What Barack Obama Should Learn From Dick Cheney

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cheney growl twn.jpg
Barack Obama should keep his smile and not adopt the scowl that Vice President Richard Cheney often deployed to tenderize his victims, but he should pay careful attention to the way that Cheney animated hundreds of followers to move the Cheney agenda across the national security bureaucracy.
If one were to score “influence” within the G.W. Bush administration, Cheney would get top prize — higher than G.W. Bush himself.
No one knows how the incumbent President Bush makes decisions. He’s not consistent. He holds his cards close — and sometimes tilts one way, sometimes another. Swagger is the defining characteristic of Bush’s decisions — not necessarily logic, or at least not a logical line that I can discern.
Condoleezza Rice has a few followers who do understand her approach to problems — but she never worked to build a significant following.
Colin Powell, who advised caution and a review of every scenario in responding to a serious challenges, tended to matter when he was in the room — and not, when he wasn’t.
But as I have written previously and as Barton Gellman chronicles in his important new book Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Cheney succeeded in not only getting people loyal and beholden to him appointed throughout the vast wings of the country’s national security and intelligence bureaucracies, he and his close team of David Addington, Scooter Libby and John Hannah conveyed a template for approaching the world and agitating for an expansion of Executive Branch authority in comparison to other branches of government.
Cheneyism is disdainful of international institutions like the UN, viewed Europe and other states essentially as supplicants of American power, pushed hard the “unitary executive” notion of presidential authority, reinstituted the secrecy regime to levels greater than Reagan’s CIA chief Bill Casey, promoted taking the gloves off” in American demonstrations of power abroad and in the interrogation room, endorsed torture and viewed the Geneva Accords as rules for the weak, despised regulation of business and industry — particularly the oil, forestry and steel industries.
There are many other dimensions to Cheneyism, but what is important is that his followers understood how Cheney thought and how he would respond to a problem or policy issues.
Dick Cheney has been the most powerful actor in the Bush administration because Cheney didn’t have to tell people hierarchically or by Rumsfeld-style “snow flake memos” what to do or how to think. They knew. And if they didn’t, Cheney might call and simply ask a loaded question of a bureaucrat — even a person very far down the pecking order of an agency or department — as to why he or she hadn’t thought of an alternative way [the Cheney way] of doing something.
Now to think about the new team moving into 1600 Pennsylvania.
According to some reports, Barack Obama seems to think that his intellectual, policy formulation and speechwriting skills are better than those around him — or so goes that narrative in a recent New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza:

Obama, who is not without an ego, regarded himself as just as gifted as his top strategists in the art and practice of politics. Patrick Gaspard, the campaign’s political director, said that when, in early 2007, he interviewed for a job with Obama and Plouffe, Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

Obama may very well be as skilled and confident as this passage suggests — but if he follows that line of logic too far — he’ll end up hamstrung with a huge bureaucracy that won’t necessarily understand the “Obama Way”.
Others might emerge in Obama’s White House with more power than he does to motivate and animate others because they may be more successful at communicating and telegraphing how to approach complex problems and challenges. Of those who are rumored to possibly be in the first Obama cabinet, potential holdover Defense Secretary Robert Gates comes to mind.
At a New America Foundation economic policy event that featured the economic advisers to John McCain, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama, Obama’s adviser Austan Goolsbee made the seemingly sensible suggestion that when confronting complex trade and economic treaties, Obama would weigh each one on its merits. His basic point was that trade deals — even deals that seemingly promoted free trade — were hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pages long. They were not all the same and Obama would support some and not others.
On one level, this suggests flexibility. On another, this possible management approach suggests a micro-focus on policy that Obama can’t afford. Jimmy Carter was a compulsive micro-manager, and it severely handicapped his presidency. Goolsbee’s comment also implies that Obama may not be ready to telegraph to his Cabinet Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, and others the DNA of his generic decisionmaking approach.
To be as successful as Dick Cheney was in influencing action in government, Obama is going to need to telegraph the secrets of “Obama-ism” to his people.
If not, we’ll have an ad hoc presidency, a reactive presidency, a micromanaged presidency, or a presidency hijacked by others who slyly follow Cheney’s approach.
So keep the smile, President-elect Obama, but begin to think about how you clearly convey to your team criteria for decision-making and a guide for responses to complex, unexpected challenges.
I have learned a lot from watching how the Project for a New American Century became so successful and consequential in a remarkably short period of time.
Barack Obama — who ran a very large, successful campaign operation that empowered many — should in governing nonetheless look to Vice President Cheney’s example to understand how a pro — even one who so damaged the interests of the nation — managed power and purpose while in office.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

57 comments on “What Barack Obama Should Learn From Dick Cheney

  1. Lisa P says:

    Obama wants to learn everything about you if you plan to take part in his administration. That seems fair, doesn’t it? If a person is going to uphold a title in any high-responsibility position in America’s federal government, it is in the best interest of the nation and its people that the person meets certain qualifications and not be a security risk. However, it seems reasonability has its limits. On his seven-page 63-question application, Obama asks for detailed information on each person that’s a hopeful for his team. With this profound application screening, you’d think the administration would have enough to perform credit repair for everyone who applies. CNN revealed a copy of this questionnaire, which requires applicants not only to thoroughly clarify their deeds and accomplishments over the past 10 years or more, they must also do the same for their spouse. As part of my hope that applicants indeed get free credit repair through this deal, here are some of my favorite questions… (1) Writing: Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other Web sites) you have authored, individually or with another. Please list all aliases or “handles” you have used to communicate over the Internet. (2) Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an E-mail, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe. (3) Please provide the URL address of any Web sites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, etc.) This is only the top layer of how deep the application goes. So, if you’re planning on serving under the “change” administration and you don’t have all you’re aces on the surface, you should probably start digging. Click to read more on Credit Repair.

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  2. Lisa P says:

    To bring change in the US economy means even in single and smaller things, the newly elected president should be implementing thorough analysis and decision-making process. Obama is beginning to assemble his cabinet and staff, and like any other high level position in the government. The 7 page application, posing 63 questions that are so invasive; he might as well throw in credit repair. The applicant screening questions ask things like everything the applicant as well as their spouse(s) have done in the past 10 years, any and all publications such as books, publications in journals, letters to editors, and anything posted on the internet, and any and all aliases used on the internet. Also, the applicant must reveal any and all information on any private website that they use, such as MySpace or Facebook, which they use in either personal or professional capacity, to rule out any and all conflicts of interest. The application and depth of information to be able to serve this new commander in chief is so intrusive, he might as well offer them free credit repair as a bonus for having to reveal everything on their application. Click to read more on Credit Repair.

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  3. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    BO apparently learned a thing or two from Darth on torture…see WSJ
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122636726473415991.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
    Mr.Murder…I too thought of Claude Rains in Casablanca when I read the report about the “documents”….
    Carroll…there you go…getting down to brass tacks again…are you trying to rain on the Yes We Can parade? Send some rain my way…I’m right over the mountain from the fire in Montecito, so I’m watering, watering, watering.

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  4. rich says:

    kotzabasis,
    You erroneously equate militarism with strength and standard diplomatic relations with weakness.
    Over-extending our military and putting our soldiers in an always-already untenable situation is an act of weakness. Worse, it displays for all to see that we have no leverage or any other means to acheiver our ends.
    And it’s not just a failure of imagination.
    Of course we must take out an immediate or existential threat. But that’s not what we’ve been doing.
    This goes, again, to your blindness in seeking to justify invading or carpet-bombing neutral countries, in contravention of U.S. law, simply because Vietnamese nationalists had taken refuge in Cambodia or Iraqis had fled to Syria. Compounding our military-political error this way just exposes the weakness of mind and weakness of military force of the original mistake: to occupying Vietnam or Iraq.
    It’s better not to occupy a country when you can’t seal its borders, don’t you think? That simple metric would preclude cross-border havens and the foolishness of bombing neutral or sovereing nations. It takes a weak-minded and weak military to take that course of action rather than re-evaluate whether their is any geopolitical objective being met, or whether the national security of United States is being maintained by the initial invasion/occupation.
    This is just common sense, RealPolitik, consonant with our Founding Fathers’ understanding of why & how military must be exercised, how decisions to go to war must be made, and for what purpose.
    You should get familiar with that history and those concepts, rather than warping military might into raw, meaningless terms that fit your own parochial purposes.

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  5. kotzabasis says:

    Certainly Obama has already built his “model” through his own words. And if his actions follow his own model in foreign affairs, such as withdrawing US troops from Iraq or starting talks with the Iranians without preconditions, then his actions will be the actions of a weak leader issuing from his brittle strategic model.
    Not all actions “cancel each other out” or can one foresee when an action is taken whether it will be cancelled out. Some actions are unique and irrevocable due to their power and cannot be cancelled out. An example would be the action to use a nuclear weapon. What other action could cancel such an action?
    When one faces an immediate deadly threat it would be the utmost folly to build a “model” that would be “supportable in a COLLABORATIVE future.”
    Your unrealistic romantic and weak models are consuming you.

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  6. David says:

    “cleverly constructed ‘escape clauses’ from a clear set of future actions, especially in foreign affairs, that would mesmerize only the politically naive.”
    kotzabasis, the ability to construct cleverly phrased escape clauses is critical for any president who plans to take reality as he finds it and try to find the most workable solutions to major problems. I don’t mesmerize, and you don’t come out of my particular life experience politically naive, especially not if you are aware you were filmed by the FBI simply for participating in a peaceful student demonstration in Gainesville, Florida in 1964 to encourage a segregationist to serve black students at the College Union. I understand how politicians talk, why they say what they do, and how to judge their actions. Pick a different line of attack.
    Dan Kervick,
    Rahm Emanuel’s apology to ADC’s president Mary Rose Oakar is significant, it has real impact, and it sets a very important tone for the incoming administration. I don’t give a shit even why he said it. I do care what he said, to whom he said it, and how he said it.
    My first teaching job, starting in 1967, was at a high school in northwest Orange County, Florida. The principal was from South Carolina, a Southern Baptist and a segregationist (one of the catch-phrases that used to find its way around SBC churches was, “I don’t know about you, but where I come from, meaning somewhere in the Deep South, it rhymes with chigger.”) For the 1968 school year, Orange County public schools were ordered to implement full integration. In 1967 we had had very, very limited “voluntary” integration, but without closing the black high schools – and the only direction had to be from black to white high schools because of how poorly funded black high schools had always been, including infrastructure.
    The principal went to the black high school in the spring of 1968, and before a full assembly of the black students, said that come fall of 1968 all of the black students would be welcomed and the newly integrated high school, and embraced fully as fellow students. There were some white students who undoubtedly wanted to disagree, but that was one amazingly smooth transition, in very large part because he gave that speech and laid down the expectations for everyone to hear, including white people in the community who might be looking for him to object, knowing his segregationist past. Within a year, it was as if we’d always been integrated, the only sour note being that the faculty took longer to reflect the demographics of the student population. But it even got there.
    I do have a clue what the hell I’m talking about, I just have no problem praising and thanking someone for doing the right thing, and feeling a sense of pride in that person. I was proud of my principal for what he did, and proud of what it meant for that school. I can even be effusive at times – without apology.
    And as a Southerner, special thanks Sweetness for your comment.

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  7. SansS says:

    kotzabasis
    It’s not just action that is to be measured. Actions tend to cancel each other out.
    Models that you build with words are real because only ideas have meaning. You can measure others through their words and actions but measuring actions without a model is fooling oneself.
    As the Cherokee parable, literature and moral texts suggest, strategies boil down to two models: good and evil.
    Cheney has been feeding a certain model and he is a master tactician in doing so.
    Obama has been feeding the other model also masterfully. Moreover he has been doing it transparently with words and results.
    Obama’s model is supportable in a collaborative future and that people believe in a collaborative model.
    I suspected, and then checked your about page and now I know, that your model doesn’t see a collaborative future.
    Your words are consuming you.

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  8. Sweetness says:

    In other news, it appears we are not a post-racial society…
    “NEW YORK Many conservative pundits and Republican
    officeholders on the national stage have reacted to the election
    of Barack Obama as a promising step forward in the history of
    race relations and democracy in the U.S. But gaining much less
    coverage from the national media are local reactions that are far
    less accepting and positive.”
    Continues…
    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display
    .jsp?vnu_content_id=1003890511
    Via tpm

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  9. Sweetness says:

    Rich writes: “Re the link above: Actions trump lip service, no
    question. But we can’t discount the fact that Rahm Emanuel
    repudiated and apologized for his father’s words. Not easy, but
    necessary given the Stern Gang’s tactics and what we all hope is
    on the national agenda.”
    Yes, and the actions are yet to come. So we will see. I think the
    Stern Gang background is interesting and worth keeping an eye
    on to see if it seeps through to the second generation, but…the
    Stern Gang story is ancient history. RE, himself, never
    participated, AFAIK, in anything even remotely similar.
    Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK. I’m willing to bet that
    3/4 of the southern delegation have pro-segregationist family
    members, past and present. And Jesse Helms was re-elected to
    the Senate six times, I believe, by the good folk of NC.
    So let’s see. It was a good first step, first step though it be.

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  10. rich says:

    Re the link above: Actions trump lip service, no question. But we can’t discount the fact that Rahm Emanuel repudiated and apologized for his father’s words. Not easy, but necessary given the Stern Gang’s tactics and what we all hope is on the national agenda.
    From the article:
    Emanuel Calls ADC to Repudiate Negative Comments About Arabs
    Washington, DC | November 13, 2008 | http://www.adc.org | Today, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, recently appointed White House Chief of Staff to President-Elect Barack Obama, called American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) President Mary Rose Oakar to repudiate negative comments about Arabs made by his father Benjamin Emanuel .
    In the phone call, Congressman Emanuel said, “From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family.” During the phone call, Emanuel added, it is unacceptable to make remarks such as these against any ethnic or religious group.
    ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, “We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms. I welcome Rahm’s apology and his pledge to meet with our Community. I also thank our members and friends who responded who expressed concern about this matter. ”
    <<

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  11. kotzabasis says:

    David,
    A person’s strength of character is not shown in his words but in his actions. The primary and general elections were a fill of polished and eloquent words and cleverly constructed ‘escape clauses’ from a clear set of future actions, especially in foreign affairs, that would mesmerize only the politically naive.

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  12. Dan Kervick says:

    Emanuel’s apology is just your standard, pro forma, politician’s CYA apology. I am stunned that anyone who wasn’t born yesterday could genuinely feel “proud” or “elated” or “relieved” or any of the other emotional states that have been professed today by the pious.
    Emanuel has a very strong, deep, hawkish commitment to the cause of Israel and its many troubles. I take it for granted that he and his family are not overly fond of Arabs, and that the old man’s spontaneous gaffe is probably more revelatory of the Emanuel mindset than any political performances before the cameras.

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  13. Matt says:

    IMO, this week’s New Yorker is a really fine piece of work, most of it being devoted to Obama and his recent win. It really is a relief to see that particular liberal voice renew its vigor.
    Also, subscribers might be interested to know that the entire contents of each week’s magazine are now available online – the magazine is scanned page by page and put up immediately as it hits the presses. In addition, subscribers get full access to the New Yorker archive all the way back to 1925. I have no connection with the New Yorker, I just thought this might be of interest.

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  14. David says:

    I had e-mailed Rahm yesterday with a tactful request that he do something about his father’s comment, although I also noted that one cannot control what one’s father says, nor should one.
    When I got the notice that he had made this phone call, I immediately e-mailed him a thank you, noting that he had stood tall today, and that he had made me proud of both him individually and the incoming administration of which he is a key part.
    In a way, it might be a painful blessing in disguise in that it is a very positive counter to the fact that the Obama campaign was careful not to have any scarved Muslim women visible behind Obama, knowing exactly what the Republican machine would do with that image (although I thought, and still think, they were wrong – it would have enhanced Obama’s stature).

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  15. David says:

    Major thanks, michael, for posting that fable. I second Sans S’s comment.
    WTF, kotzabasis? On what do you base this? Cheney strikes me as rather two-dimensional, more an example of narrow, self-absorbed ideology with strong overtones of a monarchial mindset than anything else. I don’t know if he was always that way. At this point he reminds me of J. Edgar Hoover.
    To suggest that Obama lacks stength of character and determination is to blather in shallow generalizations. Did you pay any attention to the primary and general elections? Did you listen to his speech after the Reverend Jeremiah Wright media feeding frenzy? C’mon, offer legitimate analytical criticism, for goodness sake.

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  16. kotzabasis says:

    Obama cannot learn anything from Dick Cheney because he doesn’t have the latter’s strength of character and unskakable determination.

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  17. Measure for Measure says:

    Obamaism:
    Yes, work within a center-left analytic framework.
    However.
    Take care to understand the opposing argument, especially if it’s from the opposing party. Try to isolate a central concern and incorporate it into your own policy. There’s much to be said for placating the opposition.
    Even better, one should be able to address conservatives in a manner that suggests understanding of their concerns and temperament.
    Obama did this with the death penalty in IL. Obama did this with mandates in his health care proposal. I suspect that there are other examples.
    If the opposition is obstructionist, this approach is a recipe for weakness. But then again, the administration may be able to pick off some ideas from the small number of moderate Republicans left in Congress or perhaps the state houses.

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  18. SansS says:

    Micheal,
    Wonderful! Story telling is one of the most powerful tools.
    This one is one of the best instances I’ve come across. Thank you for that. I hope to share that often.
    It evaporates the complexity of that intriguing history rich and Paul discuss earlier:
    “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”

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  19. michael claussen says:

    A Motivational Story with Wisdom –
    Two Wolves
    Cherokee Wisdom .
    One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
    He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
    One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
    The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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  20. Linda says:

    Sam S and POA,
    I’ve read this thread with great interest and at first pretty much agreed with POA’s first comment.
    I haven’t yet received this week’s “New Yorker” and wanted to read the entire Lizza article because the quote Steve used disturbed me too. I was thinking very much along the lines you wrote, Sam.
    Indeed before Blanchard, Deming, Drucker, Peters, Iaccoca, and all the management gurus, leaders and managers need to have intelligence including emotional intelligence, common sense, and ethics. All these ideas and tools help, but the only one of these books I kept on my desk was “The Power of Ethical Management” by Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale for this one page 27:
    THE “ETHICS CHECK” QUESTIONS
    1. Is it legal? Will I be violating either civil law or company policy?
    2. Is it balanced? Is it fair to all concerned in the short term as well as in the long term?
    Does it promote win-win relationships?
    3. How will it make me feel about myself? Will it make me proud? Would I feel good if my decision was published in the newspaper? Would I feel good if my family knew about it?
    Of course, this is not a perfect world or country, but we wouldn’t be in so many messes now if leaders and managers in government and in the private sector asked themselves those questions before making decisions.

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  21. Mr.Murder says:

    He didn’t run a great campaign, a great campaign ran him.

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  22. SansS says:

    I had a hard time too with that passage in Lizza’s article when I read it. To grasp the context, I tried to reflect back on periods when I employed people. I tried to remember if I said anything in that vein or vanity. (ooohh those vanities)
    It troubled me that Obama would be presumptuous on that level. And then I remembered. When I needed to modify or bring someone to a way of thinking, to lead them I had to get them off their balance, to create some confusion in them. I could then pass on a commons model to develop to. It was manipulative but leadership is.
    You then have to help them achieve and praise or reset their behavior. It’s a mentoring technique based on the idea that someone can’t learn something if they think that they already know it. Sprinkle a little de Bono on the ‘One Minute Manager’.
    I was glad to see in the closing paragraph of that article that Obama was humble and driven by a similar mentoring premise but applied to himself.

    … Obama told aides, “I’m in this to win, I want to win, and I think we will win. But I’m also going to emerge intact. I’m going to be Barack Obama and not some parody.” At another point, in early 2007, Obama returned from a forum about health care knowing that he had not done well against Hillary Clinton. “She was very good, and I need to meet that standard, meet that test,” he told Axelrod. “I am not a great candidate now, but I am going to figure out how to be a great candidate.”

    He knew his confusion and he drove to learn a model he envisioned, that is humility and great self-motivated management.
    Steve, I don’t think this was a toothpick to chew on. It was a good analysis, maybe too subtle.
    It begs ‘what’s missing in the analysis rendered by the MSM’. That is the study of management style. Now that we have a leader that can manage that study should intensify. It should contrast management thinking that highlights the needs for future voters to use.
    The MSM has a dilemna in that scenario. It would not be able to sell drama on the cheap. Moreover does the MSM understand principles and qualities of management well enough to talk about ‘strategy’ management and issues.
    Steve, you’ve articulated a tactical management system but meaningful study of both strategic and tactical systems is pretty thin under the ozone layer. In the case of Cheney that would be the absence of constructive moral strategic management. Tactician he is and that has many lessons to digest still.
    One of the first management books I read (way back before Drucker and Deming were commonly invoked names and practically before management became a science) stated that management may best be described by ‘observing its absence’.
    In doing the case study of the “Bush” administrations (Bush leagues, huh?) leadership studies would start by listing the absence in both management systems. Would W even grasp there is a difference?
    I like where you’re going, let’s keep referring back to leadership management and we may have a chance of seeing democracy again.

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  23. Zathras says:

    It appears as if Sen. Obama’s transition team has picked up at least one thing from the one Dick Cheney ran eight years ago, if today’s NYT story is any indication: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/us/politics/13apply.html?hp
    Actually, Cheney began extravagantly detailed questionnaires when he ran the process of “vetting” potential running mates for George W. Bush. According to Gellman, they enabled him to gather so much information on aspirants for the job that they may have inhibited later criticism from leading Republicans of Bush’s administration. This store of information appears to have made it possible for Cheney to block the appointment of Oklahoma governor Frank Keating as Attorney General.
    There is vetting, and there is vetting. Vetting can mean screening for things that would make a job applicant unsuitable, and it can mean screening for things that might generate bad press stories and lost news cycles. Or, it can mean screening for people who will always be responsive, even pliable, regardless of their positions or responsibilities, because the person (in Cheney’s case) or team (in the case of Obama’s transition group) responsible for hiring them knows everything about them and their families. I suspect Obama’s people are serious about the first kind of vetting; I doubt they are capable of resisting the temptation to avoid doing the second kind, which would tend to exclude from important jobs many capable people who had something unconventional in their backgrounds.
    As to the third kind, well, this is a matter of trust. Do I trust Obama’s people not to use this kind of intensive screening in the same way Cheney did? No.

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  24. Paul Norheim says:

    But I have to add, in the spirit of Carrolls` comment, that it`s a
    dictatorship that is broke. I wonder how it will turn out: Will
    Obama cancel the GWOT? Will he find a way out of the economic
    mess?
    Will he somehow be able to do both of those things during his
    term.

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  25. Paul Norheim says:

    “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”
    Indeed, rich, that`s the most famous Schmitt quote.
    In dangerous times, in a state of emergency, anyone who is in
    power (a revolutionary movement, a coup d´etat faction, or the
    established power) controls the nation, and in this state of
    emergency and crisis, law and power are indistinguishable.
    (That`s BTW the reason why also some revolutionary groups
    were fascinated by the theories of Schmitt, including the
    estimable Walter Benjamin, during the Weimar Republic).
    One of the big questions now, regarding this issue, is
    connected to the so called Global War On Terror.
    This is both a literal and an ideological warfare – right? How
    long is it going to last? Seven years? Fifteen? Thirty years?
    The Bush administration has clearly suggested that it is likely to
    last for a generation – i.e. thirty years.
    Thirty years of a state of emergency? “Sovereign is he who
    decides on the exception”???
    The Romans thought about dictatorial powers as something that
    was necessary for a short period of time (six months, actually),
    in an emergency situation. And then back to normal. But what
    happens if a war, a Global War On Terrorism, is extended to last
    for 20, 30, or 40 years? A state of emergency with the suitable
    dictatorial powers for 30 years or more?
    Then we are not talking about dictatorial power even in the
    Roman sense, but about something that is likely to transform
    into a permanent dictatorship.
    Many of the neocons were said to be inspired by Trotsky and his
    idea of a permanent revolution. If nobody cancel The Global War
    On Terror, it may well become a permanent dictatorship
    instead.
    And I guess, POA, that this may answer your question as well:
    “Anyone else curious as to who exactly is leading this nation at
    this time?”
    It`s those who guard the idea of The Global War On Terrorism.
    Those who claim that the state of emergency is more or less
    permanent.

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  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Anyone else curious as to who exactly is leading this nation at this time? Bush obviously isn’t, as his last few utterances seem to be centered around rewriting history to preserve the fictitious “legacy” he fantacizes about leaving. Like every other endeavor the piece of shit has attempted throughout his life, he is turning tail and running, denying responsibility for the outcome of his own actions.
    Obama is manning the helm of a sinking ship, and will likely loot the holds of whatever cargo isn’t yet water damaged. Then, having preserved a well stocked lifeboat for he and his, he will abandon the crew to thier fate. And why not? He will be blamed for the catastrophe anyway. And how painful is blame if not accompanied by accountability? I don’t see any grimaces on Bush’s face, so it must not be too taxing. He will probably gleefully cut brush in Crawford with a clear conscience, fully delusional in his denial of any part in the sinking.
    Like lambs to the slaughter, we have become too gutless to protest or revolt. The political intelligensia tell us we aren’t actually witnessing what our instincts tell us is reality, while our media provides the scripted substitute.
    We’re fucked.

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  27. rich says:

    Paul Norheim,
    Yes, Schmitt saw the irreducible duality in politics as the distinction between friend and enemy.
    I submit this explains the consternation prompted by Joseph Lieberman’s public persona.
    The Good Senator’s conception of friend and enemy deviates markedly that held by Democrats. This has nothing to do with Israel, in my view, and everything to do with viewing militarist, anti-Constitutionalist neocons as ‘friends’ and everbody else–the American People–as enemies.
    Same is true for Harry Reid and Chris Dodd, who continually explain that Joe Lieberman is their friend, literally and politically, whereas anyone (you & me) seeking Democratic Reps./Sens. accountable to the law and to the nation are upending the apple cart and therefore are a threat to the status quo; enemies [sic].
    This idea has some explanatory power for the otherwise inexplicable acts by Dems, as well as for the judicial decisions that fritter away our basic form of governance.
    Paul Norheim, I’m sure you realize the lessons of WWII (Schmitt, etc., etc.) form a good portion of the basis the reasoned and heated criticism directed at Bush, Cheney and the likes of Arlen Specter. They are unable to assess the implications of their presumption and incapable of tasting the bitter fruit they’ve brought upon the nation.
    Schmitt and Co. preferred renewing the suspension of German law rather than abrogating it outright, to imply a continuing state of emergency supposedly justifying their betrayal of law. This is no different from Arlen Specter & colleagues renewal of the Patriot Act and related ’emergency’ statues. Specter and Co. mistakenly believe it’s possible to suspend American civil liberties, in practice or in fact. That’s not possible, given these are inalienable right and by definintion bodily-held, creator-endowed and intrinsic to our beings.
    Yet the sophistry and arrogance required to abuse the public, and our birthright, and in so doing the security of the nation, receives little and no pushback from officials who have trouble differentiating our friends from our enemies.
    “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”
    So, Steve, is this the lesson Barack Obama is supposed to learn from Dick Cheney?

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    To extend my question a little bit, rich: You could say that Carl
    Schmitt was Hitler`s John Yoo & Addington in one person (but he
    was not a political figure like Cheney).
    Google him, he is interesting and relevant today. Especially his
    “theory of the Partisans” (regarding the legal status of “illegal
    combatants”, the Geneva Convention etc), but also his earlier
    theories regarding political enemies and his reflections of who
    has the power during a state of emergency, written during the
    Weimar Republic and the Hitler Regime. Just a suggestion.

    Reply

  29. Paul Norheim says:

    rich,
    are you familiar with the works of Carl Schmitt?

    Reply

  30. rich says:

    Is it JUST Cheney’s administrative prowess at work? I disagree the record justifies that view.
    There is a relentlessness, a refusal to adhere to any statutory limitation and a willingness to go ahead and just do whatever he wished whether he had that administrative power or not.
    Maybe though, Steve, that’s what you mean in using the bloodless euphemism of the VP’s skillfull use of institutional mechanisms. You wrote:
    “Cheney and Addington essentially hijacked the bureaucracy of national security and put themselves in the cockpit of government. In chapter after chapter, we read how Cheney set about constructing a secretive system of government and policymaking in which he was accountable to almost no one.”
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22060
    Excellent profile of Dick Cheney by David Bromwich in the New York Review of Books, written in the context of 8 books including Angler.
    Couple observations.
    Zalmay Khalilzad drafted Cheney’s doctrine of ‘preventive war’. Let’s get over him.
    What was George H.W. Bush’s Vice Presidential role in the Reagan White House? I submit it was more than many are willing to admit, and Cheney openly tried to install / formalize that level of power. Cheney’s roots provided all the instructions and allies he’d need to move forward without argument or opposition.
    Dick Cheney’s relationships with tainted personnel from the Nixon, Reagan & H.W. Bush White Houses brought a loyalty outweighing any other considersation. See Poindexter and Cohen. Unemployable and humiliated by their roles in the Iran-Contra Scandal, and presumably unemployable, they enjoyed unfettered access & power under Cheney’s patronage. It’s a demonstration of raw power that ensured total loyalty and had to demoralize opponents.
    From David Bromwich:
    >>
    “Cheney’s ruling passion appears to be a love of presidential power. Go under the surface a little and this reveals itself as something more mysterious: a ceaseless desire of power after power. It is a quality of the will that seems accidentally tied to an office, a country, or a given system of political arrangements.
    Jack Goldsmith, the head of the Office of Legal Council who fought hard against encroachments on the laws by Cheney and his assistant David Addington, remarked later with consternation and a shade of awe: “Cheney is not subtle, and he has never hidden the ball. The amazing thing is that he does what he says. Relentlessness is a quality I saw in him and Addington that I never saw before in my life.” Yet there is nothing particularly American about Cheney’s idea of government, just as there is nothing particularly constitutional about his view of the law; and no more broadly characterizing adjective, such as “Christian,” will cover his ideas of right and wrong.”
    >
    “The Cheney doctrine of preventive war was first announced in a document called Defense Planning Guidance, drafted in 1992 by Zalmay Khalilzad—now US ambassador to the UN after serving as ambassador to Iraq—and revised by Lewis Libby. This guide was cleared for public release in early 1993 by Cheney in his final days as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense. Cheney took considerable pride in the prescription here that the US should “act against” emerging threats “before they are fully formed.” George W. Bush would still be echoing those phrases in his June 2002 commencement address at West Point: “We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” Richard Perle saying “We have no time to lose” (July 11, 2002) and Cheney himself telling the Veterans of Foreign Wars that “time is not on our side” (August 26, 2002) kept up the same drumbeat with the same theory to support them. Defense Planning Guidance conferred on America the right to launch at will an international war of aggression. As for the larger strategy, extractable from Rebuilding America’s Defenses, it was marked by an overriding ambition for global mastery, for the possession of irresistible military forces, for an expanded arsenal of nuclear weapons, and for large new investments in missile defense. These publications of 1993 and 2000 now seem a pair of symbolic brackets around the neoconservative exile that was the Clinton administration. All along, this was the normal thinking around the AEI and the Cheney circle. Yet when placed alongside the norms of the containment policy during the years 1946–1989, the new dogma betrayed a shift so tremendous that it could not have been ratified without a layer of well-instructed opinion makers to prepare and soften its acceptance.”
    <<
    This is literally, of course, the adoption of the Hitlerian military method, without even the slim justification of France as the neighboring enemy with centuries of endless war as context. Cheney looked at WWII, and took the wrong lesson.

    Reply

  31. Paul Norheim says:

    Great comment above, Carroll.
    I watched the election on a vacation in Berlin, surrounded by
    beer drinking young Germans, Americans and a couple of
    Norwegian friends. The Germans were ecstatic. And I was happy
    that McCain/Palin didn`t get the opportunity to cause more
    destruction.
    But I couldn`t help thinking of Barack Obama as sentenced to
    four years in the White House, like a prominent prisoner allowed
    to make influential speeches. Politically impotent, but with an
    enormous cultural and symbolic impact, domestically, as well as
    abroad.
    His assets: character, oratory gifts, intelligence. A unique
    ability to contribute to the healing of wounds regarding
    ethnicity, historical mistakes, party divisions, ideological wars
    etc – as well as being able to convince the broader world that
    America still contains voices of reason, intelligence and a certain
    amount of basic decency.
    But still a political prisoner, because his father in the White
    House spent all his political, military, and ideological capital as
    well as borrowed dollars on reckless adventures (supervised by
    Uncle Dick). The gifted son of a drunken sailor and criminal who
    happily managed to escape, while his son ended under house
    arrest.
    However, Obama did not only inherit debt. He also received a
    couple of luxury gadgets as a present from Uncle Dick, among
    them the immense power of the Unitary Executive.
    He should thank him by using this gift to systematically undo
    99% of the decisions Bush made as The Decider, and then,
    finally, undo the power of the Unitary Executive as illegitimate
    power.
    Regarding the Middle East and Central Asia, my guess is that
    the course will be determined more by local and regional events
    than by US policies. And if Obama still insists on an “undivided
    Jerusalem”, things will only get worse regarding the
    Israel/Palestine conflict – especially if Netanyahu becomes the
    next Israeli prime minister.
    But Obama may fulfill his promise of change on a couple of
    issues:
    1) Different policy toward Cuba, creating a domino effect in
    Latin America.
    2) Undo the decision to build that rocket shield, unpopular not
    only in Russia, but in Europe as well.

    Reply

  32. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Are you guys sure Cheney’s success wasn’t founded on putting the word out that if you crossed him he’d have Lindy England goose you with a broom stick?

    Reply

  33. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hmmmm.
    Ok, Steve, I get it.
    I won’t mention the mystery post again.

    Reply

  34. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Jason — I am more optimistic about Obama actually.
    In case you are interested, this is my review of Angler:
    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2008/oct/20/00029/
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  35. Jason says:

    I read Angler too, and I took away a different
    argument from it about the main source of Cheney’s
    effectiveness.
    Cheney was effective for many reasons, but if I
    had to pick one, I argue it was his knowledge of
    the federal bureaucracy, and more generally his
    understanding of how power works.
    One of the anecdotes in the book that sticks out
    in my mind is the first few days of the Bush
    presidency when Cheney called the GPO and told
    them to stop printing the executive orders that
    Clinton made at the last minute. He knew that if
    he could stop them from being printed, they would
    never take effect.
    He had a familiarity of all the tools of power
    available to him and an expertise in using them
    that few people in government had. That, coupled
    with a clear vision of what he wanted to do, is
    what made him successful in my eyes.
    If I am right, and much of Cheney’s power came
    from his knowledge of the bureaucracy and power,
    then there are limits to what Obama can learn from
    Cheney’s experience because Obama doesn’t have the
    same depth of knowledge. I think Obama’s success
    will come from his own understanding of power,
    based on different principles than Cheney’s
    understanding but potentially just as effective.

    Reply

  36. daCascadian says:

    The anti-Cheney is the net and the use of it by “We the people…”. Get used to it.
    Laugh all you want today but you have been put on notice of what is ahead. For starters you can read today`s announcements about the Obama camp`s naming of their web folks.
    A tidal wave is come & the smart ones are preparing. Will you be one of the prepared ?
    “…We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class….” Joe Klein

    Reply

  37. ToddinHB says:

    I actually saw Barton Gellman speak at an event here in LA and asked him how Cheney compared to Colonel Jessup from “A Few Good Men” – the Jack Nicholson role. He laughed and said that Cheney believes that the American public can’t handle the truth, hence his casual use of lies to strongarm Congress into doing his bidding.
    He mentioned a particularly noxious example where Cheney, realizing that Dick Armey was on the verge of oppposing the Iraq war authorization, pulled him into his lair and basically lied about Hussein’s WMD programs and ties to Al Queda.
    The man is a psychopath. How many have died directly due to his paranoia?

    Reply

  38. questions says:

    Another thing to toss into the salad — (Bush and) Cheney ruled with the end goal of secrecy. We the people were to know nothing about the workings of government, either because it enhanced the power of the position, or because it made a spoils system easier to carry out.
    Obama has an expressed desire for transparency. This shift alone is worth its weight in tennis court schedules (as Carter was reported to have micromanaged even these). Agency officials will know what to do because we will all have access to what they are supposed to do — at least in theory. If the transparency moves really work their way into the system, Obama’s Obama will be a whole lot better than Cheney’s Cheney.

    Reply

  39. bangzoom14 says:

    Dick Cheney. The original quack job.

    Reply

  40. Aravir says:

    Steve,
    Was Cheney more effective than Reagan? (I’m asking this on a macro level). I would submit not. Yet Obama’s style is most akin to Reagan’s, of all of the recent executive level leaders in the US.
    I agree with your point on Carter. He knew that he was generally the smartest person in the room, and felt compelled to prove it. I think what we have with Obama is someone with the brains of a Carter, but with the style of a Reagan. That combination trumps the Cheney style.

    Reply

  41. Dwight McCabe says:

    From what I’ve read, Cheney’s methods went far beyond the choice of like-minded political appointees. They then perverted the neutrality and competence of the entire Civil Service by driving out those who disagreed with their radical ideological views and by (illegally) hiring only those who met their ideological criteria.
    I’m guessing that the Obama Administration will face years of internal guerrilla warfare on policy implementation from these ideologically driven civil servants unless he plans to aggressively seek out and remove them.
    We become like our enemy in order to defeat him. This politicization of the bureaucracy is the lasting legacy of Cheney and Bush.

    Reply

  42. Mr.Murder says:

    The Atta Prague rumors that Cheney piped so much seem to align with a money trail back to Iraq.
    The Czech embassy recognizes Kurdistan.
    AEI has statements of support for it.
    Follow the Money.

    Reply

  43. Mr.Murder says:

    “I’m shocked, shocked that allegations are emerging at the International
    Atomic Energy Agency that US-supplied “documents” from a laptop
    acquired in 2004 indicating a secret Iranian weapons program were
    probably forgeries.The IAEA clearly hopes that the Obama administration
    will stop trying to undermine it and will stop the Washington habit of
    using forged documents as a basis for aggressive military responses to
    nuclear programs and instead will opt for diplomacy.”
    –Posted By Juan Cole to Informed Comment at 11/10/2008 02:17:00 PM
    Fool me thrice…

    Reply

  44. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve, do you think the Cheney followers followed Cheney because they *understood* Cheney’s approach to issues better than they understood Bush’s approach? Or were they just more *loyal* to Cheney and his approach? My sense is that from Day One, a whole bunch of appointees in the Bush administration simply took it for granted that Cheney was the guy who was really in charge, and that Bush was just a figurehead.
    Cheney had been the chair of the VP selection committee. Then he was tabbed as VP. Then he was chair of the transition team, and so he had a huge influence over the people who were actually appointed, and no doubt inserted a lot of friends and loyalists. Then he was the organizer of the secret energy commission, which established the strategic energy plan into which adventures such as Iraq were fit. For 3/4 of his administration, Bush was just a stooge, and everyone in that administration knew it.
    You say that a lot of bureaucrats knew what Cheney wanted, even without a memo. But you also say, “and if they didn’t, Cheney might call and simply ask a loaded question of a bureaucrat — even a person very far down the pecking order of an agency or department — as to why he or she hadn’t thought of an alternative way [the Cheney way] of doing something.”
    That sounds like micromanaging to me. But the thing that should be stunning here is that a low-level bureaucrat would assume that he or she *takes orders from the Vice President of the United States*, when the VP has no constitutional role in the functioning of the executive branch! It is also astonishing that a Vice President would presume to pick up the phone and give direction to some bureaucrat in the executive branch who is *not on the VP’s own staff*!
    That’s just plain chutzpah and usurpation of power. From the very beginning Cheney assumed and asserted power, and from the very beginning people in the executive branch knew he was in charge and took orders from him. Bush either delegated that power consciously, or was too witless to know what was going on. But the effect would be the same. Whether Cheney used memos, phone calls, press releases or a telepathic aura to exert his power doesn’t seem to be the main issue.

    Reply

  45. PrahaPartizan says:

    Well, actually several bibles on enterprise leadership have already been written which Obama could read and have his team read. Cheney’s philosophies are encapsulated in the management dicta which Jack Welch has graciously handed down to us over the years in the various tomes he’s “written.” The bible on dealing with the permanent government was lampooned, but described effectively simultaneously, in the British book and TV program, “Yes, Minister” and its sequel, “Yes, Prime Minister.” Obama had better understand how to get the bureaucracies in DC to move because Bush and Cheney have larded the Departments with werewolves from their political appointments. Obama’s first real order of business ought to be to demand letters of resignation from everyone in the Executive Branch because the stank of the Bush Administration is so bad. The whole branch of government needs to be flushed clean if the new team is to have any hope of accomplishing anything.

    Reply

  46. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan — Obama needs to avoid Jimmy Carter’s mistakes in management. . .and he needs to dissect and understand how Cheney moved policy more than any others in the Bush White House. It was because he didn’t need to micromanage them and these followers understood Cheney’s approach to issues better than they understood Bush.
    best, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  47. Dan Kervick says:

    OK, so Obama needs to be able to delegate authority to appointees who understand and are loyal to his agenda.

    Reply

  48. Carroll says:

    What difference does management style make when no one in DC including Obama will face reality.
    I think this interview with David Hendrickson on the Obama Administration, Banana Republics and Foreign Policy has the key word..’INSOLVENCY’. Obama needs to surround himself with people who will say you’re broke, busted, you have no money in your account and your credit cards have been canceled….now go forth and ‘preside’ accordingly.
    “1. Just how bad, and how big, is the unfolding economic mess?
    It’s very big and we’re still early in the process. The fundamental problem is the enormous debt overhang. Total credit market debt, which includes all government and private debt, is 350 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). That’s way out of line from a historical perspective. The figure has to come down and that will involve a tremendous amount of dislocation. The official unemployment rate, which seriously underestimates the real number, could easily hit 10 percent. We have the makings of a very serious downward spiral and we’re at the beginning stages.
    2. Is the bailout bill passed by Congress likely to seriously address the situation?
    The bailout bill was a colossal mistake and it is based on a false premise: specifically, that we’re facing a liquidity crisis and not an insolvency crisis. Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson originally justified buying all this toxic paper because we were facing a short-term panic. The problem, in their view, did not reflect insolvency in the financial system, so they believed, if the government took on the assets they would appreciate and the taxpayers would make money. But the assets they took onto the balance sheet will depreciate; they’ve already started marking them down. The worst part is that losses that ought to have been borne by shareholders are now borne by the public. Meanwhile, the government’s borrowing needs for fiscal year 2009 are estimated at $2 trillion–that’s 12.5 percent of GDP, a Banana Republic level.
    3. How will these problems limit Obama’s administration?
    There will be decisive constraints. They will be able to undertake new initiatives, but only ones directed towards savings and cutting programs to make them more cost-effective. Obama’s capacity to undertake major initiatives in programs like health care will be extremely limited. The economic crisis Obama is inheriting is like the first President Bush’s gift of Somalia to the Clinton administration. After the 1992 election, President Bush sent substantial forces to Somalia, which became an enormous headache for Clinton. It was a parting gift. Now multiply the headache by 100 times. It’s not an entirely apt analogy, but the Bush Administration’s response to the financial crisis is a huge albatross for Obama.
    4. The defense budget climbed by about 60 percent during the Bush years and now comes to about $600 billion Is Obama likely to cut defense spending?
    Thus far, Obama promises an expansion. He wants to enlarge military ground forces and he hasn’t proposed any significant cuts elsewhere. We used to have a big argument in this country about guns vs. butter, but that disappeared after September 11. There’s been a holiday from thinking about defense in terms of limited resources, but the economic crisis will inevitably force a reconsideration of many defense programs and their affordability. Obama is in a curious position. His electoral strategy was to go along with a “Bush Lite” approach in foreign and defense policy. He criticized the administration on Iraq, but he held to a broad set of objectives that Bush embraced. He needs to reconsider those objectives; the public wants him to as well. He’s been very timid so far, Iraq apart.
    5. What objectives, specifically?
    He has not walked away from the Bush doctrine of preventive war, for example, and threatens that as a last resort in dealing with Iran. He wants to surge into Afghanistan and he talks about that conflict in the same terms as Bush. Unfortunately, the strategy the United States has employed over the past six years or so has been a disaster. It’s consisted primarily of killing Taliban, but all the civilian deaths have antagonized much of the population there. Petraeus wants to do in Afghanistan what he did successfully in Iraq—divide the resistance by accommodating parts of it. Probably he deserves a chance to do so, but it needs to be emphasized that Afghanistan is not winnable by just sending in more troops to kill more Taliban. If Obama draws down troops from Iraq just to send them to Afghanistan, it will become his war. Disaster lurks if he’s not careful.
    6. Are there other areas where the U.S. needs to think about a broad retrenchment?
    Obama is in favor of including Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. That should be renounced. It’s guaranteed to poison U.S.-Russian relations and it risks weakening the credibility of other NATO guarantees. The problem is that there’s a consensus among establishment Democrats as well as Republicans on these sorts of questions. Obama talks change, but he really hasn’t proposed much change in foreign policy. It’s the same old song with a more respectful tone. That there’s a better tone is important, but he will need to rethink some of our extravagant ambitions, and sooner rather than later.
    Graceful and eloquent as he is, Obama may suffer from too much timidity. He wants to make nice to all sides of the Democratic Party, but there are a lot of hawks in the Democratic establishment. So it will be politically difficult for him to engage in the necessary retrenchment. But there’s nothing like being broke to make you reconsider your plans. The U.S. government is like the pensioner whose 401(k) became a 201(k) during these past few months. You can still entertain all of your ambitions but at the end of the day you have to look and see what’s in your bank account. We have urgent domestic demands and huge fiscal problems competing with all of our global plans. A decade ago the United States was on top of the world economically, politically and militarily. Since then, we’ve weakened in every dimension, yet we still have the same ambitions. Something has to give.”
    >>>>>>
    How can we keep commenting on the absurdity of DC without going insane ourselves? Maybe we should post an absurdity of the day every day for humor. Here’s today’s…Chase and some other bank’s help call centers for Americans trying to work out their mortages is in the Phillipines. Yep, it was outsourced.

    Reply

  49. Don Bacon says:

    I think that “the primary debate among the group thinkers seems to be in how to engage–intervention or diplomacy” has been pretty well answered by Obama’s support for a 92,000 increase in ground troops, while he calls for withdrawal from Iraq. American Exceptionalism lives on, as the current Dems promise to “Renew American Leadership” in the world.
    At a time when the US is not threatened anywhere by any other military force, there is still widespread support for a huge Pentagon budget and foreign military intervention.
    from the 2008 Democratic Party Platform: We support plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops. Increasing our end strength will help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease the strain on military families.
    Contrast this with the 1992 Platform: What the United States needs is not the Bush Administration’s Cold War thinking on a smaller scale, but a comprehensive restructuring of the American military enterprise to meet the threats that remain.
    As for the Pentagon rethinking its approach to de-emphasize military force, dream on. The military will never pass up using a 2,000 bomb in favor of “good governance.” Even the language they use is getting more bellicose. We now have “warriors” operating in a “battlespace.”

    Reply

  50. Bil says:

    What will WE learn from the Obama Presidency?
    Cheney taught me to swear and Bush taught me to spit…

    Reply

  51. Zathras says:

    This is a critically important subject, because it bears on two of the essential characteristics of effective government.
    The first is knowing what one wants. Dick Cheney’s situation was unique, because he worked for an unusually weak chief executive content to yield Presidential authority, de facto, to his Vice President — something no other American President in over two centuries had ever done — and also because of his longstanding relationship with the equally autonomous head of the government’s most powerful department. The situation itself was sui generis, but Gellman illustrates vividly the advantage Cheney gained over policy and bureaucratic rivals by always knowing what he wanted.
    As Harry Truman was fond of observing, a President who knows what he wants can always overpower bureaucratic opposition. But knowing what one wants is not the same as simply reaching a conclusion as to the right policy. The government doesn’t implement decisions just because a President announces them; in fact, it is less likely to pursue effectively a desired policy direction if a White House announcement is all it has to go on. The fact is that all recent administrations have chosen to centralize decision-making authority on major issues in the White House, ensuring the message discipline essential in campaign politics. What this also does is reduce the investment agencies have in carrying out the President’s policies, because they have had no say in designing them. It also forces the whole burden of explaining unpopular policies, or policy disasters, on the President.
    Live by message discipline, die by message discipline, as we saw in the public reaction to the Bush administration’s failure during and after Katrina.
    A President would be ill-advised to simply appoint Cabinest secretaries and just have them go off and do their own thing — a superfluous observation, really, since no modern President has been tempted to do this. This is an area where the example Cheney set may be instructive, up to a point. Cheney was always able to tilt the scales of policy debates within specific agencies because he was willing to engage with the people who worked there, both political and career appointees and including many people far down the bureaucratic pecking order. He used this power almost entirely to impose his policy preferences; a wiser President would use similar techniques to draw on the very substantial resources of knowledge and experience within the government departments, building on and occasionally modifying it rather than trying to revolutionize it from above.
    To maximize his effectiveness, and to institutionalize a mode of administration that might outlast his own tenure in office, a President should also be prepared to assign real policymaking authority to agency heads. Cheney was only able to exercise the influence he did because everyone he dealt with assumed, usually correctly, that he spoke for the President. A department or agency head given similar authority will be able to implement administration policies more effectively and with less resistance.
    The above is not intended to be a unified theory of everything. Government is too complex to admit of that kind of thing. I only mean to argue here that an Obama administration, headed by a President who knows what he wants, will increase its effectiveness substantially if it resolves at the outset to put distance between the practice of government and the imperatives of the campaign, and pushes back hard against the tendency of recent administration to centralize decision-making authority in the White House.

    Reply

  52. Dan says:

    What Steve Clemons Should Learn From the Obama Campaign
    “If not, we’ll have an ad hoc presidency, a reactive presidency, a micromanaged presidency, or a presidency hijacked by others who slyly follow Cheney’s approach.”
    Doesn’t sound like the Obama campaign. Sounds more like the Clinton or McCain campaign. Did Obama run a reactive ad hoc campaign? No. Is their any evidence that Obama micromanaged his campaign. Cite some real evidence for your concerns. Citing Austan Goolsbee about how the White House will judge free trade deals on their merits is not evidence of micromanaging. Just sounds like normal practice for a government leader.
    “To be as successful as Dick Cheney was in influencing action in government, Obama is going to need to telegraph the secrets of “Obama-ism” to his people.”
    Again, this might be helpful advice to a President McCain or a President Hilary Clinton but is not useful for a person who mobilized millions of volunteers in a successful campaign against two formidable opponents. I suspect he will not have trouble communicating his wishes.
    I think it would be useful to stop underestimating President Obama’s abilities and instead focus on finding solutions to our nations problems.

    Reply

  53. JohnH says:

    Regarding the need for Obama to telegraph “criteria for decision-making and a guide for responses to complex, unexpected challenges,” I think he is doing that quite effectively in the area of governance–he expects competence. This alone is a radical departure from the current administration.
    The second key is selection of people. Here Cheney had a distinct advantage, because well funded, conservative stink tanks had essentially formed a shadow government well before Bush took office. Many of them former cold warriors, they shared a world view consistent with Cheney’s, and he was able to draw from them to populate “the vast wings of the country’s national security and intelligence bureaucracies.”
    Unfortunately, as I have written, the foreign policy establishment suffers from an enormous amount of group think, sharing a common mindset about America’s role in the world and its ambitions. The media narrative of world events is also quite uniform, even to the point of getting it wrong on who started the war in Georgia.
    The primary debate among the group thinkers seems to be in how to engage–intervention or diplomacy.
    With such uniformity of thought in the foreign policy establishment and its acolytes in the media pretty, Obama would have to start from scratch, redefining America’s goals and strategies–an enormous challenge. A second, enormous challenge would entail finding enough liked minded people to populate the national security and intelligence bureaucracies. And, of course, changing the media narrative in the face of well funded opposition from the Nero-cons would be daunting.
    But gifts sometimes come from unexpected places–DOD is rethinking its approach to security, looking at a wholistic approach, not just a military one: “Maintaining a stable society requires good governance, provision of basic services, institutions to promote internal reconciliation, economic development, and competent indigenous military and police forces.”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JK13Df03.html
    Wow! This comes pretty close to legitimizing the needs and aspirations of local people, a radical concept in today’s Washington. Instead of simply dictating or colonizing, will Washington actually try to understand other countries’ strategic interests and try to resolve conflicts in a way whereby everybody wins (not just Washington)? And could Robert Gates be the agent of such change? It’s mind boggling to contemplate!

    Reply

  54. carol says:

    Dick Cheney is a despicable man and couldn’t give a damn about the American people…he was all about himself, with his arrogant, cunning, condecending way he answered questions.
    I despise the man and can’t wait to see the back of him and all the useless bunch in the White House…the country will have has lost nothing when they all leave.

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  55. Don Bacon says:

    While giving Cheney his due, it’s wrong to say that this one man was responsible for the criminal performance of the whole US government. He had a lot of help, primarily due the the huge, growing influence of corporations on the political process, which has been well-recognized. There are other factors too, such as the perfidy of Colin Powell, George Tenet, various and assorted senators, and other stalwarts of recent aforesaid criminal activities.

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  56. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, do you get alot of headaches?
    Sometimes I get the impression that you could complicate a toothpick.
    Smile, brother.

    Reply

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