Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bait & Switch – Obama to Clinton

It is a political swindle of the first order. Fifty-two percent of the American voters elected Obama. It is apparent now that as Obama's transition team unfolds its White House and cabinet appointments, that the new Democratic administration has more Clinton continuity than Obama change. The voters were baited with Obama and are being arbitrarily fed to a Clinton machine.

The law of averages dictate that the Obama regime will have failures. The new president's addiction to Clintonistas will erode public confidence that Obama's rhetoric can match his performance – retread bureaucrats and politicos are not the stuff from which change, new ideas and salvation policies grow. With his appointments, Obama has set his course for a debacle that could make the shell-shocked 4-year Jimmy Carter administration appear as a pleasant stroll through a rose garden.

Obama's three-front campaign to fix the economy, national security, and social issues are even at this nascent moment of his administration, project doom and gloom rather than buoyant, roll-up-your sleeves optimism.

His recent appointment of a new Treasury Secretary Geithner, sparked the stock market to jump nearly 500 points immediately after the announcement. Geithner is at best a bright bureaucrat who is a follower not a leader... He has already messed up on the bailout package with Paulson. Those who know his conforming character do not expect him to rein in Wall Street with a flurry of new oversight and restrictive regulations; hence the joy on Wall Street over his appointment. The more qualified, but obstreperous former Treasury Secretary Summers, was passed over for the lead economic job.

A national security team is de facto composed of a White House National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense. Intelligence organizations are part of this gaggle, but do not formulate policy. This troika, under the best of conditions, bureaucratically tear at each other by the nature of their bureaucratic mandates. An over-simplification is that State solves problems diplomatically; Defense with force and the National Security advisor wrings his hands and pleads, WHY CAN WE NOT JUST GET ALONG? You saw this play out in spades under GW Bush with Powell, Rumsfeld and clueless Condoleezza. In the past, Hopeless Henry Kissinger cut the Gordian Knot by having himself appointed both Secretary of State and head of the NSC staff – this lasted only a short time until he was swamped by bureaucratic outrage.

It appears at this stage that Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State; General James Jones will head the NSC White House Staff; and, Bob Gates will continue as Secretary of Defense.

General Jones, a retired Marine, and former NATO Commander, who knows his way around the defense and the international military bureaucracies, is for the most part apolitical. Much to his credit he twice refused to be Condoleezza's deputy at the State Department. He is a no-nonsense action-oriented individual who has built his career executing policy rather than in its formulation. There is no question he can keep the paper flowing procedurally, in a disciplined manner, but his job calls for policy formulation; his record is thin on this score; he can grow impatient with high paid national security intellectual nit wits who will advise him, ON THIS HAND, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND...

Hillary at State is a disaster. Apart from her squalid spouse who will interfere and embarrass her, she appears to have her own set of devils. Remember her Bosnian sniper lies. Kissinger clone, former SecState Larry Eagleberger, a supporter, when asked about her qualifications, blurted out that if she had a problem, she could ask her husband. Thanks Larry, that was reassuring. Poor Hillary, her cohorts are now spinning that she wants out of the senate because she is not appreciated there; as a junior senator she has no power.

My sense is that Hillary, after over two years of unsuccessful, heavy campaigning in the presidential elections with 6 million in debt, does not have the taste or the energy to go through a senate reelection campaign in 2012. All that repulsive, degrading conduct involved in fund raising probably finally got to her. Uncertain what she will accomplish for US diplomacy; it is certain she will bring pathos and drama to a billet that quietly requires just the opposite. Neither Obama or Clinton wins in this appointment.

Bob Gate's continuance as SecDef is preposterous. Despite Gates' competence compared to Rumsfeld's, he cannot be left to execute GW Bush's defense policies; if Obama fulfills his promises to depart Iraq in 16 months, he needs his own people determinedly to force the issue, otherwise, Pentagon self interest and powerful contractors will stop him. No neocons or pro-Israeli personnel need apply. And I place Richard Danzig, former Clinton Secretary of the Navy, in that category.

As far as Democratic social issues to be pushed, count on gays to serve openly in the US military. The Democratic congress has already drafted legislation to force the issue. It comes from a California congresswoman – how open gays would be integrated into units still is confounding – straight male soldiers serving under an openly gay commander is still an order and discipline enigma. The recent proposition 8 issue in California signals possible associated resistance to such a measure.

Obama is confronted by enormous problems left over from GW Bush's incompetent rule. Pundits keep trying to find analogous models from the past: Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR as a guide to action. My candidate is Napoleon Bonaparte; he had wars, anarchy, economic chaos, greedy war profiteers, self-absorbed clergy, and was surrounded by decaying patrician class and a hapless, revolutionary, burnt-out old guard. Activite, activite, vitesse (Activity, Activity, Speed) was his motto.

It is premature to characterize Obama as the LIGHT THAT FAILED, but his recent appointments certainly tend in that direction. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA ret.


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