Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Robert Kennedy is supposed to have said – “don’t get mad, get even.” In excising what little backbone the Party of Pusillanimity had in it, the Clintons pretty much dispatched that sentiment, except of course in cases where Slick Willy felt slighted. That Clinton legacy reached its apogee yesterday in the light slap on the wrist handed out to Joe the Renegade Lieberman. But Senate Democrats wouldn’t have gotten to that point on their own; they needed urging from Bill Clinton and forceful intervention from the soon to be Forgiver-In-Chief. Obama, so far from being a “secret Muslim,” is turning out to be an early Christian, interested first and foremost in turning the other cheek. If it isn’t a fiendishly clever strategy on his part – and there is no sign that it is – it’s a tendency that bodes ill for what ought to be a prime order of business for the new administration: settling accounts with the crimes of the Bush-Cheney years. They are far more momentous than the impeachable offenses the Party of Pelosiites, swept into office on the strength of popular revulsion at Bush’s murder and mayhem in Iraq and his manifest incompetence in Louisiana, took “off the agenda.”

Meanwhile, the Clinton Restoration is proceeding at full throttle. The two positions offered yesterday, according to credible reports, were Attorney General and Budget Director. Obama could have done worse than nominating Eric Holder for the former slot. In the waning years of the Clinton administration, long after Janet Reno whacked the whackos in Waco, Holder was second in charge in the Justice Department. But he doesn’t seem to have been much in Clinton’s thrall. It will count against him that he vetted Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, after Rich’s wife stuffed the right coffers, but that’s not a big deal; Holder has already apologized for his lack of vigilance. Holder’s shenanigans as a corporate lawyer in recent years – especially the work he’s done for Big Pharma and Chiquita (formerly United Fruit) – are more worrisome. But don’t count on Democrats to raise many questions about any nominee’s corporate-friendliness.

Holder seems to have been a more than capable prosecutor and he is apparently well liked in the law enforcement community. Yet he’s not a vicious “law and order” type. One would welcome an Attorney General with more qualms about judicial murder (capital punishment). But there’s no way Obama, a death penalty proponent, would appoint anybody like that.

The likelihood that Peter Orszag will move from the Congressional Budget Office into its White House counterpart is more troubling. Orszag is a Robert Rubin protégé. His appointment bodes ill for the more senior economic policy appointments to come.

From the beginning, Obama was the Rorschach candidate in whom “believers” saw what they wanted to see. He hasn’t yet lost the touch. Is his vaunted “pragmatism” (never mind that those who use the word have little idea what it means!) – for instance, in offering the Secretary of State job to Hillary Clinton – a stroke of genius in the service of “change” or a sign of incoherence in deference to the status quo? It’s not yet a hundred per cent clear, but I’d bet on the latter. On the other hand, it’s not beyond question that Obama’s offer was a sage move. Neither would it be all that horrible were Hillary to accept the offer, at least not in comparison with some of the (likely) alternatives. Among other things, it means that Richard Holbrooke won’t be getting the job and that, along with other pernicious characters, including the already excluded Vice President To Be, he won’t have any grounds to complain. Bill Richardson would be a better appointment; even John Kerry would. But, as with Holder, Obama could have done worse. Still, it’s a long way from the “change” many voters thought – and still think – they voted for.

For real change, this Democratic forgiveness thing has got to stop, even if, in the short run, it somehow makes strategic sense. Not that it’s much of an accomplishment, but Bobby Kennedy was more right than Jesus. Will Obama see the light? Will the New Lincoln realize that he can’t fool all (or even most) of the people who voted for him forever? It’s too soon to tell, but the prospects are not good. For a long time to come, those who really do want to move forward, may well have an intransigent Forgiver-in-Chief with whom to contend.

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