Sunday, November 30, 2008
When I first read the article, I viewed Kennedy's "behavior" as a throwback to the way he reacted after losing the Democratic primaries to Carter in 1980. After Carter won, instead of helping to unify the Democrats as Clinton did, Kennedy remained as bitter as a gun-toting, Bible-clinging, homo-/xenophobic disempowered American. But then sanity overtook me, and I conducted some research on the issue and discovered that the New York Daily News article likely presents a distorted view concerning an alleged Kennedy grudge. Well, the New York Daily News is a tabloid. Why let facts or nuance get in the way of reporting?
Apparently, even though Kennedy refused to create a subcommittee on health care for Clinton to lead, he offered her a position on his new Senate health care task force, which has three working groups. Clinton would have headed the section studying insurance coverage. The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, an official press release from Senator Tom Harkin (who also has an offer to sit on the task force), and many other sources (found with a simple Google News search) confirm that Kennedy picked Clinton.
Also, his refusal to form the subcommittee to deal with the health care legislation could result, as the Associated Press reports, from his own desire to monopolize the issue (at least in the Senate), rather than from a political grudge with Clinton. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Healthcare, Kennedy probably intends to conduct Senate hearings on health-care issues himself. Having Clinton leading a subcommittee on healthcare could diminish his own voice on the subject.
Furthermore, because Obama has appointed Daschle to head the Department of Health and Human Services and to serve as a Healthcare Czar, any role in Congress on this issue would probably have been too limiting for Clinton. Her expertise on healthcare dwarfs Daschle's, but Daschle and Kennedy endorsed Obama at critical moments during the primaries. As payment, they get to play leading roles on healthcare reform. Clinton did not land too lightly, however; as "compensation" for her general-election support of Obama, Clinton will become Secretary of State.
Now, Ruben Navarrette, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, complains that Obama has betrayed Richardson by picking Clinton to serve as Secretary of State. For those of you who do not follow Navarrette's writings, he passionately opposed Clinton during the primaries. Afterwards, however, he seemed to develop a softness for McCain. I am not sure what to make of this, but Navarrette's recent anger towards Obama and his disappointment that Clinton will probably head the Department of State do not surprise me.
With respect to Clinton's likely nomination, Navarette argues that:
Now I wonder what message it sends that President-elect Obama has apparentlyNavarrette concludes his essay with some harsh words for Obama:
passed over Richardson and seems ready to offer the post at state to their
former rival, Hillary Clinton. While known the world over from her days as first
lady, Clinton doesn't have anywhere near Richardson's level of experience in
foreign affairs. Besides, she treated Obama reprehensibly during the primary.
Does anyone really think that if Hillary had been elected president that she
would be vetting Barack Obama for secretary of state?
After the snub, Richardson turned the other cheek and got slapped again. He is reportedly about to be offered, as a parting gift, a job — secretary of commerce — that someone else turned down. That someone else was Penny Pritzker, the president-elect's chief fundraiser who reportedly was Obama's choice for the post. A billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, Pritzker withdrew her name from
I am not sure whether Obama ever considered Richardson for the position of Secretary of State. If Richardson ever had a serious chance at receiving the post, then Secretary of Commerce would certainly represent a sharp tumble in terms of prestige.
This isn't about Richardson, who might be very happy heading for ribbon cuttings
in Toledo while Clinton heads for blue-ribbon summits in Tel Aviv. . . .
America's largest minority took a chance on Obama despite the fact that
the president-elect had no track record in reaching out to them and didn't break
a sweat trying to win their votes. They deserve better.
But Richardson must certainly understand that nothing is certain in politics. Clinton, for example, believed Richardson would endorse her over Obama because he worked in her husband's administration and gained national prominence as a result. But that experience did not secure Richardson's support for Clinton. Instead, Richardson made a decision that seemed most politically favorable to him. All politicians do this. By the time Richardson endorsed Obama it appeared that he had an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. By supporting Obama's candidacy, Richardson bet on Obama eventually winning the Democratic nomination and possibly the general election. By siding with the likely nominee, Richardson sought to maximize his own opportunities for political prominence and access to the White House. These types of calculations animate all political endorsements, although the carefully tailored statements that accompany most endorsements deceptively imply altruistic motives.
Clinton's nomination likely results from a carefully negotiated deal between the Obama and Clinton camps and DNC leadership. The agreement kept Clinton off the ticket altogether, in return for a very high-level position within the Senate or in Obama's administration. In exchange for the deal, Clinton needed to keep the PUMAs in the party by campaigning for Obama's. The gritty "No Way, No How, No McCain" speech set things into motion, followed by the cute emails to supporters urging them to canvass for Obama to tell prospective voters that "Hillary sent me."
In exchange for her work, Clinton gets the highest cabinet position, and she forces Obama to contradict his campaign message and declare that she has credible experience and good judgment in foreign affairs. Furthermore, Clinton's nomination would, by implication, help neutralize racism charges that surrounded both Clintons for about a year. As a race relations scholar, I tend to see race more than the average person, but I doubted many of the accusations of racism during the Democratic primaries. Because Obama has campaigned with both Clintons and has picked Hillary to hold his highest cabinet position, perhaps he views these accusations with a similar level of skepticism.
Query: What do readers think? Is my analysis too cynical? Should I celebrate Clinton's nomination tomorrow as a rare "feel-good" political moment? Am I "stuck in the past"?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
It wasn't too long ago that Barack Obama and his advisers were tripping
over one another to tear down Hillary Rodham Clinton's foreign policy
credentials. She was dismissed as a commander in chief wanna-be who did little
more than sip tea and make small talk with foreign leaders during her days as
"What exactly is this foreign policy experience?" Obama said mockingly
of the New York senator. "Was she negotiating treaties? Was she handling crises?
The answer is no."
The article also reports that some of Clinton's harshest critics will serve with her in the Obama administration:
Greg Craig, selected to serve as White House counsel in the Obama
administration, delivered a withering attack during the primaries on Clinton's
claims that she could rightfully share in the credit for some of the foreign
policy successes of her husband's presidency.
"She did not sit in on any National Security Council meetings when she
was first lady," Craig insisted in one conference call. He went on to knock down
Clinton's claims to influence in the Northern Ireland peace process, opening
borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo, and making a dangerous visit to
"There is no reason to believe . . . that she was a key player in
foreign policy at any time during the Clinton administration," Craig wrote in a
Susan Rice, an Obama adviser who could land a spot in the new
administration, mocked the idea that Clinton could lay claim to foreign policy
credentials by marriage.
"There is no crisis to be dealt with or managed when you are first lady,"
Rice sniffed last March. "You don't get that kind of experience by being married
to a commander in chief."
My thoughts: A political commentator cited in the article rightfully observes that political campaigns often involve hyperbole. But this type of politicking conflicts with Obama's campaign narrative. He was depicted as a righteous politician, while Clinton represented "dirty" politics. Indeed when Clinton resorted to hyperbole (e.g., the 3am commercial), critics accused her of waging a "kitchen sink" campaign and destroying the potential for a Democratic victory.
It becomes clearer everyday how skillfully Obama out-maneuvered his opponents. Often, the best politicians wage political battle without appearing as if they are. It also becomes abundantly clear how little critique the media offered in response to the anti-Clinton rhetoric during the primaries and how very few of them seem willing to examine the contradictions between that rhetoric and Obama's decision to nominate Clinton as Secretary of State. It is a lot easier for a candidate to play politics if the media fail to scrutinize his or her claims. Accordingly, AP writer Nancy Benac deserves kudos for writing this article. Although I have analyzed these issues many times on Dissenting Justice, I am just a lowly blogger (for the literalists out there, this was a crude attempt at self-deprecating humor).
Related Reading on Dissenting Justice:
* Progressives Awaken from Obama-Vegetative State
* Governing In Prose: Obama's Cabinet Picks Defy Campaign Narrative That Emphasized * "Hope," "Change," and "Washington-Outsider" Status
* More "Change": Tom Daschle to Lead Dept. of Health and Human Services
* If Clinton Becomes Sec. of State for Obama, My Cynicism Will Max Out!
You can read the full article here: Obama Team Repackaging Clinton After Campaign Digs.
The Supreme Court will take up the issue of money and judicial elections later this term when it decides Caperton v. Massey. In Caperton, Justice Brent Benjamin of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals refused to recuse himself in a case in which the defendant contested a 50 million dollar judgment against it. The defendant's CEO personally donated 3 million dollars to Benjamin's campaign. This represents 60% of the total funds donated to Benjamin.
Shockingly (do not let the sarcasm escape you), Benjamin sided with the defendant and the court overturned the verdict by a vote of 3-2. Because of the closeness of the ruling, Benjamin's vote truly mattered. And it only cost 3 million dollars, which, compared with the magnitude of the jury verdict, sounds like a great investment. But the investment is "great" only when ethical and rights issues fall out of the equation.
For media commentary, see: News article on Caperton v Massey.
For legal commentary (and other issues) see: Brennan Center web page on Caperton v Massey. Disclaimer: the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University prepared this website. The Brennan Center has filed a brief urging the Court to reverse the decision.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Here's a snippet:
Former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, who is expected to be nominated as
Secretary of Health and Human Services, responded to a reporter who asked about
the Lewinsky rumors by pretending to receive a cell phone call. When the
reporter took the phone from him and closed it while making a "we both know what
you're doing" facial expression, Daschle said that appointing Lewinsky would be
"like rubbing salt in the wounds of Senator Clinton at a time when we're
supposed to be in a healing process." He added that Miss Lewinsky's presence in
the White House would be "a huge distraction."
But New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who broke with the Clintons
over his endorsement of Mr. Obama, said that Lewinsky was "a fresh face" with "a
lot to offer." Richardson lost the post of Secretary of State to Senator Clinton
and is now Mr. Obama's choice for the far less prestigious job of Secretary of
Commerce. "The Obama administration should be focused on recruiting the best
people to help us address the challenges of the future and not get bogged down
in past history," he said. . . .
Monica Lewinsky was not available for comment. Through her attorney,
William Ginsburg, she released a statement, which read, in part, "I am honored
and humbled by the opportunity to serve my country again at this crucial
juncture in our history."
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I suspect the American people would be troubled if I selected a treasuryThis is a pretty good comeback, which was already previewed by some media even before today's press conference (see this article). That would be an unassailable response if it did not use the losing argument that Clinton used in the primaries -- that she was "ready to lead on day one." Also, John McCain's experience was used against him; rather than benefiting him, his long exposure to government made him "out of touch," "more of the same," and a quintessential Washington insider. He could not "change" anything because he had already been around too long (and things still needed to be fixed). The commercial with vintage footage of McCain arriving in Washington as a young man captures the point I am trying to make. This argument appealed to younger voters who often described McCain as an "old man." They were not being affectionate.
secretary or a chairman of an economic council at one of the most critical
economic times in our history who had no experience in government whatsoever. .
. What we're going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. . . .We need
people who will be able to hit the ground running. . . .
I love Obama's response though. It is a great political narrative. And most Americans have such a short memory that they probably do not recall most of the campaigning at this point. Also, I have always believed that experience matters; and judging from his cabinet and recent statement, Obama does too.
But one problem I have with this defense is that it means that politicians are either complete opportunists who lack a commitment to values of their own (e.g., conservative Gates working for progressive Obama) or that Obama is far more moderate than his campaign and many of his supporters have described him. Which explanation works for you?
A year ago, when Barack Obama said it was time to turn the page, his campaign declaration seemed to promise a fresh start for Washington. I, for one, failed to foresee Obama would turn the page backward. The president-elect's lineup for key governing positions has opted for continuity, not change. Virtually all of his leading appointments are restoring the Clinton presidency, only without Mr. Bill. In some important ways, Obama's selections seem designed to sustain the failing policies of George W. Bush [Snide Editorial Comment: Melodrama!].Source: William Greider, Past and Future
This is not the last word and things are changing rapidly. But Obama's choices have begun to define him. His victory, it appears, was a triumph for the cautious center-right politics that has described the Democratic party for several decades. Those of us who expected more were duped, not so much by Obama but by our own wishful thinking [Snide Editorial Comment: Amen].
Related Reading on Dissenting Justice: If President Hilary Clinton Had Same Cabinet As Obama, Left Would Experience Meltdown
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Read more here: Washington Post on Citigroup.
Obama Engaging in "Tough Politics" and Now in "Control" of Clinton
During an interview with CNN, Frum provided this interesting perspective on Obama's decision to pick Clinton:
[She] has just moved from having an independent power base in the Senate to being in effect an employee of Barack Obama. And not just any employee, but one who has had to open her files to Barack Obama.
Just imagine the scene of the Obama people going through the Clinton files and saying, "Wow, this could be embarrassing if anybody ever found out about it. Don't worry, it's safe with us."
He has just cemented his enormous power over her, and the sentimental idea out there that he's reaching for a rival and padding the dust off her and bringing her into a Cabinet to be his rival -- no, he's putting her into his Cabinet in order to control her. It's a pretty impressive display of tough politics.
Also, Clinton is not just any other staffer. She won 18 million votes in the Democratic primaries, and has a large following. That, in fact, explains why people (including Frum) continue to debate her. The pro-Hilary crowd will not vanish simply because she now occupies a high-level position in Obama's cabinet. Having Clinton in the cabinet will keep her from publicly criticizing Obama, but this does not mute her fanbase. Besides, if I am correct, and the two share a similar vision on foreign policy, then they will probably see eye-to-eye on most issues anyway.
Finally, I am not sure whether too many damaging documents concerning Clinton still exist. But even if they do, once she becomes part of Obama's administration, the two politicians' destinies become more united. Her embarrassments become his, and vice versa. Neither has an interest in slamming the other once they begin working together.
Clinton Was "Trapped" Into Accepting the Job By Press Leaks
When asked why Clinton would take a job that requires her to cede her independence, Frum says: "Well, I think part of it, she was trapped. The series of leaks that happened over the past week; they leaked the news of the offer. Barack Obama looks of course very magnanimous, making such an offer. . . Could she afford to say no and look like she was keeping some kind of grudge? And that might put her on the outs for a lot of Democrats for whom Barack Obama is the leader" (italics added).
Response: Leaks happen for a reason. One explanation: people hold on to juicy news items about as well as newborn babies control their bladders. DC is a leak machine, and Obama's decision to nominate his former rival is about as sensational as it gets. Beyond this reality, I imagine that both sides were playing the media in order to get leverage. Obama probably wanted Clinton to make a quick decision, but he benefited from the leak because it allows him to demonstrate that he has no "hard feelings" towards Clinton.
But once the press got hold of the story, Clinton benefited from stretching out the decision. The longer it bounced around, the more it looked like she controlled his transition process. A media circus could have occurred. Behind the scenes, the two were negotiating a lot of things, including Clinton's authority over hiring her own staff and the release of Bill Clinton's financial dealings. Apparently both sides won. Clinton has secured a "purge" of Obama's aides who said the most vicious things about her during the campaign, and Obama gets husband Bill to turn over documents. Joy.
Frum's assertion that Clinton needed to accept the position in order to demonstrate that she did not hold a grudge against Obama is disconnected from political reality. There are many Democrats who do not like Clinton and believe that she is the antithesis to Obama. If she turned down the job, this crowd would have cheered. Right now, the crowd is crying over Obama picking Clinton and many others from the Clinton administration.
Biden Might Eclipse Clinton on Foreign Policy
Frum also argues that Biden might become as strong Vice President as Dick Cheney and eclipse Clinton. Frum wonders whether Clinton will simply "take orders from the vice president, Joe Biden, who also has a lot of strong policy ideas, and who may end up having a role not unlike that of Dick Cheney. . . And maybe not as powerful quite as Dick Cheney, but he's got a big institutional base, a lot of strong foreign policy ideas. There will be some rivalry there."
Response: This is probably Frum's strongest argument, but I imagine Obama and Clinton have worked out the details of "power" during the long delay. And if reports which say that Clinton has secured a purge of her enemies from Obama's foreign policy team are accurate, then I imagine they have worked out the potential Biden-Clinton conflict. Also, Clinton and Biden are even closer on foreign policy than she and Obama. Accordingly, Frum's analysis probably exaggerates potential conflicts between Clinton and Biden.
Concluding Thoughts: I cannot pretend to know how this will evolve. But Frum's analysis does not sit well with me. What do you think?
Monday, November 24, 2008
Although the rumor mill had already leaked the information, Obama named his economic policy team today. Tim Geithner will head the Department of Treasury, while his mentor Larry Summers will serve as the Director of the National Economic Council. Christina Romer will head the Council of Economic Advisors.
Source: CBS News
Members of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party are already up in arms over some of Obama's staffing decisions. Today's New York Times adds more coals to the fire in an article that links Obama's economic team with Robert Rubin, who served as Secretary of Treasury to Bill Clinton. Liberals and progressives blame "Rubinomics" for free trade and deregulation, which they argue caused job losses and the current credit crisis. The article states that:
The president-elect’s choices for his top economic advisers — Timothy F.Source: New York Times
Geithner as Treasury secretary, Lawrence H. Summers as senior White House
economics adviser and Peter R. Orszag as budget director — are past protégés of
Mr. Rubin, who held two of those jobs under President Bill Clinton. Even
the headhunters for Mr. Obama have Rubin ties: Michael Froman, Mr. Rubin’s chief
of staff in the Treasury Department who followed him to Citigroup, and James
Rubin, Mr. Rubin’s son.
All three advisers — whom Mr. Obama will officially name on Monday and
Tuesday — have been followers of the economic formula that came to be called
Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a
combination that was credited with fueling the prosperity of the 1990s [Editor:
And the recession of the 2000s].
Speaking of Rubin: Citigroup Gets Largest Bailout Package to Date
Citigroup, the troubled financial conglomerate where Rubin serves as a Director, will receive the largest federal bailout of any financial institution to date during the present credit crisis. Under the plan, the government will give Citigroup at $20 billion cash infusion and insure losses on the bank's $300 billion portfolio of bad debt -- largely from risky mortgage instruments. Geithner helped negotiate the bailout pursuant to his role as Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Obama: "No New Taxes"
Taxation became a major debate issue during the general-election campaign. McCain promised to cut taxes for the "middle class," but he also said he would maintain Bush's controversial tax cuts for high-income earners. Obama, by contrast, promised to cut taxes for the middle class, but raise taxes on upper-income earners in order to fund his social programs and to prevent an explosion in the deficit. Many economic experts argued that both candidates' plans (which involved higher spending and fewer taxes) would increase the deficit. McCain's plan, however, would cause greater injury to the deficit because it would not involve any tax increases (as would Obama's).
Now, less than one month after the election, it seems that Obama's tax plan suddenly looks like McCain's. According to Reuters, Obama's team is now considering abandoning its plan to impose new tax increases due to the poor state of the economy. Wasn't the economy bad a month ago?
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Governing In Prose: Obama's Cabinet Picks Defy Campaign Narrative That Emphasized "Hope," "Change," and "Washington-Outsider" Status
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Progressives are also ablaze over the rumored selection of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury. Geithner has worked with Paulson to bail-out AIG and Bear Stearns. Initially, the leftwing of the party feared that Obama would choose Larry Summers for the post. Progressives criticize Summers because he supported deregulation of financial markets, which many liberals believe caused the current economic crisis. Summers also sparked controversy during his tenure as president of Harvard University when he said that women are not genetically wired to excel in the hard sciences.
Instead of selecting Summers, Obama's transition team seems to have settled upon his protoge. Most political analysis to date characterizes Geithner as being moderate or center-right. Accordingly, his selection gives progressives another reason to complain.
Today's New York Times explains that Obama's cabinet decisions suggest that he will govern from the center-right, despite the enthusiasm he has generated among leftists. Here's a snippet:
My take: Bill Clinton's "pragmatism" made him the enemy of the left, and Hillary Clinton suffered from this too. But liberals can only survive in a national office if they are pragmatic (particularly because the country remains center-right, despite the exuberance of the left). Pragmatism, however, is not a theme in the narrative the left uses to describe Obama. By contrast, they have argued that Obama will restore the country's image domestically and internationally, bring about peace, provide jobs for the middle-class, end discrimination, bigotry and social divisions, banish partisanship, slay the GOP, and usher in a new New Deal. I imagine some of them will begin altering that narrative in the near future.
[Obama's] reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.
The choices are as revealing of the new president as they are of his appointees — and suggest that, from its first days, an Obama White House will brim with big personalities and far more spirited debate than occurred among the largely like-minded advisers who populated President Bush’s first term.
PS: I like the argument that the author provides for the Obama team. Although Obama's cabinet choices might upset people on the Left, their anger is misplaced. Having conservatives and moderates serve in Obama's cabinet allows for "spirited debate," which did not occur during the nasty, evil Bush administration. So liberals -- be quiet!
Also the author suggests a false dichotomy between pragmatism and leftist ideology; Obama is going for the center-right by picking pragmatists (not leftists). As a pragmatic leftist, I take offense at the dichotomy, but I'm just a mere blogger, not a learned New York Times journalist. Smell the fresh scent of sarcasm. Ain't it great?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Today's Washington Times cites "insiders" who say that Obama will probably not attempt to repeal the ban until at least 2010. The source says that Obama wants to establish a consensus among military leaders before acting. Certainly, he should act smartly and in a strategic fashion. But military leaders do not want to end the ban. Retired military leaders have argued against it, but current leaders have not. Gates has made horrible statements about gays and lesbians, and Obama proudly accepted the endorsement of Colin Powell who orchestrated the military's vocal and swift rejection of Clinton's effort to repeal the ban. A compromise forced by Powell gave us the wretched "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Accordingly, I am not holding my breath on this one.
Everyday, reality rears its ugly head for progressives. During the Democratic primaries and in the general election campaign, I often thought that the left was collectively in an Obama-Vegetative State. Like zombies, they moved along, unable to muster up the slightest analysis of Obama that did not sound like messianic blather. I do not blame Obama for this. On the contrary, I have come to view him as one of the most skillful politicians in U.S. history. Progressives, however, frightened me because most of them abdicated dissent.
Recently, however, the EEG has detected signs of brain activity among the left. Now progressives seem to realize that an "election is not a social movement" (something I argued weeks ago). Gradually, more of them now argue that in order for Obama's presidency to generate meaningful reform, grassroots political activism around specific issues (rather than ambiguous appeals to change and hope) must take place. This will not occur if leftists and liberals remain lulled into an hypnotic state by their excitement of having a Democratic president and their utter shock and amazement that this Democrat is also black. Here are some examples of renewed signs of life among progressives.
For the last year, The Nation (a liberal magazine) was passionately uncritical. Anything Obama did generated chills, tears, smiles, and warmth. Euphoria comes to mind as an umbrella term to describe the mental state of writers for the Nation. Now that the election is over, kinks have emerged in the liberal Utopia. For example, Francis Fox Piven has published an essay arguing that liberals and progressives need to generate activism to push Obama to implement progressive policies. No, Virginia, he will not do it on his own! Piven accurately argues that FDR -- the storied leader of progressive change in the U.S. -- did not come to power with a radical agenda. Instead, labor movements, consumer activism, and political protests helped push through meaningful reform. A coalition of progressive causes also supported the progressive changes that took place during the Johnson Administration.
The Executive Director of the NAACP has also joined the conversation at The Nation. Benjamin Todd Jealous acknowledges the historic nature of Obama's presidency, but he argues that: "[W]e cannot stop here. This victory is momentous but ethereal. Progress is eroded when not pushed forward, taken to the next level."
Reactions to Cabinet Selections
Obama's cabinet choices so far have probably done the most to jolt progressives out of their slumber. Many people on the left feel "betrayed," if not horrified, by Obama's personnel decisions. They are particularly upset by his choice of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff and are sweating bullets over the prospect of Hillary Clinton heading the State Department and Larry Summers getting the nod at Treasury. But perhaps they got some relief when Penny Pritzker, the 135th wealthiest American according to Forbes Magazine, declined to accept an offer from our beloved community organizer to become Secretary of Commerce.
Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive criticizes Obama for not appointing persons with progressive credentials to serve in his cabinet. He argues that "there are a lot of talented progressives who could be in an Obama cabinet." Rothschild's list of potential nominees includes Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of State. Back at The Nation, Tom Englehardt argues that it almost seems as if Clinton won the election and that "Clintonistas are just piling up in the prospective corridors of power" (I have made similar arguments).
And over at the liberal blog Open Left, David Sirota has blown a gasket reacting to the current line-up of Obama appointees, calling the situation "creepy." Sirota argues that:
For all the talk of "change," I'm really curious whether Barack Obama thinksMy take: This is great stuff. If you read my background area, you will notice that I started this blog because I believed that during the campaigning progressives completely abdicated engaging in dissent and that liberal academics were doubly wrongheaded because as liberals and (especially) as academics they have a greater duty to examine society with a critical lens. Many progressives now realize that broad social change does not magically occur, while some of them simply thrive on criticism (like I?). None of this detracts from Obama or his victory. Instead, it just treats him like any other president or presidential candidate. Obama is positive, but imperfect, and he will do whatever it takes to get elected and re-elected. Consequently, social movements must apply pressure on him in order to ensure that he will press for progressive social change. Otherwise, he has no incentive to do so.
there are any worthy, smart, well-qualified people who aren't part of permanent
Washington and who didn't serve in the Clinton administration? Certainly, his
campaign apparatus appreciated that. But it doesn't seem like his transition
team does (a transition team, of course, dominated by former Clinton officials).
Related reading on Dissenting Justice: 2008 Is Not 1964: Why Liberal Mania and Conservative Panic Are Nothing But Melodrama.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In 2008 Democrats Ran as Conservatives on Gay Rights
The Global War on Terrorism is far-reaching and unrelenting. The threat to our country is here for the long term. As a result, every day, around the world, our forces engage with our allies in dangerous, life-threatening events, and this will continue into the foreseeable future. A national debate on changing [the military's policy] with the accompanying divisiveness and turbulence across our country, will compound the burden of the war.
Because Obama has promised to increase the size of the military and the escalate the war in Afghanistan, the "Global War on Terrorism" (curiously elevated to a proper noun by Gates) is indeed here to stay. Besides, I cannot recall a four-year stretch when the United States was not involved in some type of military action. But this fact cannot give the military a free pass to discriminate on the basis of sexual identity and to evade public discourse over the legitimacy of its policies. These types of scare tactics helped elect Bush twice. But now, voters have selected a self-proclaimed agent of "change." I hope that Gates has to explain his controversial and distorted views on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during the vetting process. Otherwise, blatant discrimination might remain unscathed in a "changed" political landscape.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The rumor mill continues to grind. CNN reports that Tom Daschle, a former Senator and Obama endorser, will head the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Reportedly, Daschle will have the important task of pushing through Obama's health care reform agenda.
My take: I am waiting for a cabinet appointment who is not a "Washington insider" or who has not served in the Clinton administration. Actually, I am not. I just felt the need to say that, since the media will not. Honestly, I think Obama has made very wise selections. Clinton, Holder, Daschle, and the others are very capable individuals. Their selection (especially Clinton's), however, contradicts many elements of Obama's campaign message -- elements that I have always viewed with skepticism (see this article and others linked below). For the record, I typically view campaign messages with skepticism -- even when they come from candidates I support (including Obama).
My primary "beef" lies with liberals who have chosen to live in denial by refusing to acknowledge the contradictions between Obama's campaign and his early personnel decisions. So, in order to create a nuanced and more accurate historical record, I respectfully dissent from uncritical acceptance of reality.
Related readings on Dissenting Justice:
Robert Gates as Obama's Secretary of Defense: "More of the Same" for Gay Rights?