Obama Shafts Progressives, Campaign Loyalists
Two reports in the British press indicate that Barack Obama has shunted aside key campaign advisors and given the back of his hand to his most ardent supporters in the liberal wing of his party. Leonard Doyle of The Independent reports on the machinations necessary to get Hillary Clinton on board as Secretary of State.
The advisers who helped trash the former First Lady’s foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail are being brutally shunted aside, as the price of her accepting the job of being the public face of America to the world. In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.
The first victims of Mrs Clinton’s anticipated appointment will be those who defended Mr Obama’s flanks on the campaign trail. By mocking Mrs Clinton’s claims to have landed under sniper fire in Bosnia or pouring scorn on her much-ballyhooed claim to have visited 80 countries as First Lady they successfully deflected the damaging charge that he is a lightweight on international issues.
Most notable are Greg Craig, who was apparently in line for a major role at State but who instead will be White House Counsel, and Susan Rice, the Obama campaign’s main foreign policy advisor, who may yet wind up at the NSC.
The Telegraph’s Tim Shipman writes of a backlash from the Netroots.
[H]is preference for General James Jones, a former Nato commander who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department has dismayed many of his earliest supporters.
The likelihood that Mr Obama will retain George W Bush’s Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has reinforced the notion that he will not aggressively pursue the radical withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq over the next 16 months and engagement with rogue states that he has pledged.
Chris Bowers of the influential OpenLeft.com blog complained: “That is, over all, a centre-right foreign policy team. I feel incredibly frustrated. Progressives are being entirely left out of Obama’s major appointments so far.”
Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos site, the in-house talking shop for the anti-war Left, warned that Democrats risk sounding “tone deaf” to the views of “the American electorate that voted in overwhelming numbers for change from the discredited Bush policies.”
Oh, and there’s this:
On Friday night, Mr Obama and his wife Michelle revealed that they will send their two daughters Malia and Sasha to the private Sidwell Friends school in Washington, once attended by Chelsea Clinton.
It’s not totally unfair to ask, if this is what they’re going to get, why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have been the nominee. At the same time, there’s a Machiavellian shrewdness to all this. Obama can afford to alienate the Hard Left, especially this far from 2012, so cementing his reputation as a serious person and avoiding the youthful amateurism that many moderates fear is smart politics.
Sure enough, thus far at least, the Netroots are mostly keeping their powder dry.
- Jerome Armstrong: “My expecations of Obama are pretty much just what he is delivering. If Clinton had been the nominee, she would have chosen Obama as her VP, and we’d probably be seeing Biden as the SoS choice. Despite campaign projection from a lot of progressives that Obama was different in regards to foreign policy, these are centrist Democrats on such matters that are going to be in the White House. Anyone that didn’t realize that was deceiving themselves. […] I think the strongest progressive hope for Obama remains with more domestic concerns: universal healthcare, new energy priorities, fairer taxation, liberal judges. That’s reason enough for Obama as President. But as far as foreign policy goes in the mid-east, expect more of the same in the short term, with the long term change still a possibility.”
- Jane Hamsher: “Many people managed to convince themselves that Obama was a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool progressive at some point during the primaries. For no reason as far as I could tell — his voting record in the Senate was pretty much identical to Hillary Clinton’s, and the people he surrounded himself with weren’t exactly ‘outsiders.’ […] Look, for people who convinced themselves that Obama was the second coming of Saul Alinsky — wake up. He never was. He may, however, be the most progressive person we could have possibly hoped to elect as President of the United States.”
The Right, by contrast, is mostly impressed.
- TigerHawk: “I admit, so far his cabinet picks are better than I had dared to hope. That is not the end of the story by any means. There are thousands of executive branch positions that we rarely hear about, many of which have enormous influence over important matters of policy. Plenty of those will go to very left wing people. Still, the first-string cabinet is a lot more centrist than I would have guessed on November 3, which is good news for the country and probably bad news for those Republicans who are banking on stupid lefty policy blunders to return them to power.”
- Tom Maguire: “[S]oon enough he will be pulling the rug out from under the ‘anti-war’ Dems by making clear the already obvious, namely, all his talk and posturing about deadlines and forced troop withdrawals from Iraq is no longer operative.”
- Moe Lane: ” A very common criticism of President Bush is that he is too loyal to his people, often protecting them at the cost of his own personal political capital. I don’t think that this is ever going to be said about President Obama.”
- DRJ, though, thinks there’s some hope: “Politicians want to be re-elected but I’m sure it’s disappointing for those who think Obama is a different kind of politician. It’s early — Obama hasn’t even been inaugurated — but the media and blogs are already reporting on campaign promises Obama hasn’t kept. That makes me wonder:I can’t think of any campaign promises Obama has kept. Can you?” Then again, he’s two months away from inauguration.
George Will, on last Sunday’s “This Week” roundtable, said, “the fundamental attribute of leadership is capacity for robust disloyalty.” Obama seems to be bearing that out thus far.