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November 22, 2008

Comments

The first is that it's very important to get bipartisan cover for the withdrawal from Iraq if we want to avoid some future conservative "if only the Democrats had let us win" story.

Yeah cause the whole having a republican actually be the one to withdraw from vietnam worked so well to avoid the future conservative "if only the Democrats had let us win" story.

Doomed. If that's the way you want to play it - doomed.

There is no need for bipartisan cover. We need not share blame here. One political party is responsible for the idiocy in Iraq - the entrance, the exit, the carnage, the stupidity. Republicans did this. Period, full stop, end of discussion.

The second is that by all accounts the military have a lot of respect for Gates; keeping him on, therefore, would allow Obama to bypass the need to establish his own credibility and that of his Secretary of Defense with them.

I'm not sure it makes any sense to talk about "the military" as a unitary entity that either does or does not have respect for Gates. There are a lot of people in the military. They disagree about most things. From a political perspective, what the average soldier on the ground in Iraq thinks is much less of a problem for Obama than what the high powered brass at the Pentagon think. Even if you had polling data that indicated most soldiers thought well of Gates (which you don't), that wouldn't tell us anything about how the power players at the pentagon feel about him because the average soldier is not representative. The power players can strategically leak information (or disinformation) and they have the ability to stall and obstruct the President's agenda.

Happy talk about how "the military" respects Gates obscures the fact that Gates has pissed off some very powerful people. He's been brutal with the Air Force, and while I think they deserve everything he's thrown at them, every action has reactions. As a result, those players are going to want to neutralize him and Obama. They're going to rally their defense contractor buddies and their favorite congressfolk. Now that we're in a recession, I guarantee you that when Boeing whines to their congressfolk about cuts in the F22 procurement budget and potential factory layoffs in their district, those congressmen will listen VERY attentively. If you want to perform a serious analysis of how the military establishment relates to Gates and what the political implications of that relationship are, these are the sorts of things you have to consider. Simply asserting -- with zero evidence -- that "the military" likes Gates and therefore it will be smooth sailing is not very convincing.

Agree with now_what. If your enemies will cry wolf every time you come around no matter how you shapeshift, you might as well eat their sheep.

So far, this is a big shiv for the left. Another stupid banker, to try to reëstablish the financialisation of our economy. So far, no labour or production people. But who cares about people in unions who make actual stuff.

And hillary, who has no qualifications other than inability to successfully manage anything, and who totally loves the empire.

Then we have a drug warrior and the only person from congress with less spine than Reid.

What a crew.

Napolitano, though, seems like good pick. Expecpt it mean one less senator two year from now. Hey who cares, i'm sure Joementum will round up his friends to vote for labour.

I've spent the last hour or so looking at dates of birth, just to see if Obama's emphasis on experience meant that his administration didn't represent generational change in the same way that Clinton's did.

The most common year of birth in Bill Clinton's cabinets: 1947 (Richardson, Pena, Cisneros, Herman). Gore was 48, Clinton and Reubin were 46.

The most common year of birth in Barack Obama's cabinet: 1947 (Daschle, Clinton and Richardson).

Probably don't want to read too much into that, though.

Bob Gates doesn't do much for bipartisanship, because he isn't a Republican. That said, he has done a good job, and there is a lot in terms of general sanity to be said for not making someone who's served under the other party ipso facto radioactive. (I still get annoyed every time I see career diplomat Joe Wilson referred to as a "Democratic operative".)

"The first is that it's very important to get bipartisan cover for the withdrawal from Iraq if we want to avoid some future conservative "if only the Democrats had let us win" story."

That'll happen no matter what. It wasn't a Democratic President, or Secretary of State, who led us out of Vietnam, and only wanted a "decent interval" before South Vietnam collapsed, knowing it couldn't survive.

Didn't stop the Democrats from being blamed.

(And, really, I emphatically suggest people read my link.)

How very Machiavellian, keeping your friends close and your enemies closer still.
Shrewd move.

Bob Gates seems to be a serious possibility for Secretary of Defense. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I think this would also be a good move, for reasons Spencer Ackerman explained here.

And you really don't want the rest of the world thinking that when Obama claimed he represented "change" he meant it.

Another step on the way of thinking that there'll be no prosecutions for torture, too - after all, you would hardly offer a Cabinet post to someone who was going to be implicated in a far-reaching political/military scandal.

So the message is: the torture might stop, but no one's going to be penalized for involvement in the US's breach of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture. What the President says, goes: the US can torture prisoners again.

PS: A set of political values that can be more disturbed by having Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State than Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense is... peculiar, to say the least. Though this blog was not known for any substantive criticisms of Clinton while she was running against Obama in the primaries, there are substantive criticisms to be made against her, just as there are against Obama - who I bet is still counting as a blessing that he was not in the US Senate between 2000 and 2004, given that while he can be forgiven for that infamous vote to award himself the power of warrantless wiretapping once he is President, Clinton can not be forgiven for that infamous vote to award Bush the power to decide to take the US to war with Iraq.

But there's "substantive criticisms" and there's "outside the moral pale". Torture is, or ought to be, outside the moral pale. Except, if Obama plans to keep on the old regime to run the Pentagon, it evidently isn't for anyone who supports Gates as Secretary of Defense.

Well, in hindsight the Clinton years were actually pretty good for me personally. What the heck – I’m up for another go around.

Picking Clinton might well turn out to be Obama's first major mistake. Whatever it's merits, it certainly impossible to think of any justification of the choice based on policy rather than politics. For all her talents, foreign policy is simply not her thing. She has never shown great interest in it, has never said anything particular insightful on the subject, and has consistently swam with the tide since being elected in an obvious effort to avoid going out on a limb on what she felt was her weak spot in a presidential bid. Moreover, many of the first important defections from the Clinton camp to Obama (before the primaries, when it counted most), were from the foreign policy gang, which gives an indication of how insiders see their respective talents.

So the pick certainly seems like an indication that Obama intends to run FP tightly from the White House, which admittedly is what we probably expected from him, and which has usually been the case for the last forty years in any case. Yet, as this insightful article in the Economist points out, she's a very big political beast to have taken on board, and virtually unsackable. Certainly it's hard to imagine what National Security Advisor might be able to stand up to her. Outsiders like Samantha Power (who I think was out of the running for this reason anyway, certainly after her gaffe during the primary) would end up being Condi Rice-style punching bags. Insiders, like the oft-cited Susan Rice, might possible have divided loyalties from their time in the Clinton administration.

On the plus side, in reality Obama and Clinton probably agree on foreign policy almost 100%, despite the hullaballoo over Iraq now past its sell-by date. That was mostly attributable to posturing on each of their parts anyway. I'm actually concerned by the possible drift of Obama's foreign policy: it's basically a uninspiring combo of liberalism and realism, the latter a reflection of how far the Bush administration actually successfully shifted the center of the foreign policy debate far to the right. Think about Obama's gung-ho approach on Afhganistan for example -- something that's possibly even dumber than the invasion of Iraq ever was.

For the record, I think the Clinton administration's foreign policy was pretty disastrous, even if it seems like a panacea compared to the past eight years. I really wanted to see Obama put a lot of distance between him and Bill in that regard.

Rumors are former SACEUR Marine General James Jones (ret) for NSA, if that's helpful.

Great, I'm angry before it has even started, as I find the possible appointments of Clinton and Gates totally unacceptable.

And I'm not even a hardcore lefty, I'm a bourgeois-bohemian center-left european social democrat. I am also to a great extent a pragmatist and have no interest in seeing Obama fail and thereby discredit centrist politics.

But there are limits and appointing these two (an Iraq war enabler who publicly discredited diplomacy as such and a member of the Bush administration) is a strong indication that they will be disregarded, that policy will be sacrificed in favour of politics. I really wish things were different, but it seems they are not.

But there are limits and appointing these two (an Iraq war enabler who publicly discredited diplomacy as such and a member of the Bush administration) is a strong indication that they will be disregarded, that policy will be sacrificed in favour of politics.

Is it your contention that Obama should not hire anyone who worked for the Bush Administration? Would you criticize him if he appointed Patrick Fitzgerald or James Comey on that basis? If not, where do you draw the bright line?


I have the feeling that because Obama talked about "change" and making things "different", there's a large group of people who are going to look at him on inaugeration day and say "My God! He's wearing pants! That's not change we can believe in. For over two centuries, American Presidents have always worn pants and this jackass is continuing the tradition, refusing to bare his naked bum for us. What a phony."

For myself, I'm going to wait until Obama has actually been inaugerated and enacted policy before I complain too much. If Obama cuts a deal with Iran, I won't care less if he has Clinton doing to the legwork. If he fails to cut a deal with Iran, that failure would not be any more palatable if Jesus himself was Secretary of State.


it's basically a uninspiring combo of liberalism and realism, the latter a reflection of how far the Bush administration actually successfully shifted the center of the foreign policy debate far to the right.

I agree about the liberalism and realism combination, but I'm curious as to how this demonstrates a shift in the center of the foreign policy debate to the right at all, much less far to the right.

Which past Democratic administration was noticeably more left on foreign policy than what we are extrapolating (from Obama's cabinet positions thus far):

Clinton admin - Somalia, Bosnia & Kosovo, rendition, Operation Desert Fox, DADT.

Carter admin - began the "Reagan" defense spending ramp up.

Johnson admin - Vietnam, Cold warriors, etc.

Kennedy admin - Vietnam, Cold warriors, etc.

Truman admin - Cold warriors, etc.

anybody?

About the only possible candidate I can see in this list for a post-WW2 administration that wasn't at least as beligerant and militaristic as what we are expecting from Obama was the Carter admin (and even that is highly questionable), and hooboy that sure worked out well. If you want Obama to govern from the left side of the Carter admin., I wonder how much you are going to enjoy the Rommney/Huckabee administration in 2012?

I mean I realise that a competant centrist government is pretty weak tea, but not all of that 53% who voted for Obama this year are progressives, and personally I'm kinda happy that we aren't spending the holidays tearing our hair out over who McCain is picking to fill out the cabinet and wondering how much luck Joe Lieberman is having explaining that whole Shia - Sunni thing to Vice President Elect Palin.


"My God! He's wearing pants! That's not change we can believe in. For over two centuries, American Presidents have always worn pants and this jackass is continuing the tradition, refusing to bare his naked bum for us.

Well he could wear a kilt. That's Tartan you can believe in!

I think Obama would *rock* a kilt, personally.

"I think Obama would *rock* a kilt, personally."

Well, there are Irish kilts, and he is (see addendum) O'Bama.

"anybody?"

The lost Henry Wallace administration that never was....

;-)

"About the only possible candidate I can see in this list for a post-WW2 administration that wasn't at least as beligerant and militaristic as what we are expecting from Obama was the Carter admin (and even that is highly questionable)"

Indeed. Because Zbigniew Brzezinski remains such a beloved leftist figure. :-)

"...and personally I'm kinda happy...."

Me, too.

"About the only possible candidate I can see in this list for a post-WW2 administration that wasn't at least as beligerant and militaristic as what we are expecting from Obama was the Carter admin (and even that is highly questionable), and hooboy that sure worked out well. If you want Obama to govern from the left side of the Carter admin., I wonder how much you are going to enjoy the Rommney/Huckabee administration in 2012?"

But as you imply, Carter wasn't actually that far to the left, except sometimes rhetorically. He spoke a lot about human rights (though often betraying his professed principles) and about an "inordinate fear of communism", while again supporting horrifically brutal regimes because they were anti-communist. He said he was surprised by the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and was rightly pilloried for this, because it sounded so naive, and in fact it was a remarkably stupid thing to say when according to Brzezinski we were trying to provoke that invasion. On the progressive side of the ledger there was Camp David (which everyone saw as a great success) and the Panama Canal treaty, which was admittedly unpopular with some, but the right thing to do, and in Argentina he actually did support human rights, to the disgust of people like Reagan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. But in the latter part of his term he was using increasingly tough rhetoric.

Carter lost to Reagan for various reasons--the hostage crisis, the incredibly high inflation rate, the malaise speech which seemed un-American to many, and his naive reaction to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. You seem to be saying that Obama had better run a centrist Clintonite foreign policy or he will suffer the same fate in 2012? Is it because you think a genuinely progressive foreign policy will inevitably bring about disasters that will guarantee a Republican victory in 2012?

Brzezinski is supposedly cock-a-hoop. My fear is that Obama will be Carter 2. Actually, scratch that, my fear is that Obama will be JFK, missile crisis notwithstanding (although I also think Korea might give him his shot at that before his first year is up).

I think discourse has shifted to the right in the post-Vietnam context, by 1968 liberals realised that containment extended to the developing world was dumb. Iraq has given us a fresh reminder of that, and yet even so Obama is trumpeting Afghanistan, I find that odd. To be honest, I always saw that as a pretty cynical ploy on his part not to be pigeonholed as the anti-war candidate, but whatever his real feelings on the issue, he's publicly committed to it now.

I think Clinton's foreign policy was quite liberal - those interventions were of a fundamentally different nature than Iraq, for example. I have no problem with the Clinton administration's general inclinations, but I think the implementation was very poor, and I think they missed too many important opportunities (Russia and Al Qaeda come to mind).

Is it your contention that Obama should not hire anyone who worked for the Bush Administration?

We can easily clear up this little misunderstanding if I replace "administration" with "cabinet".

That said, while I don't know where exactly to draw the line, I am not happy about anyone who worked in a leading role for the Bush administration being carried over into the Obama administration, unless they resigned in protest. I also don't want to see any leading Republicans in the Obama administration. Quite apart from somebody's individual actions there is such a thing as guilt by virtue of membership in an organization.

"Quite apart from somebody's individual actions there is such a thing as guilt by virtue of membership in an organization."

Unlike British parties, which have rolls and dues, American political parties don't actually have "members." Just voters. You may or may not be registered to vote in a given primary in your state, but it's still not really a "membership." I'd tend to reserve such standards for someone who actually participated in the Party in some active way, such as appearing at fundraisers, or campaigning, etc. Not whether or not someone was an appointee in the Executive branch, per se. And Robert Gates reportedly isn't even a registered Republican.

Joe Wilson worked for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Does that mean he should never have been allowed, and never should be allowed, to work for a Democratic administration?

I'm also not entirely clear how Robert Gates is implicated in torture, unlike the OLC of the Justice Department, or certain parts of the CIA. Abu Ghraib and other scandals were under Rumsfeld.

What exactly is Gates's great sin that makes him so unacceptable? Opposition to him seems to be completely knee jerk. "But he's Bush's defense secretary."

For instance:

That said, while I don't know where exactly to draw the line, I am not happy about anyone who worked in a leading role for the Bush administration being carried over into the Obama administration, unless they resigned in protest.

What, exactly, has been done which would make Gates having resigned in protest a sensible position? What was he supposed to be protesting, exactly? The Bush administration's defense policy has been considerably less obnoxious in the last two years than it was before. What specific actions has Gates taken that make him unacceptable?

As to Clinton, it's a weird thing. What I think is fairly clear is that this is an entirely political pick. If Obama wanted the best qualified person to run a hawkish, Clintonesque foreign policy, the obvious choice was not Clinton, but Richard Holbrooke, who'd clearly love to have the job (and wouldn't have given us this ridiculous weak of "will she or won't she" nonsense). Picking Clinton, though, has nothing to do with policy - it's entirely about politics. As such, it makes sense for Obama to do it, but it still seems too cynical by half to me.

As to Clinton, I don't understand why she wants it. Foggy Bottom is a trap. The key to foreign policy decision-making is in the White House, and the only way for a Secretary of State to really be influential in policy-making is to have a really good personal relationship with the president. Clinton obviously doesn't have that. She's about a textbook example of someone who will be a marginalized Secretary of State. I just can't imagine why she wants to give up a safe Senate seat to put herself in that situation.


You seem to be saying that Obama had better run a centrist Clintonite foreign policy or he will suffer the same fate in 2012? Is it because you think a genuinely progressive foreign policy will inevitably bring about disasters that will guarantee a Republican victory in 2012?

No I don't think a progressive f.p. will cause disasters to happen. What I think is that a more centrist f.p will provide better political cover for things that inevitably go haywire that are beyond Obama's control.

And I think that will make the difference in an election which I except to be very close - because I expect a very long and slow recovery from the Great Recession. I'm guessing that it will be at least 4-6 years before we experience economic growth again, both because we still have a good long ways to go before we hit bottom and because while I think Obama and his team have good ideas about how to respond they are ideas with a much longer lag time before they will produce results than just juicing up the economy with loose monetary policy like we did under Greenspan.

So I expect that Obama will have to carry a declining or flat economy through the 2010 and 2012 elections, and in those circumstances any setbacks which can be narrated (by the GOP) as being a product of a liberal foreign policy will be enough to make 2012 a repeat of 1980, IMHO.

In other words, I've seen this movie before. Obama shows every sign of putting together an administration that is smarter and politically tougher than Carter's, but there are very strong resemblences to the late 1970s and in many respects I think Obama faces a greater set of challenges than Carter did.

So the message is: the torture might stop, but no one's going to be penalized for involvement in the US's breach of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture.

I hate to say it, but that was a given. Americans don't punish their government for committing crimes against foreigners. Particularly not for things like torture or war crimes. In that respect, at least, we're a perfectly lawless nation.

"Bob Gates doesn't do much for bipartisanship, because he isn't a Republican."

Technically, it's considered 'bipartisan' when Democrats hire Democrats who've worked for Republicans. It's only Republicans who have to hire actual members of the other party to be "bipartisan". ;)

"I also don't want to see any leading Republicans in the Obama administration. "

Fair enough; Republicans were ticked enough about Bush keeping on Norm Minetta. You won the election, you're entitled to have your guys running the government.

Besides, it makes for clearer assignment of blame with things go south. ;)

"As such, it makes sense for Obama to do it, but it still seems too cynical by half to me."

I have my doubts about it, primarily because of there being little to no evidence of Senator ever running a large enterprise well (health care reform and her presidential campaign being large arguments in the opposite direction), but I don't think it's "cynical" to note that the Secretary of State is a political position, and has a history from the beginning (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, etc.) of being well-suited (and sometimes not so much; see James Byrnes) to top American politicians, whose prestige was well-turned towards representing, and speaking for, the United States of America to the rest of the world.

It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton is well suited, but I don't see anything dubious about appointing a powerful and famous politician to the job. There's as long a precedent as the job has existed for doing that, and for (often) good reason.

"Clinton obviously doesn't have that."

Relationships change when they change; having been opponents in a presidential campaign need not lock people into the same relationship forever thereafter.

"I just can't imagine why she wants to give up a safe Senate seat to put herself in that situation."

She'd be the junior Senator from NY, and little more, for decades to come, is why. For all her fame, it's not a very powerful position, and there's little likelihood she'd get any significant committee chairs for decades. It's a long time to go to rubber chicken dinners.

"Technically, it's considered 'bipartisan' when Democrats hire Democrats who've worked for Republicans. It's only Republicans who have to hire actual members of the other party to be "bipartisan". ;)"

So who is William Cohen, again? Was Alan Greenspan actually a Democrat when Clinton reappointed him head of the Federal Reserve? James Schlesinger, when Carter made him Secretary of Energy? Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., when he worked as Ambassdor to Vietnam and Germany and At Large for JFK? C. Douglas Dillon as Secretary of the Treasury for JFK? (Nobody has commented on 45 years ago today, btw.) Robert McNamara?

So, haha, you're right, except that, you know, you're wrong.

About Gates: as I said, I think he has been a good SecDef. Nothing I'm about to say would hold if I didn't. That said:

I am really -- scared? awed? -- by the number of huge, huge things Obama seems to be about to try to do, and do quickly. A big stimulus program and whatever else has to happen to deal with the worst economy in 50 years; health care; energy. Those are three big, big, big fights. I want to win them all.

For that reason I want Obama to do everything in his power to make the rest of his life as easy as possible. Would appointing Gates make withdrawing from Iraq go more smoothly? And would it help with Obama's relationship to the military? I think so. Do I want him to say: no, no, I will not appoint him because good or no good, he was in the Bush administration, and so I'd rather spend some of my attention and political capital doing stuff I don't need to do to make withdrawing from Iraq go smoothly and have good civ/mil relations, rather than appoint him? No. I want to win health care, energy, and the economy. That matters, to me, more than making some point about no holdovers.

Again, I wouldn't say this if we were talking (e.g.) Rumsfeld. But Gates is not responsible for the Iraq war; he has always seemed to be above-board; he has won the respect of the military while standing up to them, which is not easy; and he's been, in general, quite good.

If he allows Obama to avoid needless problems so he can focus on his already incredibly difficult agenda, I say great.

Let me echo Gary's question to Jes: What is Gates' particular implication in torture and detainee abuse (as compared to Rumsfeld, Haynes, Cambone, and Feith)? No political appointees in the Bush term are free of responsibility for U.S. crimes and misconduct, but I'm not getting what Gates' special responsibility is.

However, I do oppose Gates' appointment, and if it's inevitable, am hoping that his term is short, by pre-arrangement. I'm skeptical that retaining Gates will be effective in providing political cover from Republicans in general or the hawkish sector of the brass in particular.

Even if I thought it would do so, I'd still hate the pathetic learned-helplessness overtones of continuing to cement the approach of ceding all credibility in military matters to Republican operatives. (And Gates has been an operative of the G.H.W.Bush-Snowcroft wing of things for decades.)

Hilzoy: he has always seemed to be above-board

If by 'always' you mean 'since taking over as Secretary of Defense in 2007'.

If 'always' goes back to the 1980s, not so much. See the link in my comment above.

I'm a fervent supporter of prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Rumsfeld, Haynes, Yoo, Addington, Gonzales, and Cheney and Bush should be in the dock.

But I've lived long enough to see how long justice takes in matters of this kind. It never happens without relentless and prolonged campaigns for justice. I'm prepared to be one of those campaigners.

I'd be stunned if Obama began even in the smallest way the process that could lead to legal accountability for officials in the Bush-Cheney regime during his first term. (As distinct from actions to begin reversing the substance and lawless nature of the torture and detention policies, which I expect him to undertake immediately on entering office.)

That doesn't mean I won't press the demand, and it doesn't mean I accept criticisms of such demands as "unfair" and "unrealistic, therefore wrong".

Hilzoy: What do you think about the rumors of having Jim Brennan, an enabler of U.S. torture policies, as head of the CIA?

watching the daily leaks apparently designed to keep us all on tenterhooks about her decision-making process

I'm not a fan of Sen. Clinton's foreign policy stances or an admirer of hers generally, but this passage irritates me.

It seems to imply that Sen. Clinton is responsible for the daily leaks. If you didn't mean to imply that, Hilzoy, perhaps you'd like to rephrase it (rather than just deny that you meant to).

It's been noted elsewhere that the "team of rivals" so far contains no one to Obama's left. National Security Adviser is the last position in which I'd expect such a person. But even my most pessimistic predictions didn't include someone like Jim Jones.

More efforts to keep the boys at the Pentagon happy in the event of a Clinton at State, I'd guess. Blech all around.

"If 'always' goes back to the 1980s, not so much."

Agree.

Allow me the self-gratification abuse of linking to myself about Robert Gates in 2006.

However, I also agree with Hilzoy's points at 02:59 PM; you have to pick your fights, and Obama has a huge number, and letting Gates stay on for a year or two doesn't seem to me to be a crucial thing. If Obama finds someone better, fine, but if he stays, absent something recent coming to light, or some future evil-doing, I won't complain.

"It's been noted elsewhere that the 'team of rivals' so far contains no one to Obama's left."

Er, who were his "rivals" to his left in the presidential campaign? Dennis Kucinich? Mike Gravel?

Richardson might wind up somewhere, but isn't noticeably more left. Edwards ain't coming back soon. Who, specifically, was in his "team of rivals" to his left?

If you're just saying you want more leftish folks, dropping the Lincoln's cabinet analogy, fine, no argument.

Hmm, Ted Sorenson is only eighty.... ;-)

I'm heartily sick of hearing the phrase. I happily retract the analogy.

I'll take Obama as serious about governing on behalf of the whole population if his close advisers end up including a few substantial people substantially to his left.

An Economics Policy Institute economist like Jared Berstein for chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, say.

s/b Bernstein.

he has won the respect of the military while standing up to them, which is not easy....And would it help with Obama's relationship to the military? I think so.

I understand that you think so. But what evidence do you have for thinking so? If you believe this purely as a matter of faith, divorced from evidence, that's fine, but it would be nice if you said that explicitly. Otherwise, I'll continue to ask: where is the evidence for this belief?

I understand that you think so. But what evidence do you have for thinking so? If you believe this purely as a matter of faith, divorced from evidence, that's fine, but it would be nice if you said that explicitly. Otherwise, I'll continue to ask: where is the evidence for this belief?

Fred Kaplan has reported about the leading role played by Gates in reforming the system used within the US Army for officer promotion (now headed by Gen. Petreaus) with an eye on promoting small-war and COIN oriented candidates (vs. more traditional tank and artillery enthusiasts).

If this is accurate then starting this year and increasingly so going forward the upper/middle ranks of the US Army officer corps (e.g. Colonels, 1 and 2 star Generals) will be stocked with brass who at least in part owe their career advancement success to Gates.

I don't know what relationship Gates has with the other service branches apart from the Air Force, with whom he is known to have had clashes.

I share John's sentiment: "What exactly is Gates's great sin that makes him so unacceptable? Opposition to him seems to be completely knee jerk."

We are closing up here at work, so I only had time to glance Nell's link and will look at it more closely when I get a chance. But while, obviously, it's important to judge a whole body of work, are we going to do the Republican thing of going all the way back to the 1980s?

And I don't see the need, like Turbulence, to parse hilzoy's statement: "The second is that by all accounts the military have a lot of respect for Gates; keeping him on, therefore, would allow Obama to bypass the need to establish his own credibility and that of his Secretary of Defense with them."

He certainly doesn't seem to have a lack of respect. And she's right keeping him on certainly does keep a Secretary of Defense with established credibility -- or to his detractors, a track record.

We've all criticized the Bush Administration until being blue in the face. Gates seems to be above-board and the exception to Bush's administration of bumblers, he inherited a quagmire in Iraq, and seemingly turned it around to some degree. Should he be given a chance to finish the job? President-Elect Obama must think so.

Obama's cabinet appointments signals he is going to govern from the center, what with Gates and lots of folks who got their sea legs in the Clinton Administration. After eight years of being governed from the right -- far right? -- I am fine with that.

I voted for a Democratic president. Those who voted for a lefty president could be in for a disappointment.

Right now, Obama needs to be a president who focuses on getting the economy back on track because -- sorry, hilzoy -- while I am impressed, I am not in awe. I'd love to see him implement some of his Big Ideas but that chance won't come until the economy is fixed.

Two final thoughts:

It's weird seeing Obama being criticized upthread for striking a bipartisan note. Bipartisan is now a bad thing?

And I've never gotten the notion that he could wind up being another Carter. I see Obama being many things, but not another Jimmy Carter.

Tried to get a lot in before we lock up for the weekend, so I hope there's some sense in there.

Nell: Let me echo Gary's question to Jes: What is Gates' particular implication in torture and detainee abuse (as compared to Rumsfeld, Haynes, Cambone, and Feith)? No political appointees in the Bush term are free of responsibility for U.S. crimes and misconduct, but I'm not getting what Gates' special responsibility is.

I honestly do not understand this question. Is it your contention that the US military's practice of torturing prisoners just stopped on 18th December 2006? If so, on what do you base this contention? If not, then yes, of course Gates is implicated directly he's been secretary of defense while the US military is torturing prisoners.

Even if you could show (as I do not think you can) that the US military did in fact completely quit torturing prisoners on or before 18th December 2006, Gates is indirectly implicated: he made no attempt to investigate and prosecute all soldiers and all officers responsible for acts of torture, ordering people to commit acts of torture, and declining to hear (as Joseph Darby reported) when soldiers attempted to report torture to their superior officers in the belief that this would stop it.

In any case: The US Military is now known throughout the world as a military force that does not follow the Geneva Conventions and that does not keep to the international laws against torture.

If Obama wants anyone to believe that the US has changed in that respect, and he does not intend to prosecute the criminals responsible to show that the lawless Bush regime was temporary and has ended, he can afford to do only one thing: ensure that no one senior in the Bush administration holds power under him. Meet the new boss - same as the old boss.

That even that is too much to ask: what change is this? Obama's said he'll close Guantanamo Bay; what about the other gulags? Will he end US torture of prisoners? Can he, if he feels himself so incapable of controlling the US military himself that he needs Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense to hold his hand?

The US military is, theoretically at least, supposed to be under civilian control. If the motivation ascribed to Obama is accurate, that he feels he's got to have Robert Gates because the military won't trust someone Obama appoints, then that's clearly not true.

If this is accurate then starting this year and increasingly so going forward the upper/middle ranks of the US Army officer corps (e.g. Colonels, 1 and 2 star Generals) will be stocked with brass who at least in part owe their career advancement success to Gates.

In the long term, that might help bolster Gates' position in the Army, but it also hurts him. He's effectively disenfranchised a group of very powerful officers. He has transferred power from the guys who spend a lot on expensive items like tanks to the guys who spend a lot on people. There are winners and losers here, but the losers are going to be pissed and they have power.

he inherited a quagmire in Iraq, and seemingly turned it around to some degree. Should he be given a chance to finish the job? President-Elect Obama must think so.

I wonder who has done more to improve the security situation in Iraq: Gates or Moqtada al-Sadr? My guess is al-Sadr. Maybe we should make him SecDef.

He certainly doesn't seem to have a lack of respect.

How do you know? And even if you could demonstrate that he has "respect" (talk about vague claims), what makes you think that he is respected by the powerful brass at the Pentagon? You know, the guys who can anonymously pass a rumor that "Obama is planning to make huge concessions to Iran" to their favorite media contacts and have it printed on page one the next day because of how high ranking they are. After all, what do these guys have to lose? The press never ever turns against anonymous sources even when they consistently lie.

btfb,

The analogy I made between Carter and Obama has nothing to do with their respective personalities or leadership styles. It is because both of them were elected during periods when the GOP brand was in a terrible state of disrepute owing to scandalously bad GOP Presidents (Nixon, W) but the incoming Democratic administration inherited really bad economic conditions.

In Carter's case he was not able to turn the US economy around in time for the 1980 election and that amongst other problems was enough for him to lose the election. Ironically the economic growth which picked up in the latter half of Reagan's 1st term just in time to help him decisively win the 1984 election was made possible in part by the very tough anti-inflationary monetary policy used by Carter appointee Paul Volker at the Fed - so in that sense Reagan benefited politically from Carter's economic policy, and the GOP continue to derive political capital from that event thru the 1988 election as well.

I forsee the possibility of a very similar dynamic happening again - an Obama administration which makes tough decisions and puts the economy on the right track for future growth, but that expansion not arriving until well after the 2012 election. If this proves to be the case then Obama will need some notable successes, or at least to run a mistake free administration in all other areas, in order to gain re-election in the face of a still sour economy 4 years from now.

If this proves to be the case then Obama will need some notable successes, or at least to run a mistake free administration in all other areas, in order to gain re-election in the face of a still sour economy 4 years from now.

Especially if Obama doesn't do anything with regard to electoral reform...

Since this seems to be the most active thread right now, here's a link to another must read Yves Smith piece, pointing out that while currently there is much talk about analogies between our economy today and that of the 1930s, the country today which most closely resembles the USA of the 30s is not in fact us, but rather China.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that the Chinese are currently discussing the possible implementation of economic policies which would be structurally similar to Smoot-Hawley in their effects on the global balance of production and consumption. Also, the purely structural role occupied by the US in this analogy is that of the European countries (e.g. Germany) which defaulted on their debt in the 1930s.

In order to avoid this scenario, the Chinese will need to stimulate their domestic demand as a substitute for an unsustainable export imbalance which is likely to trigger a trade barrier war and a collapse in international trade. So the really important internal infrastructure projects designed to drive up domestic demand may be on the other side of the Pacific, not here in the US.

"Fred Kaplan has reported about the leading role played by Gates in reforming the system used within the US Army for officer promotion (now headed by Gen. Petreaus) with an eye on promoting small-war and COIN oriented candidates (vs. more traditional tank and artillery enthusiasts)."

Cough.

"Bipartisan is now a bad thing?"

It's neither good nor bad in a vacuum. If you're reaching out to reasonable people, it can be fine (and what the times and context are matter). If you're trying to be bipartisan with, say, John Boehner, good luck with that. Trying with, say, Rumsfeld, or Tom DeLay, would have been laughable, to use clear examples. Trying with Dick Lugar, or Susan Collins, on the other hand, may be reasonable.

So: It Depends.

"Is it your contention that the US military's practice of torturing prisoners just stopped on 18th December 2006?"

I'm not aware that there's been a practice of the military torturing prisoners since the passage of the DTA. CIA treatment of prisoners may be another matter. Do you have any cites about torture by the U.S. military as a practice since then? If so, giving them would seem useful.

Incidentally, folks might want to check out Torturing Democracy, the documentary.

If you have in mind Guantanamo, treatment there certainly might constitute torture, but the responsibility for that is Bush's, not Gates'.

"...and declining to hear (as Joseph Darby reported) when soldiers attempted to report torture to their superior officers in the belief that this would stop it."

Joe Darby reported what he did in January, 2004. Do you have any cites about Gates declining to hear reports of torture?

[...] In any case: The US Military is now known throughout the world as a military force that does not follow the Geneva Conventions and that does not keep to the international laws against torture.

If Obama wants anyone to believe that the US has changed in that respect, and he does not intend to prosecute the criminals responsible to show that the lawless Bush regime was temporary and has ended, he can afford to do only one thing: ensure that no one senior in the Bush administration holds power under him. Meet the new boss - same as the old boss.

You're attempting to support your assertion that Gates is responsible for torture, and that Obama shouldn't keep him on. Asserting that the reason he shouldn't be kept on is that he shouldn't be kept on is simply circular reasoning. It doesn't answer Nell's query: "What is Gates' particular implication in torture and detainee abuse (as compared to Rumsfeld, Haynes, Cambone, and Feith)? No political appointees in the Bush term are free of responsibility for U.S. crimes and misconduct, but I'm not getting what Gates' special responsibility is."

Your argument seems to be summarizable as "Gates has George W. Bush cooties." In a vacuum, that's not unreasonable, but we don't live in a vacuum.

"I see Obama being many things, but not another Jimmy Carter."

Being Jimmy Carter was a pretty good thing compared to Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, imho. The crisis of confidence speech holds up pretty damn well.

And the hostages all came out alive.

I don't know what Sec. Gates has done to close his prison at GTMO. Maybe he's been massively and consistently overruled. I can't agree with his re-appointment, though, unless he's presented the transition with a realistic and detailed plan to have the thing completely shut down in 60 days -- a plan that can be announced on day 1.

"...the country today which most closely resembles the USA of the 30s is not in fact us, but rather China."

20s? Your link says "I've mentioned in passing that China is in the position that the US occupied in the late 1920s...."

New to Job, Gates Argued for Closing Guantánamo.

WASHINGTON, March 22 — In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.

Mr. Gates’s appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush’s publicly stated desire to close Guantánamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo’s continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.

Mr. Gates’s arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said.

As Mr. Gates was making his case, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined him in urging that the detention facility be shut down, administration officials said. But the high-level discussions about closing Guantánamo came to a halt after Mr. Bush rejected the approach, although officials at the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department continue to analyze options for the detention of terrorism suspects.

Oh, and:

[...] In the end, Mr. Gates did succeed in killing plans to build a $100 million courthouse and detention complex at Guantánamo, after he argued that the large and expensive project would leave the impression of a long-lasting American detainee operation there and that the money could be more effectively spent elsewhere by the Pentagon.

"Gates has George W. Bush cooties."

Judging from the video of the G20 meeting posted here and elsewhere, it appears that "George W. Bush cooties" is a communicable disease which nobody wants to catch.

Maybe Gates should get himself tested for that. I wonder if the Obama transition team is offering confidential screening and counselling.

re: late 1920s instead of 1930s - yup, sorry about that. I mentally swapped the chronological eras of causes vs. effects.

"re: late 1920s instead of 1930s - yup, sorry about that. I mentally swapped the chronological eras of causes vs. effects."

The piece did go on to compare what China is now doing to what the U.S. was doing in the 30s, so I was a little hasty there, myself.

"It seems to imply that Sen. Clinton is responsible for the daily leaks. If you didn't mean to imply that, Hilzoy, perhaps you'd like to rephrase it (rather than just deny that you meant to)."

Well, I think that when your entire entourage, reportedly including your spouse, is known for massive strategic leaking, it is something you can legitimately be held accountable.

As to why I think Gates has the respect of the military: basically, because every reporter I trust on these issues (e.g., Kaplan, Spencer Ackerman) says so.

Some background/analysis on the Clinton appointment. (Which is held by all reporting to be a Done Deal, though not to be officially announced until after Thanksgiving.)

Oh please stop kidding yourselves. There are hundreds of equally qualified candidates for the job Clinton/Gates are about to get, who have not been tainted by having been members of the Bush cabinet or having voted for the biggest FP disaster since Vietnam and publicly derided diplomacy.

Why are many here so willing to swallow these bitter pills dished up in the name of bipartisanship or whatever, when there is no need whatsoever to do so? Whatever happened to accountability? Why not make a clean break?

Sorry, but I find this hurrying obedience utterly depressing.

Why are many here so willing to swallow these bitter pills dished up in the name of bipartisanship or whatever, when there is no need whatsoever to do so?

Because if Obama's not "bipartisan enough", the Republicans will throw a hissy fit, and their hissy fits can destroy the world.

 |? 7Lre are hundreds of equally qualified candidates for the job Clinton/Gates are about to get

Then perhaps you would care to suggest a few names from amongst that group so we can debate their merits and qualifications. I rather suspect that your chosen candidates would get a reasonably fair hearing on this blog at least.

If that isn't too much trouble to ask, that is.

The lead sentence in that last comment should have been an italicized quote from novakant's comment at 8:17pm, but obviously I did something really screwy to mess up the tags instead. Sorry about that.

Why are many here so willing to swallow these bitter pills dished up in the name of bipartisanship or whatever

The cossacks work for the czar.

"Why are many here so willing to swallow these bitter pills dished up in the name of bipartisanship or whatever, when there is no need whatsoever to do so?"

How about we all get to have our own opinions, regardless of whether you agree or not?

I'm not rooting for Gates, nor am I rooting for Clinton, but I'll wait for an appointment that genuinely appalls me before saying it appalls me, rather than merely leaving me unenthused or somewhat doubtful. I have no objection to your having a wildly different opinion.

I'm a lot more disappointed in Lieberman being left as chair of Governmental Affairs, but that was the Democratic caucus' call, so I blame them.

TLTiA: The point you make about the Obama-Carter "comparison" is well-taken. That's one clear area where I see Carter-like trouble -- Obama inheriting a truly rotten economy -- and have all along.

But I think Obama will be a more forceful leader in his attempt to bring us out of this mess.

That said, I agree with Gary that Carter gets dumped on a lot (and I don't want to sound as if I am gleefully joining in). Still, I don't see Obama being Carter -- two clearly different men, two clearly different leaders.

BTW, LeftTurn, I wasn't addressing you directly about the Carter-Obama thing. It's a comparison I have heard going back to the GE.

---

Turb: I'll go with hilzoy here on the Gates respect thing when she said, "As to why I think Gates has the respect of the military: basically, because every reporter I trust on these issues (e.g., Kaplan, Spencer Ackerman) says so." Sometimes a man (or woman) has trust to his sources.

---

hilzoy: There's been leaking on all of these appointments. Plenty to blame the Clinton on over the years, but I don't think we need to overdo it.

Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary? CNN reported that last night. Was that a Clinton leak?

Summers or Geitner to lead Treasury? Was that Bill or Hill? Besides, some leaks serve a purpose -- the old trial-balloon thing, so it's possible Obama forces could have been behind some of them (and then there's good, old-fashioned reporting).

I don't think any of these leaks have hurt anybody or anything. In fact, Wall Street probably liked the idea of knowing it would be one of two names it is said to respect -- yesterday's run-up on the Dow being largely attributed to the word we were getting Geitner.

Just sayin' . . .

---

Gary wrote: "I'm a lot more disappointed in Lieberman being left as chair of Governmental Affairs . . ."

I second that.

Joe Lieberman, Mr. Phony Bipartisanship.


One last thing before I head upstairs.

I don't believe I have seen anyone here wonder/question/state why they think Hillary wants the Secretary of State position.

Yes, I know it is the glamour job in the cabinet. But "Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York" was pretty high-profile all ready. Besides, any way you cut it, President Obama will be her boss -- whereas she did not have one as senator (other than her constituents). Some people like not having to answer to a boss, and Hillary always struck me as one of those people.

Just wondering if anyone has any interesting theories or opinions.

btfb: why they think Hillary wants the Secretary of State position.

Because she would like to be elected President in the future.

Secretary of State is the highest-ranking cabinet office. Holding the position with any degree of competence = unquestionable foreign policy experience and national security credentials (through participation on the NSC).

@Hilzoy: On the leaking, what bedtime said. There is so much in the way of assertions by unnamed sources, floating of names, policy pre-emption/trial ballooning, and the like that it seems impossible to assign responsibility.

Might your unhappiness / disagreement with the Clinton choice be coloring your reaction to the media's obsessive coverage of it? (For myself, I blame that on... the Clinton-obsessed media. See 'Democratic National Convention, Days 1-3'.)

btfb: why they think Hillary wants the Secretary of State position.

Because she would like to be elected President in the future.

That doesn't make sense. There's a precedent for going from the senate to the presidency. There's a precedent for going from being governor of a state to the presidency. When, if ever, did someone go from secretary of state to the presidency?

I don't understand why she wants the job. No idea. I can understand why she would be offered it, I'm sure the president elect is glad to have her out of the senate, why would she would accept it?

Anyone got any plausible reasons?

"Just wondering if anyone has any interesting theories or opinions."

I already gave my answer here at 2:48 p.m. yesterday.

"Might your unhappiness / disagreement with the Clinton choice be coloring your reaction to the media's obsessive coverage of it? (For myself, I blame that on... the Clinton-obsessed media. See 'Democratic National Convention, Days 1-3'.)"

I don't think so. The leaking about the Clinton appointment went on over a week, with endless back and forths about everything from the meetings (probably not her fault) to the possible conditions (yes, the fault of her side), to What Would Bill Do? (the fault of his existing and being him), to his settling (about as good as could be expected) to all the other aspects (Clintons for being Clintons, and no other appointments for being like this).

Some of it is due to the unique aspect of being former President and First Lady. But it is unique, and not hardly the invention of the media, nor the invention of a perceiver. They had unique needs and bargaining, and it became prolonged, and it was what it was.

I don't particularly scold the Clintons for this, but they're a unique couple, and noting this and the resulting circumstances, and the lack of their perfection is not some sort of, IMO, harsh faulting of them, or anyone, really.

"There's a precedent for going from the senate to the presidency."

I'm repeating myself now, but 8 years is a long time to wait as a junior senator who doesn't get to do much. Why is this hard to understand?

"Anyone got any plausible reasons?"

Did you bother to read what I wrote? (November 22, 2008 at 02:47 PM) If so, why not reply? If not, why ask again?

It gets tiresome responding to people asking questions that were already answered days ago. Or are you just saying I wasn't plausible, in which case, why not respond to the comment?

There have been a series of rather targeted leaks, I think about one per day, about the other cabinet appointments, culminating in the announcement, at 3pm on a Friday, just at the very time when the stock market normally goes into a nose dive, of Geithner. The name comes out, voila.

As Gary said, the leaks about Clinton have been going on for a week now, all about all the ins and outs, the will she or won't she, etc., etc. I think it's a different thing. YMMV, and probably does, of course.

Gary, assuming that people are questioning the plausibility of your suggestions is probably a mistake as paged comments raise a barrier so that comments made earlier can be effectively invisible.

@Jes: Your point about the continued torture and mistreatment of persons held by the U.S. military is important. The force feeding, solitary confinement, and deprivations imposed on prisoners at Guantanamo constitute torture in my book, but have to be understood as abusive mistreatment even by those who resist applying the term 'torture' to anything but the most obvious physical violence.

Tom Hayden wrote a piece today about the under-discussed human rights dimension of the tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Iraqis held in U.S. military prison camps and the even greater number of prisoners held under more opaque conditions in Afghanistan. He also touches on the military's Phoenix-like assassination program in Iraq launched in May 2006 -- something else for which Gates is distinctly responsible, unless he ended it immediately on taking office. I assume it's going on today.

The signal that Obama sends by reappointing Gates is pernicious on several levels. To the world, that there will only be partial and highly symbolic changes to our lawless and abuse-ridden detention policies in the near term, and that deeper reform and true accountability will not be undertaken until we're "out of Iraq", if they're going to be undertaken at all.

To the military, that they are at a minimum co-directors of our policy, rather than being fully under civilian control. To U.S. voters and citizens, that the Bush policy of doubling down on the occupation "worked" and that the man who oversaw its execution is being kept on to "finish the job". (See btfb's comment for confirmation.) And that still, no Democrat is considered quite up to the job.

"Gary, assuming that people are questioning the plausibility of your suggestions is probably a mistake as paged comments raise a barrier so that comments made earlier can be effectively invisible."

If someone who runs the blog doesn't read the comments because of the software, it's incumbent upon them to change the broken software, and not to mention keep track of the requests of the readers to do so. If they're not doing that, they're just coasting and not being responsible.

What the actual excuse is for ObWi being on Typepad these days is, as it happens, I have no idea. It suggests contempt and indifference for the readers and users, or at the least incompetence at runing a blog. (For the bazillionith time: Blogger free and works fine: reason for not switching is what?)

We have broken paged comments, and all the other brokenness, because year after year after year, requests to switch elsewhere have been ignored. There could stop being the ignoring.

Nell: Your point about the continued torture and mistreatment of persons held by the U.S. military is important. The force feeding, solitary confinement, and deprivations imposed on prisoners at Guantanamo constitute torture in my book, but have to be understood as abusive mistreatment even by those who resist applying the term 'torture' to anything but the most obvious physical violence.

Yeah.

What disturbs me - what really disturbs me - is that Gates' is being discussed seriously as someone who should be kept on without reference to the ugly fact of the US military's practice of torture and the military guards in the gulags - in Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

If the contention is that he's so uniquely wonderful he has to be kept on, even though he's at least indirectly implicated in the criminal torture carried out by the US military, then make that contention: he's special, he's a genius, he must be allowed to do his job because no one else can do it! - but still: the reference to "Bush cooties" really trivialises this. The US military tortures prisoners and Gates is Secretary of Defense. The only possible excuse for keeping him on (other than "he's a super hyper unique genius and we cannot replace him!") would be that he has ready and waiting a plan he's been dying to implement to clean out the torturers and close up all the gulags, prosecutions to follow.

But that he can be seriously discussed without reference to the issue of torture is bad. It suggests that no one actually cares about the issue of cleaning up the US military, or sees it as all that important. So US soldiers are torturers? Who cares, so long as they only torture foreigners!

Oh, and for those who feel that merely being implicated in the US military's torture of prisoners is not enough to disqualify a person from being Secretary of Defense, Ray McGovern has a more reasoned objection to him than simple disgust: Robert Gates, as Bad as Rumsfeld? .

If someone who runs the blog doesn't read the comments because of the software,

So, just to be clear, since now_what and bedtimeforbonzo are not people who run this blog, accusing them of not paying sufficient attention to your comments is passive aggressive behavior designed to get the people who run this blog (i.e. hilzoy) to change. Novel strategy. Best of luck with that.

Then perhaps you would care to suggest a few names from amongst that group so we can debate their merits and qualifications. (...)
If that isn't too much trouble to ask, that is.

How about you telling me what qualifications a Sec of State should have and why exactly Clinton, of all people, is so unique in meeting these criteria - because that's the question here. I have already indicated why I think Clinton is a bad choice, but I'm happy to repeat and elaborate:

- she voted for the Iraq war, the biggest FP disaster since Vietnam, it took her a very long time to acknowledge this mistake and even when she did, she was equivocating

- she didn't even bother to read the whole Iraq NIE, but instead relied on being briefed by others

- she pounded Obama for wanting to meet with leaders of countries adversarial to the US, called him "naive and irresponsible"

- she publicly speculated about the possibility of "obliterating" Iran using nuclear weapons

- trying to talk up her meager FP experience she felt the need to make up stories about coming under "sniper fire" in Kosovo and suggested that shaking hands with leaders as first lady counts as FP experience

These are some of the reasons why I find her badly suited for the job, and anyone making the case for Clinton has to show that these things don't matter much and that Clinton has unique qualities not matched by any other candidate. Have at it.

Gates might be more suited as an individual, but to me his being a member of the Bush cabinet disqualifies him on a different level and, again, proponents of keeping him on would have to show why there is nobody else around who could do the job equally well or better.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Judging from the video of the G20 meeting posted here and elsewhere, it appears that "George W. Bush cooties" is a communicable disease which nobody wants to catch.

That’s been debunked. Even CNN couldn’t stand by such blatantly biased reporting.


Gary: I'm a lot more disappointed in Lieberman being left as chair of Governmental Affairs, but that was the Democratic caucus' call, so I blame them.

And somewhat ironically, they got to vote by secret ballot so that no one could know who voted to keep him as chair. Pity that they don’t want to let the average worker keep that same option…

Gary, I was aware of the leaks re: Gates' early stance. I don't know what he's been saying in 2008.

Or obviously, what he'll say to the transition.

For those who are wondering where the progressive is in the Obama administration:

"High Country News has an interesting profile on Grijalva from 2006:

Grijalva is a lonely figure in Congress. Democrats like him are few — he is a champion of unions, the environment, immigrant rights and strong social programs — and even moderate Republicans are far to his right.

Nonetheless, the two-term congressman can point to significant victories. "I’m most proud that we’ve been able to return some land that was stolen from the Colorado Indian Tribe," he says. A 1915 executive order by President Woodrow Wilson took more than 15,000 acres away from the tribe, whose reservation lies about 200 miles west of Phoenix, and put it in the hands of mining companies. In 2003, Grijalva took up the cause, finally prevailing last year. In 2005, he was instrumental in restoring environmental justice funding to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. "

There's a lot more about Mr. Grijalva in a recommended diary at Kos called "Morning reaction"

He's the pick for Dept of Interior and he is exactly what I washoping for: very fierce on environmental issues, very determined to restore our (the public's) stake in our public lannds.

"And somewhat ironically, they got to vote by secret ballot so that no one could know who voted to keep him as chair. Pity that they don’t want to let the average worker keep that same option…"

If there were some similarity in situations, such as a management that threatened to fire all the Senators if they voted The Wrong Way, your response might make some kind of sense. But since the situations have nothing in common -- do they? Why do you keep ignoring the fact of massive management intimidation of workers to prevent unions? -- it doesn't, I'm afraid. No offense intended.

To cover a couple of quick bits, LJ, you're right that I was being intemperate and a bit inappropriate with my comment about the blog last night; I got into a bad mood momentarily; apologies.

And Nell and Jes have both made good and fair points about Gates above.

no worries, Gary and my apologies for my sarcasm in the reply post.

@novakant:


How about you telling me what qualifications a Sec of State should have and why exactly Clinton, of all people, is so unique in meeting these criteria - because that's the question here.

Off the top of my head, in no particular order:

- Have a strong familiarity with US foreign policy issues, including a good background not only in the history of US f.p (i.e. legacy issues) but also the history, culture and politics of other nations, especially those which are key to US interests and initiatives around the world.

- Have a strong sense of personal ethics. Be somebody who will if necessary resign to protest a disasterous policy, but only in a way which best serves the interests of the country, not as a self-serving prima donna grab for attention.

- Be able to run the State Dept. well, both administratively (including the choosing of staff) and by appropriately interpolating policy where ambiguities or gaps in policy directives from the POTUS and Congress and the Courts may exist.

- Serve as an advisor to the POTUS and other cabinet members regarding foreign policy issues, supervising the provision of both data and analysis.

- Work well with Congress regarding oversight and consultative issues, and in providing advisory information.

- Be able to negotiate effectively with foreign leaders.

- Be able to react with an appropriate balance of speed and deliberation in the event of a crisis, including coordinating appropriately with other branches of the govt.

- Be able to coordinate well with other Cabinet depts on issues that are not purely State. Dept. functions. Defense/Intelligence are obvious here but I suspect economic/finance issues will come to the fore in the next 4 years, so the SOS also needs to be able to work well with Treasury, Commerce, etc.

- Be able to stand ground in bureaucratic turf wars but without being a bull in a china shop (i.e. don't be another Colin Powell, but don't go too far in the other direction and be another Cheney either).

- Be able to speak well so as to articulate US policy well to publics both domestic and international. The SOS is to some extent a travelling salesperson for the US "brand", they need to be good at selling that brand.


That's a pretty steep set of requirements, which I suspect just about anybody is going to come up short in somewhere.

I'm not really a defender of Hillary Clinton as the best possible choice for SOS - I'm more agnostic on that score. When I asked who else you'd suggest, I was being both sincere and open minded. So, who would you prefer? I don't think just saying "not Hillary" is really a very good answer - how can you judge her qualifications except in relation to the pool of alternatives? And if so, who are the alternatives who are clearly better? You stated that there must be hundreds of such people. OK, I'll settle for just one or two.

Excellent summary, TLTIA, but may I add one more? "Successfully represent America's ambassadors and Foreign Service personnel in accurately reporting what they observe, and their recommendations, from the ground, to the rest of the American government and to the Republican, without shading such reporting and recommendations for political or other reasons."

"and to the Republican"

That was a weird braino; I don't know how that happened. I meant "to the President." No, I don't know how I wound up with that, either.

So, who would you prefer? I don't think just saying "not Hillary" is really a very good answer - how can you judge her qualifications except in relation to the pool of alternatives?

Well, there i going to be some uncertainty about any candidate, but because I assume that Obama' team is vetting the candidate that are not well connected politically (i.e., Clinton), I assume basic competence in most areas for politically powerless candidates. In contrast, with Clinton, I have evidence that she is remarkably incompetent in many areas. There is no uncertainty. She's probably more competent than the average person on the street, but the candidate pool consists of people a lot more qualified than the average person the street. So I do think it makes perfect sense to say that Clinton is simply not up to the job on the merits, absent any political calculations. Where I part ways with novakent is the suspicion that even though Clinton is not up to the job, giving it to her might be best option available because of her ability to create problems in the Senate. She can't acquire real power there (unless she's willing wait a LONG time), so her only option for substantiative power in the Senate may involve becoming Lieberman 2.0: i.e., gaining media control through willingness to trash Dem iniatives.

Still, you asked for alternative candidates, so: hilzoy. I think hilzoy beats Clinton on every axis you enumerated. Now, I honestly don't know if hilzoy would be very good at adminitrating a large organization, but I know for a fact that Clinton is not. The worst case scenario is that hilzoy is as inept as Clinton in that regard, and frankly, I doubt that would hold. Hey, maybe I'm wrong: what areas do you think Clinton is superior to hilzoy?

"Hey, maybe I'm wrong: what areas do you think Clinton is superior to hilzoy?"

Being well-known around the world, holding great political prestige, having vastly more experience in world travel, experience in meeting world leaders, knowledge of politics, knowledge of the U.S. government and Senate.

For starters. No offense to Hilzoy, and agreeing that I have my own doubts about Senator Clinton, but also some faith that Obama isn't going to make an idiotic choice for bad reasons.

Being well-known around the world

How exactly does that help? Putting aside the fact that much of what foreign leaders will "know" about Clinton consists of a tapestry of lies put out by the media, in what sense does mere name recognition help?

holding great political prestige

Huh? What does "political prestige" mean? We all agree that she has minimal political power as a Senator. I thought there was a consensus that Clinton had no real shot at running for President in 2012. So what are you talking about?

having vastly more experience in world travel

A SoS needs to have a lot of frequent flier miles? I don't understand this at all. I've travelled extensively around the world. It...is not hard. How specifically do you think this would help a SoS?

experience in meeting world leaders

This cuts both ways. To the extent that world leaders are familiar with Clinton, they'll be inclined to see her as she was during the 90s: a politically powerless first lady who had zero authority. That perception tends to undermine negotiations. In any event, Clinton had no authority during her first lady years, so while she no doubt made many ceremonial visits, I'm not aware of a great number of serious negotiations she participated in.

knowledge of politics, knowledge of the U.S. government and Senate.

Indeed, her knowledge is most impressive: she knows for example that CA's Democratic primary is not winner take all. I'm sorry, but I don't see any reason to believe that Clinton knows such a great deal about politics. I also don't see why such knowledge would be relevant. Can you explain? Clinton certainly demonstrated remarkable ignorance of how the government works when she worked on healthcare. Why should we assume that she's learned more since then?

I'll let my comment speak to those who take meaning from it. That you don't, Turb, is your privilege.

Apart from maybe some qualms on the "experience running very large organizations with huge numbers of people" front, I'd being doing cartwheels down the driveway in celebration if hilzoy was picked to run just about anything in the next Administration.

But I think maybe that is for hilzoy to say and not us. If she wants that much grief and stress in her life, and has already said so publically, I must have missed it.

Come to think of it, a contest to propose how to staff the Cabinet with your favorite bloggers would be kind of fun, in a goofy sort of way.

ThatLeftTurn, my point wasn't that hilzoy is a real candidate for consideration. My point was that if you feel the need to have someone to compare Clinton against, well, hilzoy seems like a decent foil. As good as hilzoy is, there are a lot of people in the country that are about as good on the relevant criteria.


Gary, I'm trying to understand what you're saying and I'm just not getting it. As far as I can tell, you've uncovered different ways of reciting airy platitudes that don't actually translate into anything meaningful to the SoS role. Forgive me if I'm missing something, but I really am trying to understand what you're saying. Now, if you are unable or unwilling to explain your points, well, that's you call to make.

"Now, if you are unable or unwilling to explain your points, well, that's you call to make."

Indeed. I feel I've explained enough. YMMV.

there are a lot of people in the country that are about as good on the relevant criteria.

Yes, but do they have prior experience with being in public office, at a high enough level that they have the administrative experience dealing with a large staff, a complex organization, and the consequential burdens that come with that level of responsibility?

The reason I ask this is that our public life is more often than not a story of mistakes and missed oportunities for the people involved. I think it is very hard for a public servant to spend much time in govt. without becoming damaged in the eyes of some portion of the public because of something they screwed up or overlooked, or unwise choices that they made. The enormous diversity of opinion on matters of policy in this country just about gurantees that. To adapt an old Lincoln saying, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time...

It is easier for someone who has not spent much (or any) time in the cockpit of govt. to look good by comparison. Nobody comes out of the sausage factory smelling like roses.

So if we are going to narrow the circle to people on the basis of judgement and policy, then the number of canidates who have solid experience at that level will shrink. And conversely if we narrow the circle to those with experience, the ranks of the pure will also be rather thin.

It seems to me that we need something of both - but I don't think the entire universe of people who might be very good at the position if given the chance to work their way up the ladder (and assuming that they don't get dirty while doing so) is a very good baseline for making comparisons. I'd rather see comparisons made between candidate X and the wider circle of other people who also have some substantial experience in the Federal govt. (or something similar). Given that such a circle is finite but (I am being told by novakant) reasonably large, I would think it would not be that hard for critics of Hillary to just come up with a few names from that circle.

Is that really so hard? Just one or two little names? [holds up hand with thumb and forefinger just an inch apart]

Because if nobody can come up with any names of other candidates who in somebody's opinion would be better at the job, then I'm having a hard time taking the "Oh NOES! Not Hillary!!!" chorus of voices very seriously.

Just to keep the conversation moving forward, and without - let me stress this - knowing anything of significance about the case, what about Bill Richardson (now mooted for Congress)?

I'm not saying he's the perfect candidate by any means, but when it comes to the office of SoS, it strikes me that his main disadvantage vis-a-vis Hillary C is that, as the primaries showed, he has much less domestic political clout. Should that matter so much?

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