Who is Up? Who is Down? On Obama’s Team of Rivals

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team of rivals.jpgHere is a challenge to those of you who want to give me some counsel on an essay I am doing on Obama’s team of rivals.
It’s clear that Obama wanted to employ a team of political, ideological and policy diversity in his White House, but some of the battles between these players have been vicious.
The outgoing White House Counsel Gregory Craig whose last formal day of work is this Sunday, the 10th of January, comes to mind.
Who do you think has risen and succeeded on Obama’s team — and who has fallen?
Who is just treading water? and why?
Has Rahm Emanuel added value or raised costs for Obama team? What of political advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett?
— Steve Clemons

Comments

46 comments on “Who is Up? Who is Down? On Obama’s Team of Rivals

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So, Birnbaum, you avoid stating a position on Israel’s treatment of Ethiopian women, yet you want to bring up “Godwin’s law”?
    Yes, Birnbaum, in many ways, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians parallels Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. And yes, Birnbaum, I find some of Nadine’s statements as despicable as if they came straight out of the mouth of a devout Nazi, Skinhead, or Klu Klux Clan member.

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  2. larry birnbaum says:

    “Your own admission of your own snarkiness was a bit off-putting frankly. So, if you want to engage me earnestly, sincerely — great. If it’s off handed remarks or snarkiness, I’m not going to engage.”
    Steve, this answer surprises me; it certainly doesn’t seem good incentive for being open and honest, does it? I’m being honest here. Many comments on this site push the envelope on how close you can get to Godwin’s law without actually breaking it. And I’m sure you understand how emotionally fraught such comments will be in the context of Israel and the Middle East. How much they tend to send the discussion down a black hole. That’s not off-putting to you, but my honesty in owning up to an obliquely snarky comment was?

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  3. David Trilling says:

    First off, I think personnell is less important in this
    administration than in a number of previous administrations.  
    The president appears more in charge and more clear  about
    his policy directions than was Bush I, Clinton, or Bush II.  
    One can decry the Craig incident and blame Emanuel or
    whoever else but whether it was for good or Ill, the
    responsibility is Obama’s and his alone.
    With that said, I think the best politicians are doing the best in
    this administration.  One of it’s distinct qualities is how non-
    ideological it is.  Thus if one isn’t good politically they can’t
    trumpet their ideological contribution which some previous
    folks had.
    Thus in terms of clout and effectiveness on a 1-5 scale a few
    people:
    5+
    Gates–unusually smooth, has made Obama’s military policy
    less vulnerable to Republican attacks  and  is genuinely
    bipartisan.  If Obama pushes for change in the military’s
    policy towards homosexuals, Gates is a vastly better steward
    than Aspin was in the Clinton Administration.
    5
    Emanuel–if health care reform
    passes in the staff level he’ll deserve lots of credit.  Its hard to
    think of a greater Obama triumph.  If it fails he will be seen as
    having a flawed strategy for passage and have squandered
    his time.  This White House has been a dissappointment to
    me but in many ways I think it’s mostly done as well as it
    could with very few major mistakes.  Enamel has to get some
    credit for this.  Not a 5+ because he is still a lightening rod for
    many (anyone who be the cause of Jane Hamsher and
    Grover Norquist uniting has some troubles.  
    4
    Clinton
    Hugely competent, smart, relieved president of a number of
    foreign policy concerns.  However, at least so far, not much
    evidence of U.S.’s progress in it’s foreign policy aims.  One
    thing is a surprise is that she doesn’t seem to have been hurt
    in any way by her husband who has been admirably
    restrained in the past year and helped out in ways he could.  
    The regional czar (Holbrooke et. al.) hasn’t born much fruit so
    far.
    General Jones
    he has avoided the spotlight and the collaboration amongst
    the various foreign policy officials and the deliberations on
    important issues suggest a very strong support staff NSC
    which is serving it’s role, unlike in the previous administration
    with widely apart ideological camps and poor collaboration.
    2
    Axelrod
    The president has taken a beating this year, particularly with
    health care reform and the TARP efforts.  The White House
    did not find a way to engage the public’s frustration’s and
    fears and make a strong case for their initiatives and how
    long it would likely be before people would see tangible
    results given the mess it inherited.  This may be the most
    challenging job in the administration, but whoever’s has it
    needs to show more success.
    Sebelious
    Still overshadowed by Daschle as well as the White House
    staff.  If she’s effective there has been little coverage to
    indicate that this is the case.
    Holder
    Also not particularly visible except in areas that he either
    looks okay or bad (and not often, good).  The Guantanamo
    stuff, the CIA info releases, the trials of ” terrorist” in civilian
    courts have not been handled well. 
    Geithner
    Not only a central player prior and during this administration
    in a rescue of the banks but has seemed to earn the
    appearance of being soft on Wall Street.  Politically weak and
    overshadowed by Summers.    

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  4. DonS says:

    Paul, we would be far better off if somehow transformed into a vassal state of Norway, post viking of course. In high school, in the age before the internal combustion engine, I had a Norwegian exchange student girlfriend who convinced me of many ways in which Norway was to be admired.

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  5. Paul Norheim says:

    Well James…ahem… I know I run the risk of getting censored and banned by Steve,
    and probably hanged by my fellow commenters for saying this, but I can`t resist it:
    If not for those rebellious thirteen colonies who did not respect the British
    Parliament and the Monarch of a vast and divine empire, you would still be a happy
    member of the Commonwealth – like Canada and Australia, not to mention the Brits
    themselves – and wouldn`t have to bother about trivial issues like insurance,
    medical costs, and debt.
    Perhaps it`s not too late to ask Obama to fill in an application and send it to
    Buckingham Palace?

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  6. aravir says:

    Up: Robert Gates: has gained Obama’s respect, and has been adept at encouraging frank debate among the ranks.
    Hillary Clinton: proven to be a consummate team player. Anyone who thought that wouldn’t happen should be happy.
    David Axelrod: has been down, as Rahm Emmanuel’s star has been ascendant. But lately, we are seeing and hearing more from him.
    Neutral: still a key player as a go-between, but his views on Afghanistan and health care reform did not prevail. The consummate good soldier.
    Down: Janet Napolitano: shoe bomber made her a scapegoat.
    Rahm Emmanuel: used a lot of chips in HCR debate; is now more vulnerable.
    Tim Geithner: may be sacrificed to shield Summers.
    Hilda Solis: excise tax in HCR bill a major disappointment for labor.
    Kathleen Sebelius: rarely heard from these days.
    Leon Pannetta: bombing at Khost happened on his watch.

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  7. JamesL says:

    Thanks for the advice Paul. Done that. Whatever freshness follows partial dismemberment is heavily tempered by whether one is covered by insurance for medical costs and lost income. Recovery from physical injury or surgery is always easier if not accompanied every minute of the day by the awareness that debt is piling up, and wondering which meds you can junk or skimp, to cut the final tally. But you’re in Norway where people think ahead on these things, not the US where luck determines worthiness. Any country that takes one month off a year for vacation yet remains economically competitive with countries that work overtime with no vacation is doing something right.
    I’ve been around enough hurtling machinery and been extraordinarily lucky too many times to hold the same view of disintegration I did when younger. And that perhaps has increased my empathy for humans and societies capriciously ripped apart by other humans who take the seven deadly sins as personal dispensations.
    Not to let this health care diversion go to waste, I see via indefatigable Wiki that “Health care in Israel is both universal and compulsory, and is administered by a small number of organizations with funding from the government. All Israeli citizens are entitled to the same Uniform Benefits Package, regardless of which organization they are a member of, and treatment under this package is funded for all citizens regardless of their financial means.”
    This means that some of my American tax dollars are funding socialized medicine for Israelis. While I would think this should have come up before now among outspoken pro-Israel gasbags railing against socialized health care for Americans (thinkng here particularly of of Weasely Joe), I can only guess that cognitive dissonance has its enthusiasts and can be rather addicting, once you get into it.
    However…
    “The policy of the Government of Israel is to insist on conditioning access to healthcare for Palestinians in Israel in financial coverage from the Palestinian Authority. In January 2009, after the end of the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority cancelled financial coverage for all medical care for Palestinians in Israeli hospitals, including coverage for chronically ill Palestinian patients, and those in need of complex care that is not available in other tertiary medical centers in the region.”
    Them’s your tax dollars America. Hearts and minds.

    Reply

  8. Paul Norheim says:

    If you`re fed up with The Washington Note or certain fellow posters, I personally
    recommend a traffic accident and subsequent hospitalization. Afterwards you feel
    fresh and eager to repeat yourself without even noticing it.

    Reply

  9. JamesL says:

    Steve, thanks for your post of 7:57 PM. Blog format is an evolving form, each format having strengths and weaknesses, the comandeering of a discussion being one of the most prominent weaknesses. I (perhaps not you) have at times noted that the TWN morphs into into a netherland of Talking With Nadine, at which point I tend to go cut Republican brush, or grab a shovel and dig a Democratic hole until I can’t see out, ot some other physical activity that is meaningless to politics but has some importance at the level of weeds or microbes. I for one do not envy your nearly endless succession of restaurant formica, “farm fresh” hotel breakfasts, or enduring airtravel, and appreciate the center line you try to hew.

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  10. Steve Clemons says:

    Larry – Thanks for your note. A couple of points. If you were a long time reader of my blog, you would know that I occasionally post a framing guide to what I would like to see in terms of civil debate in posts — and my disdain for ad hominem attacks and personal vendettas here. I actually dont have time to read through all of the comments — but those that are complained about for harassment are immediately removed. I do occasionally scan them, and if I see personal attacks, I remove them. Otherwise, I try not to censor. I want a wide variety of views here — and I don’t expect anyone to agree with me or each other. I think that the tone here is better than in most blogs — but occasionally I have to ban people, and I have also shut comments down before.
    But if you want to have a back and forth relationship with me – it’s best to read what I write and judge me on that account rather than holding me or anyone else accountable for the tone or content of others. I do what I can to promote high quality discourse.
    Your own admission of your own snarkiness was a bit off-putting frankly. So, if you want to engage me earnestly, sincerely — great. If it’s off handed remarks or snarkiness, I’m not going to engage.
    all best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  11. nadine says:

    From Politico today:
    “White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the administration’s most feared and fascinating personality, is fending off questions about just how long he will remain in his draining job — and whether his next gig will be in Washington or back in Chicago, perhaps as Mr. Mayor.”
    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31333.html#ixzz0cK8t9VUU
    Is Rahm being Greg Craig’d?

    Reply

  12. questions says:

    My take fwiw is that in the infinite and forever battle between the oligarchs and the democrats, the seizing of power from the oligarchs is pretty damned difficult. They don’t like to give up money, land, or pretty much anything else. And the democrats (Aristotle’s term, not party politics) — the democrats are largely convinced that the oligarchs deserve their money, especially since democrats fantasize about becoming oligarchs.
    As long as this fantasy structure stays in place there’s not going to be a systemic move towards democratic economics and away from oligarchic economics.
    Think about the list of necessities for a household now — we used to need food, clothing, shelter, all of a fairly simple variety. Now we need restaurants, designer clothing, and a large house in a nice neighborhood with good schools, and we need cell phones and cable and internet, and we need two large vehicles, a yard service, furniture…. Indeed, we all need to be oligarchs just to be democrats. What democrat is going to off the heads of the oligarchs in this consumerist trap we’ve set up for ourselves?
    So here’s Obama, who in my reading is a democrat who would love to challenge the control of the banksters but cannot given the structures we’ve all put in place. What’s the guy to do? Single-handedly seize the banks? Destroy what’s left in our pension funds? Force us to raise local taxes EVEN more to cover unfunded state worker pensions? Seriously, there are limits. Oligarchs don’t give up shit without a fight. And until it becomes, ummm, uncool to be insanely rich, until we no longer dream of bigger houses, cheaper energy, more cars, fancier computers with more power to ’em… until this whole fantasy structure passes, the oligarchs will have a fair amount of the proceeds while the democrats will struggle to get all that shit.
    Huff Po is playing “local bank” lately. Insufficient, but necessary. We need some serious localism, inconvenience, lower quality, higher priced, less of everything stuff. And mostly, that’ll enrich a new class of entrepreneur rather than save us all anyway. Of course, what we really need is to learn to live on nothing.

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  13. Jane Christ says:

    Dear Steve,
    I have read virtually all postings and was amazed that so many feel as dissatisfid and downright betrayed by the Obama administration as I do.
    I had assumed that there would be more apologists.
    Failures abound on every front.Bush was terrible and destructive and left many messes. But we expected better from Obama.His only virute is that he not Bush but I wish he would quit acting like Bush.
    How can an intelligent man act so dumb ? Perhaps intelligence is less important than commitment and dedication and courage.
    .

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  14. larry birnbaum says:

    Steve, well that’s one way to deal with Snark I guess. Let’s call it the Barack Obama approach: take people at their word.
    So I’ll say it sincerely, since you actually bothered to answer me. What responsibility do you think you have for the tenor and content of many of the comments on your blog? Do you think you ought to take a stand on some of them?

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  15. DonS says:

    r4ds, I’m going to take back my 11:48 comment on the chance possibility that your intention was not entirely laudatory, and in fact might have been perjorative.

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  16. DonS says:

    r4ds, as well meaning as I can be, your little blurb, which could have been right off the WH ticker, is an insult to everyone commenting here.

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  17. Dan Emigh says:

    Steve,
    One can only accurately measure the effectiveness of a leader by that leader’s ability to achieve their stated objectives. Unfortunately, publically stated objectives are not always the true politically desired objectives of our officials.
    How is a private citizen supposed to offer an accurate critique of a cabinet official’s performance when they flat-out lie to us about their true intentions?
    They tell us they are going down path “A” while they are in reality going to go down path “B”. The public can therefore only base our assessment of their performance on what they tell us they are going to do, not on what it is they are actually going to do. We are always told to look in the wrong direction. A carefully scripted false narrative is all that the public will ever be privy to.
    This deceitful narrative makes truthful understanding impossible, which is precisely the function of a propaganda campaign. Nobody outside of maybe two dozen insiders will ever know what is really going on and this makes any assessment of job performance a fool’s errand.

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  18. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Larry — still pondering the question. Got some good comments via folks on Facebook, but still interested in the way others see this. Have a wide range of views that have been sent my way.
    all best,
    steve clemons

    Reply

  19. bert swanson says:

    Steve Clemons,
    As an analyst of community power in America, maybe my insights could help many of your commentators and your misleading and distractive question of who is up and who is down?
    1. Capitalism is the dominant paradigm guiding this nation and its unlikely to be understood if left unexamined.
    2. The tendency of many participants to engage in the humbuggery of spin, deception, the immediate special and self interests trumps the broad, long-term public interest.
    3. Transitional (we need transformative) officials (overt) and influentials (covert) are generally constrained the complexity and the effective barriers to change as some are able to pursue their self-interest at the expense of others.
    Just bert

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  20. Linda says:

    I didn’t comment earlier because, as others have stated, nobody is up–really not much change since Bush. I think Geithner should be replaced by Volcker and Summers by Stiglitz–need to get rid of those with close ties to Goldman Sachs and banking/financial services sector.
    Below the West Wing and Cabinet level, a few appointees are doing good work and making positive changes, i.e, Margaret Hamburger at FDA and Lisa Jackson at EPA.

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  21. larry birnbaum says:

    Mr. Clemons, did you find the counsel you were seeking?

    Reply

  22. DonS says:

    Of course he’s in over his head, MarkL. Not, potentially, the same way Bush was, where he lacked the synaptic function to focus attention, if he had a plan. But any president is over his head as to having the full scope of understanding and the certainty of solution. They’re just homo sapiens for god sake.
    But what he appears to lack is enough emotional conviction to set a process in train that he can then direct, react to, alter, etc. For instance, in the wake of the recent intelligence-related high profile glitches, it may well be that he read the riot act to the intelligence honcos, which may begin a series of actions.
    I doubt he has similarly gotten the financial wizards in the room, administrative and congressional, stated a clear goal — e.g., come up with plans to knock the banksters out of the catbird seat and relieve middle class economic pain — and demanded implementation options that don’t coddle current institutional restraints.
    To address the subject of the post, who is up or down is less important if the president has an emotionally actuated commitment that he pushes, i.e. Without that, who is up or who is down become out of control palace intrigue, geared to presidential style, and natural in a vacuum without forceful direction where it is left to subordinates to fill in the blanks.
    Although it may seem a matter of nuance, a continuum, I see a vast difference, stemming from the top.

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  23. rfjk says:

    I would say the most successful member of the Obama team is ex General James Jones, who as national security adviser is busily consolidating all the agencies and departments of the executive under the NSA as proposed by the Pentagon DSB
    2004 Summer Study on: “Transition To and From Hostilities” and other supporting papers.
    Jones of course isn’t the first chieftain to consolidate and expand power beyond its constitutional limits within the chief executive. This process has been going on for a long time, though the major advances towards plenary power in the presidency have occurred during the post WW II period. And under Bush history will more than likely rank him the killer of the republic, the last incompetent to drive the fatal stake through the heart of the Republic.
    Clemon’s has remarked about the “strategy class,” others the rise of a “new class” or the “national security state.” What I see happening is not so much a rise as it is a continuing evolution of what Eisenhower warned the country. That the Corporate/Congressional/Military Industrial Complex is becoming the Military/Congressional/Corporate Industrial Complex. A totally different kind of animal.
    The architectures and structures of an “Ephorate” of power is being built within the NSA, to which Congress and its committees are merely adjuncts and the President of the US is a part time junior member. I believe Obama represents a new kind of American President and at the same time the last of a breed that has run its course.

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  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Alternatively, his passivity is a sign of his incompetence. He doesn’t make any big moves because he’s in over his head”
    No one else thinks he was put in power to maintain and continue the practices instituted by Bush/Cheney? Remember, the same media entities that sold us the GWOT sold us Barack Obama.
    Why would candidates that truly represented “change” be sidelined in order to market someone whose “change” rhetoric has been shown to be so remarkably insincere? No matter what you think of Kucinich or Paul, only a fool could fail to see that they were purposely sidelined by our media, with great effort being expended to exclude them from the “process”, and minimize the public’s exposure to their “message”. Its clear that Obama was “placed” in the forefront, and what idiot believes he was placed there, with great huge gobs of money, to rock the status quo? Obama is a giant con-job, a false construct that was sold to a public desperate for change, by a corporate power structure that will do anything to maintain the status quo.
    We were sold an imposter, a masterful actor. Some of us saw it from the beginning, others are just now awakening, and others will never “get it”. Watching Dan Kervick’s epiphany is illustrative of what is occurring across the board. But it is too late to change it, and we have over two more years of continued Bush/Cheney style governance before the right retakes the White House and continues the sell-out in a more open and direct manner, not having to maintain the charade Obama is having to play out.
    WHAT IS DIFFERENT??? HOW DOES OBAMA DIFFER???
    “We the people” lost control a long time ago. This hasn’t been a “representative” form of government for some time now.

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  25. MarkL says:

    Dan K. writes:
    “Obama seems content to be a sober and solid pro, with little interest in changing the world in any profound way. He seems like a strong and unflappable swimmer, whose approach is to tread water indefinitely in middle of the ocean, not heading for any really appealing or exotic shores, while various opponents and critics flail madly and eventually drown themselves.”
    Alternatively, his passivity is a sign of his incompetence. He doesn’t make any big moves because he’s in over his head.

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  26. Margaret R says:

    What team of rivals, indeed? Like others, I’m not insider enough to
    judge ups & downs. But, it seemed obvious from the early
    appointments of Clinton & Emmanuel that Obama was not going to
    be serious about honest brokering in the Israeli-Palestinian
    quagmire. His economic team appointments were appalling, if we
    thought he’d actually work for the people losing their homes &
    pensions & livelihoods. His wimpiness regarding the Honduran
    coup was no way to improve relationships in So. America.
    And, clearly, he’s only listening to one side as he escalates our war
    plans–look who he’s held over, and look who he’s appointed.
    Nope, his appointments lack diversity; his initiatives show only
    tinkering around the edges of reform in so, so many ways–health
    care being only the most visible.

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  27. DonS says:

    Who really runs government? Who’s really ‘up’? The bankers of course. Bill Moyers Journal last night, with David Corn and Kevin Drum of Mother Earth News. Few words were minced. The banks own Congress. The banks staff many administration insider jobs. Nothing we didn’t know. Nor the solution; only a paradigm shift will do whereby the government works for the people not the banks. Starts with the president:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01082010/profile.html
    Insider games between a bunch of centrists is really just another distraction. As was said, I think by Corn, Obama has to be willing to become hated by a segment of power wielding bankers.

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  28. JamesL says:

    erich: “…the Chinese, spend 4% of the US/capita on the military, achieving their ends (in this case Afghanistan) by other means.”
    Meaning winning without fighting. Something the US military cannot comprehend. Must have ACTION!!! Must expend weapons. Must have heros! Must keep the budgets up! All that interwar horseshit PR about Wall Street lauding Musashi and Sun Tzu, and the US military screening The Battle of Algiers was just horseshit, outweighed by the inbound reading of Iraq for Dummies.
    POA mentions the REAL downs, meaning progressives. But he’s not counting all the downs on the other side who are equally pissed AND the Lost Boys of the middle (former Right, those being the traditional financial conservatives who must be going berserk but holding it in. Everybody’s ROYALLY pissed. NOBODY likes what Obama is doing, which SHOULD be a sign to Obama that he was not elected to disappoint everyone by doing something different than his campaign rhetoric, but is probably a sign that Obama is in the bubble and that Americans should begin to wonder about the damned bubble. Obama SHOULD BE I said. ISN’T is the problem. ALL of which would be ok if the nation was not conducting two wars and actively courting two other buxom and fecund proto wars, with a simpering toxic mistress in the middle of the Mid East (and two protos may be the wrong number on the small end). And I do mean WAR.
    Carroll”…Costco’s missile defense shield for Palin”
    Yeah but there are still shoes.
    Sand: “wondering if … Mitchell is on the ‘way up’ …or getting a little feisty on his ‘way down'”
    Hopefully, God help us, on the way up. In any event, if that’s true, he’s the only person voicing reality, though if he’s downward bound he’s Obama’s Powell.
    Virtually everyone at TWN is pissed at the current situation. Obama junked his base when he abandoned the rhetorical positions that got him elected. His opponents were never going to be his friends. Who shows up at the Oval Ofice these days saying “Great job Barack.”
    I was at a gathering tonite and an 82 year old woman friend complained she cannot practice her piano because her son, wife, and two kids are living with her because he lost his job and they are in the living room all the time. The SON later says his brother in FL just lost HIS job, and mentions the 85,000 job lost nationally in December.
    Steve will be jetting off hither and yon this week and the next and the next and those former American working families,and formerly healthy American working families living in their cars will still be hoping the car will start throught he night and in the morning and not need a $1200 repair anytime soon.
    Two days ago I see on the same page of Business Insider that banks have 20% more cash on hand than in 2008 and are loaning 7% less than in 2007. As if anybody nowdays is looking for a loan. I’m not interested and no one I know is looking for new debt. If Obama is having trouble understanding his problem, it’s right there in front of him. All he needs to do is step outside the bubble and live on the street for a few days. With his family. Like probably 10,000 family members (you know, those children things) PLUS probably 15,000 other homeless not 25 miles from where I type this. They don’t need optics. They don’t need a loan. They don’t need a damned friendly pat on the shoulder. They need Obama to act like people are more important than bonuses and corporate megapay, and to take whatever is left of his reputation and totally focus it on a great public effort to frog march those bastards into the searing blaze of the public eye.

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  29. Franklin says:

    Clinton deserves some early plaudits. Her actions were critical in getting Maziar Bahari released, as well as Euna Lee and Laura Ling.
    I don’t understand the calculus with respect to Honduras — her early comments struck the right note, but I’m not entirely sure about the later reversal.
    On balance the Obama foreign policy team gets an incomplete. I have serious reservations about the Afghan escalation, but I am inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt for now — the deliberations appear to have been serious. Let’s hope they’ve made the right choice.
    On the other hand, Obama’s economic team is dangerously out of touch. Some of their policy moves appear to have averted the worst case scenario in the near-term, but their actions on financial regulatory reform has shown excessive deference to Wall Street — the administration has been weak on this one (and no photo-ops are not policy initiatives). The verdict is still out on health care reform. Preliminaries seem to suggest that the bill might do some good, but they’ve also punted on some of the hard structural problems with the system (same is true with the financial sector).
    The verdict is still out on Emmanuel. It’s hard to know what his role has been behind the scenes. When his actions enter the public sphere they have been pretty much uniformly negative.

    Reply

  30. Carroll says:

    heheh..too funny
    “Yes, We Have No Tomatoes: Costco’s missile defense shield for Palin”
    The Salt Lake City Tribune tells the tale of Helen Rappaport, a Utah woman who went shopping at Costco shortly before a Sarah Palin book signing event at the store:
    While going through the check-out lane, again with no wait, she told the clerk she forgot to get some grape tomatoes, which she loves, so she would be right back. That’s when the bells went off.
    The clerk told her they had no tomatoes that day. No tomatoes? At Costco? As she was leaving, she noticed a man with a store manager’s name tag and asked him why they had no tomatoes. He informed her the store did have tomatoes, but they were taken off the shelves for a few hours.
    It turns out that Palin had been pelted with a tomato at an earlier stop on her book tour and the management at the Costco was determined it wouldn’t happen here.”
    Does anyone know anyone who isn’t disgusted and furious with any or all of one politican or another or both parties.
    I don’t.
    BWTTGASO

    Reply

  31. Carroll says:

    Up, down, in, out,..does it matter? Probably not.
    The few good men Obama has, he hasn’t turned loose to let them get the job done…the hacks he has, he let’s ride to keep up his centrist persona.
    Obama has some vague idea of how things should be but can’t get there because there is no road that says take me….I’am perfectly and politically safe, no pot holes,no speed traps.
    A pilot who runs out of gas looking for the ideal landing strip and finally crashes in a river.
    A ship that will never dock.
    I am not really interested in following this adm any longer..so far it’s too familiar…same old recycled elites, same old corrupt lobbied up congress, same old, same old…..Obama’s lyrics are different but it’s the same old musical score.
    Why am I thinking of the stone statute of The Thinker?..probably because it’s never moved either.

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  32. Josh Meah says:

    Steve,
    Saul Alinsky -UP- and G. John Ikenberry DOWN
    It sounds like your piece is about specific
    players in the administration, but I think Obama’s
    ideological template is shifting as well.
    Originally, Obama seemed the realist/liberal
    internationalist that wanted to reinvent America’s
    power through liberal institution building while
    setting pro-America rules.
    Now, however, he’s giving more into his Mr.
    Alinsky background, which–according to Rules for
    Radicals–is much more willing to sacrifice all
    things (values, morals, …the economy) in favor
    of perceived longer term goods that one wants.
    Obama is more and more willing to move
    unilaterally in defence of what he perceives to be
    U.S. interests. I mean, giving into a sanctions
    policy on Iran is just plain lunacy…
    That means, Mr. Obama is willing to promote the
    state of exception that our legal system has been
    under for awhile now. In the process of fighting
    terrorism and fixing the economy, Mr. Obama may
    have started to believe his own spin. He might be
    drinking his own Kool-Aid, so to speak.
    As you said yourself — why hasn’t he kept his
    promise on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? To me, the
    answer is simple: Obama is saving his political
    capital for something that he perceives is
    greater. Yet in the process, I think he’s
    beginning to lose himself.
    Obama’s second year will have a lot of people
    shifting, and I would expect him to get lost in
    his own mind and is likely to be a bit more
    manipulated by his “rivals” in the year ahead.
    After all, Obama is legitimately a “man of the
    people.” He’s got to be one of the most reluctant
    war presidents that I can think of. He must have
    really hated the bailout on the inside.
    Still, the man is losing himself with each moment
    that he pushes principle to the side in favor of
    power. Sometimes its necessary, but I’m not so
    sure that he knows anymore. The man that depended
    on his “judgment” to be president may be losing
    his best quality.

    Reply

  33. Dan Kervick says:

    Well, I don’t follow the inside baseball stuff as closely as you do Steve, so I don’t have much to contribute. I didn’t even know who Gregory Craig was until you started talking about him here after he left the administration.
    But as far as the vaunted “team of rivals” goes, I don’t see the creative tension at all. This administration seems tightly controlled, very disciplined, broadly uniform in outlook, relatively unimaginative and remarkably low on drama.
    In the Bush administration, by contrast, you had a much more contentious situation with three foreign policy kingpins – Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney – each attempting to run their own foreign policy over the head of a clueless and weak president. There might be some shadow of similar disagreements within the Obama administration over foreign policy decisions, but the process itself has been remarkably orderly, and few of backroom disputes break out into public view. (The only notable one was the McChrystal mini-mutiny, which was not really inside the administration, but between the administration and part of the military.) Obama is clearly in charge of the operation. In fact, he seems to be something of a control freak.
    As Gray says, there are no economic progressives in positions of real power, or even any notably bold and unconventional thinkers. And certainly domestic economic policy has generated few fireworks. The tension is all *between* the staid, bloodless and centrist administration on one side, and more fervent and creative activists of the left and right outside it.
    If the policy initiatives have been formulaic and unexciting, I would say that Obama has at least succeeded in his main *political* aim, which is to position himself solidly in the center, and to show equivalent disdain and distance from the left and right. As a result he has progressives disenchanted and alienated, with Republicans in perpetual opposition, and so his approval has suffered. But the Republicans are in disarray, and afflicted with a profound brain-deadness and transparent unseriousness which will not do them any favors when people actually have to pull the lever and vote again. Obama has successfully co-opted some of the more centrist Republicans. And the administration has succeeded in setting the expectations for the midterm elections so low that almost any outcome will be declared a comeback and turnaround.
    One thing that has surprised me is the overall communications operation, which has been surprisingly inept when it comes to projecting any kind of vision of change, passion and initiative with the power to excite people. The administration has made a religion out of setting low expectations, and there is now a total lack of energy and inspiration on the progressive side. In the Obama administration hands, even things like saving the world from climate change and overhauling the health care system have become exercises in tedious and wonky boredom.
    Obama seems content to be a sober and solid pro, with little interest in changing the world in any profound way. He seems like a strong and unflappable swimmer, whose approach is to tread water indefinitely in middle of the ocean, not heading for any really appealing or exotic shores, while various opponents and critics flail madly and eventually drown themselves.

    Reply

  34. Sand says:

    … more good news: Progressive *cough* Democrats Lynn Woolsey [Chair of the CPC!] and Henry Waxman have been reported [today] to be out there actively fundraising and smearing challengers to guarantee the re-election of BUSH Blue dog and AIPAC-Asset Jane Harman.
    http://news.firedoglake.com/2010/01/08/waxman-wrote-fundraising-letter-for-jane-harman-slamming-marcy-winograd-on-israel-policy/
    Now I know why I felt the need YESTERDAY to donate a 100 bucks to Jane Harman’s challenger — Marcy Winograd’s campaign.

    Reply

  35. Sand says:

    Huh?
    — “…On eve of visit to region, American special envoy [Mitchell] threatens Israel with sanctions if it fails to advance peace talks, two-state solution. Secretary of State Clinton says working to restart negotiations ‘without preconditions’…”
    via:
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3831661,00.html
    Well, I’m wondering if this means Mitchell is on the ‘way up’ after listening to rather weak interview with ‘Bloomberg’s’ Charlie Rose, or is just getting a little feisty on his ‘way down’ seeing the writing on the wall that he’s on the verge of being kicked out?
    Meanwhile, the NJDC is doing massive damage control reassuring Jewish Democrats that Rahm didn’t really mean to say that Americans are f**king sick of the I/P conflict.
    http://www.njdc.org/blog/post/emanuelsremarksdistorted010710

    Reply

  36. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Comical that no one sees the writing on the wall. Bottom line, left; down, right; up. The corrupt and mewling cowards in leadership positions on the left have squandered their majority. They have managed to piss off BOTH sides of the aisle.
    There will be a dismally low turnout of Democrat voters in ‘010, because of Omama’s betrayals and flip-flops. And the slobbering masses enamored to the likes of Palin and Steele will turn out in great gobs of appallingly ignorant masses.
    I imagine Hillary will fuck-over and back stab anyone that tries to push her down the ladder, and her feral instincts will undoubtedly enable her to land on her feet, despite the impending rousing defeat that the left will suffer.
    But the REAL downs are reading this. That would be ME AND YOU. These lying sacks of shit are robbing us of our security, our freedoms, and our collective national self-esteem as they cast aside any pretense of “representative” governance, and squander our treasure on global pursuits of self enrichment, widespread murder, and feeding the war machine.
    Fuck ’em all. If there was any justice, three quarters of them would be behind bars determining, first hand, whether or not waterboarding is torture.
    The way things are going, if your resume includes a stint with the Omama Abomistration,
    you might wanna consider a career other than Proffessional Government Leech, because your days are numbered.

    Reply

  37. DonS says:

    One person we know is down — or should I say down and out — is Chas Freeman, hounded from his nomination for head of the National Security Council. We’ll never know what a mark he might have made, for instance, in assessing the gaping failures highlight by the recent Christmas underwear bomber.
    What might have been different if Obama had fought for this crucial nomination to be on the team? Kick that around the locker room awhile.

    Reply

  38. erichwwk says:

    It has been said that “Obama’s presidency is like driving a train rather than a car: a train cannot be “steered”, the driver can at best set its speed, but ultimately, it must run on its tracks.”
    From that perspective, “advisers” and the presidency are of marginal value, except as it pertains to DOD, where the “temporary/transitional
    cold war warrior,Robert Gates, seems to be settling in as a permanent fixture, to ensure that the US spend whatever it takes to maintain full spectrum military dominance (including nuclear weapons infrastructure).
    Meanwhile the Chinese, spend 4% of the US/capita on the military, achieving their ends (in this case Afghanistan) by other means.
    http://tinyurl.com/ya8c7ck

    Reply

  39. . says:

    It’s not too late to bring in the A team from the campaign.

    Reply

  40. JamesL says:

    Ebb tides lower all ships. I see no one up, everyone down, Rahm in the twilight (its about time), Clinton treading in international quicksand, Geithner inundated by the Bush economic wastage. I see only the most superficial admin diversity, and mostly backchannel agreement excepting for power squabbles. Basic problems–energy self sufficiency, the millstones of Israel, an unchecked MIC/media marriage, and multinational corp and bank health being elevated while human health largely ignored–all those remain virtualy untouched. We shouldn’t have to ask ‘did he or didn’t he’ about Obama pushing for health care reform. The Obama admin also has been poor at rotating spokespeople to push any admin line compared to the Cheney admin, perhaps because ‘push’ to Cheney meant ‘shove it harder’ while Obama chose consensus with Repubs who don’t know the word.

    Reply

  41. Gray says:

    One other point, about Jarrett: I read she’s traded as the possible Ersatz for Emanuell. Why? Because of her LOYALTY! Now, does this remind you of someone? Even more reason to speak of Bush light!
    And as for ideological diversity in the WH, it is VERY limited! There is hardly anyone of the progressive wing of the party in an influential position (and don’t come up with Simpson, who will have a third rate job). Instead, we find lots of centrists, and even moderate conservatives. Change? It’s only a change back to the Clinton administration, if at all!

    Reply

  42. Gray says:

    Biden looks suprisingly good, if only because he had no serious screwups (which everybody expected!) so far. For the others, LAMERS, every single one of the whole posse. A very disappointing administration, really.
    Uh, Steve, OT, but any insights on the resignation of the Japanese finance minister?

    Reply

  43. Bart says:

    “Geithner is dead man walking…”
    We can only hope, and the horse he rode in on.

    Reply

  44. Steve says:

    Rahm is clearly up – Craig’s departure elevates politics over policy. Geithner is dead man walking after the AIG revelations this week. The POTUS would be wise to be taking more economic advice from Paul Volcker, but I don’t see that happening soon.

    Reply

  45. MarkL says:

    What’s the difference between the notorious alley-oop play of the Bush White House—where they anonymously leaked Iraq “intel” to the NYtime, then used the NYtimes articles to bolster their case on the Sunday talk shows—and the Obama administration paying Gruber on the sly while he touts their view of the excise tax?
    It’s obvious which is more corrupt. At least the Bush administration was sneaky.

    Reply

  46. MarkL says:

    Where’s the diversity?
    At least in terms of domestic policy all I see are a bunch of corrupt hacks who are completely subservient to corporate America.
    The latest news about how the administrations “outside” expert on HCR, Gruber, was actually paid $400,000 by the White House is the latest outrage. Apparently, he was asked point blank by the WaPo if he had any conflict of interest to disclose before they accepted his pro excise-tax editorial, and point blank he lied and said no.
    Not only that, but—surprise, surprise—no actual health care cost experts believe his theory of the excise tax leading to rising wages.
    The only diversity in the Obama administration is in the corporate logos.

    Reply

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