Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Full of Stars!

"The time has come for a new beginning." - President-elect Barack Obama just before asking Robert Gates to stay on as Defense Secretary.

The nomination of Hillary Clinton and official announcement that Robert Gates will start a new tour of duty heading the Pentagon betrays both unfounded optimism and bait-and-switch cynicism on the part of Barack Obama.

Because Barack Obama seems to be making overtures of bipartisanship by reaching out to a party that had literally demonized him and those reed-in-the-wind Republicans who have jumped on the Obama bandwagon will surely hop off in two or three years on the offchance the GOP manages to field a candidate who isn't a completely loathsome toad.

The sudden spin on Hillary Clinton has produced verbal and psychic whiplash on a liberal blogosphere desperately squinting to see good in his every decision. It's the obverse of the clockwise/counterclockwise spin cycle that we heard from the GOP regarding Sarah Palin, a woman who only has a little less foreign policy experience than Hillary despite the NY senator being 17 years the Alaska governor's senior.

The choice of Hillary Clinton to head up the State Department could prove to be the first major ding to Obama's nascent presidency. More than any of the other countless decisions that Obama had made since Election Day, this is the one most likely to lead his electorate to believe that "change we deserve" was just a bumper sticker, after all.

After all, on the campaign trail, Obama and his surrogates kept trying to convince voters that Hillary Clinton had virtually zero foreign policy experience. Yet, less than one month after Super Tuesday, we elected a man with half of Mrs. Clinton's time in the Senate (four years versus eight) who then nominated for a position that screams for foreign policy experience above all else.

All things considered, it makes almost as little sense as Bush nominating then palming by recess appointment John Bolton as our chief ambassador into a UN that he plainly despises. And while we're on the subject...

...if you think I'm overreacting, consider that Obama's just nominated as our ambassador to the UN a dour African American woman named Rice.

Clinton has proved to be a foreign policy disaster of virtually McCainian proportions. She tried to make a routine photo op to Bosnia sound like a Jerry Bruckheimer action movie, has yet to apologize for going to war with Iraq even years after every one of the neocons' reasons for doing so were exploded and imploded a thousandfold and began rattling her personal saber toward a non-nuclear Iran.

It ought to be noted at this point that the last two instances of Mrs. Clinton's horrifying cluelessness came from a refusal or inability to read the '02 and '07 National Intelligence Estimates, respectively.

An even more nightmarish possibility is that Senator Clinton would've done the exact same things even if she'd gotten past both executive summaries of both NIE's.

What's almost as frightening is Obama asking Robert F. Gates to stay on at the Pentagon, especially since Gate's nomination and appointment two years ago signaled Bush's unwillingness to stomach a fight and the Senate Armed Forces Committee's all-too-eager willingness to install a placeholder whose greatest qualification for the job was in not being named Donald H. Rumsfeld. Forget the fact that, during his own confirmation hearings Gates professed no special knowledge or insight into military matters.

It has been said that Obama's foreign policy choices today signal more of a wartime cabinet than a diplomatic one (the term most often bandied about is "greybeards"). The installation, for instance, of Marine Gen. James Jones (Ret.) as his Chief National Security Advisor seems at first glance synecdochal of an inner circle ideally suited to run a government threatened by a formidable and/or nuclear power (Which we're not, at press time.). On a very superficial level, we're dazzled by the star power but one is wondering if Obama is assembling a peacetime or a wartime Cabinet.

And that brings us back to Hillary Clinton, who may very well go back to her president and whispering sweet little nothings in his ear and perhaps even imploring him to not engage in any dialogue with the Iranians, no matter how much they want it.

Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearings may be more contentious than people realize. No matter how much we may want Condoleezza Rice out of Foggy Bottom, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee just may decide to test their mettle against a President whose name isn't George W. Bush who keeps a piano wire artist such as Karl Rove in his pocket, a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee who may come to realize that Bill Clinton's donor portfolio isn't the conflict of interest that they ought to worry about.


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