Obama Rewards His Enemies and Punishes His Friends

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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Unlike other bloggers, I haven't treated each Obama appointment as a litmus test on his administration. But after a series of appointments, a pattern is emerging, and it's not a good one.

Since the beginning of Democracy, the basic rule of politics has been "reward your friends and punish your enemies." George Bush considers it his greatest accomplishment:

“I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process,” Bush said in the interview. “I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values.  And I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice those values.”

Unfortunately Obama's rule appears to be the opposite: reward your enemies and punish your friends.

Hillary Clinton was Obama's "enemy," at least in raw political terms. So she's getting a big reward: Secretary of State. Rahm Emanuel was a key supporter of Hillary Clinton, even though Emanuel lives in Illinois. So he got a big reward too: Chief of Staff.

Next to John McCain and Sarah Palin, no one campaigned harder against Obama than Joe Lieberman.  So Obama rewarded Lieberman with the chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

George Bush did everything he could to elect McCain, including fundraising and the services of Karl Rove and his political assassination squad, who convinced half of red-state voters that Obama isn't a Christian. And despite Obama's overwhelming mandate for change, Bush is cramming last-minute rule changes down Obama's throat. So Obama is rewarding Bush by keeping Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, along with all his neocon deputies.

How many of Obama's progressive friends have been rewarded? Almost none.

The only progressive appointment so far is Melody Barnes as Domestic Policy Advisor. Can you name any previous Domestic Policy Advisor? Neither can I.

Because Obama has rewarded his enemies and punished his friends, his appointments are winning raves from all the wrong people, including Mitch McConnell, David Brooks, Joe Lieberman, Karl Rove, Max Boot, James Baker, Michael Goldfarb, John McCain, Lamar Alexander, Henry Kissinger, Lindsey Graham, Ed Rollins, Condi Rice, and Peggy Noonan. These are the people who supported every horrendous decision by George Bush, especially the disastrous and criminal invasion of Iraq and the massive transfer of wealth from working families to the rich. They should be driven out of politics, not embraced.

A key litmus test for Obama will be whether he decides to investigate the crimes of the Bush administration or cover them up. As a candidate, Obama told Will Bunch, "if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated." 

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important-- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing betyween really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.

All of Obama's friends want Bush's crimes to be investigated and prosecuted. The only opponents are Obama's rightwing enemies, including Bill Kristol, the Federalist Society. Will Obama reward his enemies or his friends?

Comments

I know what he's doing

and it's a big gamble.

He's listening to someone (probably Rahm/Lieberman). They are telling him that in order to pass his agenda he has to have support from republicans and democrats alike. (Wouldn't be so important if Lieberman wasn't such a traitor.)

Obama thinks that he can win over the republicans and pieces of caca like Lieberman with their plumb appointments now; later, he can win over the progressives by getting a progressive agenda passed (finally).

Problem is that he's dealing with a barrel of snakes. If they don't want to pass his healthcare initiatives they won't, and they will not care one whit about how they got their appointments or who they owe.

Usama bin Forgotten

The other side of that coin

  • Bill Harding's picture
    Bill Harding
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The other side of that coin is the quote by the military genius, Sun-tzu: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

As LootieMaye said, however, that is a dangerous game, and the pandering to the DLC Blue Dogs doesn't bode well for Liberals and Progressives.

For the immediate future, I will continue to hope for the best, and try to see the glass as half-full. Now that we have at least a few adults in charge, the damage inflicted on this country (and the world) for the past eight years will hopefully begin to be reversed.

Not so simple

  • davidswanson's picture
    davidswanson
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I think this is basically right and important, but not quite so clean or simple. Obama never really claimed or promised to agree with most of his supporters, many of whom fantasized about a progressive Obama who never existed. But some of Obama's supporters, notably his big financial backers, the corporate media, and the Democratic Party leadership wanted exactly what they're getting.

David Swanson
david@davidswanson.org
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Okay, Swanson - be a man

I'm ready to rumble. I've been out off this website with my pent up venom for around a year.

You can start by offering reliable citations to those sources that prop up your assertion that Obama is giving 'big financial backers, corporate media and Democratic Party Leadership' what they wanted.

His big, black, beautiful ass hasn't even hit the chair yet.

So....let's go!

Usama bin Forgotten

start at

  • davidswanson's picture
    davidswanson
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http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638

University of California $909,283
Goldman Sachs $874,207
Harvard University $717,230
Microsoft Corp $714,108
Google Inc $701,099
JPMorgan Chase & Co $581,460
Citigroup Inc $581,216
National Amusements Inc $543,859
Time Warner $508,148
Sidley Austin LLP $492,445
Stanford University $481,199
Skadden, Arps et al $473,424
Wilmerhale Llp $466,679
UBS AG $454,795
Latham & Watkins $426,924
Columbia University $426,516
Morgan Stanley $425,102
IBM Corp $415,196
University of Chicago $414,555
US Government $400,819

David Swanson
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this list proves absolutely nothing

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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it's just a list of where some of Obama's donors work.

Obama bypassed public financing because he could raise huge amounts from lots of individual donors.

He raised over $500 million total, mostly from donors giving under $200.

Because Obama raised so much from so many, he doesn't owe anything to any single donor or group of donors.

That's the whole theory behind "Clean Elections" laws that campaign finance groups are trying to pass - Obama just went ahead and did it unlaterally.

The idea behind

  • davidswanson's picture
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pubic financing, I'm pretty sure, is public financing

this is private financing

the reason for campaigns for public financing is the long history of what private financing does

if Obama were appointing people that Wall Street had any concerns about, that would be an interesting development

As it is, what we're seeing seems in line with the past several decades of experience

David Swanson
david@davidswanson.org
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Hoyer's Happy

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Hoyer on President-Elect Obama's
National Security Team
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) today released the following statement after President-elect Obama held a press conference unveiling his national security team:

"Today, Barack Obama kept his campaign promise to choose advisors of the highest stature, from a variety of backgrounds, who would challenge his thinking on vital issues.

"In retaining Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which I have long believed would be a positive move, President-elect Obama shows he understands that securing our Nation requires transcending partisanship. Secretary Gates has led the Defense Department with flexibility, imagination, and a renewed commitment to counterinsurgency.

"Senator Hillary Clinton is an outstanding nominee for Secretary of State. She will bring her years of relationships with foreign leaders, a detailed command of foreign policy, and a strong, independent voice to the Cabinet table.

"General Jim Jones will be a deeply knowledgeable National Security Advisor. After four decades of service, he knows the military well; and as a leading advocate for energy independence, he is uniquely qualified to focus on the intersection of energy and security issues.

"Eric Holder is well-equipped to serve as Attorney General, at a time when that role has taken on added national security importance. He combines a distinguished career in law enforcement with a longstanding respect for civil liberties.

"Janet Napolitano will be a strong leader for a fledgling Homeland Security department in need of better integration into the national security apparatus. She will bring an independent perspective to a bureaucracy demanding continued reform.

"The nomination of Dr. Susan Rice for the role of UN Ambassador shows the President-elect's commitment to engaging that important world body. Dr. Rice understands that the world needs the UN, and that the UN needs a strong but diplomatic American voice for reform. I am also pleased to hear that the President-elect is returning the position of UN Ambassador to Cabinet rank.

"These men and women will face a wide array of security challenges, but I am confident that the next President has picked a team that is extremely well-prepared and well-qualified to meet them."

###

David Swanson
david@davidswanson.org
http://www.davidswanson.org

Armchair quarterbacks are a

  • Bill Harding's picture
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Armchair quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. Negatively prejudging Obama's leadership qualities, and his Cabinet appointments before they have even taken the field, is disingenuous, at best.

So presumably

  • davidswanson's picture
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positively prejudging them would be the height of honesty?

Is it really necessary to twist logic that severely just to call me a bad name?

David Swanson
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What "bad name?" A bad name

  • Bill Harding's picture
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What "bad name?" A bad name would be butthead, but I didn't call you that...;-) I did not say, nor imply, that I was extremely happy with all of Obama's choices, but I am at least willing to give him my full support until he gives me a reason to do otherwise.

And, you missed the point again: prejudgment, whether positive, or negative, is just plain wrong. There is no "twisted logic" here, only a hope that your worst fears are just that, and a willingness on my part to wait-and-see.

That would be perfectly appropriate

  • davidswanson's picture
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in a dictatorship

In a democracy it is the height of disrespect. The man has a website that publicly pleads with you to tell him what you think. Your part of the bargain when you elected him is to tell him and keep telling him.

David Swanson
david@davidswanson.org
http://www.davidswanson.org

Is there a reason

You can't seem to respond to me?

I know you won't answer. You rarely do and when it does happen, you address issues we weren't even discussing.

I'll just take this opportunity to tell you how ignorant I think it is for you to call yourself a blogger. You put issues out there that you supposedly are knowledgeable about and that you care about but you refuse to interact with those who challenge your assertions. I'm guessing it'll make your head explode or something.

It's all glam and glitz, eh?

Usama bin Forgotten

Supporting a newly elected

  • Bill Harding's picture
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Supporting a newly elected Democratic president who has publicly promised change, who is as different from the neocons who have been running this country for eight years as night is from day, is "perfectly appropriate in a dictatorship?" Are you losing your mind? That is an outrageous statement, even from you.

David, your replies on this node make no sense. You are not telling Obama "what you think." You are an "Independent" who is directing your remarks at we Democrats, and telling us that Obama is making horrible choices before he even begins his presidency. Big difference, bubba. You are accusing Obama of things which he has not done, nor likely to do. You are using the political equivalent of the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive attack. You may want to re-read the Rules of Democrats.com (especially the first one), as recently modified by Bob:

http://www.democrats.com/rules

For what it's worth, I have posted my thoughts on the Obama/Biden website. You might want to give it a try. And, my "part of the bargain," is NOT to second-guess our new president, but to help him attain the goals that I share with him, which were the reasons that I voted for him. You may not be happy with the election outcome, but many millions of Americans are.

IF Obama fucks up, rest assured that I, and many other Democrats, will call him on it, but he hasn't yet, and I doubt that he will.

How long have you been in politics...

and are you hard of hearing? It is the president's job to set the agenda. His appointments serve him. They do not set policy, they do not steer agenda. They are there to be his sounding board. If he had appointed 'yes men' like Bush did, you'd be bitching about that, too.

Here is what Obama said:

Speaking to reporters for the third time in three days, Barack Obama was asked directly whether the staff choices he had made for his cabinet and advisory positions conflicted with his campaign message that the next president simply couldn't tap the same people for different posts.

Obama, who announced earlier that he was appointing former Fed Chairman Paul Volker to his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, took a bit of umbrage at the implication that staff assignments undermined the meme that defined his run for office.

"Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," he said. "It comes from me. That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing [that vision]."

Huffingtonpost.com

Once again, please provide links that back up your assertion that Obama has given these 'people' 'everything they want.'

Usama bin Forgotten

Then there's that pesky old

  • Bill Harding's picture
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Then there's that pesky old Constitutional right of Free Speech: the right of each citizen to financially support the candidate of his or her choice (with "choice" being the operative word).

Instead of government-mandated public financing, all that is needed is to strip corporations of their "personhood" status. That was an extremely bungled SCOTUS decision in the first place, and it needs to be challenged.

Sadly Bob is right here and you're wrong

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    davidswanson
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Individuals gave all the money.

David Swanson
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http://www.davidswanson.org

Sadly? I'm wrong? That was

  • Bill Harding's picture
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Sadly? I'm wrong? That was my point: individual citizens have the RIGHT to financially support the candidate of their choice.

Corporations are not "individuals," and should not have the same rights. That would negate the need for public financing of political campaigns.

Wall Street

  • Bob Fertik's picture
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didn't buy Obama with its contributions above, which are puny compared to his total $600B.

Obama is catering to Wall Street and every other institutional establishment because he's an establishment guy.

His idea of change is to coopt the establishment by showering them with love and then get them to enact HIS policies.

We're all right to be skeptical, but that's apparently what he learned through community organizing.

That's not the only technique

  • davidswanson's picture
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one can learn in community organizing. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Of course, we're the organizers and he's the elected official, and even the optimistic view that we'll get his policies is not a high enough goal.

David Swanson
david@davidswanson.org
http://www.davidswanson.org

Don't move the damned goal posts, Swanson

I'm not stupid, so don't go off half-cocked giving me responses that assume that I am.

I did not ask what anyone gave Obama. That was not your assertion. You said that Obama was giving 'them' everything they wanted.

He's not president yet and I'm still waiting for those links. Don't insult me by pissing down my leg and telling me it's raining.

I have issues with some of the decisions Obama has made, but to say he is/has given corporate media and large corporations everything 'they' wanted is wrong. It's disingenuous and quite frankly I'm sick that type of tired old politics.

If You've got something accurate to vent about, come on - but don't make shit up. There's enough of it out there without your opening a factory to peddle it from.

Usama bin Forgotten

How can we work out this marriage thing ;)

  • Jim's picture
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And to all:

Geeeeez, I'm out of the country for a few days and I miss the fireworks.

Now:

-Do you want a raise or a title?

Obama is handing out T-I-T-L-E-S.

Two kinds of people do this:

1) folks who adore those they give titles to.

2) folks who are avoiding having to give raises.

So yeah, it's a wait and see game.

The honeymoon is about to end

  • Old Geecer's picture
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I can see that the honeymoon is about to end for Obama, and I really can’t say that some of his appointments where made with the voters approval. I will not cry in my beer just yet, because we really don’t know how his team will attack this downward spiraling economy, we do know that bailing out corrupted Banks was one of our Governments stupidest blunders of the year, it would have done the same as burning the money in a barrel, [if you cut the rattle off a snake, he can still bite you] and I feel that they are attacking this economy at the wrong end! Obama economy team will have to do an about-face from what is taking place at this time, and it seems he is getting too closes to the Republicans for that to happen!
I know as President Elect he can do very little, so before I open my big month I will watch how he is doing until Easter, this will give them time and the people to see if he can change the direction we our heading!

Obama

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    jeanne Burciaga
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If our new president elect appointed his friends to his cabinet, I would more concerned. ' Keep your friends close and your enemies
closer'? Doesn't that make sense? His picks our brilliant. So is he.

Interpretations.

  • Jim's picture
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I might add, that Obama is STILL "running for president".

Yep.

There is a run off election still to be determined in a very conservative state. Obama's action can influence that.