Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Reasons for Concern

Don’t blame me; I didn’t vote for him. As I’ve explained in earlier entries, living in a state that was clearly going to choose Obama over Hillary Clinton, I felt free to vote for Mike Gravel. I preferred him to the others because he wasn’t shy about saying that the others were full of shit. In the circumstances, that seemed more important than registering support for Dennis Kucinich’s better (thoroughly marginalized) politics or John Edwards’ (partially marginalized, anti-poverty) lost cause. Then, in the general election, with Obama a sure winner in my state, I was free to vote for Ralph Nader – in protest and out of habit. I confess, however, that in view of the real alternatives in both cases, I did hope Obama would win. Day by day, that hope is becoming harder to justify.

First, there was Rahm Emanuel – the War Democrat, Wall Street flunky, and friend of the Likud. Then a bunch of lower level Clintonite appointees – Greg Craig as White House Counsel, Ronald Klain (late of Al Gore’s VP office) as Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff, and Jim Messina and Mona Sutphen as Deputy Chiefs of Staff. In recent days, Obama has also made a few less egregiously Clintonite appointments: Philip Schiliro as liaison to Congress and Peter Rouse as Senior Advisor.

In her weekly appearance on NPR’s “Morning Report,” Cokie Roberts, the doyenne of conventional wisdom, attributed the preponderance of Clinton people, the devils we know, to the alleged fact that there are no other Washington-savvy Democrats around. Back in 1992, a similar situation didn’t stop Bill Clinton from enlistng devils we didn’t know yet. According to la Cokie, that was because, back then, there had been no Democratic administrations for a much longer period of time. Evidently, Cokie thinks the difference between twelve years and eight changes everything. Or else Jimmy Carter somehow fell into her memory hole. Maybe that happened for her, as it did for POP, Party of Pusillanimity, stalwarts, when in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter dared state the obvious about the fifty-first state.

Obama’s transition team appointments are even more worrisome. He took his “intelligence” transition people whole cloth from the politicized intelligence wing and the torutre and rendition defenders of the CIA. Obama has floated the idea of keeping Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense, and bringing Clinton’s Wall Street moles – including Robert Rubin and Larry Summers – back to Treasury. Worst of all (so far), for those of us who voted for Obama to keep the Clintons out, and for those of us – like me – who didn’t but still hoped he’d win for that reason, the job of Secretary of State is apparently Hillary’s for the taking. At least there’s no evidence that Obama offered anything to John McCain when they met on Monday in Chicago. The way things are going, even that wouldn’t be out of the question.

[Why would Hillary want to be Secretary of State? To stick it to Bill? To acquire the foreign policy credentials she claimed she had during the campaign? Probably the main reason is that, with her presidential aspirations quashed, being in the Senate is no longer useful. After she lost the nomination, the punditocracy predicted she’d be the next Ted Kennedy. But she’s no Ted Kennedy, and it will be years before she could accumulate enough seniority even to pretend that she is. So why not Secretary of State! For Obama it would be a Godfather move – keeping his friends close, keeping his enemies closer. For those seeking “change,” it would be a straight out, deadweight loss.]

It is remarkable how there are still so many ostensibly sensible people who insist that Obama really is an agent of “change”; that he will be in control, no matter whom he appoints, and that he has his own ideas. Perhaps so -- though there is no evidence of it whatsoever. Much like the (alleged) divinity, Obama elicits faith, notwithstanding a total lack of (defensible) reasons for it. Pundits seeking insight into the transition process who are now flocking to read Team of Rivals, a silly book about Abraham Lincoln written by pop historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, would be well advised to turn instead to Sigmund Freud’s analysis of theism’s tenacity, a phenomenon much like Obamamania, in The Future of an Illusion.

No comments: