a very realistic candidate but Blagojevich was getting a lot of pressure not to appoint Senate Candidate 5, according to the affidavit.

The only candidate for the senate seat to meet with Obama in the time period mentioned was Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

It should be noted that there is absolutely no evidence that Jackson had any knowledge of these representations to Obama made on his behalf by a fundraiser nor is there any evidence that an “intermediary” informed him of the “negotiations.

If you read all 72 pages of the indictment, you just can’t help being struck by the money grubbing nature of the governor and his mania for money. He had schemes within schemes to extract cash from supporters, cronies, and companies who wished to do business with the state.

His “pay to play” program was particularly lucrative. This was a scheme where Blagojevich friend and campaign financier Antoin “Tony” Rezko pressured companies doing business with the state to contribute to the Blagojevich re-election campaign in exchange for lucrative state contracts. Rezko was convicted of 18 counts of fraud in connection with the scheme and the governor’s name was prominently mentioned during his trial. Others involved in this scheme include Stuart Levine, a GOP mover and shaker in the state.

At least you can say we here in Illinois are bi-partisan when it comes to corruption.

While the selling of the senate seat and pay to play complaints got the most headlines, perhaps the most incredible of all the charges alleged against Blagojevich is his attempted shakedown of the Chicago Tribune.

The Trib not only owns the Chicago Tribune but also the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Owner Sam Zell (who has just filed for bankruptcy) is trying to sell the team and, more importantly, one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Chicago; Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs.

But the sale of Wrigley field will involve massive taxes - something on the order of $100 million dollars in capital gains. Zell had a approached the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) in order to strike a deal where, according to the criminal complaint, the IFA would take title to Wrigley Field thus saving Zell a lot of cash.

Enter Blagojevich who told his chief of staff John Harris (also arrested today) to make it clear to Zell that no help from the IFA would be forthcoming unless some members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board were fired.

In a November 4 phone call with Harris, Blagojevich told his aide “”our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ‘em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”

Harris reported back on November 11 that Zell “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.” Later, Harris told Blagojevich that there were “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s (Zell) going after that section.”

No firings have taken place yet and it is doubtful that Zell will make a move now that this deal is in the open. I suppose he saw it as a cost of doing business and $100 million is a lot of cash. But the thought that he would buckle to the whims of this strutting peacock of a politician who wanted journalists who were only doing the job they were being paid to do axed because they were telling the truth about his corruption stinks of rank cowardice.

No doubt over the next few days many aspects of this story will be fleshed out. We will almost certainly be treated to some fancy footwork by the Obama team as they seek to avoid the appearance that anyone connected with the new president came within a country mile of Blagojevich. That may be difficult to do what with the taped conversation between the governor and “Advisor B” and unanswered questions about whether Obama actually discussed the appointment of a new senator with the governor or not.

Obama said in his statement he had no contact with Blagojevich. Unfortunately for the new president, his top aide David Axelrod told Fox News on November 23 that Obama had indeed talked with Blagojevich about the senate seat. The transition has since released a statement saying that Axelrod “misspoke” on November 23.

And I have a bridge over the Chicago River you can have for a song if you believe that one.

The chances are very good that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is far from finished. Meanwhile, the Democratic party in Illinois may be in for a very rough ride as their leader ponders his future - or lack of one - and his associates lawyer up in anticipation of legal trouble.



Filed under: Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 10:24 am

Here, in the winter of conservative blogger’s discontent, a small ray of sunshine has peeked through the black clouds and brightened what has otherwise been an unrelenting skien of gloom and doom.

I am talking about how president-elect Barack Obama has tacked to the center by reaching out for establishment Democrats and Clintonites to fill in the first blanks of his administration’s personnel sheet and the reaction to that by our blogging friends on the left. And then there’s the sore spot that is Joe Lieberman and the monumental sense of betrayal felt by the Kos Kids that the “traitor” wasn’t boiled in oil and his bones made into a xylophone.

Now, truth be told, the leftosphere has it all over conservative bloggers when it comes to organizing for fundraising, grass roots activism, and internet political action. To give you an idea of the discrepancy between right and left on the internet, I recently sent a congratulatory telegram to the RNC for finally hooking up all 50 state parties via Western Union telegraph. All that is left to do is build a time machine so that the Republican party can make that Great Leap Forward into the 20th century and perhaps start using that new fangled invention by Alexander Graham Bell he calls “the telephone.”

Do you think I’m being facetious? Well, maybe a little. But listen to Pat Ruffini, perhaps one of the most tech savvy guys on the right, as he explains the technological advantages Obama and the Democrats have at the present time:

Obama is not President-elect without the internet. He would not have been the nominee without the internet. And had we had a much closer race in the general election, two, three, four points, maybe, had we not maybe had this economic crisis crop up, the internet and the youth vote would have been the deciding factor in the general election as well. He’s got a network of ten million people on e-mail that are now going to be called upon to pass his agenda. So every member of Congress can expect at a minimum a couple thousand phone calls when one of his bills comes up, because he’s built this huge network that he’s now going to unleash on passing his policy agenda. Beyond that, he went into cell phones numbers, you know, announced his vice presidential pick by cell phone. He’s got a database of six to eight million cell phone numbers. Some think, I would be surprised if Republicans have a database of six to eight thousand cell phone numbers. So that is a huge, those are huge numbers, huge advantages, and it’s going to have to be, I think our number one priority tactically, like David said, we’re going to have a rich, vibrant debate about what our message should be. But I think everybody…and there is going to be plenty of disagreement on that. But I think everybody can agree, in this particular area, in technology, is something we need to get serious about fast.

So when I see the sharp end of the stick for the Democrats - the netroots - wailing and gnashing their teeth that Obama has “betrayed” them with his personnel picks and by not kicking Lieberman out of the party, I can’t help but smile and be heartened that it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

Assistant Editor at The New Republic Jim Kirchick:

“With its congressional majority, the Democratic Party has refused to seriously try to end the war, to stop the bailout and to stop the trampling of civil liberties, just to name a few off the top of my head,” wrote David Sirota on the popular liberal blog OpenLeft, decrying the serial betrayals of Obama and the congressional Democratic majority. The Democratic Party, he wrote, has “faced no real retribution” for its manifold heresies, something that Sirota believes he and his band of angry bloggers must change. “We better understand why this happened,” he fumed.

Allow me to provide an answer. You don’t matter.

That the Netroots - the fabled bloggers who, in 2004, carried Howard Dean from being an unknown governor of a small state to a Democratic presidential front-runner - are not the potent political force that the media portrays was confirmed this past week when Senate Democrats resisted their “demand” that Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman be punished for endorsing John McCain for President (Lieberman was reelected as an independent in 2006 and caucuses with the Democrats). Ever since Nov. 4, when Democrats increased their majority beyond the point that Lieberman’s allegiance was necessary for them to maintain control over the Senate, punishing Lieberman has been the primary goal of liberal bloggers. For weeks, they pounded their keyboards, huffed and puffed on their Internet radio shows and called on their readers to flood the offices of Democratic senators with phone calls and e-mails demanding that Lieberman be stripped of his chairmanship over the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Yet on Tuesday, Democrats voted an overwhelming 42-to-13 to let Lieberman keep that chairmanship.

“He wasn’t sanctioned,” seethed Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos. “And Senate Democrats trying to make that claim are dishonestly trying to cover up the extent of their betrayal of the American people’s vote for change.”

Given the intensity of blogger rage over Lieberman, one can understand how their defeat at the ends of their own party would lend itself to hyperbole, but when did the “American people” appoint Markos Moulitsas their spokesman? And while there are many ways to interpret the outcome of this year’s presidential and congressional elections, that voters across the country wanted Joe Lieberman to be stripped of his committee chairmanship is not one of them.

I can understand the rage of the netnuts over Lieberman and disgruntlement over Obama’s national security choices.They helped out in destroying Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and here’s Obama on the verge of naming her Secretary of State. How bellicose of Obama! Couldn’t he find someone who voted against the war who was qualified?

Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize-winner in economics and a critic of corporate globalization. He should be Treasury Secretary.

Senator Russ Feingold is a champion of civil liberties. He should be Attorney General.

Robert Greenstein is head of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He would make a much better OMB director.

Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, would be a tremendous Secretary of Labor.

And if Obama really wanted change, if he really wanted to honor progressives who backed him early on and then did the grunt work against McCain, he’d nominate Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of State.

That sure would indicate a welcome departure from empire as usual.

Well, it would be a departure from sanity at least.

Taking pleasure in another’s discomfort is not very grown up of me, I know. I should be solicitous of the left’s disappointment. I should give them words of tenderness and understanding. I should forswear criticism while encouraging them to keep the faith. I should allude to all the good things they’ve got and not despair.




Filed under: Government, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 10:18 am

It’s not a done deal yet - apparently there are concerns about some of Billy’s more creative billing procedures connected to his globe trotting - but if Obama thinks her confirmation wouldn’t be too bruising an affair, there’s a good chance that Hillary Clinton will take the job of Secretary of State in the new Administratiion:

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama’s advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton’s foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats do not believe that the vetting is likely to be a problem.

Clinton would be well placed to become the country’s dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops.

I wrote a few days ago that Obama would be crazy to offer it to her and she would be nuts to take it. And there is still a chance she could turn it down or that Bill Clinton’s finances will turn out to be too problematic to pass muster with the Foreign Relations Committee.

But apparently, the offer is serious and she wants to take the job. Why? What do both principles have to gain?

Obama is in an extremely strong position - perhaps the strongest of any incoming president since Reagan. To say he has a blank check to do what he wants is perhaps an overstatement but ask yourself, who is going to stop him. The press? His own party? His supporters?

It certainly won’t be Republicans stopping him - not with their numbers and their attitude. So Obama doesn’t need anyone to make his administration. He can choose who he pleases and not have to expend the political capitol to get  them confirmed.

For Hillary, her place is secure in the Senate as would be her position as leader - if not in name than certainly as a result of her enormous visibility and influence. From the senate, she could wait to see if Obama falls on his face and mount a challenge in 2012 if the opportunity were to arise.

But she would also be just one of many senators who would take center stage over the next few years as Obama’s initiatives worked their way through Congress. She would be visible but she might consider an option that would not only give her TV face time whenever she wanted it but add to her resume some tangible accomplishments that would cement her status as frontrunner for either 2012 or 2016. Hence, the idea of Hillary for Secretary of State.

Obama will apparently be concentrating on domestic policies for the first several months - perhaps a year of his term. He needs someone who doesn’t need (and wouldn’t accept) much supervision. Setting broad goals in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, Hillary would be tasked to achieve those goals - how would be pretty much up to her. She would be the most independent Secretary of State since Kissinger - and easily the most visible.

But this arrangement would almost certainly cause trouble for both principles. Obama may figure that having her in the cabinet will short circuit any plans she has to challenge him in 2012. If the economy really goes south and despite the efforts of the Obamamedia and the Democrats his policies are seen as the cause, it won’t matter where Hillary is, she will make a run. I can’t see her having the patience to wait until 2016 unless Obama is a smashing success. Unless we can believe that she has given up her desire to be president, 2012 looms large in both her and Obama’s plans.

For Obama then, he would get Hillary’s (and Bill’s) prestige and extensive contacts around the world - for maybe two years. That’s how long I give this marriage. Eventually, Obama will tire of the drama, the backbiting, the blame casting, the whispers that build the Clinton’s up at his expense, and either fire her or she will resign on her own. If the climate is right, she would pick up where she left off and make a run. If not, she can always run for the senate (or governor) and use that position as a power base for 2016.

Obama and the country could do worse than Hillary Clinton at State. I think she proved during the campaign that she has a much more realistic outlook on the world than the naive Obama and would probably be one of the only Obama foreign policy advisors who would advocate or support military action against Iran as a last resort. She is a steady friend of Israel, a more practical advocate for an Iraq drawdown, would support a surge of forces in Afghanistan, and generally has a more real politik outlook than the Obama crew. We could have done a lot worse if you consider the gaggle of far left liberals Obama tapped as his advisors during the campaign.

A bold move by Obama - one that I think he is going to come to regret.



Filed under: Chicago East, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 12:41 pm

Squabbling over the spoils of victory is a time honored American electoral tradition. After all, the winning candidate has, by definition, been able to cobble together coalitions of somewhat disparate groups and achieved victory by promising them goodies - or at least a friendly ear in the Oval Office.

In Obama’s case, his appeal to the center (which has gotten slightly more liberal over the last decade) has raised suspicions among his more rabid partisans on the far left that Obama just isn’t “progressive enough” and that putting pressure on the new Administration to toe the line and adopt their agenda should begin early.

(Note: I find it fascinating that complaints about ideological purity from both the Republican and Democratic bases could be exactly the same - except one side won and the other lost.)

Regardless of where you think Obama is on the ideological spectrum, it’s a good bet that the new president will try, at least at first, to tack more center-left in his policies than give in to his radical base of hard left activists who feel Obama owes them for their support. Big Labor, NOW, the Netroots, and other extremist elements in Obama’s coalition all think their support was decisive in putting the candidate over the top and now have their hands out. How Obama responds to their entreaties will determine his initial success or failure.

This piece by John Heilemann in New York Magazine details the initial skirmishing by some of these groups over Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff and his mulling over the choice of Larry Summers, former president at Harvard, for Secretary of the Treasury.

Summers is the rumored favorite for the Treasury posting having served in that position the last year of the Clinton presidency. According to Heilemann, he enjoys wide support on Wall Street and among the foreign financial establishment.

But he also brings some baggage that displeases Obama’s radical base. You might recall that he was forced to resign as Harvard president because he dared to quote empirical evidence that women do not do as well in math and science fields as men. He gave as an explanation three possible reasons; more men are willing to make the commitment in time and effort to advancing in these fields; that there were innate differences between the sexes; and that there was discrimination in the workplace and sexism in the socialization process.

All of these hypotheses are probably correct to one degree or another. But such truth telling always gets one in trouble with the left - especially since Summers said he believed that the likeliest explanation was the first reason he gave with the others in descending importance. (Brendan Nyhan has a better summary of the controversy here.)

Not recognizing the victimhood culture advanced by feminists as the main cause of the lack of women in math and science was Summers sin and he paid for it by eventually being forced to resign. Note that it wasn’t that he dismissed the idea, it’s just that he didn’t pander to the notion that every explanation for disparity between the sexes necessarily had to do with discriminatory actions of a male dominated culture.

The long knives on the left came out for Summers almost before the Grant Park celebration was over:

The mau-mauing of Barack Obama officially began less than 24 hours after he won the White House, when National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy piped up about the possibility of Obama picking Larry Summers as his Treasury secretary. Gandy told the Huffington Post she had “mixed feelings” about Summers, saying he “doesn’t seem to get” the economic implications of gender-based wage disparities. She cited Summers’s incendiary comments as president of Harvard about women’s intrinsic inaptitude for math and science—the ones that helped get him booted—as a cause for concern. And she expressed some displeasure that no female economists are being mentioned as contenders for the Treasury job. “We’re gonna be forwarding some names to the Obama transition team,” Gandy said. “It’s important that in this new administration women’s voices are heard and heeded.”

The next day, the HuffPo ran another anti-Summers story, this time revisiting a controversial memo on the economic logic of exporting pollution to the developing world that he wrote (or at least signed his name to) in 1991 at the World Bank—and also suggesting that his having once dated wingnut Laura Ingraham “could become a source of political embarrassment” to Obama. Soon enough, Summers’s inflammatory tendencies were being invoked all over cable news; in a post whose headline called Summers a “fat, hated burnout,” Wonkette declared, “Want change, a fresh start? Hire a notorious ex-Clintonite who masturbates to NAFTA!”

I once wrote of Wonkette that she looked like she was “pushing 40, pre-middle aged, dumpy, lumpy, policy maven” and that her site contained “No original thinking. Dull, drab, almost humorless, and totally without redeeming value. In short, a waste of time and bandwidth.”

She wrote me “You stay classy, guy.” Still something of a blogging newbie, I was somewhat ashamed and wrote a post the next day saying I had gone too far in my description of her personal appearance.

Today, I take it all back. I wasn’t half as rough on her as she deserves.

Besides Cox’s lack of coherence (Shocking sexual imagery to describe someone’s support for a trade agreement? Now that’s what I call a slutty policy maven.), the reaction of NOW and other opponents of Summers shows what Obama is going to be up against during the transition. These are groups that have been out of power for a long time and will seek to hold the new president’s feet to the fire on cabinet and White House personnel appointments.

Take the Emanuel choice for chief of staff. Rahmbo is part of the Chicago East mafia that will be moving to Washington as Obama takes charge. Several higher ups in his campaign, including David Axelrod (former press aide to Mayor Daley), Valerie Jarrett (Machine insider), and Marty Nesbitt (political fixer and moneyman) will also have prominent jobs in an Obama Administration. To claim that any of these folks are “agents of change” is laughable. Nesbitt headed up Daley’s Housing Authority while Jarrett chaired the powerful Chicago Transit Board. You don’t get those plum jobs by reforming anything. You get them by doing what you’re told.

Emanuel is better known as a Clinton attack dog but his roots are all Chicago. He has been called a “pragmatist” which is only slightly wrong. If “pragmatism” means doing anything and everything to win, then that fits Emanuel to a “T.” Policy and ideology are not as important to the new chief of staff as coming out on top. If this means knocking a few liberal heads together in order to shut them up and keep them from trying to push some cockamamie ideas on his boss, Emanuel is perfect for the job.

But Heilemann points out that Obama and Emanuel will have to deliver on something if they expect support for their agenda.

What’s easy to forget is that, in building his administration, the audience that Obama is—or should be—playing to isn’t hard-core, stone-cold Democrats. It’s the broader electorate, much of which has invested great hope in Obama but continues to watch him closely, waiting for proof that his promise of fundamental change isn’t, well, just words. What that audience would regard as more of the same wouldn’t be a handful of Clintonites in high positions but the sight of Obama’s capitulating to the hoary interest-group posse that’s just begun to rear its head, or to the demands of the extant congressional party Establishment. To a striking degree, and by design, Obama’s victory was won independently of these forces. He owes them precious little. And that gives him the freedom to build a government on the singular criteria of its capacity to get shit done.

The heartening thing is that, so far, Obama seems to get this deeply. It’s early days, of course, but both the Emanuel and Podesta appointments reflect clarity of purpose, maturity, and cold-eyed calculation in roughly equal measure. The choice of Summers would demonstrate all these things, too—along with a bracing lack of concern for what the carpers and ankle-biters think. For Obama, the trick will be remembering that change does indeed require change agents, but that agents of change can be found in the unlikeliest of places: the Clinton camp, Old Washington, and even the GOP. In 1992, Clinton promised an administration that looked like America. Obama is promising something much more lofty—transcendence, transfiguration, a new frontier. But a government that actually, you know, works would be a fine place to start.

So where’s the payoff for these groups? In addition to naming the cabinet, the president gets to appoint several thousand assistant secretaries,undersecretariess, members of various commissions - all of the non-permanent part of the bureaucracy. In many ways, these appointments will be even more crucial than his cabinet appointments because the president’s will is translated through the lenses of these true believers. And unless you have a cabinet secretary willing to rein in their excesses, Obama could find himself waking up one morning to headlines like “Department of Agriculture says catsup is a vegetable.”

Groups like NOW, Code Pink, Moveon, and other far left organizations know full well where their real payoff is coming. They are no doubt compiling lists of thousands of the fellow travelers as I write this, all set to hand them to John Podesta or some other conduit for consideration by Obama. These are the real “agents of change.”

And they are to be feared as people in the Middle Ages feared the plague.

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