The Lack of Discipline Is Spelled R-A-H-M
George Packer has an amusing reflection on Obama’s obsession with appearing disciplined. (via Laura)
While reporting my piece on Richard Holbrooke (still subscribers only—so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em), I learned just how much the Obama White House hates for anything about its policies that doesn’t originate with it to appear in print. Especially anything that describes how policies are reached, who argued what position, and, above all, what the President thought. They really hate it. On the other hand, it’s not easy to get the White House to discuss such things with a writer—certainly not on the record. As a result, it takes a mighty effort (at least, it took a mighty effort for this not-very-plugged-in New York-based writer) to get rudimentary answers.
People in the Administration tell me that the horror of unauthorized press accounts is of a piece with the no-drama Obama campaign. They say that Obama hates “process” stories because they end up focussing on trivial matters of personality. They also say that the White House wants to give the impression that everything flows from the top.
Dude! President Obama? Let me help you out here. It took five days–five days!!–for the extraordinary discipline of your campaign to go to shit after you picked Beltway leaker extraordinaire Rahm Emanuel to be your Chief of Staff.
Maybe it’s the addition of beltway leaker extraordinaire, Rahm Emanuel, to the team, but it appears that the Obama team may have adopted a new policy on leaks, departing from their eerily disciplined no-leak approach during the campaign.
Now, I can’t prove causation there, but there’s a pretty strong correlation between that one personnel move and a complete reversal of the No Drama Obama you managed so well during the campaign.
Packer raises some fair objections to the interest in such disciplined messaging. But whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it seems to me Obama has some very clear options if he wants to return to the discipline of yore.
Didn’t Obama hire a gazzillion new people after he won ?
He most certainly did. Among the HOPEless and CHANGEless group are: Goldman Sachs Geithner; ditto Summers; Uberhawk (Petraeus in 2012)McCrystal; Don’t look at Wall Street, steal from the people Bernanke; Take over Afghanistan (and bomb Iran for Israel) Gates; anti-immigration Napolitan; anti-health care reform Sebelius…shall I go on? So, now, what’s your point? Rahm is only one bad apple among a host of angels? WRONG!!! Rahm is the first among a host of ConservaDems. Obama lied and healthcare reform, people, soldiers, and Democracy DIED.
Discipline, my ass!! Apparently they exempted the military from whatever the discipline rules were.
McChrystal, Petraeus, etc. are incredibly insubordinate. As I have said before – “They fired the wrong four star. They should have gotten rid of Petraeus and Odierno and kept McKiernan to ramrod the draw down in Afghanistan.”
Obama has been rolled by the generals and I don’t think he can recover. If he fires them now, he will never be able to stand the right wing heat.
Holy cow… If you’re saying this (and Col Pat Lang is also saying this), then this strikes me as ominous.
Ominous or not, that is the way the game is played if you let the generals run loose. Rahm (and Obama) may think they know how to play tough Chicago politics, but they don’t stand a chance when the four buttons make up their minds on a policy. Generals don’t want any failures on their watch and they will do most anything to make sure this does not happen. The only way to combat this is through strength of leadership and Obama just hasn’t shown any to date IMHO.
I just can’t believe McChrystal still has his job after the leaks and the TV appearances. And Obama just sits there fluttering in the breeze. Bad, bad signals.
Helpful for someone like myself, without the background.
FWIW, my father was in a situation to see McArthur pretty closely and thought old Harry Truman was very, very smart knock that man off his pedestal.
(So I heard about it growing up, whenever McArthur’s name came up; my father thought Truman sized up McArthur astutely and took the necessary, decisive action. But then, I grew up assuming that Gen George Marshall stood only slightly off to the side somewhere fairly close to the Holy Trinity ;-))
Obama’s too cool to respond to direct attacks on his authority, unless its to punish his allies and supporters, and the people who worked the hardest to get him elected, in THAT case he’s a regular iron chancellor.
Yep – Obam’s big problem with the scoop leaking out is that it shows how gameable he is – he really wants to project the 11 dimensional chess aspect, but when you get to the nitty gritty on this stuff, you see him getting rolled over and over by the guys he really wants to like him, the “tough” guys.
I’d wrap into what Packer is saying more if he hadn’t been such a useful tool of the prior administration for selling the fiction of us as liberators of Iraq having flowers thrown at our feet. I think if he really wants Obama to “succeed” in Afghanistan, he needs to fist fess up that he’s a guy who’s been mostly on the wrong sides of the calls for Iraq and Afghanistan and that “success” in Afghanistan is mostly a literary device that he and others like him milk. He “writes pretty” but Assassin’s Gate was horribly depressing only in part for the tales that unfolded – and just as much for the mindset of the writer that was revealed in it.
I’d wrap into what Packer is saying more if he hadn’t been such a useful tool of the prior administration for selling the fiction of us as liberators of Iraq having flowers thrown at our feet. I think if he really wants Obama to “succeed” in Afghanistan, he needs to fist fess up that he’s a guy who’s been mostly on the wrong sides of the calls for Iraq and Afghanistan and that “success” in Afghanistan is mostly a literary device that he and others like him milk. He “writes pretty” but Assassin’s Gate was horribly depressing only in part for the tales that unfolded – and just as much for the mindset of the writer that was revealed in it.”
This makes sense.
Really appreciate reading Fed and Mary’s opinions. Thanks
I fear that Obama’s recent get-tough attitude (1) with Pakistan by threatening to carpet bomb a city of 750,000 people with drones slinging Hellfire missiles because too many Taliban are hanging out there (which Pakistan denies), and (2) with Iran by threatening to starve its citizens to death with embargoes because it’s building a nuclear bomb in the Qom facility (despite no evidence to support the claim and Qom isn’t new because Bush-Cheney knew about it) is a direct result of Obama’s insecurity caused by the military insubordination and his need to cover it up by playing “Make My Day.”
He should have fired McChrystal, Petraeous, and Gates instead of initiating a game of thuggery with Pakistan and Iran that could end up causing the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent people, if not two more wars further destabilizing the region, not to mention the lost lives and injuries of our troops as well as the destruction of our economy.
This is sheer unadulterated madness.
Why it took Rahm five days: he had to actually hear some inside info before he could leak it.
Rahm = Rove
Have I mentioned that I don’t like Rahm?
Agree on the insubordination stuff. ANd we probably know just the half of it.
Well, it would sure solve the problem of finding a placeholder for that seat.
Boxturtle (My local newspaper could also use a rumormonger)
You know, I really should have taken the time to come up with a witty pun for this post’s title: No D-Rahm Obama.
Or something like that.
Actually No-D might be a pretty good nickname for Rahm. Doesn’t have to stand for anything, Obama’s a hoopster: the term necessitates soul-searching.
Regarding the generals, I get the impression that the Prez and his cabinet are somewhat belatedly trying to re-establish some initiative on both Afghanistan and Iran. Unless those aren’t surrogates we’re starting to see out there.
And suddenly all that flowing from the top is sounding like maybe there really is a capacity constraint on how many plates the adminstration can keep going. Not too late to do something different. Yet.
TO a hoopster, No-D means no defense. Is that what you mean?
Bob in AZ
But a good epithet doesn’t need to be literally true. Just think of it as “failing to mind the essentials.”
Edit: Doh! The original point was about lack of discipline, so there’s your D that Rahm ain’t got none of.
That Rahm choice had many people’s heads spinning. Was the whole strategy that they would rather have Rahm pissing from inside the house out of the house instead pf pissing on the house from the outside?
It seems Rahm just pissed on the house while being in the house (Obama administration)
I, for one, would like to see more of the sausage making. It would be important, for example, to know if Eric Holder is more or less conservative than Rahm when it comes to investigations of torture and illegal domestic spying, or whether he’s playing at a pro-rule of law role so as to convince the rubes that a policy is controversial when, in fact, everybody is reading from the same page of the hymnal.
It would be important to know whether Rahma is riding roughshod, in Rove Mode, over Holder and the rest of the Cabinet and Bahma is allowing it, or whether policymaking is more controversial and porous with many sides taken into consideration before true compromises are made.
One set of facts describes another neutered president and a virtual policy dictatorship; the other may yield policies I disagree with, but a process and personalities I can respect.
The Prima Donna of Obama’s Policy Drama: Is policy made by a brace of brahmins and a host of Who’s Who’s, or is the drama that Rahma, not Obahma, is the shaker and baker and policy maker?
Rahm is all that. But it sometimes pains me to see so much attention and blame placed on Emanuel. He works for and under Barack Obama. Unlike Bush, Obama is not an absentee landlord in any regard. Obama picked Rahm, and did so having seen Rahm in action in and out of Chicago politics for years. He made a knowing choice, and is not blind to what is going on and has occurred to date. Despite this, Obama seems to have no problem with Emanuel or how he is doing his job. Emanuel may be a hyperactive tool, but the tool’s owner is Obama. This is what he wants; this is his policy, it is not “Rahm’s fault”. Remember where the buck stops.
I think you’re correct. Having seen Bush ridden roughshod over by Rove and Cheney, Obama would not willingly repeat that dynamic. But inquiring minds would like to know the Obahma-Rahma mix: alter egos, co-equal peers, puppet and master, which is one thing this “policy discipline” would be meant to hide because it would contradict strongly the role Obama claims for himself in public.
My suspicion is that Rahma acts as an alter ego. He’s more than the assistant principal doing the hard bits that need doing, but which are aesthetically best left to underlings. Given Obama’s talent, Obama would likely be in complete agreement with Rahma’s strategy and tactics and uses him as an extra pair of “talented” hands.
bmaz–not too sure about this idea that Rahm is a team player. from the linked article below (”Howard Dean”), it seems that Rahm has his own ideas and is willing to suffer the consequences of being wrong. That doesn’t sound to me like the Mr. Emanuel you’ve sketched. i think that impression could be drawn, however, from the nasty political issue with Blagojevich in which Rahm appears to be connected in some way (”Rahm Emanuel pushed”). in my view, it looks like Rahm is not a team player (as they say) but, instead, has been rendered increasingly impotent because of what could be construed as his hubris.
Howard Dean vs. Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel pushed pal Claypool to warm his House seat: Sun-Times report
Your link to Dean vs. Emmanuel only leads to the HuffPo main page. The full link to Cenk Uygur’s post is here. Cenk is right, of course.
Bob in AZ
Were the Czars Rahm’s idea? Feingold will be holding hearings on them coming up Oct 6.
ot Juan Cole has some interesting things to say about the “configuration” of Qam and so does Scott Ritter over at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment
Imvho, Obama’s Big-Pharma Agreement in the Oval Office – the mechanics and timing of how it all went down – was very Bush-TARP-like.
Obama and his team had Handshakes on the Deal – Before the Public even knew what was happening – and then the Healthcare ‘Debate’ began…
With what we’re seeing from the Dems today, it’s hard Not to conclude that the ‘playing field’ for the Debate was circumscribed beforehand in at least one specific way – No Public Option – as a tit-for-tat exchange for Big Pharma’s Money in the form of ‘Cost Concessions’ and *cough, cough* Campaign Contributions.
It’s the Healthcare Lobby pressing the shiv in firmly on Obama and whispering, “The Public Option isn’t the Option you’re looking for, Barack. We’re your Best Option to get the Healthcare Industry back on its feet and out of this mess.”
No different than the Wall Street Lobby telling Bush to command the Senate to Cough-Up a Trillion, or else. “Oversight and Regulation aren’t your Best Options, George. We’re your Best Option to get Wall Street back on its feet and out of this mess.”
So, if the Big Pharma Deal stays ‘golden’ and the final Healthcare ‘Reform’ Bill has No Public Option in it – then We’ll be staring at Proof Positive that it’s the Lobbyists and Corporations who actually control Both Parties.
Sorry to be putting this letter on a couple of threads, but I really want feedback before I sent it.
My representative and both my senators are Republican. (Well, maybe there’s no quick way to help with that!)
Anyway, I want to email the following letter to each of them this evening. I hope it’s clear what I’m trying to do in this letter. Please tell me what you think and give me suggestions to make it better before I send it.
I’m wondering if I should include a statement about the bills that have come out of other Senate committees and, if so, what I should write and where I should put it.
You should quote Jefferson:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation,
until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
I wonder if tax exempt corporate health insurers considered public charities for tax law purposes, practicing discrimination at the state level, bankrupting individuals would qualify as a corporation Jefferson feared? Like a King’s tax exempt East India Tea Corp?
If not for Rahm
Who would put the Liberals down?
Who would slap the Progs around?
If not for Rahm
Rahm, “rahmbo” the “tiny dancer” is out for himself. “chief of staff” dosent impress him. He was a bigshot in the clinton white house. if rahm was idealistic it was a loooooong time, two POTUS elections, Monica Lewinsky and an impeachment ago. not to mention the “new democrat” movement and a vast righty wing conspiracy.WHY, in the name of the Gods,would he hire a rahm? Obama has shown over and over again what a mediocre human being he is. A terrificly unremarkable yawn. remember when he was going to be “transformative” an”FDR” the “Ronald Reagan” of the left. More like the Jerry ford of the left( except without the humility and general good manners). Obama is a politician that has made it to the “douchebag” list.
(it’s a modified version of a French nursery rhyme, similar to eeny-meeny-miny-moe)
You are making the supposition tha Obama wants real reform. This became part of his campaign as a reaction to Hilary. This was really her issue. It appears that he only wants “a” bill. Public option, co-op who cares. That is why the only discipline of message is around the Obama principals rather than details. They don’t really care about what is in there. Baccus is doing what he has been told by the WH and the industry.
exactly! obama has never spent much time or effort worrying about the healthcare problem. it wasnt part of his platform until clinton supporters pointed that out.
Obama understands very well that most of the people who worked their asses off to get him elected want REAL health care reform.
Criticizing Rahm is fucking stupid.
Maybe. Care to elaborate?
“fucking stupid” is what rhammy called the progs for goin after blue dogs. it was a joke
Trust me, he is joking.
stick a knife in the table, he’s done. /s
hahahahhahahaha ..”fucking stupid” i wish to the gods i could hear him throwing one of his toddler tantrums. THIS is the fearsom “rahmbo”? maybe the fear was that he would shit his pampers and stink up the conference room all afternoon. i dont know. he’s petty and childish, even a little effeminate. i dont get it.
You left out Rahmbo’s favorite 13 letter word.
Good. Maybe we need to do more of it.
As cited in a recent fdl post, Obama said:
Obama dislikes the blogosphere 1) because there are many progressives in it and 2) he can’t control their message. Again the MSM really fails to grasp or even see the central story. Obama promised change and has delivered huge helpings of more of the same. The blogosphere keeps pounding him on it.
The other thing and this has nothing to do with leaks is that the Obama Administration has been a dreadful mess from about its second week in office. There has been no leadership, no direction. The healthcare debate is a perfect example. This is supposed to be Obama’s signature issue and his leadership on it is nowhere to be found.
Count me in the Rahm=Obama camp.
Eli is upstairs!
Does Ben Nelson Have Four Friends?
Sorry. Missed that!
Btw, a clip of John Ensign in the Senate Fin Committee today was just on Rachel Maddow. The senator sure is a great dresser. He looks great! Think he’s cruising for a new mistress?
very rich Daddy and Mummy
Ya think they’d have to pay off a new mistress and her family, too? I guess having deep pockets is important if you’re as sleazy as Ensign.
THERE’S NOTHING ‘STAND UP’ ABOUT SEN JOHN ENSIGN.
If Obama has this desperate need to be liked I have no problem with that. However, I do have a problem when his need to “get along with everybody” causes him to give up stuff I need.
I also believe he hired Rahm to be the bad cop. Rahm can get down in the dirt and Obama can be seen to be above the fray.
I was disillusioned with Obama the minute he chose Rahm. I suspected what was coming and, sadly, I was correct.
And I know that nobody cares what I think, but I needed to type it anyway.
Susan, I think that many of us were very disappointed with the rahm selection. I must say, however, that even before he was elected I knew that he was no progressive in any way. I knew that we would continue down the road that w had marked out so strongly, but I didn’t expect obama to be bush iii. When I first began saying that he was doing exactly as the big boys wanted him to do, people thought that I was either a troll or just misled. When people began talking about 11th dimensional chess, I said it was self-delusion and had more scorn. obama has no intention of fighting for anything. I will be pleasantly surprised if he actually acts as CinC and rejects the advice of mcchrystal and petraeus., but I’m not betting on it.
Sorry diarist, the problem is not one of discipline within the administration. The problem is one of where they stand on issues. With the selection of Rahm Emanuel, Obama signaled where he’s really coming from. Obama too is a DLCer. He’s an anti-progressive (which explains why so few people of progressive inclinations are in his cabinet and why he would choose Rahm to begin with). Note Obama’s shifting positions on health care reform. When a Senator from Illinois, he advocated single payer (probably because it was popular to do so). As soon as he was elected, he held a White House conference on health care reform and failed to invite a single proponent of single payer. He and Rahm came up with the “public option” as an alternative, but Obama’s been backing away from that like it is leprosy. Remember the public option is nothing “but a sliver” speech in Colorado? Recall too that Obama broke his pledge to hold health care meetings in public and televise them live on C-SPAN. Instead, he met behind closed doors in secret with insurance companies and BigPharm and even denied the meetings took place until the NYTimes blew the whistle on them. On gay rights, on privacy issues, on prosecuting the Bush administration’s criminal offenses, and in foreign policy, Obama is no progressive. And now Hamlet is off to Denmark. Lobbying for the Olympics is more important than getting a public option for him.
rahm is doing EXACTLY what obama wants.
lack of discipline, 11-dimensional chess, no drama bama, etc are all DEFLECTIONS from the fact that at heart, obama has an apprehensive temperament. and i don’t buy those alibis for a second.
Remember all the lying that resulted in the Iraq attack? Is it happening again (Iran) ?
Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the Milan CIA renditions trial has given closing arguments.
I just can’t believe McChrystal still has his job after the leaks and the TV appearances.
I “just can’t believe” McChrystal got his job after running a task force in which torture was routine. After he assured his subordinates that neither the Red Cross nor any internal investigators would be allowed access. After he brought in JAGs to tell the torturers that whatever they did was legal.
Obama made his cowardly deals by not taking any aspect of the no-torture pledge seriously in terms of its implications for further action. It was purely and simply an incantation to keep us hopeful (and maybe quiet) for a while.
With McChrystal, they determinedly only Looked Forward. It was just before his confirmation hearings that Obama moved to suppressed the release of the torture photos. In addition to underlining how widespread and systematic the policy was, the images would directly have implicated Odierno and McChrystal. Now they’re paying a predictable price. Did they honestly think someone who energetically runs a torture and kill team task force would be grateful for explicit impunity?