Archive for the ‘Election 08’ Category

Of Obama’s many smart picks, one of the most significant, yet the one least likely to attract public attention, is the nomination of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

You may recall that during the Bush years, the OLC, which is supposed to advise the president on how to obey the law, was overrun by ambulance chasers like John Yoo, who used the office’s influential legal opinions to shape profoundly misguided policies.

In case you’re wondering how much of an “anti-Yoo” Johnsen is, here’s a Slate blog post she wrote last April about the infamous torture memo. Money quote:

Where is the outrage, the public outcry?!  The shockingly flawed content of this memo, the deficient processes that led to its issuance, the horrific acts it encouraged, the fact that it was kept secret for years and that the Bush administration continues to withhold other memos like it–all demand our outrage.

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“Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices”, reports Politico.

I don’t quite get this. I consider myself something of a liberal, and I’ve supported Obama exactly because he’s pragmatic, lawyerly, and centrist. If anything, his cabinet picks, except for Hillary Clinton, show a strong lean towards the apolitical. He needs a national security team equipped to fight the wars he inherits, not quibble over campaign promises made two years ago; and he needs an economic team that is ready to tackle the country’s problems head-on, not advance someone’s agenda.

I would think Americans have had enough ideological stupidity to last a lifetime, but maybe not.

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“While Mr. Obama has yet to name any of his cabinet secretaries,” The New York Times reports today, “his early choices for White House staff positions and the names currently at the top of the list for staff and cabinet jobs suggest that his administration could be heavily stocked with Democrats who served under Mr. Clinton.”

This neatly sums up the narrative of the moment: Obama’s presidency will in fact be Clinton’s third term, since most of his staff, save for a couple of token Republicans, will have served under Bill. In terms of numbers, this will probably turn out true. I, too, have my qualms about Obama’s stocking up on former Clinton officials, particularly if it portends dithering in foreign policy. But here’s the thing: where else would Obama find qualified people? If you were a Democrat in Washington in the 90s, you probably either worked for Clinton or with him, and if you didn’t, well, where the hell were you? On the other hand, if you came of age politically after Clinton, you’re most likely too young for a top post in the inbound administration; if you worked for Carter, you’re too old.

Presidents tend to surround themselves with people who’ve been around. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Card all had histories with Republican administrations dating back to Nixon. As I recall, this was considered a plus for Bush until things started to go downhill. For all their faults, at least they had impressive résumés — we may not have liked what we saw, but at least we knew who we were dealing with. The same can’t be said of the faceless string-pullers like Addington, Yoo or Haynes, who came out of nowhere and disappeared back into the void after the damage was done. I’m sure none of us want a rerun of that.

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The New York Times reports:

A seven-page questionnaire being sent by the office of President-elect Barack Obama to those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts may be the most extensive — some say invasive — application ever.

Actually, that’s not true.

The vetting process designed by Dick Cheney and David Addington for Bush’s VP search in 2000 included a battery of nearly 200 questions under 79 headings, according to Angler, Barton Gellman’s brilliant account of the Cheney shadow presidency. Naturally, the vetter himself was never vetted.

(The questionnaire is here.)

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Spent a long night alone at work hammering out an election piece against a mercifully extended deadline — and made it, thanks to the swift verdict of the American voters. Maybe it was because of exhaustion, or simply because the moment was frankly overwhelming, but when the race was called at 6 AM Finnish time, I choked up. McCain’s concession speech was moving and graceful, albeit given in front of a bunch of assholes who didn’t deserve a candidate of his stature. That short moment was way more powerful than Obama’s victory ramble, which felt like a re-hashed stump. We’ll see where things go from here. I for one don’t need transformation, just less stupidity.

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Guys, you did it. Thank you.

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In an interview Saturday with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, a Florida news anchor attacked Senator Barack Obama for being “socialist”:

“What do you say to the people who are concerned that Barack Obama will want to turn America into a socialist country much like Sweden?”

I don’t know what Sweden she’s talking about. Surely not our peaceful and prosperous neighbour, which incidentally has been run by a conservative government since 2006?

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