November 26, 2008
Buyer's Remorse on the Left
One after another, we are learning the names of the future Obama Administration. Behold, they are not new faces, nor are they the change agents that Obama's campaign rhetoric promised. Instead, we are seeing Clinton retreads and a surprising move toward the political center. Rather than the far left team of new faces and new politics that the President-elect's supporters dreamed about when they cast their ballots for the "change" they could believe in, we are seeing familiar faces and experienced pols. More than a few Obama fans are experiencing buyer's remorse as they discover that "The One" seems to be abandoning them and their policies.
When confronted with the far left's disappointment over the first appointments to be announced, one of the Transition team members responded, "An Obama White House will be focused on meeting the next challenge, not winning the next election."
Well, that response does not pass the laugh test! Or perhaps the correct translation is, "We're so sure we'll win the next election, we don't even have to take that into consideration."
Clearly, Obama intends to be more than a one-term president; even before his Inauguration, he is already starting his next campaign. He is putting his chief competition, Senator Hillary Clinton, safely inside his camp and working to dispel any evidence that he is an extremist. Rather than come in and clean house, the President-elect seems to be embracing politics as usual.
The "insult" added to previous "injury" came with an announcement over the weekend that Obama's White House will continue the political office that was held by Karl Rove in the Bush White House. During his campaign, of course, Mr. Obama vowed to keep politics out of the White House. He criticized the Bush Administration for its partisanship and accused President Bush of running a "perpetual campaign." The Obama Administration, he promised, would end what he called "politics as usual."
But he is appointing the usual -- a bevy of inside-the-beltway politicians.
Thus far, there are no new faces and no one who will obviously push for new policies. Eric Holder (nominee for Attorney General) and Rahm Emanuel (Chief of Staff) bring lots of Clinton-era baggage; Tim Gaithner (Treasury Secretary) is part of New York's big-money establishment. Tom Daschle, (HHS Secretary) is welded into the Senate's good ‘ole boy network. Further, Obama helped to protect Joe Lieberman's Senate committee chairmanship even though Lieberman crossed party lines to actively campaign for John McCain. The leftist Bible, The Nation, noted recently that "not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive" has even been mentioned for the Obama Cabinet.
The Far Left contends that Barack should be dancing with the ones that brought him to the White House. Those on the right who treasure our traditional America values of personal responsibility and freedom have far more serious cause for worry.
While Obama is filling top slots of his Administration with politicians from the center, his agenda will be thrust forward by the Schedule C minions in the lower levels of government who will be able to work under the radar to push his far left ideology. That is the bottom-up strategy that he learned as a community organizer and a strategy that links him with his primary season competitor, Hillary Clinton, who promoted the feminist goals of the Beijing Platform for Action through various task forces set up in the federal agencies following the U.N.'s Beijing World Conference on Women. Both of these leftist politicians have learned to speak the language of the masses while working behind the scenes on the policies of the radical true believers.
Thus, Obama's appointments are sending a signal that his administration will be far more hawkish than his campaign rhetoric indicated. In addition to the likely appointment of Senator Clinton as Secretary of State, there are other signs that President-elect Obama is changing his stance on the war in Iraq -- despite official assurances that his position on Iraq hasn't changed and won't change. He seems to be leaning toward retaining Robert Gates, President Bush's Defense Secretary. Also, he is leaning toward a McCain backer, General James Jones, former NATO commander, as National Security Advisor and Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona and a supporter of the Iraq war, for heading the Homeland Security Department. These possible appointments appear to signal a weakening of his promise to withdraw troops over the next 18 months.
The possible appointment of Mrs. Clinton to the top foreign policy position also raises questions about the U.S. position on Iran and Israel. During the campaign, Senator Clinton held to a hard line regarding Iran and Senator Obama famously talked about sitting down to negotiate "without preconditions." Senator Clinton has been a steadfast supporter of Israel (not any surprise in light of her numerous Jewish constituents in New York) and some pundits think that she would aggressively pursue a Middle East peace deal if she were Secretary of State.
Beyond questions of policy, critics are concerned that Obama is shaping a third Clinton term. The sheer drama of appointing Hillary, with the added soap-opera potential of husband Bill's antics, is cause for apprehension to many of Obama's supporters who fear that his agenda will be overshadowed by the Clintons' egos.
To repeat: what Obama's critics are overlooking is that he is a former community organizer; he prefers to work under the radar, starting from the grassroots. Those who are looking at the top layer of the Obama Administration wanting to see a sign of the "second coming of Saul Alinsky" (as one blogger put it), are going to be disappointed. Those who watched First Lady Hillary Clinton set up little fiefdoms in all the government agencies to push the policies of the Beijing Platform for Action and those who observed Senator Barack Obama utilize ACORN to build a political machine that spread from Chicago throughout the nation will recognize the strategy and tactics of master manipulators.
Even though they differ on many other fronts, Barack and Hillary are kindred spirits when it comes to using the government's legendary "soft power" and the national "bully pulpit" to achieve their personal and political ends. So, while the nation is lulled into thinking that Barack is moving to the center, his minions who are actually carrying the water will be hard-core "progressives" moving the leftist agenda forward largely out of the public's sight in the mid-level management positions of the government's sprawling bureaucracy. Much of the real action will happen behind the scenes in thousands of small decisions and initiatives that will remain nearly invisible until -- like the explosion in the number of mother-only families that followed from Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty -- the transformation of their cumulative effects begins to emerge.
Janice Crouse, former presidential speechwriter for Bush 41, heads Concerned Women for America’s think tank and writes political and social commentary.