Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama "changing" back to the Clinton era

The following is an article by Dick Morris & Eileen McGann entitled “Obama’s ‘Change’ Back to the Democratic Washington Insiders. Since Morris invites recipients of his column to send it to family & friends and to subscribe for free to, I don’t believe he’ll object to my posting it on this blog. I have some comments at the end.

[Published on on November 7, 2008]:

What's with Obama's choice of old-time Clinton cronies and recycled Washington insiders to run the transition to his new politics of change?

Can't the anti-Washington insiders President-elect find anyone who isn't a Beltway has-been?

Judging by the appointments to his transition committee and leaks about possible top staff and Cabinet choices, Obama appears to be practicing the politics of status quo, not the politics of change.

Obama based his innovative campaign on an emphatic and convincing commitment to change the culture of Washington and bring in new people, new ideas, and new ways of doing business.

But now, Obama has definitely changed his tune. As president-elect, he's brought back the old Washington hacks, party regulars, and Clinton sycophants that he so frequently disparaged. Like Jimmy Carter, the last President who ran as an outsider, Obama has reached out to the same old folks who dominate the Democratic Party and represent the status quo.

His Transition Committee looks like a reunion of the Clinton Administration. No new ideas of how to reform the system there. The Chairman, John Podesta, was Clinton's Chief of Staff. He presided over the outrageous last minute pardons and his style is strictly inside-the-beltway and make-no-waves.

Then there's Carol Browner, Clinton's competent former EPA Administrator who became the consummate Washington insider. She's Madeline Albright's partner and recently married mega-lobbyist and former Congressman Tom Downey. During the uproar over Dubai taking over U.S. ports, Browner brought Downey to meet with Senator Chuck Schumer to plead Dubai's case. Downey was paid half a million dollars to push Dubai's position. He's also a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, paid half a million to try to cover their rears on the subprime mortgage mess. Is his change?

Federico Pena was Clinton's Secretary of Transportation and of Energy. The President felt he was unduly soft on Air Florida after their crash and lost confidence in him. Now he's back as a Transition Committee member.

Bill Daley, Clinton's former Secretary of Commerce and the brother of the Mayor of Chicago, is the epitome of the old Democratic establishment. Clinton appointed him to the Fannie Mae Board and his son worked as a lobbyist for the agency. Aren't these the kind of folks that Obama ran against?

Larry Summers, President of Harvard and former Clinton Secretary of the Treasury is not exactly an outsider either. He's also alienated more than a few with his bizarre suggestion that women may be genetically inferior to men in math and science.

Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State under Clinton advised John Kerry and Mike Dukakis. Does that tell you enough?

Obama has named one of his big bundlers - Michael Froman, an executive at Citigroup. Is this supposed to symbolize change?

Obama's choice of a spokesperson for the transition is also surprising; hers' is definitely not the face of reason and new politics. Stephanie Cutter is the brash and combative former Clinton, Kerry, and Ted Kennedy mouthpiece. The liberal once described Cutter as "a moron to the nth degree" when she tried unsuccessfully to force the New York Times' Adam Nagourney to treat her unsolicited email criticizing Howard Dean as "background" without mentioning her name.

Speaking of brash, Rahm Emmanuel, the new White House Chief of Staff, makes Cutter look timid. Rahm is also a former Clinton White House staffer - and a very obnoxious one. He spent his White House years leaking to the Washington Post whenever he didn't like what the President was doing. Even Bill Clinton stopped trusting him. Any hopes of Obama keeping his commitment to reach across the aisle would go right out the window with Rahm's appointment. Instead of extending a hand to the opposition, it would be like raising just one finger. And Rahm's strident demeanor laced with the 'f' word in every sentence will do little to elevate the bipartisan dialogue in Washington.

Christopher Edley, another member of the transition team, is Dean of the Berkeley Law School. He's a former member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission under Clinton and his wife, Maria Echaveste was Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff.

Transition committee staffer Christine Varney was a Federal Trade Commissioner under Clinton and worked in the White House.

Throughout the early debates, Obama criticized Hillary as part of the inside-the beltway establishment that needed to go. But now he's reaching out to these exact same folks. Some change.


While Dick Morris & Eileen McGann are outraged over Obama’s administration choices, I am reassured by them. Actually, when Obama referred to the “Change” he felt the American people wanted, I suspected he meant a change back to the Clinton era, but I feared the sort of “change” that is implicit in the term “Progressive,’ which is what Leftists like to call themselves nowadays. They don’t explain what sort of change they want to progress toward either, but Leftism has Socialism in mind, and a kinder gentler Communism.

But now that Obama has declared what he meant by change, surely Morris, who probably never had my fear, shouldn’t have been surprised. The accusation of “inexperience” wasn’t only applied to Palin, it was applied to Obama himself; so for him to get a lot of inexperienced outsiders into his cabinet probably had more risk than benefit to it. That sort of change, selecting outsiders with no Washington experience, reminds me of Kennedy’s “Whiz Kids,” Think of Robert McNamara for example.

Many historians think that Bush’s reputation will improve with time, but Kennedy’s hasn’t. His foreign policy mistakes have become lessons for what a president ought not to do. He didn’t “courageously keep us out of a nuclear war,” he foolishly presented a meek cowardly persona to Khrushchev who thought he could push him around and get whatever he wanted, and had it not been for all the peer pressure surrounding Kennedy, he probably would have. In retrospect, when Senator Bentson said to Dan Quayle in 1988, "Senator, I worked with John Kennedy; I knew John Kennedy. Senator, you're no John Kennedy,” that was a compliment. All Kennedy seems to have had going for him was a good oratorical manner and a lot of charisma and style. His handling of foreign policy was a disaster.

Thus, I am relatively happy that Obama is taking unto himself, Clintontonian party hacks rather than Kennedy-like Whiz Kids. All he needs now is Madeleine Albright. She’s about McCain’s age and still energetic enough to work as a professor at Georgetown University. Obama ought to check in on her. She once said, "What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can't use it?" That’s good stuff, Barack. Better Madeleine than Colin.

Lawrence Helm

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