The Obama (44) Administration


Obama's Neocon in Residence
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-04

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[W]hat is really scary about a possible Obama administration is Dennis Ross.
Ross claims that he believes in diplomacy
and has even written a book on the subject,
though his one major foray in that area, Camp David in 2000,
demonstrated that
he was more interested in advancing Israeli interests
than he was in creating a viable peace with the Palestinians.
He was the architect of so-called “no surprises” negotiations
between the Palestinians and Israelis in which
all positions supported by the U.S.
had to be cleared by Israel
before they were even placed on the table.

If the Israelis said “no,” the U.S. would back down.
Ross was also one of the most vocal critics
of former Democratic President Jimmy Carter
after Carter wrote Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.


Ross is a commentator for Fox News
and the Ziegler distinguished fellow at WINEP,
which he helped found in the 1980s.
He is also chairman of
the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.
He would only be a spear-carrier in the latest neocon absurdity
if it weren’t for the fact that he is a major player in the Obama campaign
as Obama’s top adviser on the Middle East and a key link to AIPAC.
Ross reportedly has been helping the Obama campaign
formulate positions that AIPAC would be comfortable with.

Forget the Honeymoon
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-07

[Raimondo takes a horrified look at
who is being considered as policy-makers in the Obama administration.
Here is its initial two-thirds.]

When I hear talk of a “honeymoon“ for the President-elect –
to last as long as six months, by some accounts –
I think: “Fine. You lay off, and I’ll do the same.”
But oh no, it doesn’t work that way.
Obama has already started in on us,
and he hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet.
I’m talking about his appointments,
starting with Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff.

Hey, I thought we were going to be treated to a bipartisan approach by the Obama administration,
that he was going to “reach across the aisle” – what happened to that?
Señor Emanuel is known as a street-fightin’ Democrat,
and that’s understating it.
A Rolling Stone profile of Emanuel had this to say:

“There’s the story of how,
the night after Clinton was elected,
Emanuel was so angry at the president’s enemies
that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign,
grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting ‘Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!’
and plunging the knife into the table after every name.
‘When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape,’
one campaign veteran recalls.
‘It was like something out of The Godfather.’ ”

He’s mean, he’s ultra-partisan,
and he’s a fully-paid up member in good standing of the War Party:
during the Democratic primaries in 2006,
when Emanuel headed up the Dems’ congressional operation,
he backed pro-war candidates over antiwar Democrats every time.
As Bill Safire put it on “Meet the Press” just before Tim Russert died:

“What about Rahm Emanuel [for Vice President],
the most powerful voice in the House of Representatives
that agrees with Hillary Clinton on foreign affairs?
He’s a hawk.
And although he’s a rootin’ tootin’ liberal on domestic affairs,
he is a hawk on foreign affairs.
I was at the – a roast for him for Epilepsy Association,
and Hillary Clinton was there,
and I said, quite frankly,
here you have the hawkish side of the Democratic Party.
If they get together, the bumper sticker will read
‘Invade and bomb with Hillary and Rahm.’ ”

When the House Democratic majority
passed a military appropriations bill slated for Iraq,
a clause that would have
prohibited an attack on Iran without a vote in Congress
was deleted at the instigation of Emanuel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
When Rep. John Murtha presaged the popular rebellion against the Iraq war
by coming out against it in no uncertain terms,
Emanuel urged Pelosi to refrain from endorsing his call for withdrawal,
arguing that it would hurt the Democrats politically.

With the smiling face of Don Obama serving as a front
for the knife-wielding Emanuel and his “legendary intensity” –
as Rolling Stone writer Joshua Green puts it –
one has to wonder:
what (or who) else does the Prez-elect have in store for us?

The answer is: Jane Harman – as head of the CIA!
(If she doesn’t get it, not to worry:
she’s also up for head of Homeland Security –
and if she doesn’t get that,
she’s on the short list for National Intelligence czarina)….

Harman has always taken the side of the Bushies
when it comes to eavesdropping:
during Gen Michael Hayden’s confirmation hearings for CIA director,
she was against making government eavesdropping an issue.
When the New York Times revealed the illegal eavesdropping program authorized by Bush, she was outraged –
at the Times, which she strongly hinted ought to be prosecuted.
She was pro-war, and did her part in spreading the “bad intel”
she now claims to have been fooled by –
declaring not only that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,
but also purveying the rather far-out notion that
al-Qaeda had taken up residence there prior to the US invasion.

Harman’s ambition is matched only by her recklessness:
she came up against the FBI, in 2006,
when she was investigated for going a little too far in her aggressive campaign to retain her seat as head of the House Intelligence Committee.
Apparently she had AIPAC officials and major Democratic donors
personally lobby Pelosi,
in return for the promise that she, Harman,
would intercede on behalf of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman,
two top AIPAC officials currently being prosecuted
for stealing US top secret intelligence
and passing it on to Israeli officials.
Law enforcement officials aver hard evidence for this quid pro quo
was never uncovered.
I’m hoping, however, that some Republican back-bencher
has the balls to bring it up at her confirmation hearing.
Perhaps they could call Pelosi as a witness.

Combined with the foreign policy views of Dennis Ross,
Obama’s senior advisor for Middle East affairs –
who is reportedly up for the National Security Advisor slot –
what seems to be shaping up is a perfect trifecta of trouble on the horizon.
The old adage that
presidents rarely govern in synch with the way they campaign
applies here, and in spades.
Not in the foreign policy realm, buster.
Indeed, if any change is involved, it may well be for the worse.

Hillary at Foggy Bottom?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-17

What the Clinton Appointment Means
And why we won't see any change in American foreign policy
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-19

This Is Change?
20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House

By Jeremy Scahill
Alternet.org, 2008-11-20
[URL for just the introduction]

Stop Hillary!
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-21

Obama's Foreign Policy: The Case for Pessimism
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-24

His appointments augur ill

Rubinomics Recalculated
New York Times, 2008-11-24

[Its beginning; emphasis is added.]

WASHINGTON — It is testament to former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin’s star power among many Democrats that as President-elect Barack Obama fills out his economic team, a virtual Rubin constellation is taking shape.

The president-elect’s choices for his top economic advisers — Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary, Lawrence H. Summers as senior White House economics adviser and Peter R. Orszag as budget director — are past protégés of Mr. Rubin, who held two of those jobs under President Bill Clinton. Even the headhunters for Mr. Obama have Rubin ties: Michael Froman, Mr. Rubin’s chief of staff in the Treasury Department who followed him to Citigroup, and James Rubin, Mr. Rubin’s son.

All three advisers — whom Mr. Obama will officially name on Monday and Tuesday — have been followers of the economic formula that came to be called Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that was credited with fueling the prosperity of the 1990s.

But times have changed since then.
On Wall Street,
Mr. Rubin is facing questions about his role as director of Citigroup
given the bank’s current woes.

[Which are heavily and specifically due to Mr. Rubin:
see this article.
How can Rubin, or his disciples, now be given power in Washington
when Rubin bears so much direct responsibility
for Citigroup’s gigantic problems?
Politics is amazing.
Sex “scandals” call for instant removal (see Spitzer, E.),
while clueless leadership leading straight to disaster
(see Rice, C. and Rubin, R.) lead to uninterrupted leadership at the top.]

And in Washington,
he and his acolytes are calling for a new formulation
to address the global economic crisis that Mr. Obama will inherit —
and rejecting or setting aside, for now, some of their old orthodoxies.

The End of the Affair
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-12-01

Obama and the antiwar movement

[This is posted in
The War Party ” and
The Obama (44) Administration”.]


This is a comment that is actually being added to this post on 2013-10-22,
but as it is about events that occurred in January 2009,
I have put it here in the post.
Consider the following extract from the Wikipedia article on Michael D. Griffin (as of 2013-10-22):
It was widely and erroneously speculated that
[Bush's NASA administrator Michael D.] Griffin
hoped to keep his job under President Barack Obama
so that Constellation and NASA's other programs could maintain their steady progress.[21][22][23]
In a phone call on the day after the election,
Senator Bill Nelson (D, FL) requested of Lori Garver,
who led the incoming Obama Administration's Transition Team,
that the Administration allow Griffin to remain as NASA Administrator
to provide programmatic and management continuity.
However, his resignation
(required of and offered by all agency heads due to an incoming President)
was accepted.
In part, this was because of disagreements between Griffin and Garver
over the state of Project Constellation.
In reality it was because
Griffin refused to accept Garver as his Deputy.
Griffin gave a farewell address to NASA on 16 January 2009,
in which he praised NASA for its recovery from the Columbia disaster
and urged employees to support the new administrator,
whoever it may be.[24][25]
He left office the day President Obama was inaugurated.
My thoughts:
Griffin has a very extensive academic background on issues relevant to NASA management.
That Obama would insist that Lori Garver
[whose degrees in political science, economics, and "science, technology and public policy"
do not demonstrate much mathematical skill]
be Griffin's deputy, over Griffin's objections,
certainly raises questions about Obama's interests in technical competence in his appointments.
Note that when Lori Garver left NASA, she left it to become
General Manager of the Air Line Pilots Association,
a non-technical position.

Obama Gathering a Flock of Hawks to Oversee U.S. Foreign Policy
By Stephen Zunes
AlterNet.com, 2009-01-30

The black-white divide in Obama's popularity
By Byron York
Washington Examiner, 2009-04-28

White House puts UAW ahead of property rights
By Michael Barone
Washington Examiner, 2009-05-05

[Its conclusion; emphasis is added.]

Obama’s attitude toward the rule of law is apparent
in the words he used to describe what he is looking for
in a nominee to replace Justice David Souter.
He wants
“someone who understands justice
is not just about some abstract legal theory,”
he said,
but someone who has “empathy.”
In other words,
judges should decide cases so that the right people win,
not according to the rule of law.

The Chrysler negotiations will not be the last occasion
for this administration to engage in
bailout favoritism and crony capitalism.
There’s a May 31 deadline to come up with a settlement for General Motors.
And there will be others.
In the meantime,
who is going to buy bonds from unionized companies
if the government is going to take their money away
and give it to the union?
We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government.
It is likely to be part of a continuing series.

Obama’s auto policy: All in the Democratic family
By: Timothy P. Carney
Washington Examiner, 2009-05-06

President Barack Obama’s auto industry policy
promises to heighten the influence of lobbyists
and to open the door to ethical transgressions and even outright corruption.
By naming as car czar a financier who is also
a Democratic fundraiser steeped in cozy business-government relationships,
and by replacing the traditional bankruptcy procedures
with the will of politicians,
Obama has injected Detroit with all the elements of crony capitalism.

Auto czar Steve Rattner, 56, a top Democratic fundraiser,
is an old hand at leveraging political influence into profit,
as shown by the business dealings of his hedge fund,
Quadrangle Group.

One Quadrangle client was New York City’s pension fund —
an arrangement at the heart of recent federal convictions for illegal kickbacks.
Federal authorities charged that a “senior executive” at Quadrangle —
Rattner, according to the Wall Street Journal —
met with a consultant who was looking for places
to invest the city’s pension fund money.
A short time later, the city invested in Quadrangle,
and Quadrangle cut a check to the consultant,
who has since pleaded guilty to taking illegal kickbacks.

Quadrangle is not under investigation
nor has it been accused of wrongdoing in making the payment,
but New York’s comptroller is looking into
whether the firm failed to disclose the payment.

Rattner, it turns out,
is also the personal money manager
for New York City’s Republican [sic -- Independent] Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In Washington, Quadrangle also seems to play politics for profit.
Quadrangle paid $160,000 to the K Street firm Navigant Consulting
from February 2005 through the end of 2006
to lobby Congress, the White House, and the Department of Labor
on a handful of bills regarding asbestos litigation and compensation.

What was Quadrangle’s stake in asbestos legislation?
The firm didn’t return a phone call seeking an answer,
but it’s not too hard to deduce.
Many hedge funds invested in companies damaged by asbestos lawsuits.
These funds then lobbied for legislation
that would alleviate some of the liability the companies faced,
thus boosting companies’ stock value.

Alternatively, a hedge fund could make the opposite play:
Watch a vulnerable company’s stock rise
as prospects improve for asbestos legislation,
then short the company and lobby to kill the bill.
Sometimes the lobbyists just acted as intelligence gatherers.
A Wall Street Journal article in December 2006 explained the dynamic:
“Some hedge funds,
which tend to choose riskier investments that can yield high returns,
saw the troubled asbestos companies as attractive.
To weigh the value of their investments and decipher bankruptcy-court actions,
hedge funds hired teams of analysts and researchers.
When Congress began considering legislation to bail out the industry,
the funds hired lobbyists to assess its prospects.”

So Rattner understands how public policy can create private profits.
It should come as no surprise, then,
that his auto plan involves upending bankruptcy law and precedent
in favor of a system in which
the winners and losers are chosen by politicians or their appointed “czars.”

Rattner and Obama have decided that
the United Auto Workers union should get 55 percent of Chrysler.
At the same time, they’ve attacked many of Chrysler’s secured creditors —
who, in a regular, nonpoliticized bankruptcy, would be repaid in full —
for resisting this deal.
In a federal complaint, these administration targets alleged:
“The government exerted extreme pressure
to coerce all of [Chrysler’s] constituencies into accepting a deal
which is being done largely for the benefit of unsecured creditors
at the expense of senior creditors.”

For the foreseeable future,
Chrysler will be on the federal dole, both directly and indirectly.
The Obama-Rattner plan puts UAW in charge of Chrysler,
which is good news for the Democratic Party.

UAW’s political action committee spent $13.1 million last election cycle,
a slow year for the union’s political arm.
Of the PAC’s $2.3 million in direct contributions to candidates and candidate PACs,
more than 99 percent went to Democrats.
Of 42 Senate candidates to get UAW money, only one was Republican, and that was Arlen Specter.

The union’s PAC also reported $4.5 million in independent expenditures supporting Obama,
plus an additional $423,000 opposing John McCain.

So, here’s the arrangement:
You pay your taxes,
the Obama administration funnels some of the money to Chrysler,
whose profits enrich the UAW,
which in turn funds Obama’s re-election.

Predictability, precedent and the rule of law have been replaced with
the fiat of politicians.
Chrysler could become
a pass-through entity from taxpayers to the Democratic Party.
And in charge of it all is a Democratic fundraiser.
Boss Tweed would be proud.

Goldstone Challenges Obama to Point Out Flaws in Report
Administration Condemned Report as 'Deeply Flawed'
by Jason Ditz
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-22

Whose side is Obama on?
By Steven Pearlstein
Washington Post, 2009-11-25 (Wednesday)


Obama's 1-man rule thumbs nose at Founders
Washington Examiner Opinion, 2012-01-14


Can Obama write his own laws?
By Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2013-08-15

Sebelius Names Administration Veteran to Lead Tech Repair Efforts
by Jackie Calmes
New York Times Web Site (In Practice), 2013-10-22

White House v. Holder
The fight over the government’s top national security lawyer.
by Shane Harris
Foreign Policy, 2013-12-08

In September, President Obama nominated John Carlin, a career federal prosecutor, to run the Justice Department’s National Security Division, a senior post whose occupant plays a key role in authorizing secret surveillance operations and managing national security investigations. It was a controversial pick. Not only did some of Carlin’s peers think he wasn’t the most qualified candidate. Attorney General Eric Holder — the man who was supposed to be Carlin’s boss — hadn’t supported him. Several former officials told Foreign Policy that the attorney general "strenuously" objected to nominating Carlin.

But Carlin had the backing of two senior officials in the White House, who had made it known that he was their preferred choice. In the end, their candidate won out, prompting several former law enforcement and national security officials to decry the nomination as an act of undue political influence over law enforcement decisions.

"I think it is extraordinary and unusual to have someone forced upon an attorney general over his objections," said one former law enforcement official. "The independence of the Justice Department from the White House is institutionally important." Decisions on which cases to prosecute and how to manage criminal investigations are supposed to be made free of political considerations.

Holder had his own list of candidates, which included another career prosecutor who had been his adviser on national security issues and had years more experience than Carlin working on terrorism and espionage cases, officials said. Holder didn’t know Carlin well and hadn’t worked closely with him.

Ultimately, the decision on whom to nominate for the position is the president’s alone. And Holder has since embraced Carlin — at least in public. But the rocky path to Carlin’s nomination, described in interviews with a dozen current and former Justice Department and administration officials, reveals a tense personal and political struggle over one of the most important national security positions in the government.

Carlin’s biggest advocates in the White House were Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, and Lisa Monaco, the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, according to current and former officials. Ruemmler and Monaco had worked with Carlin at the Justice Department and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where all three served at the same time as prosecutors.

Former officials said they are concerned that Carlin, who has been acting in the position since March, doesn’t speak as an independent voice for the department, but rather is aligning his positions first with the White House, and particularly with Monaco, thus undermining Holder’s authority. Two individuals drew comparisons to John Yoo, the controversial Justice Department attorney in the George W. Bush administration, who was known to have his own relationships with White House officials and was seen as operating outside channels meant to guard against political influence.

"It shouldn’t be that way," said a former government official who doesn’t support Carlin’s nomination. "There should be some walls between the Justice Department and the White House. The White House should not have a direct feed."

Former officials could not point to a specific instance in which Carlin had bowed to White House influence or shared information with Monaco before talking to the attorney general. But they said his close relationship with Monaco has created an impression among many national security lawyers in Washington that Carlin is the White House’s inside man at the Justice Department. Carlin became the acting director of the National Security Division after Monaco left the post and went to the White House. He was the chief of staff when she ran the division.

The concerns about Carlin’s independence run deeper than that, however. Two former officials, citing conversations with current Justice Department employees, said that Carlin is avoiding taking documented positions before his Senate confirmation hearing. Instead, Carlin has requested that colleagues not copy him on emails about sensitive policy issues. Many of Carlin’s communications are taking place by phone, former officials said. A date for a confirmation hearing hasn’t been set.

Carlin is not without experience in national security, and he has some of the same credentials as his predecessors in the job for which he’s been chosen. He was once chief of staff to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, for example. And he has held two senior posts in the National Security Division.

But several career prosecutors who know and have worked with Carlin say he does not have a firm enough grasp of national security and surveillance law, which is particularly important when approving applications for surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases. Carlin has spent the bulk of his career on computer crime and intellectual property cases, and in prosecuting homicide, sexual offenses, and public corruption, according to his official resume.

By contrast, one of the candidates that former officials say ranked high on Holder’s list is Amy Jeffress, who until recently was the department’s legal attache in London. From 2009 to 2010, Jeffress was Holder’s counselor on national security and international matters, advising him on some of the highest-profile cases in the Justice Department. She worked with Holder to bring a criminal case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, whom Holder wanted to try in a federal court. (Congress later blocked the move.) Jeffress also set up three inter-agency task forces that reviewed cases of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. She worked for thirteen years in U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where she was chief of the National Security Section overseeing terrorism and espionage cases.

In the contentious nomination process, the balance finally tipped in Carlin’s favor when Holder received a phone call from FBI Director Robert Mueller, Carlin’s former boss. "Director Mueller weighed in both at [the Justice Department] and at the White House in strong support of John’s nomination," said a senior administration official. After the call, Holder dropped his objections to Carlin. President Obama announced his nomination on September 10.

The tussle over Carlin’s nomination has had more than just political or personal consequences. In the eight months he has been serving in an acting capacity, Carlin has not been legally able to sign off on surveillance requests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the body that approves secret intelligence-gathering conducted by the FBI and the National Security Agency. Until Carlin is confirmed, Holder and James Cole, the deputy attorney general, have to pick up the slack, because they are the only other department officials authorized to review and sign off on the orders.

Surveillance operations have not lapsed as a result, but given the pressing demands of their jobs, it has been harder to find time to sit down with Holder or Cole to get their approvals, a Justice Department official said. One of them has to review and receive a briefing on each application, which can take as little as five to ten minutes. But those minutes add up. Last year, the government made 1,856 requests to the court for permission to conduct electronic surveillance or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes. Figures for this year have not been compiled.

But Carlin is still able to perform many of the duties of the position, including consulting with the White House, the FBI, and intelligence agencies. The National Security Division was created in 2006 to tear down barriers betwee
n law enforcement and intelligence personnel that had kept them from working together. Today, the law allows White House officials to stay in closer contact with career prosecutors than they would on criminal cases, where barriers are placed to ward against political influence.

"Of course the President’s Counterterrorism Advisor and all of her operational counterparts, including at DOJ and FBI, are in regular touch," said Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokesperson. "It is the CT [counterterrorism] Advisor’s job to make sure that the interagency is coordinated."

Kenneth Wainstein, who served as the head of the National Security Division and the White House counterterrorism adviser during the Bush administration, said, "It’s absolutely critical that the assistant attorney general for national security, who is the head of the intelligence and national security element of the Justice Department, be centrally involved in the interagency process that is run out of the White House."

Wainstein, who knows both Monaco and Carlin, said he could not speak to the nature of their communications today. But he said it would be expected that they’d have frequent conversations and correspondence, including about criminal investigations and intelligence operations, as well as policy. "It’s critical for both the effectiveness and the constitutional integrity of our national security program that the Justice Department have a strong voice in the policymaking process," Wainstein said.

In the months since he’s been nominated, whatever distance there may have been between Carlin and Holder seems to have shrunk a bit. Another Justice Department official said that the week before Thanksgiving, Carlin invited Holder to address an all-hands meeting at the National Security Division. The attorney general praised Carlin’s leadership and the work of its employees. The division has been under unusual pressure and scrutiny amid investigations of global surveillance operations by the NSA and the FBI, revealed by Edward Snowden.

The official also said that Holder brings Carlin with him to weekly principals meetings in the White House Situation Room, where the top members of the president’s national security team are allowed to bring one member each from their staff.

"He’s a tremendous attorney and a strong leader, and is highly regarded in the intelligence community," Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told Foreign Policy. "He brings a wealth of legal, policy, and national security expertise to the position, and I think he’s a terrific choice to lead the [National Security Division]," added Olsen, a former general counsel at the NSA, who was also the acting head of the National Security Division during the presidential transition in 2008.

Among those who have written letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Carlin’s nomination are Tim Murphy, the former deputy director of the FBI; Pat Rowan, the former head of the national security division under President George W. Bush; and Michael Morrell, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Morrell wrote that he’d mostly worked with Carlin during meetings of deputy officials on the National Security Council at the White House, where Carlin was a "backbencher" or stood in for Monaco when she couldn’t attend. "He was always prepared, he was articulate and persuasive when he spoke, and he asked excellent questions of the other participants," Morrell wrote. "In addition to his performance, Mr. Carlin certainly has the experience required to do the job."

Hayden, the White House spokesperson, said "We look forward to the Senate confirming [Carlin] as soon as possible."

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