Lamar Smtih has come up with a list of 7 national security personnel he wants to question in his own leak investigation. (h/t Kevin Gosztola)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told President Obama Thursday he’d like to interview seven current and former administration officials who may know something about a spate of national security leaks.
The administration officials include National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Antony Blinken.
Of course the effort is sure to be futile–if Smith’s goal is to figure out who leaked to the media (though it’ll serve its purpose of creating a political shitstorm just fine)–for two reasons.
First, only Clapper serves in a role that Congress has an unquestioned authority to subpoena (and even there, I can see the Intelligence Committees getting snippy about their turf–it’s their job to provide impotent oversight over intelligence, not the Judiciary Committees).
As for members of the National Security Council (Tom Donilon, John Brennan, Denis McDonough, Audrey Tomason, and Antony Blinken) and figures, like Bill Daley, who aren’t congressionally approved? That’s a bit dicier. (Which is part of the reason it’s so dangerous to have our drone targeting done in NSC where it eludes easy congressional oversight.)
A pity Republicans made such a stink over the HJC subpoenaing Karl Rove and David Addington and backed Bush’s efforts to prevent Condi Rice from testifying, huh?
The other problem is that Smith’s list, by design, won’t reveal who leaked the stories he’s investigating. He says he wants to investigate 7 leaks.
Smith said the committee intends to focus on seven national security leaks to the media. They include information about the Iran-targeted Stuxnet and Flame virus attacks, the administration’s targeted killings of terrorism suspects and the raid which killed Usama bin Laden.
Smith wants to know how details about the operations of SEAL Team Six, which executed the bin Laden raid in Pakistan, wound up in the hands of film producers making a film for the president’s re-election. Also on the docket is the identity of the doctor who performed DNA tests which helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden’s hideout.
But his list doesn’t include everyone who is a likely or even certain leaker.
Take StuxNet and Flame. Not only has Smith forgotten about the programmers (alleged to be Israeli) who let StuxNet into the wild in the first place–once that happened, everything else was confirmation of things David Sanger and security researchers were able to come up with on their own–but he doesn’t ask to speak to the Israeli spooks demanding more credit for the virus.
But I’m very interested in how the stories are structured differently. With Angler 1.0, the story was very clearly about Dick Cheney and the methods he used to manipulate Bush into following his advice. Here, the story is really about John Brennan, Obama’s Cheney, portrayed deep in thought and foregrounding Obama in the article’s picture. Indeed, halfway through, the story even gives biographical background on Brennan, the classic “son of Irish immigrants” story, along with Harold Koh’s dubious endorsement of Brennan’s “moral rectitude.”
But instead of telling the story of John Brennan, Obama’s Cheney, the story pitches Obama as the key decision-maker–a storyline Brennan has always been one of the most aggressive pitchmen for, including when he confirmed information on the Anwar al-Awlaki strike he shouldn’t have. In a sense, then, Brennan has done Cheney one better: seed a story of his own power, but sell it as a sign of the President’s steeliness.
The Silent Sources for the Story
I already pointed out how, after presenting unambiguous evidence of Brennan’s past on-the-record lies, the story backed off calling him on it.
But there are other ways in which this story shifts the focus away from Brennan.
A remarkable number of the sources for the story spoke on the record: Tom Donilon, Cameron Munter, Dennis Blair, Bill Daley, Jeh Johnson, Michael Hayden, Jim Jones, Harold Koh, Eric Holder, Michael Leiter, John Rizzo, and John Bellinger. But it’s not until roughly the 3,450th word of a 6,000 word article that Brennan is first quoted–and that’s to largely repeat the pre-emptive lies of his drone speech from last month.
“The purpose of these actions is to mitigate threats to U.S. persons’ lives,” Mr. Brennan said in an interview. “It is the option of last recourse. So the president, and I think all of us here, don’t like the fact that people have to die. And so he wants to make sure that we go through a rigorous checklist: The infeasibility of capture, the certainty of the intelligence base, the imminence of the threat, all of these things.”
That is the only on-the-record direct quote from Brennan in the entire article, in spite of the centrality of Brennan to the story.
And I would bet several of the sources quoted anonymously in the section describing Obama’s method of counting the dead (which still ignores the women and children) are Brennan: “a top White House adviser” describing how sharp Obama was in the face of the first civilian casualties; “a senior administration official” claiming, in the face of credible evidence to the contrary, that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan were in “single digits.”
Note, too, the reference to a memo his campaign national security advisors wrote him.
“Pragmatism over ideology,” his campaign national security team had advised in a memo in March 2008. It was counsel that only reinforced the president’s instincts.
The memo was written not long after Brennan started playing a more central role among Obama’s campaign advisors. But the story makes no mention of his presumed role in it. Further, in describing Jeh Johnson to introduce a quote, the piece notes that he was “a campaign adviser” (it doesn’t say Johnson was also focused on voter protection). But it does not note that Brennan, too, was a key campaign advisor, one with an exclusively national security focus.
In other words, in several places in this story, Brennan plays a key role that is downplayed.
The Pro-Drone Narrator
Given that fact, I’m really interested in the several places where the story adopts a pro-drone viewpoint (it does adopt a more critical stance in the narrative voice at the end).
For example, the story claims, in the first part of the story, that the drone strikes “have eviscerated Al Qaeda” without presenting any basis for that claim. This, in spite of the fact that al Qaeda has expanded in Yemen since we’ve started hitting it with drones.
Later, the article uncritically accepts the claim that the drone–regardless of the targeting that goes into using it–is a “precision weapon” that constitutes a rejection of a “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”
The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”
For fucks sake! This article describes how the White House has adopted a “guilt by association” approach to drone targeting. Continue reading
Let’s connect a few data points.
Last Friday, Jame Dimon demanded that all the players (except the actual homeowners) get locked into a room until some leader solved the housing problem he and his buddies created.
On Sunday, the Administration promised, for what seems the bajillioninth time, to really do something about foreclosures.
On Monday, the Democrats confirmed that Obama will accept his nomination at Bank of America stadium. They did this to have more skyboxes they could sell to the 1%.
Then on Wednesday, Shawn Donovan rolled out the latest incarnation of the foreclosure settlement–one which still helps just a small fraction of families suffering because the housing bubble crashed.
And now the Administration has a meeting planned for January 23–what sounds like just the meeting DImon demanded–to iron out the last bits of such a minimally helpful settlement. There are two details of this meeting that are especially noteworthy.
First, only the Democratic Attorneys General appear to be invited.
Materials about the proposed deal are being sent to all states, and Democratic attorneys general have been asked to meet on Jan. 23 with Miller, Donovan and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, said Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
Republican attorneys general will separately discuss the proposed settlement by phone the same day with their Republican counterparts on the negotiating committee in addition to Donovan and Perrelli, Greenwood said.
Even better? This meeting is in Chicago!
At the Jan. 23 meeting in Chicago, the federal and state officials will answer questions and discuss details of the potential deal in an effort to win support, Greenwood said.
None of the named principles of this discussion live in Chicago. Thomas Perelli is in DC. Shawn Donovan is in DC. Tom Miller is in IA. Even the banksters are from NY and Charlotte.
The one thing that’s in Chicago, of course, is Obama’s campaign headquarters. (Outgoing Chief of Staff and now campaign Co-Chair and former–future?–JP Morgan exec Bill Daley? He lives in Chicago!)
So to “solve” the foreclosure problem, we’re going to invite a bunch of people–but only the Democrats–to Obama’s campaign headquarter city to hammer out something that really only helps a fraction of those affected.
Yes we can.
Chicagoan Bill Daley is stepping down as White House chief of staff and budget director Jack Lew is taking over the president’s team as it heads into a tough election year, senior administration officials say.
Daley gave his letter of resignation to the president in a private meeting in the Oval Office last week, recounting the administration’s successes of his one year on the job and saying it was time for him to return to his hometown of Chicago.
Obama plans to announce the change in leadership in a public event this afternoon. The official shift will take place at the end of this month, giving Lew time to complete the administration’s budget proposal while Daley leads the team through the crafting of the State of the Union address due in two weeks.
The guy who’s been doing Daley’s job for some time–Pete Rouse–and who appears to be quite good at the job has no ties with any TBTF bank.
I guess that’s why he’s not getting the job officially.
Jamie Dimon owns Barack Obama’s testicles. That’s the only explanation I can think of for why, rather than firing his JP Morgan Exec Chief of Staff for being incompetent, Obama simply shifted him over to serve as the public face of his Administration.
Ten months into his tenure as chief of staff, [Bill] Daley’s core responsibilities are shifting, following White House missteps in the debt-ceiling fight and in its relations with Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
On Monday, Mr. Daley turned over day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.
The new set-up effectively makes Mr. Rouse the president’s inside manager and Mr. Daley his ambassador, roles that appear to better suit both men’s talents.
As you recall, Daley was hired as a sop to the banks, who thought endless bailouts weren’t enough bounty from this and the prior Administration and successfully demanded having one of their own in the White House gatekeeper position. And so, after fucking up the debt ceiling, and fucking up the introduction of Obama’s jobs push (and overseeing the passage of three trade agreements that will send jobs overseas), Daley has been moved into a figurehead role.
Here’s a snapshot of the kind of people whom Daley is sucking up to as “Ambassador”: the architect of the housing bubble-and-crash, the embodiment of corruption in the GSEs, and a guy who helped pass a law that will help his wife’s insurance company, only to leave to work for the Chamber of Commerce and a private equity firm.
Lately, Mr. Daley has been trying out his new role, deploying his back-slapping persona in Washington social circles. He recently held a private reception at his Ritz Carlton residence for a small group of D.C. elites, including former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Fanne Mae Chief Executive Jim Johnson and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S.
Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) said an invitation to lunch with Mr. Daley in his West Wing office was the first time he had heard from him.
So at a time when Obama’s campaign wants to pretend he’s taking a tough line with the 1%, he’s refusing to fire 1%er Bill Daley when he proves to be incompetent. Does this mean the banksters will effectively retain their own personal gate-keeper?
And FWIW, I believe Pete Rouse was and will be the best of the three Chiefs of Staff Obama has had, so I approve of that move. Though I question the wisdom of making the move just in time for another government shutdown, which is due up in the next few weeks.
[Sorry for my unannounced absence. I’m on a road trip visiting Mr. EW’s family. Thanks to Jim White and bmaz for guarding the likker cabinet! I know they’ll keep it safe!]
I once got in trouble for mocking people who thought that blowjobs were a scandal worth legal investigation, but torture was not. Given that Jonathan Alter is the so-called liberal who, weeks after 9/11, affirmatively embraced torture, I’m not surprised he still falls in the former group. On Thursday, he wrote a Bloomberg piece sycophantically wondering how Obama managed to have such a scandal-free Administration. This, of the President whose Administration continues to invent all sorts of legal gimmicks to protect his predecessor’s torture. And this, of the guy who is looking high and low for new ways to bail out the banksters from the consequences of their crimes.
This Administration has smothered what was left of rule of law. And yet Alter can’t find a scandal?
Part of the problem stems from Alter’s terms. he equates scandal with some kind of honesty.
President Barack Obama goes into the 2012 with a weak economy that may doom his reelection. But he has one asset that hasn’t received much attention: He’s honest.
Obama certainly lies: about his commitment to the public option, his opposition to telecom immunity, and even his belief that no one is above the law. But what Obama does more is spin–spending months claiming that the deficit is the biggest threat to our country, claiming that a bank settlement is necessary to get the housing market back on track. That kind of spin requires real analysis to catch. Which, I guess, Alter isn’t up to.
And part of Alter’s problem is his adoption of Brendan Nyhan’s definition of scandal: the reference to something as a scandal by a WaPo reporter on that rag’s front page.
Nyhan says that political scientists generally see The Washington Post as a solid indicator of elite opinion — so for his study, a problem officially curdles into a scandal once the S-word is used in a reporter’s own voice in a story that runs on the front page of the Post.
Given that one of the WaPo editorial page’s most striking ideological commitments is to torture, it seems nearly impossible that torture–and the refusal to prosecute it–would ever be a scandal by Nyhan’s (and therefore Alter’s) terms. And Dana Milbank’s bankster epiphany notwithstanding, WaPo reporters are, almost by definition, isolated from the effects of the banksters’ crimes by class and distance.
As I’ve noted previously, there has been a hue and cry against the critical and untenable use, and abuse, of secrecy by the United States government. There has always been some abuse of the government’s classified evidence for political gain by various administrations operating the Executive Branch, but the antics of the Obama administration have taken the disingenuous ploy to a new art form.
Today, via Politico’s old fawning Washington DC gluehorse, Roger Simon, comes an unadulterated (sometimes x-rated) and stunningly tin eared and arrogant admission of what the Obama White House is all about, straight from the lips of Obama consigliere Bill Daley:
Rahm was famous for calling reporters, do you call reporters? I ask.
“I call; I’m not as aggressive leaking and stroking,” Daley says. “I’m not reflecting on Rahm, but I’m not angling for something else, you know? Rahm is a lot younger [Emmanuel is 51], and he knew he was going to be doing something else in two years or four years or eight years, and I’m in a different stage. I’m not going to become the leaker in chief.”
You’ve got others for that, I say.
“Yeah, and hopefully in some organized leaking fashion,” Daley says, laughing. “I’m all for leaking when it’s organized.”
Oh, ha ha ha, isn’t that just hilarious? Bill Daley, and the White House he runs, are all for leaking, history bears out even the most highly classified government secrets, and doing so in an organized pre-planned fashion, when it serves their little self-centric petty political interests. But god help an honest citizen like Thomas Drake who, after exhausting all other avenues of pursuit within the government, leaks only the bare minimum information necessary to expose giant government waste, fraud and illegality because he feels it his duty as a citizen.
For citizens like Tom Drake, the “most transparent administration in history” will come down on his head like a ton of nuclear bricks even when they embarrass themselves in so doing. But they are more than willing to exploit and leak to self serve their own interests. What is good for the king is not appropriate for the commoner.
In this regard, I wish to amplify point that Glenn Greenwald has previously made about the pernicious affect of this duplicitous use of classified information. Glenn said:
But the problem is much worse than mere execssive secrecy. Anyone who purports concern over the harmful leaking of classified information should look first to the Obama administration, which uses secrecy powers as a manipulative tool to propagandize the citizenry: trumpeting information that makes the leader and his government look good while suppressing anything with the force of criminal law that does the opposite. Using secrecy powers to propagandize the citizenry this way is infinitely more harmful than any of the leaks the Obama administration has so aggressively prosecuted.
That is exactly right. It is not just that the government keeps unnecessary secrets from the public on information that is critical to their duties and responsibilities as citizens, it is that the self-serving selective leaking creates an intentionally fraudulent paradigm for the citizenry. It is not only manipulative, is fundamentally dishonest and duplicitous.
When the leaking is so selective and self-serving it is not just the people who are deceived, is the press they rely on as a neutral information conduit from which to make their opinions and determinations. The press then becomes little more than a hollow funnel for opportunistic and dishonest spin. We saw the effects of this in the case of Anwar Awlaki’s extrajudicial assassination, and have seen it again in the Scary Iranian Terrorist Murder ruse.
The last bastions against this pernicious practice are the press and courts. Until both start admitting how they are relentlessly gamed and played by the White House, there is little hope for change. And make no mistake, the press ratifies this pernicious conduct by lazily accepting such leaks and reporting without properly noting just how malignant the process is. It is all a joke to Bill Daley and Barack Obama, and the joke is on us.
PS: For a little more on the joy that is White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, see Digby today. And a fine dissertation of why Daley should be fired on the spot by Joan Walsh in Salon. I would only note that it is not just Rahm and Daley, it is the man who consistently brings this Chicago style heavy handed belligerence to the White House. Mr. Obama’s two Chiefs of Staff do not operate apart from him, they ARE him and his Presidency. The buck for this stops at the top.
There are a number of details from Ron Suskind’s new book revealed by an AP and a NYT preview of it, the most alarming (but not surprising) that TurboTax Timmeh Geithner managed to save Citibank by basically ignoring Obama’s order to break it up.
The book, by Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, quotes White House documents that say Mr. Obama’s decisions were routinely “re-litigated” by the chairman of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers. Some decisions, including one to overhaul the debt-ridden Citibank, were carried out sluggishly or not at all by a resistant Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, according to the book.
In the book, Mr. Geithner denies that he obstructed any presidential directive. A senior Treasury official said a government restructuring of Citibank would have occurred only if the Treasury had been left with a significant ownership stake in the bank after it emerged from a financial stress test.
A pity Obama didn’t fire Timmeh long before it came time to panic over the fact the Administration had gone so easy on the banks. A pity, too, Obama just begged his insubordinate Treasury Secretary to stick around.
But I’m just as interested in Suskind’s revelation that Obama didn’t want Rahm at first.
The book says one of Obama’s top advisers, former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, was not the president’s first choice for the position. According to Suskind, Emanuel’s name was not even on the initial short list, which included White House aide Pete Rouse.
Folks on the Hill are now bitching about Bill Daley. Though I think they’re crazy to miss Rahm, who may have been nicer to the Hill but was also ineffective. Me, I thought Rouse was the best of the three and wonder what it was that led Obama to pass up that choice and–in what was one of his first announcements–pick Rahm instead. It’s not like Rouse wasn’t available; he has been with the Administration throughout the Administration.
There was still a lot wrong with the execution of this Administration, such as the insubordinate Treasury Secretary that Obama didn’t fire. But a decent Chief of Staff might have at least made it more effective.
The environmental community is beginning to worry that the Obama Administration is preparing to cave on greenhouse gas emissions, just like it did on ozone emissions.
Hard on the heels of the Obama administration’s decision earlier this month to scrap a new rule for ozone emissions, U.S. EPA appears poised to miss another major regulatory deadline — this time for greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmentalists are reserving judgment about the fact the agency has yet to send its proposed rule for greenhouse gas emissions from utilities to the White House Office of Management and Budget for vetting, a necessary final step before the rule can be released in compliance with the court-ordered deadline of Sept. 30.
But conservationists warn that if the administration delays another important rule for apparently political reasons, it will face stiff opposition from its sometime-allies in the green community.
“It’s starting to look as if EPA might blow another deadline,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “That would be very disturbing.”
That’s particularly troubling given what we’ve learned about the ozone cave. We know the Business Roundtable wrote Bill Daley personally with their exaggerated claims about the ozone rules. And when environmental groups responded by emphasizing how popular clean air is, Daley ignored them–only to respond when those same business groups implied ozone regulations would be unpopular in swing states. (h/t David Roberts)
On Aug. 16, Mr. Daley met with environmental, public-health and other groups to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency rule that would tighten air-quality standards. At one point he lamented that the issue couldn’t be worked out by consensus with industry, as the White House did with the auto industry on fuel-economy rules.
When the American Lung Association mentioned a poll showing public support for EPA standards, Mr. Daley appeared uninterested, according to one person in the room. “He literally cut the person off and said ‘I don’t give a [expletive] about the poll’,” this person said. A senior White House official said Mr. Daley wanted to hear arguments about the substance of the regulation and its impact, not political arguments, and he was uninterested in all polls on this topic.
The same day, Mr. Daley met with industry groups, who gave the White House a map showing counties that would be out of compliance with the Clean Air Act if the stricter standards were put in place. The map showed that the rule would affect areas in the politically important 2012 election states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio.
And now the Business Roundtable speaks openly about maintaining that kind of influence over these decisions.
“We saw that as a positive — his level of interest, him sitting in on these meetings, him weighing in on this issue within the administration,” Johanna Schneider, executive director of external relations for the Business Roundtable, told The Hill. “I think it’s emblematic of his role in the administration as part of the outreach to the business community.”
“It moved the issue up to the top of the agenda for the president. That is what happens when you have a White House chief of staff getting involved,” Schneider said. “You have one of the two or three people in government who can control the agenda.”
American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said he’s hopeful the ozone decision foreshadows increased White House involvement in rulemakings.
“We are hopeful that all decisions will be scrutinized as closely as the ozone decision, because a lot of regulatory overreach is what creates the uncertainty that keeps the investment money on the sidelines,” Gerard said in an interview.
Now maybe it’s true that insisting that businesses not poison our children would be political unpopular in key swing states–or maybe not.
The point is, these decisions are being made for political reasons. And the person making those decisions appears to be Bill Daley (helped by Cass Sunstein).
You know. Bill Daley? The guy who couldn’t get Al Gore elected at a time of historical prosperity (even if it was a bubble)? The guy who pushed decisions like separation from a popular president and caving on the FL recount that led directly to Gore being unsuccessful at pressing his victory?
Maybe the White House is right to make bad environmental decisions for pragmatic political reasons (though I doubt it). But Bill Daley is probably not the guy you want making that call, because he has a pretty remarkable history of poor political judgment.
It appears that Plouffe and Daley are doubling down on running on rhetoric over real action on jobs.
In Sargent’s piece, an SAO describing what David Plouffe and Bill Daley think says they do favor a “confrontational rhetorical approach” on jobs.
Plouffe and Daley both favor a confrontational rhetorical approach that will blame Republicans for opposing any and all job creation efforts for purely political reasons; both are leading internal boosters of a message that accuses Republicans of putting party before country.
“Plouffe and Daley have been big proponents of the sort of messaging that you saw from the President’s Country before Party speech in Michigan,” the official says.
In that speech, Obama implicitly accused Republicans of opposing an array of job-creation proposals because of their refusal “to put the country ahead of party,” adding that they would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win.”
To which Sargent provides this push-back. Note where he refers to actions (which I’ve labeled with an “A”) and rhetoric (which I’ve labeled with an “R”):
If this speech’s message is what Plouffe and Daley favor, this is a bit at odds with the public picture that’s emerged. The Times story suggested that the Plouffe/Daley camp worries that any ambitious proposals [A] that seem designed only reveal the GOP as obstructionist will be seen as mere “speeches” by independents [R]. The story also suggests Plouffe and Daley think continuing to reach deficit-reduction compromises [A] with Republicans will prove more politically effective than drawing a sharp contrast with the GOP on the economy [R]. But if Plouffe and Daley favor a continued effort to cast the GOP as blocking economic improvements for political reasons [R], that complicates the picture somewhat and suggests that the latter, too, will be central to the reelection campaign.
Sargent’s push-back mixes actual policy measures with rhetoric about policy measures.
In fact, the NYT article itself does the same:
As the economy worsens, President Obama and his senior aides are considering whether to adopt a more combative approach on economic issues, seeking to highlight substantive differences [R] with Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail rather than continuing to pursue elusive compromises [A], advisers to the president say.
Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress [A], even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.
But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers [A], according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
Even if the ideas cannot pass Congress, they say, the president would gain a campaign issue by pushing for them.[R]
So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach — better to do something than nothing — that has defined this administration. Mr. Obama and his aides are skeptical that voters will reward bold proposals if those ideas do not pass Congress. It is their judgment that moderate voters want tangible results rather than speeches.
That is, the article portrayed a fight over whether to pursue policies that will pass and therefore rhetorically set Obama up as someone who has achieved results (regardless of whether those results have anything to do with job creation), or whether the Administration should pursue policies that would if they passed do something about jobs, whether or not they actually would pass, because doing so would rhetorically set up Republicans as obstructionists. It was about how policy drives rhetoric.
But the Plouffe-Daley response to Sargent mentioned only rhetoric, referring to “confrontational rhetorical approach,” “message,” “messaging.”
Ultimately Sargent (without noting that the Plouffe-Daley response didn’t purport to make claims about policy, though I didn’t note that either until I wrote this post) ends by just hoping that the policy will follow the rhetoric.
But if the Obama team is serious about drawing a sharp contrast — as the senior official insists is the case — we can at least hope that the policies will follow the rhetoric.
But sitting back and hoping that policies follow the rhetoric ignores that Obama’s speech itself–the one Plouffe-Daley tell us to look at–is an indication of how the Administration will translate policy into rhetoric.
So here’s what Obama had to say about his own policies last Thursday:
That’s it–those are the only policy successes Obama pointed to (which implicitly points out that the debate as portrayed in the NYT leaves aside a third possibility, to run on the policies–the ones that actually relate to jobs–Obama already passed). Significantly, Obama made no mention of saving the auto industry, no mention of health insurance reform, no mention of defending US companies against unfair foreign competitors, all of which could have arguably fit this theme (I don’t think health insurance reform as passed does much for any but health industry jobs, but Obama is supposed to believe that). In his speech today, he apparently called out aid to states, which fits the theme too.
The point is, in the speech Plouffe-Daley point to as precisely the tack they want to take, Obama didn’t even claim clear credit for the jobs his policies had the most direct role in creating, which would have created the largest contrast with Republicans (particularly given what Republicans have claimed about this particular factory).
Now, Sargent sees the choice to ignore a number of clear policy successes–including, largely, the one most significant to the speech Obama was making–as nothing more than a conservative policy frame, all the while hoping Obama will embrace some good policies going further. But this entire discussion is about how to use policy successes and strategy to drive electoral rhetoric. And the Obama Administration chose to give freedom the most credit for creating the JCI jobs, not to claim clear credit themselves!
That’s not a frame. That’s a disavowal of a policy choice, one that has been successful in the past, but one that also might disrupt the claims of a top government official who believes that, “It would be political folly to make the argument that government spending equals jobs.” It’s a decision (presumably conscious, particularly given that Obama has claimed credit for this in the past) not to mention how successful the most meaningful job creation policy, government investments, would be.
And put that disavowal in the context of the speech (again, the one Plouffe-Daley point to as the embodiment of their crack reelection strategy). Here’s the entire context of where Obama introduces the “country before party” idea Plouffe-Daley point to as their way to heighten contradictions with Republicans.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock –- and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy.
It’s made things worse instead of better. So what I want to say to you, Johnson Controls, is: There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics. (Applause.) There’s something wrong with our politics that we need to fix.
We know there are things we can do right now that will help accelerate growth and job creation –- that will support the work going on here at Johnson Controls, here in Michigan, and all across America. We can do some things right now that will make a difference. We know there are things we have to do to erase a legacy of debt that hangs over the economy. But time and again, we’ve seen partisan brinksmanship get in the way -– as if winning the next election is more important than fulfilling our responsibilities to you and to our country. This downgrade you’ve been reading about could have been entirely avoided if there had been a willingness to compromise in Congress. (Applause.) See, it didn’t happen because we don’t have the capacity to pay our bills -– it happened because Washington doesn’t have the capacity to come together and get things done. It was a self-inflicted wound. (Applause.)
That’s why people are frustrated. Maybe you hear it in my voice — that’s why I’m frustrated. Because you deserve better. You guys deserve better. (Applause.)
All of you, from the CEO down, are working hard, taking care of your kids or your parents –- maybe both. You’re living within your means. You may be trying to save for your child’s college education or saving for retirement. You’re donating to the church or the food pantry. You’re trying to help the community. You’re doing your part. You’re living up to your responsibilities. It’s time for Washington to do the same -– to match your resolve, and to match your decency, and to show the same sense of honor and discipline. That is not too much to ask. That’s what the American people are looking for. (Applause.) [my emphasis]
That is, that “country before party idea” is originally pitched as the solution to the jobs crisis, but then Obama elaborates on what that solution is and it’s … more deficit cutting. And when, later in the speech, they repeat the “country before party” idea in the specific context of jobs, they do so to introduce the policies that won’t really do much about jobs (though I’d be happy for highway investment). After which, Obama returns to deficit cutting again.
Plouffe-Daley told Sargent very clearly where to look for their take, what they mean by “confrontational rhetoric.” And it turns out that rather than boasting of the jobs he did create, it consists of Obama just whining about the deficit some more.