President Obama, A CEO Would Change Up the Team

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obama_tired.jpgPresident Obama’s closest handlers — Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and Robert Gibbs — are under fire from a number of observers, including this one, for deploying the President’s political capital badly, failing to animate and empower the considerable policy and political talent they have appointed to key positions on their team, poorly sequencing their policy gambits, and not having “plan B’s” ready to go after they threw down the gauntlet on some challenge (Israeli settlements comes to mind), among other sins.
The team is failing on most, if not all, of the major policy challenges that the Obama administration accepted as the defining ones for his tenure. Health care reform is on life support, although one has to give credit to President Obama for commitment for trying to get something done — though political analyst Charlie Cook has just called this a “Captain Ahab-like” obsession that could sink his presidency. Efforts to recreate America’s global leverage have failed by following incrementalist policy paths rather than taking well-coordinated, well-planned strategic leaps on Israel-Palestine and Iran.
The President, while doing much to miss the bullet of a global economic depression, has presided over the resuscitation of Wall Street and many of the firms that recklessly gambled while main street remains precariously near an edge and where many fear the potential of a double dip recession when the stimulus comes out of the economy.
Like any corporation or organization that has a crisis that has undermined the confidence of its constituents, shake-ups are normal. Sometimes the CEO goes, which is not possible or desirable with a President, but a shake-up of the team beneath him — no matter whether there is legitimate blame or not to be had — would be a healthy course.
Some critics of my view and others like Edward Luce at the Financial Times, Leslie Gelb at the Daily Beast, and Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake who have written on the “Rahm plus three crisis” say that these people are largely unknown to the American public so getting rid of them buys Obama nothing with the broader public.
This is one of those few cases where the crisis of confidence with elites and those who engineer and craft serious political enterprises are the constituency — not the grassroots. But the grassroots as well as the political grasstops see and feel Obama’s failure to lock in success. In this context, the political stumbling, back-stabbing and brusqueness emanating from the Chief of Staff’s office and others close to Obama is toxic and politically crippling.
Obama and his closest advisers have managed to divide their friends and unite their enemies — and they must turn this around. There are ways to do so that are respectful to Emanuel, Jarrett, Axelrod, and Gibbs — each of whom are talented in a great number of ways. They don’t all need to go. But their monopoly of control and access — and Obama’s own solicitousness of them needs to be replaced by smarter empowerment of smart people in the executive branch and even inside the incumbent White House.
I think Obama needs to do one of his famous meet, greet, and chat dinners with some of his more serious critics — those who want him to succeed but see serious problems. Obama should use this as a mirror to hold up to himself — and he should not bring Rahm, Valerie, Gibbs, or Axe to that meeting.
The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank wrote a piece on Sunday that seemed to me to channel Rahm. It portrayed Rahm to be a political genius scorned and rebuffed by a naive and inexperienced President. But it joined with Luce, Gelb, and Clemons in raising serious doubts about Gibbs, Jarrett, and Axelrod’s performance.
I am convinced in subsequent communications with Dana Milbank that he did not speak to Rahm Emanuel about the piece — but nonetheless, Milbank’s interesting article carries a fascinating narrative of what might have been if Rahm Emanuel had only had his way through a number of policy battles.
Dana Milbank is a top tier journalist, and I don’t question at all the integrity of his piece — and just want to make that clear.
That said, I do believe that Milbank is wrong to celebrate Emanuel in a way that depicts Rahm and his views to be a bloodied “victim” of others on Obama’s team.
I would also add that Milbank is wrong about the Gregory Craig affair. The plans to shut GITMO, the identification of the Illinois-based Thomson Correction Facility, and a plan for moving, releasing, deporting, and trying each and every one of the Guantanamo detainees was finished three months after Obama got the keys to the White House.
What was lacking was Rahm’s agreement to wring the appropriations needed out of the Congress and to begin a political process to deal with what was clearly going to be a political hurdle absorbing some of the detainees into the American legal system inside formal U.S. borders. Emanuel quashed a plan that had been completed.
It is untrue that the GITMO closing was not possible within a year. It was only not possible because Rahm Emanuel convinced the President that spending political capital on GITMO would undermine them in other policy battles, particularly health care, and forfeit national security points to the Republicans in 2010.
Someone should assemble all the various informed accounts of current White House management into a Faulkneresque portal into that world. All of the accounts, even Dana Milbank’s, points to serious dysfunction, missteps, and failure.
Dana Milbank’s article, whether he intended it or not, has started a battle among these giants around Obama that is a total antithesis to the kind of culture around Obama in his campaign, at least as reported in David Plouffe’s account.
My colleague at the New America Foundation, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll once remarked to me something quite positive about the military and its approach to Afghanistan — a topic on which Coll and I respectfully disagree and have somewhat different views. But he made a good point on something.
Coll said that when the U.S. military read that it was clearly losing in Afghanistan and that its course was taking it to increasingly worse outcomes, the military had the guts and backbone to fire its commander there, General David McKiernan, and to try another course under General Stanley McChrystal.
The military didn’t just dog it out with what appeared to be ineffective leadership and a failed plan.
I don’t often recommend that Barack Obama give the Pentagon more attention than he already has because he tends to do more Pentagon-hugging than reforming, but in this case, the example that Steve Coll shared is a useful metaphor for what the White House needs to do with its own team.
Shake things up.
Obama needs to strategically redeploy his closest group of advisers, change up the game, move some others in, and alter their assignments. And then get smart about how he can work forward from the deficit he’s now in on policies that his administration needs to pursue — in a sensible sequence and reestablishing momentum and vision.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

121 comments on “President Obama, A CEO Would Change Up the Team

  1. supriya says:

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    Reply

  2. ulisse di bartolomei says:

    The Fiat patent fraud. About the Fiat hybrids: the
    technology double clutch with electric motor
    between has been stolen by a patent that Fiat
    Company has never wanted to purchase, but only
    shamelessly to copy. This hybrid solution will be
    the basic technology with Chrysler’s electric and
    hybrid car program. Please give a look in my blog
    where the “vitality” and boldness of the Fiat
    planners it appears in all of evidence:
    http://dualsymbioticelectromechanicalengine.blogsp
    ot.com/
    If the industries can afford unpunished to copy
    the ideas and defending it need very expensive
    trial, to which target need the patents? How to
    defend the rights of private inventors? How our
    young people can find intellectual courage if the
    economic potentates crush the rights of the single
    ones? Whoever is about to ask for a patent or
    wants to propose a proper patent to a big firm I
    suggest to give a look to my experience with the
    Fiat, to get able to operate with better
    adroitness. Thanks and good time to everybody.
    Ulisse Di Bartolomei

    Reply

  3. Paul Norheim says:

    Questions, I’ve seen this guy here before, and thought I should
    address it once.
    But I guess you’re right that we should just ignore it.

    Reply

  4. questions says:

    Paul, the thing with posts like this one is that it and its twins are copy/pasted all over the web from the same boilerplate crap.
    Whether it’s here because the poster feels at home or because the poster has given him/herself a quota of sites per day to paste it I could not say.
    Given the ubiquity of this shit, the first line of defense is to ignore it because it’s so obviously off the deep end.
    The issues on this blog are well known to all of us and we all have our own ways of calling it out, ignoring it, and arguing to the 600th post on a thread. Every tactic has been used at various times.
    In the name of open discourse, I suppose simply removing shit isn’t a great idea, so the shit is here for us all to view. But sometimes we just walk right past it, because really, you can’t argue with a non-argument.

    Reply

  5. Paul Norheim says:

    Now I ask? I am perhaps the only non-Jew here who have
    consistently addressed the anti-Semitism on the blog for more
    than two years. As for the paranoid anti-left approach, I won’t
    mention any names right now, but i notice it daily from a certain
    corner.

    Reply

  6. nadine says:

    “Doctor Know,
    why are you pasting this paranoid anti-left, anti-Semitic Jewish
    cabal conspiracy stuff on this blog?” (Norheim)
    Now you ask? Paranoid, anti-Semitic Jewish cabal conspiracies theories are a staple of this blog. We get them all day long from Carroll, POA, and the paranoid conspiracy champ, OA.
    But not anti-left. That must be the part that caught your ire.

    Reply

  7. Paul Norheim says:

    Doctor Know,
    why are you pasting this paranoid anti-left, anti-Semitic Jewish
    cabal conspiracy stuff on this blog?
    Quote:
    “Putting this complicated matter into perspective is educational
    theorist and critic David Solway. On July 7, 2009 he wrote, “We
    Jews are a sly and surreptitious people . It pains me to admit
    this, but candor compels. . . . [T]he best way to bring America
    to its knees, to weaken its will to survive, to cleverly turn it
    against itself, was to do everything in our considerable arsenal
    of means to deliver the White House to Barack Obama.””
    Putting this complicated matter into perspective?
    Thankyouverymuch, but this is pure insanity, Doctor, sick stuff,
    and if that’s your profession, you are paid to Know that.
    Are you sure you’re the doctor, and not the patient?

    Reply

  8. Pinball Tom says:

    America, the fragile empire
    Here today, gone tomorrow — could the United States fall that fast?
    By Niall Ferguson
    February 28, 2010
    For centuries, historians, political theorists, anthropologists and the public have tended to think about the political process in seasonal, cyclical terms. From Polybius to Paul Kennedy, from ancient Rome to imperial Britain, we discern a rhythm to history. Great powers, like great men, are born, rise, reign and then gradually wane. No matter whether civilizations decline culturally, economically or ecologically, their downfalls are protracted.
    In the same way, the challenges that face the United States are often represented as slow-burning. It is the steady march of demographics — which is driving up the ratio of retirees to workers — not bad policy that condemns the public finances of the United States to sink deeper into the red. It is the inexorable growth of China’s economy, not American stagnation, that will make the gross domestic product of the People’s Republic larger than that of the United States by 2027.
    As for climate change, the day of reckoning could be as much as a century away. These threats seem very remote compared with the time frame for the deployment of U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan, in which the unit of account is months, not years, much less decades.
    But what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arrhythmic — at times almost stationary but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night?
    Great powers are complex systems, made up of a very large number of interacting components that are asymmetrically organized, which means their construction more resembles a termite hill than an Egyptian pyramid. They operate somewhere between order and disorder. Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact, constantly adapting. But there comes a moment when complex systems “go critical.” A very small trigger can set off a “phase transition” from a benign equilibrium to a crisis — a single grain of sand causes a whole pile to collapse.
    Not long after such crises happen, historians arrive on the scene. They are the scholars who specialize in the study of “fat tail” events — the low-frequency, high-impact historical moments, the ones that are by definition outside the norm and that therefore inhabit the “tails” of probability distributions — such as wars, revolutions, financial crashes and imperial collapses. But historians often misunderstand complexity in decoding these events. They are trained to explain calamity in terms of long-term causes, often dating back decades. This is what Nassim Taleb rightly condemned in “The Black Swan” as “the narrative fallacy.”
    In reality, most of the fat-tail phenomena that historians study are not the climaxes of prolonged and deterministic story lines; instead, they represent perturbations, and sometimes the complete breakdowns, of complex systems.
    To understand complexity, it is helpful to examine how natural scientists use the concept. Think of the spontaneous organization of termites, which allows them to construct complex hills and nests, or the fractal geometry of water molecules as they form intricate snowflakes. Human intelligence itself is a complex system, a product of the interaction of billions of neurons in the central nervous system.
    All these complex systems share certain characteristics. A small input to such a system can produce huge, often unanticipated changes — what scientists call “the amplifier effect.” Causal relationships are often nonlinear, which means that traditional methods of generalizing through observation are of little use. Thus, when things go wrong in a complex system, the scale of disruption is nearly impossible to anticipate.
    There is no such thing as a typical or average forest fire, for example. To use the jargon of modern physics, a forest before a fire is in a state of “self-organized criticality”: It is teetering on the verge of a breakdown, but the size of the breakdown is unknown. Will there be a small fire or a huge one? It is nearly impossible to predict. The key point is that in such systems, a relatively minor shock can cause a disproportionate disruption.
    Any large-scale political unit is a complex system. Most great empires have a nominal central authority — either a hereditary emperor or an elected president — but in practice the power of any individual ruler is a function of the network of economic, social and political relations over which he or she presides. As such, empires exhibit many of the characteristics of other complex adaptive systems — including the tendency to move from stability to instability quite suddenly.
    The most recent and familiar example of precipitous decline is the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the benefit of hindsight, historians have traced all kinds of rot within the Soviet system back to the Brezhnev era and beyond. Perhaps, as the historian and political scientist Stephen Kotkin has argued, it was only the high oil prices of the 1970s that “averted Armageddon.” But this did not seem to be the case at the time. The Soviet nuclear arsenal was larger than the U.S. stockpile. And governments in what was then called the Third World, from Vietnam to Nicaragua, had been tilting in the Soviets’ favor for most of the previous 20 years.
    Yet, less than five years after Mikhail Gorbachev took power, the Soviet imperium in central and Eastern Europe had fallen apart, followed by the Soviet Union itself in 1991. If ever an empire fell off a cliff, rather than gently declining, it was the one founded by Lenin.
    If empires are complex systems that sooner or later succumb to sudden and catastrophic malfunctions, what are the implications for the United States today? First, debating the stages of decline may be a waste of time — it is a precipitous and unexpected fall that should most concern policymakers and citizens. Second, most imperial falls are associated with fiscal crises. Alarm bells should therefore be ringing very loudly indeed as the United States contemplates a deficit for 2010 of more than $1.5 trillion — about 11% of GDP, the biggest since World War II.
    These numbers are bad, but in the realm of political entities, the role of perception is just as crucial. In imperial crises, it is not the material underpinnings of power that really matter but expectations about future power. The fiscal numbers cited above cannot erode U.S. strength on their own, but they can work to weaken a long-assumed faith in the United States’ ability to weather any crisis.
    One day, a seemingly random piece of bad news — perhaps a negative report by a rating agency — will make the headlines during an otherwise quiet news cycle. Suddenly, it will be not just a few policy wonks who worry about the sustainability of U.S. fiscal policy but the public at large, not to mention investors abroad. It is this shift that is crucial: A complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose faith in its viability.
    Over the last three years, the complex system of the global economy flipped from boom to bust — all because a bunch of Americans started to default on their subprime mortgages, thereby blowing huge holes in the business models of thousands of highly leveraged financial institutions. The next phase of the current crisis may begin when the public begins to reassess the credibility of the radical monetary and fiscal steps that were taken in response.
    Neither interest rates at zero nor fiscal stimulus can achieve a sustainable recovery if people in the United States and abroad collectively decide, overnight, that such measures will ultimately lead to much higher inflation rates or outright default. Bond yields can shoot up if expectations change about future government solvency, intensifying an already bad fiscal crisis by driving up the cost of interest payments on new debt. Just ask Greece.
    Ask Russia too. Fighting a losing battle in the mountains of the Hindu Kush has long been a harbinger of imperial fall. What happened 20 years ago is a reminder that empires do not in fact appear, rise, reign, decline and fall according to some recurrent and predictable life cycle. It is historians who retrospectively portray the process of imperial dissolution as slow-acting. Rather, empires behave like all complex adaptive systems. They function in apparent equilibrium for some unknowable period. And then, quite abruptly, they collapse.
    Washington, you have been warned.
    Niall Ferguson is a professor at Harvard University and Harvard Business School, and a fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. His latest book is “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.” A longer version of this essay appears in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs. foreign.affairs.com
    Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

    Reply

  9. nadine says:

    drew, what you said.
    sweetness, if the Dem. caucus never holds together, then perhaps Obama should not have permitted Pelosi to craft legislation so far left that it got only 1 Rep. vote in the house and lost almost 40 Dem. votes. And that was in November. The bill has lost popularity since.
    There is a reason that sweeping legislation has historically needed bipartisan support to pass. Obamacare has only Dem. support but bipartisan opposition.

    Reply

  10. drew says:

    Sweetness, I don’t understand your point.
    Is it that if a president proposes policies that alienate a
    significant majority of the country, alienate significant aspects of
    his own majority legislature, and alienate the opposing party,
    that those policies probably won’t pass?
    Seems awfully unfair to the president. He’s smarter than the
    rest of us, so we should do what he wants. You’d think the
    House and Senate would figure that out, since they’re also
    smarter than the rest of us, though not as smart as the
    president.
    It’s simply beyond me why so many people who are better than
    us can’t pass a bill that 75% of the country doesn’t want.
    Sometimes the rigors of a representative republic require
    sacrifice, and in this case, sacrificing the representative republic
    seems clearly to be required.
    It’s certainly true that Obama is severely handicapped by his
    strong electoral majority. In abusing that majority, in less than a
    year, he animated the population and rejuvenated the opposition
    party, while generating incredible buyers’ remorse among those
    who voted for him but self-identify as independents. At this
    point he is one exogenous event from crippling the Democratic
    party for a couple of decades, much as Carter did. Few
    politicians, no matter their epic efforts, could see their agenda
    overcome such an overpowering legislative majority and
    advantage. At least this one does not seem in danger of being
    overwhelmed by events; by all appearances, he’s so cool you’d
    think he doesn’t much care.

    Reply

  11. Sweetness says:

    Nadine, this is silly.
    “Obama didn’t need ONE SINGLE Republican. He just needed to hold
    the Democratic caucus. He couldn’t do it.”
    The Democratic caucus isn’t monolithic and never “holds together.”
    That’s one big difference between Democrats and Republicans. The
    latter hold together even if it means voting against their own ideas.
    This little meme ignores the reality of the Democratic party.

    Reply

  12. nadine says:

    bob h, That’s funny. 78 vote margin in the House, 60 votes in the Senate, the bully pulpit of the White House and a compliant press corps, and yet the Obamans were undone by a tiny Republican minority and Fox news! too funny!
    Obama didn’t need ONE SINGLE Republican. He just needed to hold the Democratic caucus. He couldn’t do it.

    Reply

  13. bob h says:

    I do not believe the composition of Obama’s team has much to do with the situation now-the real culprit is the Republican refusal to help him gain any achievements, to essentially abdicate their role as responsible participants in our government, and having the ability to block him with the filibuster.
    If even 2-3 Republicans refused to act the role of McConnell’s or Boehner’s dogs, you would be singing the praises of Obama’s staff.
    Rearranging the WH team will not bring one, single Republican vote on any issue of importance.

    Reply

  14. John Waring says:

    Drew,
    I don’t expect a Tim Geithner to get it. Anybody who agrees to use taxpayer money to pay off AIG’s counterparties 100 cents on the dollar simply does not understand the criticality of moral hazard. If it’s not Wall Street’s dime, they won’t look after it. They won’t hoard it and cherish it like good little miserly bankers should, who truly care for the monies entrusted to them. It would not hurt my feelings a bit if the barons of Wall Street were again made into unlimited liability partnerships. Give them haircuts down to their shoe laces when their crackpot gambles explode. Too big to fail? That’s the exact problem.
    No, I expect the President of the United States to get it. After all, he did not take his newly minted Harvard law degree to Wall Street to get rich as a corporate lawyer. He became a community organizer. In so doing he made as profound a statement as a man can make as to where his priorities lay: helping those who can not help themselves. I voted for Barack Obama precisely because he is a black man, and because he was a community organizer. I think that is precisely the experience we Americans need in a president when, in reality, 18% of American are out of work. I want a president who viscerally understands the numb misery of the unemployed, and who will do something about it.
    The President of the United States and I have a contract. I listened to his speeches. He talked the talk. Now I expect him to walk the walk.
    It is High Noon. “Do not forsake me, O my darling” is playing in the background. The man with the badge has got to use the badge. The country I love is in desperate need of new direction. We need root and branch reform. The President must get his and his team’s act together and lead.

    Reply

  15. John Waring says:

    Nadine,
    Precisely! We are incompetent at empire. So let’s just stop. As a first step on the road to retrenchment, let’s just give the Europeans the keys and tell them they get to drive. They also get to pay for the gas, the insurance, and the upkeep on the car. If their neglect causes the car to go to rack and ruin, that’s not our problem. The evil empire did implode. Let’s erect a monument to Ronald Reagan, to the American soldier, truly declare victory, close our military bases and come home. We need those resources elsewhere. Let the Europeans defend themselves.

    Reply

  16. drew says:

    Hey, Samuel Burke, maybe we ought to ignore them, especially
    when they complain we treat their citizens too well. I mean, even
    Orwell didn’t think that one up. People are unhinged if they buy
    that one. Evil USA bad!
    These vestigial communist failed states, with their
    nomenklaturas and their haute-bourgeois American apologists,
    the collapsing infrastructure and their their pimping out of their
    own children to European sex tours (only to make some hard
    currency, of course) they make me laugh. We’re talking about a
    country that cannot manufacture an automotive alternator, an air
    conditioner, or an MS-DOS computer. Cuba makes Minsk look
    like Paris, for God’s sake. The culture, the factories Oh, to be
    Minsk.
    I admit, however, the shortstops are better in Cuba than in
    Minsk.
    As far ask I’m concerned there should be absolutely open
    borders with Cuba. Their pathetic, revanchist regime would fall
    in minutes, Chavez would lose his octogenerian tyrant friend,
    and we could go looking for another failed tyranny on which to
    train State department dweebs. Then pseudo-intellectuals in
    tie-dye will lecture us in regard to our need to show more
    respect and improve the general diplomatic ambience. With luck
    it will be a particularly perverse tyranny, where the apparatchiks
    also complain bitterly that we treated their citizens too well.
    As for Cuba, we should just do flyovers in C-130s and drop fully
    loaded iPods, each worth about a year’s average annual income
    in that place, each fully loaded with the ephemera of
    postmodern north America and Europe, and orbit cell repeaters
    at 60,000 feet, so they can all telephone anyone they want to
    verify: yes, there really are cars manufactured after 1961 and no,
    there are places in the world where you can call the Great Leader
    a jerk and not be thrown in a hole, to die, for doing so. A few
    V-8 Mustangs, a few pallets of Miramax films for the educated
    crowd, 10 million photographs of just your basic Safeway meat
    aisle: that should blow their minds sufficiently to precipitate
    some regime change, and it won’t even cost $1 trillion.

    Reply

  17. drew says:

    John,
    I don’t know why you are surprised by Geithner’s behavior. He
    was a political aide who secured the presidency of the NY Fed as
    a payback/patronage deal. He had no qualifications for the job.
    He’s going to take actions based on what has worked for him
    throughout life. Taking actions that reward those of significant
    wealth and/or power is how he achieved success. People do
    what they do, and when it works, they keep doing it.
    I don’t think it is organized corruption. Really, it is just the
    intersection of our political, educational, and financial elites.
    They only know each other; they only go to school with each
    other; they only vacation in the places where they see each
    other. Their world is each other.
    So we, in this recently instantiated meritocracy, which replaced a
    conventional social strata of privilege and inherited wealth, have
    elevated people like Geithner, who could no more run a gas
    station than the president could manage a 7-11. They have no
    experience nor training for anything other than interacting with
    a small group of similar people who happen to have
    disproportionate influence over the major assets and institutions
    of the country. In this regard we have created a third-world-
    caliber oligarchy of self-interested parties, and given them the
    country to manage.
    This is one thing the tea partiers have figured out, and why that
    movement is useful.

    Reply

  18. John Waring says:

    Drew,
    It remains beyond my comprehension that the man who, as the head of the New York Fed, approved this “unprecedented in American history for a counterparty that willingly undertook speculative risk to have his trade unwound and capital restored *at par*, or 100%, with OUR TAX DOLLARS” — that that man was appointed to and remains in the position of Treasury Secretary.
    You have described the world turned upside down. This whole affair is the essence of corruption and the stench is overwhelming. Our basic social contract cannot withstand this degree of moral depredation.
    Earth to Obama, come in please.

    Reply

  19. drew says:

    The whole thing reminds me of this magazine cover from my
    addled youth:
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2470/3634918376_5a540c4e28.jpg
    The magazine is AIG, the purchasers of the CDOs who wanted their
    trades unwound by taxpayers are holding the pistol.
    The dog? We are the dog.

    Reply

  20. Drew says:

    Footnote to above on the TARP fiasco, seizing AIG, etc.
    Most of the popular press is financially illiterate and they have
    failed to note that at the time of seizure AIG’s CDO portfolio was
    cash flow positive. Think about that, and wonder: if a security is
    paying out, why must a Societe Generale or Goldman be given
    access to USG funds in order to perfect a capital call?
    This is one of those situations where we can actually analogize:
    if you are current on your mortgage, does the bank come and
    take your house?
    This gets into the difference between cash and noncash
    accounting treatment, which probably doesn’t interest anyone
    here, but the important thing to note is that the contracts were
    paying out. When the regulators wrote down their value
    precipitously and arbitrarily, they created a noncash crisis of
    confidence, then decided that they needed to seize AIG (which
    was not in, or approaching, default), and *then*, decided that
    the willing counterparties to the contracts that they (the
    regulators) had just destroyed should be paid off at 100% on the
    dollar.
    An alternative approach would have cost a fraction of this:
    a. if the genuii at Treasury and the Fed decided that the AIG
    contracts were suddenly going to stop performing (because they
    can see the future or something?), they could have issued a USG
    guarantee. Money didn’t need to change hands. The simple fact
    of a guarantee, as extreme as that would have been, would have
    kept the market for that paper functioning.
    b. if the USG had treated SG and Goldman et al as willing, adult
    partners in their CDO trades they could have told them to pound
    sand and take their haircuts, if they thought the CDOs were only
    going to wind up being worth 85% (or whatever) of par. It is
    unprecedented in American history for a counterparty that
    willingly undertook speculative risk to have his trade unwound
    and capital restored *at par*, or 100%, with USG monies.
    I know this tale verges on the conspiratorial, but the facts are
    facts. Those securities had not broken. The proof of this is in
    their incredible runup in value over the past 12 months. Having
    been broken by the government, insured in full by the taxpayer,
    written down by the regulators to 20% of par, they are now
    trading in the 70-90% range — which was where they were at
    the time of this arbitrary crisis.

    Reply

  21. Mr.Murder says:

    OT: blogenfreude moment
    “Top in Political NewsDigg ? Top in Political News
    Fox News runs damage control after Ron Paul wins CPAC pollthumb”
    I love the smell of napalm(tm) in the morning….

    Reply

  22. Carroll says:

    Posted by Sweetness, Feb 23 2010, 9:53PM – Link
    I dunno Carroll. Is Wig naughty or is you got a reading problem?
    Here, from your poll…
    “The largest majorities critical of Palestinian efforts are
    Americans (75%)…”
    Wig says…
    “Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran and they want
    the Taliban defeated.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    1-2-3-Pay attention now.
    I said wiggie was “misleading” the board on US public opinion. She does that frequently by omission and unproven statements in her remarks.I just don’t normally bother to address it.
    First.
    Mislead /..transitive verb : to lead in a wrong direction or into a mistaken action or belief often by deliberate deceit: to lead astray :
    Legal definition/ Knowingly making a false statement; intentionally omitting information from a statement and thereby causing a portion of such statement to be misleading, or intentionally concealing a material fact, and thereby creating a false impression by such statement; with intent to mislead.
    Wiggie said:
    “Most Americans don’t agree with Steve on the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians”
    When in fact they do. Steve calls for the US to be an honest broker. Impartial.
    As the poll reflects:
    “No country favors taking Israel’s side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.
    Then wiggie said:
    “Americans dislike Palestinians” Note.. ‘Palestinians as people” as opposed to the country of Palestine.
    Which you tried to colaborate by saying “The largest majorities critical of Palestinian efforts are
    Americans (75%)…”
    Which is correct on it’s face but is also “deceptive” in “omitting” Israel receive a 59% unfavorable rating on the same question.
    You don’t do numbers do you?
    If 71% of Americans don’t favor either side, leaving the other 29% polled taking one side or another.
    And 75% of those polled didn’t think Palestine was doing enough and 59% of those polled didn’t think Israel was doing enough to resolve the conflict what does that 16% spread between Palestine ratings and Israel ratings indicate.
    Frankly, I think the numbers in the poll on american opinions are astounding in light of the media slant in Israel’s favor Americans are subjected to and a tribute to Americans sense of fair play and common sense.

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  23. nadine says:

    Dakotaborn, America isn’t convinced it’s becoming ungovernable. That’s just a media trope every time the Left has trouble enacting its agenda. As George Will pointed out on Face the Nation, if it’s the Right that is having trouble, for instance, when Bush couldn’t pass Social Security reform, nobody thought that proved that America is ungovernable. But if Obama can’t pass Obamacare? Ungovernable!

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  24. DakotabornKansan says:

    John Waring: “Steve is right. Business as usual is several shades of ridiculous in this environment.” Indeed!
    Re: Afghanistan Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch.com/ February 21, 2010 asks some great questions:
    Why does the military of a country convinced it’s becoming ungovernable think itself so capable of making another ungovernable country governable?
    Why should Americans be considered the globe’s leading experts in good government anymore?
    Just what has convinced American officials in Afghanistan and the nation’s capital that they have the special ability to teach, prod, wheedle, bribe, or force Afghans to embark on good governance in their country if we can’t do it in Washington or Sacramento?
    Why are our military and civilian leaders so confident that, after nine years of occupying the world’s leading narco-state, nine years of reconstruction boondoggles and military failure, they suddenly have the key, the formula, to solve the Afghan mess? Why do leading officials suddenly believe they can make Afghan President Hamid Karzai into “a Winston Churchill who can rally his people?
    Why do they always arrive not just convinced that they have identified the right problems and are asking the right questions, but that they, and only they, have the right answers, when at home they seem to have none at all?
    Why does the U.S. press, at present so fierce about the lack of both “togetherness” and decent governance in Washington, report this sort of thing without comment?
    Several shades of ridiculous – billions of taxpayer dollars for “government in a box,” a black comedy of governance.

    Reply

  25. nadine says:

    Maw, Bush, to his credit, tried twice to rein in Fannie and Freddie; they were defended by their many paid-off backers in Congress, led by Barnie Frank, Chris Dodd, and Barack Obama, who as a freshman became one of the biggest recipients of money from Fannie and Freddie.

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  26. John Waring says:

    Excuse me, Newshoggers.com.

    Reply

  27. John Waring says:

    Please go to newshogger.com and read Ron Beasley’s post “Timothy Geithner and the Mob”.
    That great sucking sound you’ve been hearing is the US Treasury being robbed blind. The guy doing the thievery is now in charge.
    I think Steve has been far too charitable.

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  28. DavidT says:

    Dan, thanks for your incisive comments. Your distinction between analyzing policy from a great distance and playing a direct role in public policy is an important one. I don’t wish to silence Steve. I just wish he would acknowledge, as he does in this comments section, that there are important trade-offs to be taken into account in considering public policies.
    As I said, Steve acknowledges in this comments section that he is not against the health care initiative but rather feels that it’s what is likely to be in the final package is not good enough given the toll this capital has taken on other Administration policies. That’s an argument that I feel is more intellectually honest than that “we need to get rid if Emanuel because Obama has run into major troubles.”. I respectfully disagree with this argument but at least it’s constructive and can be evaluated on it’s pluses and minuses. And in this respect Steve, probably unintentionally reveals that he has an ideological rather a competence issue w/this administration which is understandable though is primarily the president’s responsibility rather than Emanuel’s. I confess to
    being an Obama fan in spite of his difficulties but accept that he himself us responsible for this administration’s approach to passing his number one initiative and putting that ahead of all other matters.
    Emanuel may symbolize to Steve and others this decision but replacing him with someone else who is less able to forward the health initiative (or other presidential initiatives) than he is makes no sense to me. Other than pleasure from Emanuel’s enemies, how does getting rid of help him accomplish his goals or better serve the American people? For all Steve’s post on this subject I have heard surprisingly little on this topic and who would be better suited as chief of staff.
    If Obama decides that continuing to pursue this legislation is not worth the price I find it hard to believe that Emanuel will accept this decision and move on.
    There’s an important moral reason for closing Guantanamo as there is an important public relations/image projection element to it’s closing. But even if opinion polls show most in favor of it, opinion polls often don’t translate into easy political processes. I continue to be bewildered by Steve’s preoccupation with Mr. Craig. He may have not been treated as respectfully as he should have which I regret, but if the president decides (for whatever reason) that that a staffer is no longer serving his administration the way he wishes them to serve, why should he keep them on, irrespective of what they did for him in the past. Loyalty is important to me but too much loyalty can subtract from more important elements (wouldn’t it have been better if Bush hadn’t been so loyal to Gonzales or Rumsfeld?). If Craig had been the key barrier to closing Guantanamo and was treated in the same way would Steve have been outraged? I suspect not. So it’s really about Guantanamo. Why Steve isn’t more explicit about this I don’t know.
    I understand why he made his post re: the Tea party and Rahm (though that he thinks Emanuel is looking for excuses rather than still pushing for initiatives to further the president’s goals reveals more about Steve than about Emanuel). However Steve’s argument here resembles so many of that movement’s approach — focusing on what they dislike rather than grappling with the consequences of their prescriptions for different policies (i.e. does “stop big government” mean reduce Social Security payments and Medicare benefits? Does “stop taxing me so much” mean we need to cut back on air traffic controllers and Veterans benefits because people don’t want to pay for them? And does “get rid of Rahm” mean we would prefer a more easy-going, non-confrontational fellow — perhaps more like Mack McLarty than Rahm?).
    Do appreciate the opportunity to comment even if I’m one of the few of the “millions” that read the initial White House staff piece that didn’t agree with it :).

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  29. John Waring says:

    Dan K,
    I think it is all connected.
    I want a Steve Clemons to tell us that China is preparing to eat our lunch. Its mercantilist policies certainly are. Obama wants to double exports in five years. Great concept, but I can’t see that happening with China’s low-pegged artificial exchange rate. With the trade with China so heavily stacked against us, we will have a hard time putting people back to work. The Chinese had better soon realize that if the USA does not export at several magnitudes higher than currently, our debt to them does not get paid. The great rule of thumb, still in place, is that imports roughly have to match exports over time. Either we achieve this rough balance, or we crash and burn. The once mighty dollar isn’t. Within the next generation we might well be waving good-bye to the dollar’s role as the sole reserve currency of the entire world and our ability to print fiat money.
    I want a Steve Clemons to tell us Afghanistan is a tertiary interest of the United States, because it certainly is. We cannot afford to throw away another $500 billion on top of the $1 trillion wasted on Iraq. The opportunity costs are just too staggering. We have $3 trillion of infrastructure that needs replaced. We can’t afford a foreign and military policy of endless war. Bankruptcy or exhaustion awaits us.
    I want a Leo Hindary to tell us the real unemployment rate is 18% because in the land were the textile, apparel, furniture, shoe, foundry, and several other industries are stone-cold dead, or quickly dying, the unemployment rate is certainly higher than 18%. The niche players are still around, but the big employers went up in smoke, or abroad. Every time we have an economic retrenchment, several dozen small southern towns go poof into the night air. Fritz Hollins is right. Every country has a jobs policy except the good-old sucker-punched USA.
    I want an erichwwk to tell us that the Great American Empire is eating us out of house and home, because it is. And I want a Dan K to tell us that the lords of the health care racket provide too puny results compared to the price tag. We, the American people, are letting ourselves be taken to the cleaners. First rule of business: get what you pay for. We certainly aren’t. We are nothing but water boys and wood gatherers to several rapacious elites.
    Steve is right. Business as usual is several shades of ridiculous in this environment.

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  30. kotzabasis says:

    Clemons risen from his tub, after a nightmarish nap about the happenings of the White House, lit Diogenes lamp and stepped out in the full daylight searching desperately for the man, the “true” Obama, who would perform the “strategic leaps” and forswear the “incrementalist policy paths” of failure, when already under the brightness of the sun Obama has been shown to be a political novitiate sans political acumen, sans imagination, and a weak and timorous character to boot. To expect such a person, as Clemons does, to take bold steps and make strategic leaps, is to remarkably indulge in an exercise of Fata Morgana. The trouble for Obama does not lie in the method he is using to implement his policies, i.e., incrementalist or leaping, but in the wrongness of these policies in themselves. Already he has made some “strategic leaps” with his open door diplomacy toward Iran only to fall and break the backbone of this ‘olive branch’ diplomacy in the abyss of mullahcratic intransigency, as well as in his “strategic” attempt to change the ‘narrative’ of global terror by so called ‘smart policies’, ‘soft power’, and apologies to the aggrieved that would change the views and conduct of the fanatical enemies of America toward it.
    It is both the crafting of the wrong policies in domestic and foreign affairs and the “knife throwing” ethos of Chicago politics, as embodied in Rahm Emanuel that is sinking the Obama presidency and not the strong grip his four advisors have upon Obama. It is in his personal ‘portfolio’ that the problem is couched. His egregious lack of CEO skills, as Drew above suggests, his lack of experience and character which are completely out of sync with the position of a chief executive with the stupendous demands in insight, imagination, decisiveness, and fortitude that Obama does not possess that make him a ditto Carteresque effete president.
    Hence the problem cannot be resolved, as Clemons erroneously believes, by replacing some of his advisors but only by replacing Obama himself from the presidency by the end of the three long years ahead. But the liberals loath to admit where the solution lies as they will have to sing-sing in a resounding choir of mea culpas. As I’ve said a year ago, more than half of America elected as president a lemon as a result of their PATHOLOGICAL hate for The Bush-Cheney administration and by association the GPO. Now they are reaping the winds of that fateful SICKLY stupid decision. The lemon is in the process of being squeezed out but the danger lies that by the end of this process America might be squeezed out of its own strength.

    Reply

  31. Maw of America says:

    “But the subprime mortgage market was a new creation, and it couldn’t have been nearly so large without government orders and backing.”
    Would that be Bush’s vaunted ‘ownership society’?

    Reply

  32. nadine says:

    “When there are great piles of shiny money to be grabbed, firms will succumb to temptation and make bad and risky decisions.” (Dan Kervick)
    Under free market conditions, banks do not see “great piles of shiny money to be grabbed” when a poor janitor comes in asking for a mortgage.
    “Banks can also now sell and diversify the risk in collateralized debt obligations, which can be sold in turn, and sold in turn. ”
    That is true. They used risk models that were based on past performance under different market conditions. There was more than one mouth blowing up the mortgage bubble.
    But the subprime mortgage market was a new creation, and it couldn’t have been nearly so large without government orders and backing. The banks could not, on their own, have sold a trillion dollars worth of obviously crappy mortgages. The federal imprimatur of Fannie and Freddie was a necessary support to the subprime market. In turn, the fact that the subprime market existed, and grew so large, had a LOT do to with how big the housing bubble became; when you shove so much money at a market, prices zoom up. If prices hadn’t risen so much and created a frenzy of buying, the ensuing collapse wouldn’t have been so bad either.
    Both federal meddling in the market AND quants securitizing and selling crappy instruments using federal guarantees and worthless AAA ratings were necessary to create the financial crisis. You are basically arguing “no only YOUR half of the pair of scissors did the cutting; MY half did nothing”

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  33. Dan Kervick says:

    “That just does not happen in a free market, for reasons that should be obvious. Banks prefer to be paid back when they loan money.”
    My goodness, what a bunch of faith-based twaddle. First, economic actors are not ideally rational, especially when those actors are firms. Companies would *prefer* not to go out of business, but they do it all the time. When there are great piles of shiny money to be grabbed, firms will succumb to temptation and make bad and risky decisions. This is especially the case when the individuals who are most responsible for the decisions are not the individuals who will pay the greatest price for those decisions. The highly-paid boss can tell the staff to get more aggressive and hit higher targets. The staff does as ordered. When it all comes crashing down, the boss fires most of the flunkies and starts over, or at worst cashes out with his savings and investments and severance package while the crew goes down with the ship. Firms are not the main source of agency in the economic world – people are.
    Banks can also now sell and diversify the risk in collateralized debt obligations, which can be sold in turn, and sold in turn. So risk doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and lenders can be bolder. The Ponzi system is supported by a widely distributed foundation of ordinary investor/suckers with low information, and who will all lose a little to pay off the concentrated losses of the few.

    Reply

  34. nadine says:

    “The last few days have shown how Obama uses the bully pulpit—he uses it indirectly” (MarkL)
    …and in bad faith. Is there one person or group in America to whom Obama has kept his word? First he cuts deals with the insurance companies and big pharma; then he reneges and begins demonizing them. You think that will persuade future groups to make deals?
    Obama promised the public option to the left, but wouldn’t fight for it. He wants to be “bipartisan” because it polls well, but two days before his bipartisan summit, he puts out a new version of his hyper-partisan bill again, making it clear that the Republicans are there to be stage props, not negotiating partners. They are there to take the blame that Obama couldn’t keep the Democrats in line to pass his far-left bill.
    This from the candidate who ran as a post-partisan uniter who would end politics as usual. Well, he did, in a way. Obama made everything worse by bringing Chicago-style one party thug tactics to Washington. His big problem is, Washington is not a one party town like Chicago. He doesn’t seem to have figured that out yet. Like the mayor of Los Vegas says, Obama is a real slow learner.

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  35. nadine says:

    “The free-market system blunders into recession; its victims flock to the free-market banner. And here we go again…The formula is familiar beyond the point of tedium: Middle-American righteousness, resentment of liberal “elites,” weepy fantasies of persecution set to a country-music melody” (Thomas Franks)
    The meme that ordinary Americans are far too stupid to know what they want is really not going to help the Democrats come next election. Because ordinary Americans by the million see the orgy of deficit spending and government bailouts in Washington, and know enough to be terrified.
    Furthermore, this line that the 2008 financial crisis proved that laissez faire markets don’t work is persuasive only to those who know nothing about the markets. The markets have been very far from laissez faire for generations.
    In particular, let us consider the first market to implode in 2008: the subprime mortgage market. This was a market where banks lent a trillion dollars to people who were poor credit risks (that’s the definition of subprime). In other words, banks lent a trillion dollars to people they knew could not pay them back.
    That just does not happen in a free market, for reasons that should be obvious. Banks prefer to be paid back when they loan money. But it does happen in a market where the CRA ordered banks to make those loans, and Fannie and Freddie sweetened the deal by offering to buy them, no questions asked.
    In a free market Fannie and Freddie would have tanked as investors asked “why are they behaving in such a crazy way?” but in the market we actually had, Fannie and Freddie had implicit Treasury backing, which became explicit Treasury backing when they imploded. So investors were right to think that they would be bailed out in case of trouble.
    What I am saying is that the actual market has been a hybrid of free markets and government control/moral hazard for a very long time. If you don’t understand that, you draw silly conclusions about what just happened.

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  36. samuelburke says:

    Steve, just consider it flattery that those who try to censor your
    opinion in the name of ( fill in the blank), only want their voices
    heard in the pantheon of ideas. there is power in lobby.
    it is truly becoming a proverb that to discredit is to credit.

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  37. DakotabornKansan says:

    Quoting Thomas Frank/The TiltingYard/WSJ/February 24, 2010 on “What’s the Matter With Democrats?”
    “The free-market system blunders into recession; its victims flock to the free-market banner. And here we go again…The formula is familiar beyond the point of tedium: Middle-American righteousness, resentment of liberal “elites,” weepy fantasies of persecution set to a country-music melody. Yet its power never wears off. Today conservatives are giddily anticipating another electoral disaster for the “Party of the People…”
    “…let us pause to contemplate what appears to be the epic dimwittedness on the other side of the battlefield—the years of folly that have allowed the Democrats to wander blithely into the same old snare again and again. The laissez-faire system has just finished giving us a convincing demonstration of its viciousness, but the party of Franklin Roosevelt can’t get out in front of the resulting anger. Working-class Massachusetts and even Appalachia are turning away from it in disgust, but the party of the political scientists doesn’t seem to have noticed.
    The answer to the riddle is as plain as the caviar on a lobbyist’s spoon. Democrats don’t speak to angry, working-class people because a lot of them can’t speak to angry, working-class people. They don’t know how. Many of the party’s resident geniuses gave up on that constituency long ago, preferring instead to remodel their organization as the vanguard of enlightened professionals and the shrine of purest globaloney. They worked hard to convince Wall Street that new-style Democrats could be trusted. They accepted, for the most part, the deregulatory agenda of the Reagan administration; in fact, in some fields—banking, telecommunications, free trade—they went farther than Ronald Reagan dared.
    Along the way, these new-style Democrats did little as their allies in organized labor were scythed down by organized money; last year they watched as the percentage of unionized workers in the private sector sank lower than any point in the 20th century. The fatuity of it all is surely plain to Democrats by now: They have permitted nothing less than the decimation of their own grass-roots social movement. As a result, in large parts of America, there is no liberal presence at all, no economic narrative to counterbalance the wisdom of Rush Limbaugh.
    President Barack Obama might have helped in this regard, using the biggest megaphone in the land to tell us, in the Times’s words, “why it happened and whom to blame.” He might have explained to us how financial regulation was systematically undermined by his predecessors, how the prospect of quick profits bred conflicts of interest throughout the system, and how a delusional free-market superstition blinded the nation to the unsoundness of the financial structure.
    He might, in other words, have contested the right’s monopoly on the word “elite.” He might have reached out to working-class voters in the only way Democrats can. But that would have been divisive. That would have disturbed the confidence of the markets.
    Watching the victory of 2008 appear to slip through the Democrats’ fingers is disheartening, but not because it is a story of opportunism and selling out. After all, if Democrats were opportunists, they would be pushing the still-popular “public option” in the health-care debate. Something might yet be salvaged.
    No, the Democrats’ problems arise from their convictions, from the botched centrist faith to which so many of their leaders still cling. They do what they do because they believe that those hearty fellows on the Sunday talk shows really know the answer; that the truth really resides in the dusty globalization clichés of the ’90s.”

    Reply

  38. MarkL says:

    The last few days have shown how Obama uses the bully pulpit—he uses it indirectly.
    What was the purpose of the lists of bullet points for a HCR plan at this late date?
    Offering the barest outline of a plan at this late date is very odd, but there was a reason:
    killing the zombie public option. The Senate letter in support of the PO had to be countered, so the White House released a sketch of a plan containing no PO; furthermore, Gibbs helpfully reminded the press this week that the PO couldn’t pass, which is why the PO wasn’t on the list.
    Hmm.. since the Senate bill as is can’t pass, that’s a pretty lame reason!
    Then yesterday Tom Carper said he was going to sign the pro-PO bill, only to recant mere hours later and explain that he didn’t understand what he was saying earlier.
    The PO would P.O. the insurance industry, which is why the Obama administration has been so adamantly opposed to it.

    Reply

  39. ... says:

    dan kervick – thanks for your informative and well written comments…you are almost always without fail enjoyable to read… i see your point which john h has articulated as being a good one… from my pov most of the foreign policy adventures of the us, specifically with regard to war are a complete drain on the usa and not in it’s own best interests… i wish more folks would see that, but no… instead talk of terrorism, taliban and shit like this are talked about regularly in a way that to my mind is meant to continue the money drain into the military industrial complex… you have heard me on this before, so i won’t go on with it anymore here…
    as for the health care bill, as a canuck i haven’t been following it closely, but i can appreciate how important and central it is to many folks thinking and i would agree.. the way i understand insurance companies if they are one of the problems in the whole pic is that they are in cahoots with the banking industry and are not separate from them… in other words it comes back to wall st, the same group that got the bail out last year while the ordinary american continues to take it on the chin… it would be nice if it wasn’t this way and more folks stood up to change it… most folks are too busy just trying to hang onto what they have, they don’t have the time to get involved in a serious revolution that takes place in a significant way in the usa… maybe it will change… at present apathy continues to appear to have the upper hand in the usa… this might change, but certainly not politically just yet…. another area ripe for major reform is politically… the political system in the usa really appears to suck, as it can be held hostage by dickwads like liarman so very easily…. good luck changing things… they aren’t a lot better here in canada, but we do have a health system that serves many very well… so does cuba, the country that steve periodically talks about too… isn’t it ironic that cuba, the country so many nutcases in the usa have rebelled so strongly against, makes the usa look like a complete ass on this issue of health care?
    you make a good point on a change up right at this time being a bad idea…. however from my pov rahm is like the rep for the same cabal that you would like to see taken down a notch… some of us here are aiming for the same goal via a different route… i am not sure what the best way is, but it won’t be easy to make changes for the benefit of the little people with people like rahm being the chauffeur for these same powerful special interests…

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  40. Paul DaVia says:

    Shakeup good idea. Would like to see Paul Krugman in Obama admin–every PK econ policy warning for last year has come to pass.

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  41. JohnH says:

    Absolutely, “The foreign policy guys need to come down out of their aloof towers and start pulling more of the weight in the domestic arena.”
    In particular, misguided foreign adventures need to be reigned in to realize Americans’ need for security, particularly employment security and health care security. Entirely too much effort has been focused on Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran without any convincing evidence that these costly adventures enhance America’s security more than marginally.

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  42. nadine says:

    Dan, I’m listening to Mike Allen of Politico on the radio. He thinks it would be smart of Obama to use Thursday’s summit as an exit strategy – have the summit as a PR move, look more in charge, then stop talking about health care. But, he says, the White House still intends to pass a bill. Mike Allen says that his Democratic sources tell him that the Democrats do not have the votes to pass Obamacare either in the House or in the Senate. The endangered Democrats want nothing to do with it; their constituents hate it by large margins.
    If Mike Allen is right (his track record is pretty good), then this White House is severely disconnected with reality.

    Reply

  43. Mr.Murder says:

    Cuba would ease oil pricing futures with offshore rights in a shared Gulf. That’s of immediate domestic benefit. The same for several Mid East and Persian conciliations, in addition Africa. Most notbaly Syria, that as of way of moderating Iran by its sphere of influence.
    There is a development wave on the cusp of pan-African and pan-Arab conciliatory measures. It is being addressed in upstairs comments, Steve is right there with it.
    The same way Friedman tries to interject that each of the domestic policy items is interwoven towards recovery and development, our foreign policy and its effect upon domestic energy pricing is crucial in this transitional era.

    Reply

  44. Dan Kervick says:

    “dan, that seems like a cheap shot coming from someone like yourself who always appears above the fray… what’s up?”
    It’s a shot, …, but I don’t think it’s cheap.
    Steve covers a lot of beats at once and doesn’t follow a very consistent political compass. I don’t really expect him to do so, since he doesn’t profess to be a maker of public policy in his own right. His great strength seems to lie in bringing people together, organizing discussions, catalyzing interactions among policy-makers, and touching base frequently with an astonishingly broad spectrum of the world’s most powerful people to take their temperature and help the rest of us see where things stand among the masters of the universe. He has a unique talent and superhuman energy, and I do sincerely appreciative the special and very positive contribution he makes to our national life. Heaven knows I could never manage anything like it myself.
    But here, Steve is not just catalyzing discussion, but is injecting himself directly into a strategic policy debate, a debate that hangs crucially on the setting of national priorities, and the need for necessarily unappealing trade-offs. And therefore, I do think it is relevant to argue that Steve’s own sense of priorities is – from the standpoint of those issues that I believe most Americans care about, and care about the most – very questionable. Health care reform in the United States an absolutely vital national need. The dysfunction in the system affects millions, in every state. Addressing it requires pulling together a near-impossible coalition of intemperate and ideologically disparate Americans from every region of our fractured country. But if health care reform is passed, even the very defective package now on the table, the health and financial security of hundreds of thousands of Americans, particularly the most vulnerable – will certainly be improved for the better. We are also literally talking about matters of life and death on a wide scale.
    I’d like to see a more practical and less ideological Cuba policy. It would be good for us both diplomatically and economically. And it would be good for Cubans too. But compared to the challenge of a woefully deficient health care system that commands a seventh of our economy, and determines life, death and quality of existence for millions of Americans, Cuba just doesn’t stack up. It makes absolutely no sense at all to me to complain that the administration is wasting its energies on the white whale of health care when it could be working on easing travel restrictions to Cuba.
    The health care bill that is likely to pass is not going to be nearly as good as it could have been, not in my book at least. By failing to address aggressively the cost issue on the side of providers and suppliers, and by failing to get the federal government’s heavy foot in the door of the insurance sector, which could have started the process of breaking the back of the massive, bloated and profit-intoxicate health-industrial robber-barony, and which could have set us on a path toward a more lean, efficient and productive system, the Democrats have guaranteed that the cost issue will have to be revisited again, and again, and again. I’m pissed about this. I argued hard for a substantive public option. The other guys won. I’m still licking the wounds.
    But it is still vitally important to get something done, save some lives, heal some of the sick and save a great portion of the modest and dwindling personal and family fortunes of large numbers of Americans, whose well-being and prosperity is drained away every day by an obscenely inequitable, exploitative and wasteful health care system.
    I foolishly jumped into this debate myself recently, and suggested Obama should sack Emanuel and Gibbs. But I was wrong. The health care summit is just about to take place. Now is not the time to start firing and hiring people – not at all. It’s crunch time, and it would be ridiculous unsettle the crew and to send such a signal of disorganization and weakness when all hands are needed on deck. It would be like replacing the crew on a ship while you’re rounding Cape Horn. If changes are to be made, they can be made later during a peaceful stopover in a gentle arm-weather port.
    Steve tends to neglect domestic policy. That’s not surprising, since he runs a foreign policy shop. He does present some domestic policy thinkers in the context of the debate on national economic strategy, but he tends to leave the discussion to the them and treats domestic issues as secondary. But outside the Washington bubble, where people seem to enjoy astonishing personal security and economic favor, Americans are honed in and zeroed in on their mountains of domestic troubles, and want their politicians to address the rapidly unraveling economic condition of the American people. They also want them to save their children and grandchildren from a dispiriting future of dashed hopes, diminished expectations, insolvent and dysfunctional government and bitter recriminations toward the generation who looted their patrimony and left them with the financial wreckage.
    Hardly any Americans are paying attention to Afghanistan anymore. Tut-tut we hear from the foreign policy thinkers. How provincial these American rubes be! Neglect of Afghanistan policy might be in some way regrettable, especially to megalomaniacal ivory tower think-tankers who spend all their time dreaming about propping up the far-away outposts and rebuilding the Hadrian’s Walls of the contracting 20th century American empire, or even develop plans for controlling and socially engineering some other desolate and remote corner of the world, one that we have inexplicably managed to ignore so far. But the primacy of the domestic preoccupations of Americans is a fact, and an entirely understandable fact. People in America are profoundly hurting and reeling: there is massive unemployment out here; deep debt; a staggering loss of personal wealth that has left the United States a very noticeably poorer country. Once great American industrial centers look like bombed out third world combat zones. Even the amount of food contained in the familiar, but weirdly morphing containers people buy in grocery stores is dwindling.
    Most people have no time to think about crazy theology students and poppy growers in Afghanistan, when, truth be told, the probability that said renegades will ever manage to touch their own lives directly, for good or ill, is very remote. We’ve got bills to pay and repairs to do and jobs to hang onto. We can’t spend endless hours worrying about being one of the one-in-ten-million lottery losers who runs into the occasional underpants bomber. On the other hand, the possibility that someone gets into a car accident on the way to work, because they couldn’t afford new tires after paying their latest deductible? … Now that’s a real, live, non-negligible probability.
    The foreign policy guys need to come down out of their aloof towers and start pulling more of the weight in the domestic arena. I appreciate that they world continues to turn and problems continue to arise outside our borders. But most of those problems are exaggerated make-work problems for an out-of-touch, globe-trotting foreign policy nobility who have been educated to think of themselves as the untouchable princes and princesses of a global realm, and who find the grubby travails of ordinary America-bound Americans to be beneath them. I’m getting tired of the foreign policy thinkerati blubbering about how Americans’ selfish, narrow and unaccountable need to attend to their own crumbling country and vanishing future is interfering with all of the precious projects and preoccupations of folks who are frequently able to escape from America on subsidized junkets abroad as the guests of the globe’s corporate and political nobility.

    Reply

  45. DakotabornKansan says:

    Post by Wim Prange, Feb 23 2010, 9:12PM
    Post by Steve Clemons, Feb 23 2010, 9:31PM
    “A fine volley of words, gentlemen, and quickly shot off.” – Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona

    Reply

  46. nadine says:

    “Nadine, I would suggest that you desperately want Obama to desist on health care because you know that once a health care bill has been passed, and once the high-intensity political season of grousing and fussing and raging about the health care reform has burned itself out, passage of a comprehensive health care bill in this political environment will be credited come election time as a major political success and victory, no matter how you slice it. And that scares the piss out of you.
    Americans love a winner. Maybe 60% of Americans have firm opinions on issues and ideology. They are divided among the ideological wings of the two major parties. The rest ride the bandwagon. If the neurotic Democrats manage to play against type for just a few weeks, overcome their lily livers and tiny balls, and pass a health care bill, within days we will see the political bandwagon begin to ride their way.” (Dan Kervick)
    Ah, yes the Bill Maher Americans-are-too-stupid-to-know-what-they-want-they-just-admire-strength school of thought. May I suggest that for an administration already perceived as tin-eared and arrogant, this is unlikely to mend matters? This is faith-based policy: sure, Americans hate the bill now, but once they begin paying the higher premiums and higher taxes, and their present insurers begin to go out of business, they’ll know we were right to pass it in spite of them! Um, say what?
    Obama is setting himself up to crash and burn on this one. Normally, I wouldn’t mind that too much, but I begin to worry that Obama’s administration will become entirely dysfunctional. I just want this administration’s stupid grandiose bankrupting ideas checked, not unable to function at all. We’re all stuck with Obama for three more years.
    What Obama really needs is not a new chief of staff, but an eminence grise to make decisions for him.

    Reply

  47. mike plowman says:

    Mr Obama’s main problem is that he is playing the Republican’s game. He needs to put THEM on the defensive. Rahm Emanuel may understand Chicago politics,but this isn’t Illinois. Here are several ideas to move mass opinion to Obama’s side and to unbalance Republican opposition.
    One, have a Dem congressman introduce a bill to end current health benefit program of all Congress members. Their new coverage would either be private coverage or whatever public option is passed.
    Two, propose a federal law to prevent any govt agency from condemning private property in order to give it to private developers.
    Three, start a campaign, Ross Perot-style, to conteract the continuous lies and half-truths re taxes put forth by the Republicans.

    Reply

  48. JohnH says:

    Rogues in control? Obama lost control? Could be!
    “If you’re looking for who is “in control” of our military and police forces, don’t look to the established chain of command and don’t look to constitutional provisions that mandate civilian authority over the government bayonet. Look to the most reckless rogues — it’s a good bet they’re the ones running the show.”
    http://www.alternet.org/news/145748/who%27s_really_in_control_of_the_white_house_maybe_not_obama

    Reply

  49. Mr.Murder says:

    GITMO cannot be closed for two reasons:
    1) American liability is at stake on civil grounds for anyone on our soil we detain.
    2) Nuremberg precedent opens potential war crimes trials within said States over those tortured or improperly detained.
    The rule of law might actually emerge were we to not keep them in stasis at no man’s land(GITMO).

    Reply

  50. WigWag says:

    “Wig, Erskine Bowles would be a great pick…” (John Waring)
    Bowles is a fascinating character. He has a strong political pedigree in North Carolina. He was born in Greensboro, the son of Hargrove Bowles (aka “Skipper” Bowles) who was a well-know state legislator of long standing. Skipper ran for Governor of North Carolina in 1972 but lost in the Republican landslide accompanying Nixon’s devastating defeat of George McGovern. It was a particularly painful loss for the Bowles Family because Skipper was one of the first victims of Nixon’s “southern strategy.” He was the first Democrat to lose the gubernatorial race in North Carolina in almost a century.
    The year before his father lost the Governor’s race, Erskine married Crandall Close. The Close Family is probably the most prominent family in South Carolina; Crandall’s family owns the Springs Company (maker of Spring Maid sheets, Cannon Towels) and she is currently the CEO of the Company. One thing that I find particularly interesting about Crandall is how progressive she is. Despite the fact that southern textile companies have a reputation for regressive politics that has never been true of Springs. The company is unionized, they still have substantial production facilities in South Carolina (as opposed to relocating all their operations in China and South America) and they have a reputation as one of the best companies in the United States to work for. Crandall’s family has always supported progressive democrats and two of her siblings raised most of the money for Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campaign.
    Erskine got his BA from the University of North Carolina and his MBA from Columbia. After graduating he went to work for Morgan Stanley and subsequently he and Crandall moved to Charlotte where he founded two firms, Carousel Capital and Bowles, Hollowell and Connor.
    Bowles supported numerous democratic candidates, most notably John Edwards in his race against the miserable Lauch Faircloth and before that Jim Hunt in his race against Jesse Helms and Harvey Ganntt in his race against Jesse Helms.
    During the 1992 Presidential Campaign, Bowles met Bill Clinton and found him to be a compelling person. At one point early in the Campaign when Clinton was just the governor of a small southern state, Bowles and Clinton were riding in a car near Charlotte. Clinton asked Bowles why he seemed so “low” and Bowles explained to Clinton that his son Sam, who has Type I diabetes, had just had a severe insulin reaction that morning. Bowles explained to Clinton what diabetes was, how life-threatening it could be and how curing his son through biomedical research was his highest priority. In fact, Bowles was the President of the largest voluntary health organization focused on diabetes, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Bowles had personally given and raised many millions of dollars for that eleemosynary organization. Bowles also told Clinton how discouraged he was that President Bush had banned the use of fetal tissue in research. At the time, people believed that fetal tissue might provide a source for the pancreatic tissue that diabetics were missing.
    Clinton promised Bowles two things; he promised that if elected he would overturn the Bush ban on fetal tissue research during the first month of his presidency and he would double the size of the NIH (the federal agency that funds biomedical research) during his presidency. Clinton kept both promises; millions of people who have Type I diabetes in the family love both Clinton and Bowles for doing so much to help their family members.
    After his election, Clinton appointed Bowles as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. During Bowles term in office the SBA made more loans to minority businesses than at any time in its history. Two years into his Administration, Clinton brought Bowles in to serve as one of two Deputy Chiefs of Staff (Harold Ickes was the other) under Leon Panetta. When Panetta retired (mostly due to exhaustion) Clinton made Bowles Chief of Staff.
    The Clinton White House was notoriously unprofessional. It was inefficient, it couldn’t meet deadlines and it was terribly undisciplined. Mostly it took on the personality of President Clinton himself.
    Bowles changed all of that. He actually whipped the President into line; he was a great leader and a great administrator. Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was over by the time Bowles became Chief of Staff but the affair was revealed to the public at the time that Bowles sat in the office next to the President. Bowles not only motivated Clinton to give up his irresponsible personal behavior, he managed the White House during the incredible stress of the impeachment hearings. If you compare everything that the Clinton Administration managed to accomplish while the President was under threat of impeachment and then during the impeachment trial itself with what Obama has been able to accomplish with an enormous mandate and large majorities in both Houses of Congress, it becomes apparent what an extraordinary job Bowles did. Welfare reform, the Family Leave Act, doubling of NIH funding, NAFTA (which in retrospect wasn’t so great), getting the federal budget under control so the government could run surpluses for the first time in 40 years were all accomplished on Erskine’s watch. So was the famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat.
    After he left office, Bowles tried for a political career; he ran for Senate in North Carolina twice; once against Elizabeth Dole (who was actually born in Davidson, North Carolina) and once against Richard Burr. He lost twice. The press idiotically calls Bowles a “conservative” Democrat because they stupidly assume that a successful businessman just has to be conservative. The voters of North Carolina knew better; after Clinton they were in a right-wing mood and they voted Bowles down twice because they felt he was far too liberal.
    For a short time, Bowles went to work with the Nick and Ted Forstmann Brothers; Ted is still alive; Nick died of lung cancer. But Bowles decided that he wanted to devote the rest of his life to public service. In 2005, Bowles was appointed the President of the University of North Carolina where by all accounts he has done an incredible job. Bowles is a member of the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley (where I believe I read his son still works). When the United States Government took over General Motors, President Obama appointed Bowles to the Board of GM as one of the public trustees. Last week, Bowles retired from the University of North Carolina to become co-chairman (with Alan Simpson) of Obama’s deficit reduction task force.
    That job is a waste of this man’s talent.
    He could rescue Obama. He should be the new Chief of Staff.

    Reply

  51. Sweetness says:

    I dunno Carroll. Is Wig naughty or is you got a reading problem?
    Here, from your poll…
    “The largest majorities critical of Palestinian efforts are
    Americans (75%)…”
    Wig says…
    “Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran and they want
    the Taliban defeated.”
    Now, “critical” may not be “dislike,” which is more colloquial, but
    it ain’t “like” or “favor” either…is it?
    Live by the poll, die by the poll.
    That said, I LIKE the faith that people all over the world put in
    the United Nations. At least that’s what they tell pollsters.
    More broadly, Wig hasn’t said that HE dislikes Palestinians.
    Perhaps someone can find that quote. That hasn’t been his
    argument at all. At least not here.

    Reply

  52. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks for your comments Wim. You are incorrect though, and you misspelled my name.
    I get that you don’t see the situation the same way. My recommendation is that you go get your own blog or generate your own movement. I do have many foreign policy goals that I think matter for the nation. I am totally transparent about these and write about them all of the time. Yes, I have an agenda. Do you stop by here often?
    Obama’s core team has failed on many fronts — and they are leading him on a course by which he is beginning to adopt policies and approaches that were the opposite of those he committed to. For me, firing Gregory Craig – and Rahm’s role in that badly managed affair – indicated a lot.
    But I will tell you something for all of the disdain you seem to have for what I have written. It is not possible for a single blogger, or columnist, or two or three — to generate the wave of interest in this situation if there were not essentially a market expectation that these analyses and portals into the White House team weren’t largely correct.
    I want Obama to give himself another chance.
    For those who don’t like this subject – sorry. The piece I did last week has been read by millions of folks — mostly who seem to agree.
    I’ve written thousands of articles here — and I will continue to write exactly what I want. If it’s not for you, ship out.
    All best, steve

    Reply

  53. Wim Prange says:

    I don’t believe you want to sink Obama. But I do believe that either your focus on what needs to “change” is completely and utterly misguided; or you have an agenda in which Emanuel is an obstacle to your goal.
    Your use of Milbank as your source is very suspicious to me. For the life of me I can’t imagine you think Milbank is “a top tier journalist” whose “integrity” you don’t question at all.
    It’s telling you need to tell us that. Why did you feel the need? Because his “integrity” IS seriously questioned. Just the latest example, read his reporting on the jobs bill in today’s WaPo about about Harry Reid “scuttling” bipartisanship. Because Reid dared to dump the Baucus bill out of the Finance committee that was a goody bag full of tax cuts and gifts just to please the Republicans. Milbank claimed that bill would have gotten 80 votes in the Senate. Do you really think Democrats would have voted for that bill en masse? Then you’re really naive. Do you even think the Republicans would have voted for their own bill? Of course not. That 80-vote tally was either pure fantasy of Milbank or was fed to him by Republicans.
    Read also Brad Delong what he thinks of Milbank: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/02/mirror-of-wildernesses.html
    So instead of those “What Obama Needs To Do Post Nr 1,444,989”, I want to see posts what you think you have done wrong in the last year (since I don’t see you’ve made any succes in getting your goals accomplished); and what you are planning to do about it; and how.
    For one thing. I don’t think the “fight” is in the WH. I think the “fight” to get your goals (presumably progressive) are in the Senate.
    So. What Does Steve Clemmons Need To Do? You need to work harder. Your year has been quite a failure.

    Reply

  54. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan K — just noticed your comment. Obviously, I don’t agree with you on this round. I think lots of issues are important — and all of them have lost the prospect for movement because of health care. I’m not opposed at all to Obama passing health care; I’d like him to do it. You know that I have written about that in the past — but I don’t believe that health care reform, given the poor way the portfolio has been managed given the results, is worth losing on every other issue.
    But yes, your comment about Cuba was pretty darned snarky. But that’s OK. You’ve more than earned your perch here.
    On another day when it’s not 5 am in Doha, I’ll try to convince you why Cuba matters more than you think it does. I think it’s on par with Syria — another country I completely support engagement and normalization of relations with.
    All best — steve

    Reply

  55. ... says:

    dan k quote “Seriously, a guy who has spent so much time focusing like a laser beam on that one island has no business telling the White House that its political priorities are out of whack.” dan, that seems like a cheap shot coming from someone like yourself who always appears above the fray… what’s up? i think steve covers many topics here and that is an unfair characterization of him from my pov…
    for the record, i too hope he gets a health care bill passed..

    Reply

  56. Carroll says:

    Posted by WigWag, Feb 23 2010, 5:16PM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Naughty wiggie…not nice to mislead readers on American support for Israel.
    But I agree with you about Bowles so you get one point.
    Apologize for the length readers but polls are wonderful things when they come from a premiere polling organization like the Univ of Maryland Kennedy School of Government financied World Opinion Poll….and we’re all here to get educated.
    http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/international_security_bt/503.php
    International Poll:
    Most Publics–including Americans–Oppose Taking Sides in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    July 1, 2008
    Israeli, Palestinian, American and Arab Leaders All Get Low Marks On Efforts to Resolve Conflict
    Most Favor UN Playing Robust Role in Peace Enforcement
    Country-by-Country Summaries (PDF)
    Questionnaire/methodology (PDF)
    Press Release (PDF)
    Full PDF Version
    Dataset for Download (SPSS format)
    A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 18 countries finds that in 14 of them people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey) and one is divided (India). No country favors taking Israel’s side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.
    A UN convoy approaches an Israeli checkpoint outside of Gaza City in June 2003 (UNRWA photo)
    Asked to evaluate how well a number of key actors are doing their part to resolve the conflict, none of them get good grades, including Israel, the Palestinians, the United States, and the Arab countries. On average across all the countries polled, none of the actors receives good grades from more than 3 in 10. Interestingly, Americans are divided as to whether the United States is doing its part.
    Publics in most countries favor the United Nations offering to play a robust role in support of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nearly all publics would favor the UN saying that, if the parties come to a peace agreement, the UN would send a peacekeeping force to enforce it. Most publics would also favor the UN offering to provide security guarantees to both Israel and the Arab countries should a peace agreement be reached.
    “Publics around the world are not cheering for either side and want their governments to take an even-handed approach,” said Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org. “All of the key actors are seen as failing to do their part to break the impasse and most want the UN Security Council to step in and offer peacekeeping forces and even security guarantees to help resolve the conflict.”
    The poll of 18,792 respondents was conducted between January 10 and May 6, 2008 by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative research project involving research centers from around the world and managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. Margins of error range from +/-2 to 4 percent.
    Interviews were conducted in 18 countries, including most of the largest nations -China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia–as well as Mexico, Peru, Britain, France, Spain, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Thailand and South Korea. Not all questions were asked in all countries. In addition, most of the questions were asked in the Palestinian Territories. The nations included represent 60 percent of the world population.
    Publics Support Even-Handed Approach to Conflict
    Asked how their country should approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 14 out of 18 publics preferred taking neither side. On average, 58 percent say that their country should not take either side, while just 20 percent favor siding with the Palestinians and 7 percent say that their country should take Israel’s side.
    In eight of the countries this was a large majority–seven in 10 or more–including Mexicans (88%), South Koreans (82%), Britons (79%), the French (79%), Peruvians (76%), the Chinese (74%), Americans (71%), and Ukrainians (69%).
    Only in a few predominantly Muslim countries do most favor taking the side of the Palestinians. Robust majorities take this position in Egypt (86%) and Iran (63%), as does a modest plurality in Turkey (42% Palestinians’ side, 38% neither side). However two other predominantly Muslim countries primarily favor taking neither side–Azerbaijan (54%) and Indonesia (43%).
    In no country does a majority favor taking Israel’s side. The largest percentages favoring taking Israel’s side are Indians (24%), Americans (21%), and Nigerians (15%).
    Negative Reviews of Israel, Palestinians, US, Arab Countries, Quartet
    World publics give low marks to all the various parties who play a major role in trying to resolve the conflict. Respondents were asked to evaluate how well each party is “doing its part,” in “the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” In nearly all cases publics give poor grades to Israel, the Palestinians, the United States, or the Arab countries.
    Israel
    Israel receives the worst ratings, with most saying they are not doing their part very well in 13 out of 15 countries asked. On average, 54 percent say it is not doing its part well (31% not very, 23% not at all) while just 22 percent say it is (5% very, 17% somewhat).
    Negative ratings of Israel are not confined to predominantly Muslim publics–the largest majorities saying Israel is not doing its part well include Egypt (88%), South Korea (69%), Indonesia (66%), France (64%), the United States (59%), Azerbaijan (59%), Mexico (57%), and Great Britain (57%).
    Only in India do more say that Israel is doing its part than do not (35% to 25%), while the Chinese are divided (41% to 39%).
    In addition, the Palestinians were asked to evaluate Israel (though they are not included in the averages). Not surprisingly, 81 percent say that Israel is not doing its part well (61%, not at all well). Just 13 percent say that it is (4% very well).
    Palestinians
    Ratings of the Palestinians are not much better than those of Israel. In ten out of 15 countries most say they are not doing their part well to resolve the conflict. An average of 47 percent says they are not doing their part well, while just 28 percent say they are.
    The largest majorities critical of Palestinian efforts are Americans (75%), South Koreans (74%), the French (66%), Mexicans (61%) and British (57%). Pluralities in Turkey (42%) and Azerbaijan (50%) also rate the Palestinians’ efforts poorly, as do pluralities of Russians (41%), Ukrainians (34%), and Thais (33%), though many decline to offer an opinion.
    Palestinians receive the most positive ratings from Egyptians (63%) and Nigerians (46%), though a significant number of Nigerians is also critical (43%) making the overall public divided. Pluralities in Indonesia (49%), China (40%), and India (34%) all say the Palestinians are doing their part at least somewhat well.
    The Palestinians give themselves quite good ratings (again, they were excluded from the averages). Seventy-five percent say they are doing their part well (40%, very). However, 15 percent give them poor ratings (5%, not well at all).
    United States
    Asked to rate how well the United States is doing its part to resolve the conflict, 12 out of 15 nations say the United States is not doing its part well (excluding Americans but including Palestinians). On average, 59 percent rate US efforts poorly, while just 20 percent give positive ratings.
    US efforts receive the most negative evaluations from Egyptians (86%), Mexicans (77%), the Palestinians (77%), the French (71%), South Koreans (70%), the Chinese (69%), and Turks (64%).
    A majority of Nigerians (53%) says that the US is doing its part at least somewhat well. Indians are divided (33% well, 34% not well), as are Thais (27% well, 26% not well).
    Interestingly, Americans themselves are divided. Only 44 percent say the United States is doing its part well (7%, very), while 46 percent say it is not (15%, not at all).
    Arab Countries
    Evaluations of the Arab countries are somewhat less negative than those of Israel or the US, with most in 11 out of 15 publics rating their efforts negatively (excluding the Egyptians). On average, a plurality among the nations polled (48%) says they are not doing their part well, while just 23 percent say they are.
    Americans (78%) and South Koreans (76%) rate the Arab countries most negatively, followed by the French (69%). Majorities of the Palestinians (57%) and Turks (58%) also rate them negatively.
    In just two countries a plurality gives a positive rating–Indonesia (50%) and China (40%). Two publics are divided: Nigeria and India.
    The one Arab nation (other than the Palestinians) polled–Egypt–gives the Arab countries a positive evaluation. Seventy-one percent say the Arab countries are doing their part well (9%, very well), while just 29 percent say they are not.
    The Quartet
    The countries that are part of the “Quartet” were also polled on the performance of their country and of the European Union. The Quartet consists of the US, Russia, the UN, and the European Union.
    The European Union’s efforts were evaluated by France and Britain. The EU receives negative ratings from pluralities in both countries (France 48%, Britain 45%), and in both countries those giving positive ratings does not exceed one third (France 33%, Britain 31%).
    The British also give their own country poor ratings. A plurality of 47 percent gives their government an unfavorable review while 33 percent give a positive review.
    Russians are a bit more upbeat about their country’s performance. While many do not provide an answer, a plurality of 36 percent give a positive evaluation while 17 percent give a negative one.
    Widespread Support for Robust UN Role
    Overall, there is strong support for the United Nations playing a robust role in the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Very large numbers favor the United Nations contributing a peacekeeping force to enforce a peace agreement and substantial numbers favor the UN Security Council offering to provide security guarantees to Israel and the Arab countries.
    Enforcement of Peace Agreement
    In 16 of 17 countries polled, majorities or pluralities favor the UN Security Council offering–if Israel and the Palestinians come to a peace agreement–to send a peacekeeping force to enforce the agreement. On average, 67 percent favor such an approach, while just 20 percent oppose the idea.
    Among all of the permanent members of the UN Security Council publics are supportive. In four countries this is by a robust majority–China (81%), France (74%), Great Britain (67%), and the United States (61%). Only in Russia is support limited to a plurality (47%), though few are opposed (25%).
    Palestinians are strongly in favor of such an idea (63%), as are those in other predominantly Muslim countries–Turkey (65%), and Egypt (64%).
    In addition, large majorities also favor this idea in Nigeria (89%), Indonesia (88%), South Korea (83%), Mexico (82%), and Azerbaijan (74%). Only Ukrainians are not in favor, but rather are divided (35% favor, 32% oppose) with a large number uncertain.
    Providing Security Guarantees
    Respondents were also asked about a much stronger possible commitment by the UN Security Council in the event of a peace agreement–committing to protect Israel if attacked by its Arab neighbors, and to protect Arab countries if attacked by Israel. Though such a commitment could prove costly, support was surprisingly high. Out of 16 nations, 11 favor such a UNSC commitment to protect Israel and 13 favor a commitment to protect Arab countries.
    On average, 45 percent favor providing security guarantees to Israel (36% opposed), while 55 percent favor providing guarantees to Arab countries (24% opposed).
    Ten countries favor the UN Security Council providing security guarantees to both Arab countries and Israel. This includes three of the permanent members of the Security Council. Very large majorities are supportive in China (84% for Arab countries, 80% for Israel), with more modest majorities in France (61% for Arab countries, 65% for Israel) and Great Britain (54% for Arab countries, 51% for Israel).
    Other countries include Mexico (66% for Arab countries, 57% for Israel), Nigeria (67% for Arab countries, 61% for Israel), Azerbaijan (63% for Arab countries, 57% for Israel), and Turkey (50% for Arab countries, 43% for Israel). South Koreans support both proposed commitments equally (63% for the Arab countries, 65% for Israel), Indonesia has a large majority favoring protection of the Arab countries (71%), while a much smaller plurality (48%) favors the UNSC protecting Israel as well. Pluralities in Thailand are also favorable, though many appear to have an unformed opinion on the issue (for Arab countries 32% favor, 14% oppose; for Israel 31% favor, 16% oppose).
    The other two permanent members of the UN Security Council–the United States and Russia–have less robust public support. A majority of Americans favor making a commitment to protect Israel (53% favor), but a plurality opposes protecting Arab countries (38% favor, 50% oppose). Russians oppose protecting Israel from an attack by its Arab neighbors by a slight margin (36% oppose, 28% favor) while a similar number oppose protecting Israel (34% to 27%). But large numbers of Russians do not take a position.
    Only two publics where a majority favors protection of Arab countries do not also favor protecting Israel: Egyptians (82% Arab countries, 16% Israel) and the Palestinians themselves (75% Arab countries, 12% Israel).
    Among Indians, a plurality favors protecting Arab countries (28% favor, 19% oppose), but they are divided on whether Israel should also receive protection from the UNSC (34% favor, 34% oppose).
    Ukrainians, like Russians, have pluralities opposed to protecting Israel (39% oppose, 15% favor) and Arab countries (38% to 15%), with large numbers undecided.

    Reply

  57. Steven Clemons says:

    Thanks for your post cat48. I disagree with you totally. I don’t
    really think you have read my posts carefully. If you had, you
    would see that I want President Obama to succeed and don’t want
    all of his team to go. I understand and appreciate your sentiments,
    but you are misreading me if you think I am trying to sink Obama.
    Thanks, steve clemons

    Reply

  58. DakotabornKansan says:

    Franklin D. Roosevelt – “The Economic Bill of Rights” Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union
    ————————————————–
    “It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
    This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
    As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
    We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
    In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
    Among these are:
    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
    The right of every family to a decent home;
    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
    The right to a good education.
    All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
    America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

    Reply

  59. larry birnbaum says:

    “Efforts to recreate America’s global leverage have failed by following incrementalist policy paths rather than taking well-coordinated, well-planned strategic leaps on Israel-Palestine and Iran.”
    Steve, you are suffering from an incredible degree of wishful thinking here. The President reached out to Iran in numerous ways and on many occasions, including, apparently, two personal and private letters to Khamenei… neither of which were answered. There’s no there there; they are doubling down on confrontation.
    And let’s actually ignore people like Cook who care only about politics and nothing about policy, and get health care passed. Once people see how it improves their lives it will be like Social Security and Medicare, an accepted part of the fabric of American life.

    Reply

  60. Dan Kervick says:

    Nadine, I would suggest that you desperately want Obama to desist on health care because you know that once a health care bill has been passed, and once the high-intensity political season of grousing and fussing and raging about the health care reform has burned itself out, passage of a comprehensive health care bill in this political environment will be credited come election time as a major political success and victory, no matter how you slice it. And that scares the piss out of you.
    Americans love a winner. Maybe 60% of Americans have firm opinions on issues and ideology. They are divided among the ideological wings of the two major parties. The rest ride the bandwagon. If the neurotic Democrats manage to play against type for just a few weeks, overcome their lily livers and tiny balls, and pass a health care bill, within days we will see the political bandwagon begin to ride their way.
    Emanuel appears to have no principles or moral character, and is all about winning for the sheer need to win. But as a matter of pure electoral political calculation, he is 100% right that passing a health care bill – almost any bill – is the smart political move.
    As for Steve, what’s he up to? Beats me. He apparently wants Obama to desist on health care so he can pay more attention to all those super-important foreign policy issues that Americans are desperately eager to solve.
    Like … um … Cuba!
    Seriously, a guy who has spent so much time focusing like a laser beam on that one island has no business telling the White House that its political priorities are out of whack.

    Reply

  61. ... says:

    maw of america, we have cheap jewelry and cheap propaganda offered here… take yer pick… i am sure there is a deeper connection, but the obvious one is some here are trying to sell something in the hopes someone will buy it…. watch out for the wigwag salesperson…

    Reply

  62. Maw of America says:

    “Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran and they want the Taliban defeated.”
    There has been much said about Wag’s comment, but my first reaction was, well, I dislike mushrooms, avocado and yogurt, and some of my friends dislike cilantro, coconut and flan, but none of this helps me plan a menu if I don’t know what caused these dislikes. Was it food poisoning? Or a bad childhood experience?
    I guess the point is that blanket pronouncements do nothing to advance the discussion. Please tell me, Wag – Why do you dislike Palestinians and the country of Iran, and why do you want the Taliban defeated? Or is it all so self-evident to you that even asking the question is dumb?
    BTW, anyone interested in some cheap jewelry or clothes? (poor attempt at blogging humor)

    Reply

  63. DakotabornKansan says:

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt is an excellent example of executive leadership. He was extremely effective as president. What qualities made Roosevelt an effective leader? FDR realized the possibilities for change, a rendezvous with destiny, provided they were skillfully managed. He possessed the political skills to get his vision communicated and his programs enacted. He knew how to get things done.
    By contrast, “…the grassroots as well as the political grasstops see and feel Obama’s failure to lock in success. In this context, the political stumbling, back-stabbing and brusqueness emanating from the Chief of Staff’s office and others close to Obama is toxic and politically crippling.”
    Think of what FDR accomplished during the Great Depression with his New Deal revolution in security for millions.
    Contrast that with today’s poor, our slow-motion social catastrophe, our legacy of the Great Recession – “America’s dirty little secret, hidden in the backyards of America’s shining homes, the hollows, the reservations, the border towns and the dark ghettos of the city where they are the lie of the American dream.” Leo Hindery, Jr. [today’s Huffington Post] says that FDR would have said a way too large fraction of our people is poor. “Overall income inequality in America is now the greatest since 1928, when we first began to measure it…Until we in this time include the eradication of poverty as part of our economic recovery efforts, as FDR tried to do in his time, no matter how much we attempt to rebuild the nation’s economy through better trade practices, enhanced workers’ rights, and investments in infrastructure and the ‘green economy’, tens of millions of Americans, literally, will still be left impoverished… Addressing this reality — this now virtual pandemic of poverty — must be at the core of our current economic recovery efforts…”
    Contrast President Obama, “while doing much to miss the bullet of a global economic depression, has presided over the resuscitation of Wall Street and many of the firms that recklessly gambled while main street remains precariously near an edge and where many fear the potential of a double dip recession when the stimulus comes out of the economy.” Our slow-motion social catastrophe with no economic bill of rights like FDR demanded in his last State of the Union Speech in January 1944.

    Reply

  64. John Waring says:

    Wig,
    Erskine Bowles would be a great pick, if Obama wanted to alter his team, which I begin to doubt. You may indeed be correct that Rahm Emanuel faithfully reflects the policies of the president. If so, Lord have mercy on fools like me.

    Reply

  65. nadine says:

    “Sometimes the shifts in winds of political criticism are so sudden and brisk as to be neck-breaking:
    One Week: Obama doesn’t understand the gravity of the threat of terrorism.
    Next Week: Obama is killing too many terrorists.
    One Week: Obama hasn’t devoted enough personal political capital and attention to health care, and has delegated it all to Congress.
    Next Week: Obama has an Ahab-like obsession with health care.” (Dan Kervick)
    This is the kind of criticism a President gets who has internally inconsistent policies that veer from one extreme to the other. For example, who Mirandizes foreign combatants and gives them the rights of citizens on the one hand, and just sends drones to blast them and their families on the other.
    “As for me, if Obama wants to pursue health care reform down into Davy Jones’s locker like it was the White Whale himself, I say, “You go, Ahab! Put a harpoon in that fucker!”
    That worked out so well for Captain Ahab. If Obama doesn’t desist soon, he may join Ahab in Davy Jone’s locker (politically speaking). He doesn’t have the votes. He’s asking the Blue Dogs to walk the plank for him. The American people hate this bill by a 20 point margin. That’s what Charlie Cook is saying. You really want Obama to commit political suicide for the cause?

    Reply

  66. JohnH says:

    In Wigwag World, whatever Americans believe must be true. Yep, the earth is flat. It was created in seven days. Elvis lives!
    There’s more! Opposites attract…Full moons trigger wacky behavior–all true in Wigwag World, but only because people believe it. Fuggedaboout sciuntifik evidins!
    http://www.usnews.com/health/family-health/articles/2009/10/13/5-common-pop-psych-myths.html
    Actually Wigwag and her ilk advocate group think–the Shah won’t fall, Saddam had WMDs, the dominoes would fall after Vietnam…
    Now group-thinkers want you to believe that Iran and Hamas are evil, but Israel and high fructose corn syrup are good.
    If the group-thinkers had their way, the Sun would still be revolved around the Earth!

    Reply

  67. DonS says:

    “Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran”
    Wig wag, we had such a nice discussion the other night, and I thought we had covered this “Americans hate Iran” thing. But I guess not.
    You also so suggest that Obama wants to get reelected. Putting these two things together then, are we to applaud and anti-Iran policy simply because some flawed survey determines that Iran is “hated” by Americans?
    What room does that leave for serious policymakers? All we need are bean counters, and they can even be virtual beans.

    Reply

  68. Outraged American says:

    Wig, trained scientist here! There are facts and there are
    opinions. Iran can’t enrich uranium to anywhere near weapons
    grade as the White House ITSELF so helpfully pointed out.
    Wig goes on to lie, whoops, I mean “state” that, (Wig quote)

    Public opinion matters; why the public holds the views it does is
    interesting to discuss but largely irrelevant.
    Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran and they want
    the Taliban defeated.”
    End Wig quote.
    As someone (me) who worked in both mainstream and
    alternative media and then also ZionWood, whoops I meant
    Hollywood, I can say definitvely that Americans are on the side
    of Israel because MAMERICANS HAVE NEVER, EVER, BEEN LIED TO
    ABOUT ISRAEL AND HER ONGOING GENOCIDE OF EVERYTHING
    MUSLIM USING OUR BLOOD AND TREASURE.
    *ROLLS EYES INTO THE BACK OF MY HEAD*
    Wig, love, why aren’t you in Israel right now, bravely beating
    ancient Palestinian men who have the audacity to try to pick
    olives from the trees they’ve owned for centuries? The
    Palestinians have such chutzpah!
    Wig, I’m absolutely serious about paying for your one way ticket.

    Reply

  69. JohnH says:

    Once again, Wigwag “logic” is self serving. “Public opinion matters.” Guffaw, guffaw. If that were the case America would have had universal health care decades ago and have been out of Iraq years ago.
    “Why the public holds the views it does is interesting to discuss but largely irrelevant.”
    Instead, Wigwag wants you to believe in the “subjective intelligence” of the American people, as shaped by AIPAC, neo-conmen, pundits and politicians, because the objective reality provided by the IAEA and the consensus opinion of the US intelligence community is anathema to Wigwag’s agenda.

    Reply

  70. ... says:

    bush had cheney.. obama has rahm… obama has neither the guts or the strength of character to get rid of his idf/wall st rep and besides he’ll need all the help he can get in a few years when he is back in chicago… sad but true…

    Reply

  71. Don Bacon says:

    WigWag,
    What’s subjective about truth?
    We as individuals might hold different views on matters — thank heavens! — while still agreeing on basic facts.
    Don’t just tell me Iran is a dangerous threat to me, tell me why it’s dangerous, using facts and not feelings, which will show that Iran is not a threat. Tell me why I should be worried about terrorists who are statistically nothing, don’t tell me to be afraid. Tell me that US military adventures overseas are actually what motivates suicide bombers, not religion, this is a fact.
    Not telling Americans the truth has skewed the political spectrum in a way that has seriously weakened the country, and continues to do so at an alarming rate. That’s a fact.
    Regarding Obama and management:
    The Fat Lady Has Sung
    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    Published: February 20, 2010
    . . .They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.
    Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.

    Reply

  72. ... says:

    wigwag quote “Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran” aside from the propaganda value in this wigwag, it does fit with the impressions around the rest of the world regarding the ‘dumb american’ stereotype… it is unfortunate when someone has to rely on stereotypes, isn’t it? but sometimes they fit, especially when the propaganda offered is a lot more deceptive….
    i hope they pay you a lot! you probably won’t have much of a pension after all the wars you’re hoping to happen….

    Reply

  73. Don Bacon says:

    Boy, that takes me back to Peter Drucker’s five functions of management — plan, organize, direct, control and communicate.

    Reply

  74. WigWag says:

    “When the American people are told the truth (rare) they, on average, will hold opinions that correspond more with Steve and some of the rest of us. Instead they are bombarded with propaganda.” (Don Bacon)
    The problem, Don Bacon, is that your version of “the truth” is as subjective as the version believed by people who hold opinions diametrically opposed to yours. Devout right-wingers believe as you do, that they have special access to the truth. They believe as genuinely and passionately as you do, that the press and the government obscure the truth by promulgating propaganda to gullible citizens (which they think you are).
    Obama is a politician; he wants to be reelected and he wants members of his political party from the lowest alderman to the most prominent Senator and Governor to be elected or reelected.
    He has no choice but to govern from what is more or less the middle of the political spectrum. Some presidents lean left, some lean right but they are all centrists. There are very few exceptions. Those that were, like Franklin Roosevelt, were truly transformational presidents; it’s a bar set so high that few reach it; Obama won’t. It’s the American public he’s leading not a class in American Government at Berkeley or at Bob Jones University.
    Public opinion matters; why the public holds the views it does is interesting to discuss but largely irrelevant.
    Americans dislike Palestinians, they dislike Iran and they want the Taliban defeated. I understand that you disagree about these things but you and I can afford to comment from the peanut gallery; we don’t have to win elections and we don’t have to govern.
    Obama does.

    Reply

  75. Alan K says:

    As a business owner, who has seen lots of CEO’S in action, I can wholeheartedly agree with the comments by Drew.
    However, its not so much the experience, its the core of the person that makes someone able to function effectively as a CEO.
    Obama, from what I have seen, lacks the essential qualities for a successful CEO, the most important of which is the ability to communicate one’s vision so clearly that it enables the rank and file to translate that vision into action.
    The criticism that he is more like a college professor than a CEO is on the mark.
    Getting a new staff won’t do much to change this unfortunate situation.

    Reply

  76. Don Bacon says:

    Here we go again with WigWag and polls, so here we go again with the response.
    When the American people are told the truth (rare) they, on average, will hold opinions that correspond more with Steve and some of the rest of us. Instead they are bombarded with propaganda.
    When the American people are lied to, like with claims that Iran has a dangerous nuclear weapons program, or that the Afghanistan War now in its ninth year is a necessary war, they poll the way that WigWag enjoys mentioning.
    Other polls also show, by the way, that the average American cares little about any of these topics we enjoy discussing. If you doubt it, then bring up I/P or Afghanistan at the next PTA meeting or whatever and watch the eyes roll. Foreign affairs and terrorism, for that matter, would never ever be on the average American’s radar screen if the government didn’t use these issues to finance its nefarious programs at home and abroad.
    On Obama, WigWag is correct. The buck stops at the president, not at his advisors, and Obama is fully responsible for his decisions, or lack of them. (I know Barack agrees.)

    Reply

  77. Outraged American says:

    Ilene claims, “Israel will take care of itself.” WHEN? *Taking out
    prayer beads while searching for bootleg copy of Havah Nagilah*

    Reply

  78. samuelburke says:

    awww steve is getting yelled at, pull out prof walts thesis.
    “Steve Clemons should mind his own business about Israel. Israel
    will take care of itself. He should concentrate on more important
    matters in the world as Iran, North Korea, China. Israel does not
    need any advice from Steve Clemons. ”
    this is truly priceless steve, i hope you understand that.

    Reply

  79. WigWag says:

    One other point about the fearsome foursome of Emanuel, Jarrett, Axelrod and Gibbs; anyone who has read Steve Clemons’ essays for a long time, can’t help but get the feeling that Steve is being disingenuous.
    Steve is unconvincing when he suggests that what he objects to about the fearsome foursome is that they are serving Obama poorly from a tactical point of view.
    Steve says,
    “Obama and his closest advisers have managed to divide their friends and unite their enemies — and they must turn this around…”
    What Steve really objects to is not what he thinks are poor tactics but what he thinks are poor policies.
    Like many of his realist colleagues, Steve thinks Obama is getting it all wrong on Israel/Palestine and Afghanistan. He objects to Obama’s failure to close GITMO (although he fails to admit that this issue hardly makes it on to the radar screen of most Americans). Steve may be less skeptical of the Obama Administration’s approach to Iran than some of his realist colleagues but it’s hard to believe that Steve thinks Obama is doing a good job on Iran either.
    On the economy, Steve objects to the economic advisors Obama has selected and he thinks Obama is too Wall Street friendly.
    Clemons may be right on some or all of these points, but the policies that he objects to are Obama’s policies not the policies of Emanuel, Jarrett, Axelrod or Gibbs. Hope as he might, firing one or more of these key advisors or shuffling them into new roles won’t change any of the policies that Steve dislikes.
    The problem is not the advisors; the problem is the views that Steve adopts on many of these issues. Rightly or wrongly, Steve’s take on almost all of these issues is rejected by most Americans.
    Most Americans don’t agree with Steve on the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Most Americans give Obama good grades for Afghanistan. Most Americans think the President is doing a good job on Iraq and recent polls suggest that most Americans detest Iran.
    On economic policy, although I think they’re wrong, most Americans disagree with Steve; they think Obama’s economic approach is too far to the left not too far to the right.
    Steve can dream all he wants to. Obama can replace all or just some of his fearsome foursome; it won’t change his policy predilections one iota.
    ps: To Illene Richman at Feb 23 2010, 4:48PM, as a passionate supporter of Israel I can assure you that Steve Clemons is not anti-Semitic; not even close. If you want to make an argument about bigotry, it is more appropriately directed to the guest post below this one by Stephen Walt; at least there you can make a very reasonable case.

    Reply

  80. ... says:

    wigwag quotes “select someone from the mainstream.” – well this seems to have produced a lot of mediocrity and not much more…
    “A more idiosyncratic selection would undoubtedly make things worse.” yours is a recipe for a continuation of the same mediocrity, which appears very rational on the one hand but completely counter productive on the other… i am sure many folks think the same way as you on this too wigwag…
    when their is nothing left of the usa, i am sure these ”mainstream” ideas will be put to rest…until then, those digging this hole either consciously or not, continue to dig when they need to stop….

    Reply

  81. JohnH says:

    “Israel will take care of itself.” Music to my ears. Israel doesn’t need American aid.
    As long as Americans are showering $billions on Israel every year, Israel is very much the business of every American taxpayer. Deal with it, Ilene!

    Reply

  82. Jorge Gonzalez says:

    I agree with Mr. Clemons.
    But he forgot to mention that Barack Obama has been a HUGE disappointment when it comes to the Cuba issue. He is continuing the genocidal Cuba embargo and is basically continuing the same policies of George W. Bush. There was no “change” and there was no “new beginning” with Cuba.
    As of now, I will not vote for Barack Obama again in 2012.

    Reply

  83. Ilene Richman says:

    Steve Clemons should mind his own business about Israel. Israel will take care of itself. He should concentrate on more important matters in the world as Iran, North Korea, China. Israel does not need any advice from Steve Clemons. Obviously, Clemons does not understand the words of “Never again”. Israel does not need terrorists on its borders that make women and children suicide bombers. Steve Clemons would do better to study the “Arab” mindset. These are people who behead other people, steal soldiers, kill innocent civilians, blow up busses, stores and even celebrations at weddings and Passover. Steve Clemons should take a year off and go to live in Israel before he offers any advice as to what Israel should do. Israelis know what to do and do not need any advice from Clemons. Could it be that Clemons is “Anti-Semetic”?
    [Ilene — Steve Clemons here. Thanks for your views. The answer to your question is no. But don’t go over that line here again. Thanks. All best, Steve Clemons]

    Reply

  84. WigWag says:

    So Doug, do you really think that this President or any President is going to select a Chief of Staff who is not part of what you call the “status quo?”
    Get real.
    The President is not going to pick Noam Chomsky or Glenn Beck to be his Chief of Staff; he’s not going to pick someone who will appeal to the crazy leftists or insane arch conservatives who love to blather on about how bad things are.
    This is the President of the United States we’re talking about, not a talk show host; he has little choice but to select someone from the mainstream. A more idiosyncratic selection would undoubtedly make things worse for Obama not better. Besides, what the President needs from his chief of staff is good management skills not an ideological adventurer.
    Given that reality, selecting a candidate for Chief of Staff who has experience turning around Administration’s in trouble is exactly what Obama ought to do. Duberstein and Bowles both fit that bill. If you don’t like the fact that Duberstein is on the Board of Boeing you probably won’t like the fact that Bowles is on the Board of Morgan Stanley or that Bowles’ wife, Crandall Close, is the CEO of the family company, Springs Industries (they make textiles like Spring Maid sheets). Guess what? Crandall’s brother was the chief fundraiser for Jesse Jackson when he ran for President the first time.
    Making decisions about who would do a good job by virtue of what Boards they serve on is dimwitted.
    If you have a better (and equally realistic) candidate, let’s hear who it is.

    Reply

  85. Doug says:

    Duberstein (who is on the Board of Directors of Boeing) is part of the problem. He is an example of the status quo. No thanks!
    http://www.boeing.com/corp_gov/board_directors.html

    Reply

  86. WigWag says:

    Steve is right, a change is needed. Steve blames Rahm too much and Obama too little. Obama’s the boss, not Rahm (or Valerie Jarrett or David Axelrod or Robert Gibbs). Democratic voters, many of whom participate in the comment section of this blog are ultimately to blame for selecting the weakest, least talented and least experienced of the major Democratic candidates. Their disappointment in Obama is ironic considering how many times they were warned. Those who voted for Obama in the Democratic primary/caucus process were like lemmings encouraged to jump off the cliff by mobsters in the press like Maureen Dowd, Dana Milbank and others.
    With that said, when a baseball or football team is playing poorly you can’t just fire the players so it’s usually the manager or the head coach that has to go; in this case, that’s Rahm.
    There is a history of Presidents turning things around by changing out their Chief of Staff.
    When Bill Clinton fired Mack McClarty and replaced him with Leon Panetta things began to improve. When Panetta retired and Erskine Bowles took his place, the Clinton Administration soared; its popularity increased dramatically, Clinton stopped with his irresponsible personal behavior and Clinton accomplished tremendous things like giving the nation economic prosperity and eliminating the deficit.
    When Ronald Reagan’s administration was in turmoil due to the mismanagement of Donald Regan, Reagan, at his wife’s suggestion; (it’s about the only intelligent thing Mrs. Reagan ever did) fired his Chief of Staff and replaced him with Ken Duberstein. Prospects for the Reagan Administration brightened almost immediately.
    These two great Americans are still available. Bowles is only 65 and Duberstein is only 66; they are both in good health. Bowles is a Democrat (he ran for Senate in North Carolina twice and lost to Liddie Dole and the abominable Richard Burr) and Duberstein is a Republican who endorsed Obama.
    Bowles was just appointed to co-chair Obama’s deficit reduction panel with Alan Simpson; this is a waste of Bowles’ talent. Duberstein is making millions running a lobbying firm that is named for him. Duberstein has enough money; he would surely accept the call to public service as a way to put an exclamation point on his remarkable career.
    Bowles is frequently called a “conservative” democrat by our dimwitted press corp. This is entirely wrong; in many ways Bowles is profoundly progressive.
    Although Duberstein worked for Reagan, Duberstein was always a Rockefeller Republican; he still is. Many of his friends are liberal republicans (Colin Powell may be his best friend) and he is close to many Democrats; uber-Democrat, Mike Berman (Walter Mondale’s last chief of staff) is his partner at the Duberstein Group which is a bipartisan shop.
    Obama needs one of these men; they are perfectly situated to help turn his Administration around the same way they turned around the other Administrations that they served. By the way, for whatever it’s worth (which probably isn’t much) they are both CFR members.
    Obama needs to place a call to either Duberstein or Bowles and ask them to help rescue his floundering Administration.
    Steve Clemons has posted the same essay now at least twice and maybe more often than that. Instead of just saying “fire Rahm” wouldn’t it be more productive to suggest a replacement?

    Reply

  87. erichwwk says:

    Attributing the “northwoods” incident to JFK is likely a bit strong. I have no “proof” that JFK ever saw this memo. I should have said McNamara.
    Here is the 1962 memo to McNamara, subject “Justification for US Military intervention in Cuba”:
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430/northwoods.pdf

    Reply

  88. erichwwk says:

    Posted by Doug, Feb 23 2010, 2:12PM – Link
    A friend of mine who worked for a defense contractor once explained why ‘black’ projects were so secret during the Cold War.
    “The Russians know what we are doing but the Pentagon uses secrecy to keep Congress and the American people in the dark on what we are spending their money on.”
    BINGO
    And the biggest thing the American public had to be kept in the dark on was that the Russians were never a threat to world peace the way the Americans were.
    But once so much money had been spent and discovered (first on the Manhattan Project, and then another $7.5 Trillion), it had to be justified. So one had to either stop building hammers, or find a nail to drive.
    Let’s not forget that even JFK considered sinking a US ship for that purpose.

    Reply

  89. drew says:

    JohnH:
    Because sales guys are not execs. Because actually executing deals
    requires more than pitch-and-tell. Because being an executive
    involves skills no on has ever asked the president to display —
    until now.

    Reply

  90. Doug says:

    A friend of mine who worked for a defense contractor once explained why ‘black’ projects were so secret during the Cold War.
    “The Russians know what we are doing but the Pentagon uses secrecy to keep Congress and the American people in the dark on what we are spending their money on.”
    Concerning Pres. Obama – he was elected to ‘change’ the way Washington works which is tall order. To do this he would have to find a large number of like minded people to work in his administration – those who could help him to overcome the corrupt political inertia that is prevalent there. Looking at it now – I am not sure he really meant to make those changes or has found out he can’t. Either way he comes across as just another phony politician.
    The fact of the matter is that the Democrats are corrupted by the same corporate money as the Republicans are and that is why we get these worthless outcomes from Washington even under Obama. He was in the Senate long enough to see this corruption first hand and his promises to fix this are hollow.

    Reply

  91. Pahlavan says:

    “Do we want our Constitution, or do we want our Empire?”
    Nicely put, but when you consider our nations Social Security, Medicare, Healthcare or national debt, and compare that to just the post Tarp bonuses that got paid out, don’t you think it’s more like “our” constitution that’s been getting trampled on for the sole benefit of an elite fraternity?
    Anyhow, great post Steve. Though I wish there was input on the state department’s leadership as well.

    Reply

  92. JohnH says:

    Drew makes excellent points about Obama’s lack of executive experience. Executive leadership is definitely different from salesmanship.
    Nonetheless, the shrinking Obama presidency is still a mystery. Why couldn’t he translate his deft marketing and sales skills from the presidential campaign to campaigns for promoting health care reforms and ME peace. Why did Obama suddenly retire from the marketing business immediately after his election?
    By refusing to aggressively promote his own priorities, he doomed his presidency and his legacy.

    Reply

  93. ... says:

    fire rahm…. i don’t think obama has ever fired anyone, so it is unlikely to happen… he is at heart not up for his job….

    Reply

  94. erichwwk says:

    Grrr.
    The wiki entry for U.S. vs Reynolds is crap, despite including having an entry for “Subsequent declassification of documents”. Should have read it completely.
    Eg, it makes no mention that failure to address a PAST fire contributed to the fire that brought down the plane, it was badly maintained, the pilot turned off the wrong engine, no one was briefed on where escape hatches were, or how to open them (from the ones that survived). Essentially, what brought the plane down was criminal neglect.
    see chapter 5 of the FORA TV talk by Garry Wills for what the routine 2000 declassification revealed (one of the widows happened to catch it) here:
    http://bit.ly/9LWHMY+
    BTW, Garry misspeaks. Reynolds vs U.S. is an entirely unrelated case. But as Garry says, “The whole case was based on a lie”. There were no state secrets, just criminal neglect.
    Despite that, this case is still used to set the precedent for state secrets.
    And what made the cold war and the military-industrial complex possible.
    yes john, the choice is between “our Constitution, or our Empire?”
    But unfortunately you or I don’t get to decide. Neither does Congress.

    Reply

  95. John Waring says:

    erichwwk,
    James Madison nailed it 200 years ago when he said we could not have democracy under conditions of permanent war. The executive would become the law unto himself.
    We have to decide. Do we want our Constitution, or do we want our Empire?

    Reply

  96. erichwwk says:

    One last comment (I hope… i am sooo behind).
    The REAL problem with nuclear weapons is NOT the evil they represent (They are a particularly evil form of mass cremation, worse by far than Auschwitz), nor the $7.5 Tillion cost, nor the cancer of the body they cause.
    The REAL issue with nuclear weapons is that it makes the executive branch (both the President and Cabinet Heads, especially DOE and DOD)above the law, and essentially a shadow government where the public and Congress can exert no influence.
    As Garry Wills points out so clearly, without accountability one cannot have a democracy. So it is the cancer of the mind, of our democracy that stems from the Manhattan Project. The executive branch’s ability to determine what is secret is unchallenged. And what is kept secret is the criminal acts of the executive branch and it’s incompetence. Once Leslie Groves proved that one can implement a project of the size of the Manhattan Project and keep in secret from EVERY Congressperson and the Press, it became pointless to go through Congress. Congress was effectively neutered, and the Courts agreed not to pursue “executive or national security issues”.
    Those that have been able to penetrate these secrets (Patrick Moynihan was one, although he resigned when lied to by the CIA), discovered that
    information was kept secret, not from the enemy, but from the American public.
    Wills has the original of a Doonesbury cartoon hanging in his office, signed. The first frame shows an American, at the site of a bombed out village in Cambodia. He says “wow, this is the site of the secret Cambodian bombings”. The Cambodian responds, “No, not secret. I said to Martha, here come the bombs again”.
    Check out the SCOTUS case on which enabled this secrecy U.S. vs Reynolds. (click on erichwwk above)
    Folks really need to understand the Manhattan Project in terms of how it destroyed the US democracy, and made Congress irrelevant.
    http://fora.tv/2010/02/10/Garry_Wills_Bomb_Power
    Without knowing this, one cannot really make sense of what has become of Congress and our democracy.

    Reply

  97. Mike's America says:

    The problem isn’t the team, it’s the captain of the team.
    The team around Obama is only doing what Obama wants done.
    This is what happens when we elect a man with ZERO experience or qualification for the job.

    Reply

  98. erichwwk says:

    I forgot to add James Galbraith’s comment to the Keynes quote:
    ” Today as then, it is that simple.”
    http://bit.ly/bR3IOe+

    Reply

  99. erichwwk says:

    I agree with Steve on this. I had my doubts all along on Obama’s ability to govern or even influence a large bureaucracy such as the U.S.
    But he IS our president for another three years, so talk about replacing him is a waste of time. It simply won’t happen.
    So the second best solution is to replace the next level of influential bureaucrats, ESPECIALLY the four that Steve mentions.
    I too see the failure to close GITMO as having huge repercussions. To me it was the most obvious opportunity to show that he had the guts to stop the hemorrhaging of U.S. lawlessness, the disregard of both domestic and international law.
    It foretold that we would not give up the irrationality of “the war on terror”, or what Dalton Trumbo put this way in reference to WWII and the Korean War: “War occurs when old men are successful in convincing young men to steal for them”.
    So we put $3-4 Trillion in this nonsense, to avenge some 3,000 lives, lives that where lost because the Bill Clinton murdered 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5, an event that then Ambassador Albright said on national TV “was worth it”, a position reiterated by the current government on my state, Bill Richardson, also on national TV. And all this despite the fact that we could save many more lives, much cheaper by addressing cigarette smoking, obesity, high fructose corn syrup subsidies, antiquated medical record keeping, pretending that medical care can be privatized, etc, etc.
    As steve pointed out, “many fear the potential of a double dip recession when the stimulus comes out of the economy.” I am one of those that see this as inevitable, UNLESS we change our pandering of the current financial elite. In fact I would say this is an almost consensus view of the economists blacklisted from the Obama economic team, such as Simon Johnson, Joe Stiglitz, James Galbraith, Dean Baker, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman,. All these see that not only has nothing been done to address the financial regulations and incentives facing financial regulators, but the setting has gotten WORSE.
    http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/4659
    So we have the health care bill Don Bacon can’t understand, with a price tag of ~$1Trillion, despite the fact that we ALREADY spend ~$8,800/capita on health care, and of that amount $4,500/ capita by PUBLIC agencies. We ALREADY have more money in the PUBLIC pot than any other nation, despite ranking at the bottom in terms of health outcome. Rather than trying to REALLY put a chicken in every pot, we spend our money on PR, in trying to convince Americans that the empty pot contains a fine chicken, much what the Soviets did before their collapse.
    I would add one more Obama adviser to the list of those that MUST go. Robert Gates. In a speech on Oct 28, 2008, Gates made it clear that his continuation was conditioned on nuclear weapons supremacy, the issue I (and Garry Wills, and now
    Shane Maddock) see as what will cause the U.S. to implode, USSR style, unless it is addressed. We cannot survive by spending $2,200/ capita/year on the military. Our share of world military expenditure is approaching 70%; the next closest is Italy with 3%.
    One last point. The current jobs bill is $15Billion, spread over the general American population. The bonuses for Goldman Sachs alone, for one year is $16.2Billion. We are preserving the wealth of those who create “phantom wealth” while throwing peanuts to those that create “real wealth”. We not only lose FOREVER, what could have been produced, but we destroy the social connectivity that diminishes their ability to create future real wealth
    As Keynes wrote in 1929:
    “there is work to do; there are men to do it. Why not bring them together?”
    We are in DEEP trouble.

    Reply

  100. Bart says:

    No Dirty Harry need apply regarding Afghanistan. What we need is an MLK Jr to get us out of that folly.

    Reply

  101. Don Bacon says:

    Right, questions, the “crisis” in the oval office merely highlights the vacuum in congress and our inability as citizens to affect congress.

    Reply

  102. questions says:

    YARGH!
    The desire for a Daddyman president, a STRONG LEADER who can LEAD us in a time of peril, a GODLY MAN amongst us mortals, a Dirty Harry guy who knows when to bend the rules because lower justice is lower than the higher justice man upstairs thing, oh Father protect us from taking 6 months to figure out whether or not there are innocent releasable people at Gitmo and whether or not the US court system can cope with these guys and whether or not our intel gathering will be destroyed by trials in some cases and not in others. And Oh Father, protect us from complexity and nuance. And Oh Father, do not bend over. And Oh Father….
    Oh, brother.
    Look, we either have something like participatory politics in which what people want is part of the system, or we have authoritarian politics in which what the FATHER figure says is what happens.
    Please do not wish for what you actually do not wish for. Those on the right who are terrified of Obamanomics because it’s far too centralized, be glad of some diffusion of authority. Those on the left who are terrified of Cheney, be glad of some diffusion of decision-making.
    We do not want an executive who can blackmail or threaten or beat the shit out of political opponents. We may THINK we want that when there’s some policy we’re hoping for, but when the opposite comes into play, we would like to be able to stop it.
    If Obama can SHOVE, then Bush and Cheney can SHOVE. If Obama refuses to shove, that may actually be the very best thing for our political system. Maybe we’ll revert to less of an authoritarian strong OHFATHER executive.
    And maybe we can just stop with the “empty suit” “bend over and get fucked” “you’re not a man cuz a real man would…” rhetoric.
    Rhetoric has consequences.
    Politics and policy are all about distilling what some 300 million of us want, what our institutions can manage, what our constitution allows, what the electoral system has room for, what’s safe, what’s effective, what’s failed or not, what forces in the broader society can and can’t do….
    Obama is stuck with a conductor’s baton, a bunch of ill-trained musicians, some who can’t even read music, some who left their instruments at home, and some who are truly talented. Maybe we should revert to the “think method” and start thinking the Minuet in G! We’ll play it dreadfully at first, of course.
    Cut him, and all of us, some slack! We’re out of practice as an orchestra. And we all prefer our own tempos.

    Reply

  103. samuelburke says:

    “Lincoln had little executive experience yet he become the best
    commander in chief in our nation’s history.”
    this proves it.
    all this proves is that whether you have experience or whether
    you lack any qualifications matters little in how well or poorly
    you did as president. Lincoln is excoriated in some
    constitutional circles, while in other circles he is venerated. How
    disparate a view of the same man.
    can the military be called to attention?
    can the military trust the politicians?
    difficult questions ahead.
    the easy answer is respect for the citizenry and no demagoguery
    from its politicians.

    Reply

  104. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding the health care bill, the Congressional Budget Office has not analyzed it, saying it doesn’t have enough details. I’ve read it (Obama’s proposal, pdf) and I don’t understand it.
    The CBO did analyze a bill last summer. It was $950bil (same as now), and since Obama declared it had to be revenue neutral over ten years the money to pay for the expanded benefits was going to come out of Medicare, and new taxes and penalties, 50/50, PLUS the benefits weren’t to kick in for four years.
    Obama’s new proposal doesn’t have any timetables for coverage. You’d think that a schedule for implementation might be important, but I don’t see it. The plan includes these words, whatever they mean:
    “When the exchanges begin in 2014, the President’s Proposal adds new protections that prohibit all annual and lifetime limits, ban pre-existing condition exclusions, and prohibit discrimination in favor of highly compensated individuals. Beginning in 2018, the President’s Proposal requires “grandfathered” plans to cover proven preventive services with no cost sharing.”
    Does anybody understand the health care plan, and when it would be implemented? It occurs to me that if in fact the benefits don’t kick in for four years, but the Medicare cuts and taxes/penalties start immediately, there might be some discontent in the land. This might not be the case, but as I say I don’t understand the proposal. Does anyone?

    Reply

  105. John Waring says:

    I don’t think anyone has the experience required to be president. The challenges the greatest business CEO faces are nothing in comparison to the issues facing the president.
    FDR could take a ruler and place it coast to coast on a map of the United States. He could then rattle off the top two democrats in each contiguous county all across the country.
    Lincoln had little executive experience yet he become the best commander in chief in our nation’s history.
    I think the man in the office of president has to have a natural knack for it, an eye for it, so to speak.
    I think Obama’s fundamental problem is he doesn’t understand his own brand. That’s why people like me who voted for him after that campaing now have an overwhelming sense of dissonance. I know why I voted for him. I jsut wish he would show up once and a while.

    Reply

  106. Don Bacon says:

    General David McKiernan’s advisors didn’t get canned — he did.
    But when it comes to Obama the US doesn’t have a parliamentary system. **sigh**

    Reply

  107. Drew says:

    SamuelBurke, it’s simply historical fact that generals are, and
    have been, loathe to replace generals. That’s why war is too
    important to leave to the generals (Clemenceau).
    I believe it was Gates who precipitated McKiernan’s firing,
    because he didn’t think McKiernan was paying attention to the
    Kilcullen/Petraeus CI warfighting model that Gates and Obama
    prefer. They thought McKiernan was just blowing too much sh*t
    up.
    IOW, Gates canned the general because he did what Emanuel is
    accused, above, of doing: ignoring the boss’ agenda. Obama
    should take some credit for keeping and supporting the
    incumbent secretary of defense who seems to actually have
    some measure of management control of his generals and
    admirals.
    So Obama could do worse than take counsel from, and the
    management example of, Gates.

    Reply

  108. Drew says:

    Incidentally, has Obama every fired anyone of significance, in his
    life? It is, after all, a skill, requiring both a management
    framework (having a set of expectations and standards for
    subordinate behavior) and the capacity to make decisions when
    the framework is compromised or breached.
    I don’t know of any such incident. Given that this is his first
    full-time job that has an expected duration of at least four
    years, I don’t know how he could have this experience. If he
    doesn’t have the experience, and he hasn’t been around any
    functioning executive team, aren’t we asking the wrong
    questions?
    The more fundamental question might be: does the president
    have a management model at all? What is it?
    Perhaps he is very comfortable with what he’s got, because he
    has no experience nor perspective on a different one.

    Reply

  109. samuelburke says:

    “Coll said that when the U.S. military read that it was clearly losing
    in Afghanistan and that its course was taking it to increasingly
    worse outcomes, the military had the guts and backbone to fire its
    commander there, General David McKiernan, and to try another
    course under General Stanley McChrystal.”
    and this is to be celebrated, that the military is intelligent enough
    to stop running off a cliff once it discovers that it was a cliff.
    if this is an example of pentagon wisdom then we are truly f_ck_d.

    Reply

  110. Carmen Harris says:

    This is my first time reading this blog and I like the post. Although I consider myself to be a staunch liberal, common sense dictates that Obama needs to change out some of the key members of his team. I like Axelrod, but he needs to go. Obama would be well served by having a new communicator too, bye Gibbs. Now, I like Axe and Gibbs, but it seems like Gibbs, who was quite effective during the campaign, has deteriorated since Obama took office. I’m not sure about Valerie’s advice for the President, but she comes off like a yes-woman, in my opinion, so she’d probably go with the flow. I really, really like Rahm and I think that if Axe were gone, Rahm would be more effective. Some people get it and I believe Rahm is one of them.

    Reply

  111. Dan Kervick says:

    Sometimes the shifts in winds of political criticism are so sudden and brisk as to be neck-breaking:
    One Week: Obama doesn’t understand the gravity of the threat of terrorism.
    Next Week: Obama is killing too many terrorists.
    One Week: Obama hasn’t devoted enough personal political capital and attention to health care, and has delegated it all to Congress.
    Next Week: Obama has an Ahab-like obsession with health care.
    As for me, if Obama wants to pursue health care reform down into Davy Jones’s locker like it was the White Whale himself, I say, “You go, Ahab! Put a harpoon in that fucker!”

    Reply

  112. Drew says:

    It’s a lucky president who does not experience some historical
    catastrophe, requiring leadership, decisionmaking, and a
    functioning executive apparatus. Since luck is not a strategy,
    one is left asking, as did Dirty Harry, “Are you feeling lucky?”
    y=catastrophe
    n= no catastrophe
    BushII (9/11), BushI (Iraq/Kuwait), Reagan (if nearly being shot
    dead counts), Carter (Iran hostages), Nixon (VN, criminal
    conduct), Johnson (VN, King assassination, cities on fire),
    Kennedy (VN, Cuban Missile, Berlin), Truman (Korea, Berlin) = Y.
    Clinton, Eisenhower = no
    It seems to me that Reagan’s catastrophe (assassination
    attempt) is arguable, but I include it because despite Haig’s brief
    assertion of authority, his administration showed organizational
    discipline and elasticity in the face of the most direct assault: the
    incapacitation of the head of state.

    Reply

  113. nadine says:

    Good comment, Drew. And scary to contemplate.

    Reply

  114. Drew says:

    Obama has zero executive — zero — experience. This was
    raised in the campaign but he deflected it by saying that he was
    qualified to be the nation’s executive by virtue of running a
    successful campaign.
    Let’s accept that at face value, which is a curious thing to do,
    making campaign success the argument for proxy executive or
    work experience. But let’s accept it at face value. A candidate is
    a totem, a walking symbol, a vessel of voter desire. A successful
    candidate is not a planner, he does not do operations, he does
    not craft words, craft policy, do deals, manage people. That’s all
    done by other people in a campaign.
    So why are people surprised that he’s struggling now to function
    as an executive?
    He took six months to make the sort of decision on Afghanistan
    that FDR and Marshall made over lunch. This was not the aides’
    fault.
    Has he ever been around an executive?
    Since he’s never been around one, how would he know how to
    act?
    My view of him is that the aides are a sideshow. Changing them
    may make this or that tactical element improve. Changing them
    will not alter the character of the presidency. It is the president
    who is allocating his attentions and enthusiasms. If it is true
    that Emanuel did not execute the president’s instructions on
    Gitmo, the real problem here is not Emanuel. It’s Emanuel’s
    boss, who should have warned him once to get with the
    program and, if not satisfied with an immediate turnabout in
    Emanuel’s efforts, done what Reagan did to Haig.
    Haig had made a power play (while SecState) to corral and
    control the many voices influencing US foreign policy outside the
    State Department. He had gone to Reagan with a list of
    grievances and requested fixes. The next day he was invited to
    Reagan’s office, and the genial president handed Haig his letter
    of resignation.
    Can anyone imagine Obama even knowing how to do this?
    I think what this entire discussion reveals is that Emanuel and
    Axelrod are today the functional elements of this presidency,
    and the president has not figured out that what worked in the
    campaign, or in the state senate, or in the 140 days he spent
    working in the U.S. Senate, no longer works. (It’s my view that
    he’s not even that attached to the job, which is astonishing, but
    he does have an astonishing self-regard that may make the job
    of being president seem, well, uninteresting to him. But that’s
    another story. I would hope that he would stop with the “I don’t
    need this job or aggravation” comments, however.)
    This is a real problem. Carter at least had some executive
    experience, but he found that it was too parochial and too small
    to translate to the Oval Office. Clinton fired his legislative aides
    after his first year, and slowly (and by virtue of a voracious
    intellectual appetite (which Obama does not have), and because
    of incredible work habits and people skills) made something of
    his presidency, until he tripped on his d***.
    Obama is one crisis away from being overwhelmed. He has not
    built an effective team, and there is no elasticity in his
    management group. It’s a collection of personalities. Not being
    a man of affection or loyalty, he’s not going to be rewarded with
    much of either if things continue to go south, or if he’s
    blindsided by something bad that can’t be studied for six
    months. This is not good.

    Reply

  115. Carroll says:

    “Some critics of my view and others like Edward Luce at the Financial Times, Leslie Gelb at the Daily Beast, and Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake who have written on the “Rahm plus three crisis” say that these people are largely unknown to the American public so getting rid of them buys Obama nothing with the broader public.”
    The critics are wrong and obviously have some partisan or other reason for suggesting that a good reason not to get rid of them is because it wouldn’t gain the Dem prez aything politically from the public.
    When the real point is Obama needs a better set of advisors and people around him to help him help the country.
    Which I believe is what Steve is saying so he’s right.

    Reply

  116. Wim Prange says:

    Oh Great.
    This is “What Obama Needs To Do Is Wave His Magic Wand And His Problems Will Magically Disappear” post nr 1,440,448 I have read in the last year.
    Can you imagine I’m really getting sick and tired of all these posts?

    Reply

  117. nadine says:

    “I would also add that Milbank is wrong about the Gregory Craig affair. The plans to shut GITMO, the identification of the Illinois-based Thomson Correction Facility, and a plan for moving, releasing, deporting, and trying each and every one of the Guantanamo detainees was finished three months after Obama got the keys to the White House.
    What was lacking was Rahm’s agreement to wring the appropriations needed out of the Congress and to begin a political process to deal with what was clearly going to be a political hurdle absorbing some of the detainees into the American legal system inside formal U.S. borders. Emanuel quashed a plan that had been completed. ” (Steve Clemons)
    Steve, isn’t this sort of like arguing that I completed a beautiful plan for you to ram your head through a brick wall, and you screwed it up by refusing to implement it in a timely fashion?
    “Coll said that when the U.S. military read that it was clearly losing in Afghanistan and that its course was taking it to increasingly worse outcomes, the military had the guts and backbone to fire its commander there, General David McKiernan, and to try another course under General Stanley McChrystal.
    The military didn’t just dog it out with what appeared to be ineffective leadership and a failed plan.”
    To repeat Mickey Kaus’ question: Whom does a President fire when he should fire himself?
    “Obama needs to strategically redeploy his closest group of advisers, change up the game, move some others in, and alter their assignments. And then get smart about how he can work forward from the deficit he’s now in on policies that his administration needs to pursue — in a sensible sequence and reestablishing momentum and vision.”
    First Obama has to admit that it’s not working, and that he needs advice. Can a man as arrogant as Obama admit error in time?

    Reply

  118. DavidT says:

    So sad Steve that you seem to have your own agenda on this matter rather the well being of your countrymen. Health Care is indeed on life support. As for his other initiatives that Obama was working on — given the situation we were in when he took over — things are considerably better than they could have been — though dissappointing that they are not much better. But the primary problem as we both know is health care which the president decided to devote the bulk of his political capital to last year. I don’t know if the summit approach will work but can’t you, for one moment, chip in a little bit to forward this initiative even if you don’t like Emanuel and have such misgivings about our president? Are personalities so important when the lives of so many Americans are at stake?
    I am mixed about Afghanistan but can’t you at least admit that the latest news portends for the better? Yeah I don’t like that Wall Street has behaved so badly and that it shows no contrition. But how does bomb throwing at Wall Street when our financial system could have completely collapsed if our government had not acted make one an advocate of responsible policymaking?
    If you really care about helping Obama’s initiatives why are you carping so much on Emanuel? The only example you cite is Guantanamo. Do you really think this issue has brought down his presidency? Do any of the elites you refer to or the pieces you cite suggest that?
    I am too far from DC to know how key the White House staff was to Obama’s success or lack thereof so far. What I do know is that while you’ve gotten lots of attention you haven’t made a serious case so far nor have you engaged in any serious manner in countering the Emanuel strategy. Good for you for admitting, now that Milbank has explicitly denied it, that you were wrong that Emanuel was his source. And as Les Gelb points out, it would have in fact been politically foolish for him to have initiated Milbank’s piece though in your rush to castigate one who might see the merits of the Emanuel approach whatever your ideological inclination, you assume that such a person must just be a mouthpiece for Emanuel.
    Finally why do you feel Emanuel is so bad while endorsing a Republican for the Senate? You seem to decry the reaching out to Republicans while endorsing one. What sitting Republican do you feel has acted responsibly in the last year? Or is this just an inconvenient fact to push aside?
    E.J. Dionne argues that this is the most important week for the next three years of this presidency. Can’t you put aside, just for a short while, your petty dislikes for the good of the country? Would you really prefer this week be about the supposed incompetence of the White House staff rather than the distortion that the Republican legislators have made of health legislation? Don’t you care a whit about those 31 million uninsured, those dropped from health care plans who will continue to be dropped summarily, and those who are denied coverage for preexisting conditions? Or do you believe that by tearing down, somehow, magically, we’ll have better and more progressive government?

    Reply

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