Nixon The Obama Campaign Goes to China

One of the most telling anecdotes in this must-read Edward Luce skewer of the way a small circle of Obama advisors (Rahm, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and Robert Gibbs) dominates his Administration is this story about his trip to China.

On Mr Obama’s November trip to China, members of the cabinet such as the Nobel prizewinning Stephen Chu, energy secretary, were left cooling their heels while Mr Gibbs, Mr Axelrod and Ms Jarrett were constantly at the president’s side.

The White House complained bitterly about what it saw as unfairly negative media coverage of a trip dubbed Mr Obama’s “G2” visit to China. But, as journalists were keenly aware, none of Mr Obama’s inner circle had any background in China. “We were about 40 vans down in the motorcade and got barely any time with the president,” says a senior official with extensive knowledge of the region. “It was like the Obama campaign was visiting China.”

Coming as it does in an article that compares Obama’s Administration to Nixon’s…

And barring Richard Nixon’s White House, few can think of an administration that has been so dominated by such a small inner circle.

The story really highlights the dangers of such a close-knit group dominating Administration policy: on a visit to China, our relationship with which is one of the most challenging policy issues we face, we’ve got tourists dominating the policy, not experts.

As much as I’m thrilled the story repeats calls to replace Rahm, I think the real story is the suggestion that Obama’s cabinet members are growing tired of being treated as “minions” by Rahm. The story names four by name: Kathleen Sebelius, Ken Salazar, Janet Napolitano, and (above) Steven Chu.

Perhaps the biggest losers are the cabinet members. Kathleen Sebelius, Mr Obama’s health secretary and formerly governor of Kansas, almost never appears on television and has been largely excluded both from devising and selling the healthcare bill. Others such as Ken Salazar, the interior secretary who is a former senator for Colorado, and Janet Napolitano, head of the Department for Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona, have virtually disappeared from view.

Administration insiders say the famously irascible Mr Emanuel treats cabinet principals like minions. “I am not sure the president realises how much he is humiliating some of the big figures he spent so much trouble recruiting into his cabinet,” says the head of a presidential advisory board who visits the Oval Office frequently.

With the suggestion that Sebelius, for example, has been “excluded both from devising and selling the healthcare bill,” are we to understand that all of these cabinet officials are not intimately involved in setting policy? We’ve got Steven Chu, one of the best cabinet picks in the Administration, cooling his heels rather than the climate? And what are Sebelius, Salazar, and Napolitano advising that is not being heard? Is Sebelius growing tired of Rahm fucking up what should be her portfolio (after which, as happened last week, she has to go to Congress and get grilled on it)?

And then, of course, there’s an even more notable cabinet member that goes unmentioned: Hillary Clinton. She showed up prominently in the pictures from China, but she is not mentioned in this story as either one of those (like Joe Biden) who regularly gives Obama counsel but is not part of this inner circle, or one of those prominent cabinet members that Rahm treats like a minion. But the story does note how Arab-Israeli peace took a back seat to Rahm’s failed attempt to pass health care reform. Whether or not Hillary (or, more likely, her inner circle; John Podesta is one of the few named sources for it) is a source for this article, I can imagine how seeing a failed attempt to pass healthcare stall attempts to bring peace to Palestine would rankle Secretary Clinton.

So, yes, this is another story pointing to growing dissatisfaction with Rahm from allies both inside and outside the Administration. But note clearly, it appears to be very high level dissastisfaction.

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  1. FrankProbst says:

    I’m having a hard time laying the blame for all of this at the feet of Rahm. Barack Obama isn’t the uncurious simpleton that George Bush was. He should be able to pick good advisers, and he should be able to read a newspaper every now and then to see how his policies are playing out. If he doesn’t have the sense to involve his health secretary in shepherding his health insurance bill through Congress, I’d say that reflects much worse on Obama than it does on Emanuel.

      • misterg says:

        While the combined information of the Mayer article and the Luce story would make it easy to assume that Rahmbo is Obama’s Cheney, this is really looking more like a classic buddy film: two sociopathic corporate con men reinforcing each others’ worst instincts while perpetrating the biggest fraud in history. If only we could go back in time and have a young Danny DeVito, (ala Tin Men), play the Rahmbo part.

        • Phoenix Woman says:

          It’s the infamous third-way, New Democrat, Blue Dog, DLC mindset that’s been ascendant in the Democratic Party ever since Bill Clinton’s election. The belief (lubricated by lots of corporate donations) is that Democrats can’t ever actually be Democrats. Howard Dean tried to reverse this by beefing up the state party orgs so they’d be less dependent on corporate money, but guess who fought him at every turn? Yep, former DCCC head Rahm Emanuel. (I was originally all for his leaving the D-Trip for the White House — but had forgotten how badly he messed up during the Clinton years.)

  2. BoxTurtle says:

    Yeah, it’s all Rahm’s fault! Everybody pile on, we’ll pulp him and set him out with the trash!!!!

    Obama is running things the way HE wants. He doesn’t really want independent cabinet secertaries, he wants sherpas. Fair enough, he’s not the first president who wants to run things that way. He sets policy, they execute it. Though if that’s what he wants, he’d have been better off appointing Rahm’s old office staff.

    If I was president, I’d have an expert cabinet and give them only high level direction. CEOs don’t do work, they make sure others do the RIGHT work.

    Boxturtle (And it does smell a little like Clinton might be behind the story, doesn’t it?)

    • BoxTurtle says:

      And I still think the Great Plan is to have Rahm resign in time to run for Obama’s old seat, though that’s looking a lot less likely as late in the game as this is. And when he resigns, he takes all of Obama’s first two years of blame with him.

      Boxturtle (Also, I’m thinking right now he’d lose that election)

      • Sand says:

        Interesting … you mean if Giannoulias has to drop-out because of some scandal? However, I’m not sure whether there would be a way for Rahm to be the ‘presumptive dem nominee’ — not sure?

      • ProgThis says:

        And I still think the Great Plan is to have Rahm resign in time to run for Obama’s old seat, though that’s looking a lot less likely as late in the game as this is

        Run as an independent? The primary is over and there is a Dem candidate. Not sure what the filing deadline is to run as an I, but I don’t think so. He did make a secret agreement with Blago to appoint a placeholder for his old House seat, but that didn’t work out too well. I would love to hear those tapes.

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      Thing is, note how readily Obama unloads other folks who get into trouble — yet Rahm is untouchable? Rahm’s already pulled boners that would have caused anyone else to be sent packing.

      However, I don’t think Rahm’s going to be around much longer.

      The veal pen he’s tried to cow into silent submission has finally turned on him, which is why we finally know the whole truth about the “f—ing retards” story months after it happened. Even other high-ranking administration officials are also less willing to put up with his shit. But the final nail in his coffin was, I suspect, delivered last month, when Chris Van Hollen, Rahm’s own hand-picked successor at the DCCC, came out and not only backed up the Coakley campaign’s claim that having to support the current Senate HCR bill is what killed her at the polls, but that it’s killing other Democratic candidates as well. Rahm, who has for months been the driving force behind ramming the electoral kryptonite that is the public-option-less PhRMA-friendly Senate bill down unwilling House Democrats’ throat, is not going to want to hang around to accept the blame for the looming electoral disaster he helped create — a disaster, by the way, which looks awfully similar to the one his pushing of NAFTA helped create in 1994. This is likely why we’re starting to hear all these rumors lately about Rahm’s wanting to step down soon — dollar to doughnuts he does it at least three months before Election Day, so that he gets to escape the blame and leaves Obama, as he left Bill Clinton, taking the fall for Rahm’s actions.

      • Mauimom says:

        Rahm’s already pulled boners

        When I first read this, I thought of the “traditional” definition of “boners” and was waiting with excitement.

        Damn.

      • Larue says:

        This is the best news I’ve heard since Bush stole the first election when SCOTUS handed it to him.

        Rahm leaving? Great news, I like the way you’ve set it up . . . I’ll only add what EW or Ed Luce referred to, about HRC being a bit discontented with Rahm over China and more . . . including brokering a mid east peace deal that lost ALL traction due to the fuck up that HCR has been.

        Nightmare scenerio, once Rahm is out? HRC begins to set the stage for her resignation and runs in ’12 to primary Obama . . . . that one comes courtesy my clicky pal Tanbark, and it’s recurring horror in my nightly slumber.

        *G*

    • Larue says:

      I have a clicky pal who continues to threaten me with the fear that HRC will resign her post and gin up a run for the ’12 primary . . . it’s a recurring nightmare for me, for sure . . .

  3. Rayne says:

    Have two takeaways from this:

    1) Obama is the kind of guy who likes filters he trusts when he gets into potential overload. Unfortunately, the filters get in the way of work and we the people get screened out by those filters.

    2) Obama and his team were more worried about appearances on this first big trip than anything else. Not good.

  4. BoxTurtle says:

    Rahm’s already pulled boners that would have caused anyone else to be sent packing

    That’s just it, he HASN’T. Those so-called boners were exactly what Obama wanted him to do. Rahm’s job is to insulate Obama from the unpopular. He’s a lightening rod.

    When he resigns, Obama will thank him for his loyal service and give him a huge bag of blame to take with him.

    Boxturtle (Just like Gonzo did for BushCo)

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      Uh-uh. Rahm’s going to do what he did to Clinton: Get away with wiping his prints from an electoral disaster that he created, and leave his former boss to get blamed for it. It’s the exact same scenario.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        So Obama is being suckered by Rahm? Just not seeing it, Obama is smarter than that.

        Boxturtle (Heck, even Obama’s kids are smart enough not to take candy from Rahm)

        • Phoenix Woman says:

          Bill Clinton’s a Rhodes scholar and his wife’s even smarter, and they both got suckered by Rahm. More to the point, the fact that they and Obama (and in fact most of Official Washington) share belief systems with Rahm means that they don’t draw the right conclusions when things fellow believers do wind up failing. (Notice how so very few of the Serious People are willing to admit that they shouldn’t have backed invading Iraq? Dick Gephardt’s one of the few to do so, and he had to lose his political career for that to happen.)

        • Larue says:

          There is NO suckering being done! They are all playing by corporate rules, and Rahm and his Dem Party destruction (and Obama’s destruction of Dem Party) are all part of the playbook.

          Rahm quits, takes the heat, and bolsters Obama’s run for ’12.

          Only Rahm will have the MSM spin his blame off elsewhere and Obama will do the same, all this kabuki as the GOP paints Obama for the rightous failure he’s becoming and sweep HUGE wins in ’10 and ’12.

          And history will say about Obama, like Clinton, he was too liberal. A total lie of course, but that’s how the game’s portrayed, time and time again, for the under educated voting masses.

      • Larue says:

        Yep, after claiming the 50 state strategy was his and not Dean’s, Rahm has proven to be AllRahm, AllTheTime.

        He’s bailing because he’s been a failure, and the Dem Party is primed for a redo doo doo like he orchestrated under Clinton . . . yer right as rain in the spring on this one PW, thanks for all you bring to the table for us readers. EW, too, of course.

        • Sand says:

          Yeah — but don’t you think it a little strange that if someone supposedly fails the first time — they seem to automatically gets hired again?

          • Larue says:

            Thanks for your reply and comment . . .

            Nope, not when it’s all in service to AIPAC/Likud/US Corporate Interests.

            Party means nothing, not even it’s failure . . . . the party failure is all kabuki.

            If one views EVERYTHING of US Politics, Politicians and Policies (domestic/foreign) thru a corporate bought and corporate serving lens, the view becomes crystal clear.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think you’re mistaking Rahm’s failed tactics with Obama’s chosen policies.

      Did Obama not want the PO, in the end? Yes.

      Did Obama want Rahm to so alienate the progressives such that he couldn’t pass HC as a result? No.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Perhaps. But Obama knew in advance exactly what he was getting with Rahm and he knew or should have known the tactics Rahm would use.

        I’m thinking Obama approved dumping on the progressives. His whole goal has been a bipartisen bill, so the GOP couldn’t flog the Dems with it if it failed. He dumped the progressives in a conscious decision to try to get GOP signon and Rahm took the blame.

        Now there’s no GOP signon. The progressives are united against the senate plan. Not because of Rahm’s tactics, but because of Obama’s strategy.

        Boxturtle (Now we see how Obama kept his hands clean moving up in the ranks in Chicago)

        • sundog says:

          Yeah, I have to agree. This is “Centrist Triangulation 2.0,” because it will be better now then it was then. It’s funny how many of the people voting for Barack, and I don’t mean here, thought he was going to be a new FDR. Hell, he and HRC we’re the most conservative Dems running. Now they’ve ended up with a hybrid of Clinton and Reagan and are shocked, “Shocked! I tell you.”

          I think all of this “bipartisany crap,” is just about Obama seeking cover for not doing what the people want him to do. “Oh, I wanted the P.O. option, but we have to consider all of the country and input from the other side of the aisle, blah, blah, blah.”

          I have to say, though, this article did illuminate for me on why so much isn’t getting done. Ineffective leadership.

        • Larue says:

          Obama’s goal is NOT bi partisan anything, that’s just the kabuki he’s using.

          His whole goal is to deliver on the part of the corporate overlords who bought him, Rahm, and the Dem and Pub Party.

          Once you accept the fact that both parties are bought by the corps and exist solely to SERVE their corp overlords, then the rest falls aside as kabuki.

          All domestic and foreign policies, across the board, are directed at pleasing and aiding and abetting corporate goals and designs. All policies, all politicians.

          The rest is kabuki to entertain and fool the uneducated and informed voting public, many who WANT to be fooled due to social issues prejudices.

          But please, give up any thoughts of Rahm or Obama serving in the interests of the voters, in any way, shape, or form.

    • Sand says:

      Rahm’s job is to insulate Obama from the unpopular.

      Yeah, which means he’s obviously the ‘gatekeeper’ that lets in the ‘popular’ aswell — e.g. only letting in the financial guys that ‘brung ‘im’…?

      I remember an article in the NYObserver about some heavy-hitter Clinton backers freaking out that they wouldn’t get a place at the table… Seems like some of those ‘high-level’ people may be getting a bit more than ansy?

      Also, wonder if Ford’s candidancy [with Schumer muzzled] is anything to do with all this?

      http://www.observer.com/2008/re-raising-hill?page=0%2C0

      Also, in the article some of them were freaked out about how the ‘little-peoples’ financial backing might effect the balance of power — well we all know how that turned out.

  5. SaltinWound says:

    It is hard to discuss this without mentioning how the specific personalities play on television. In my opinion, Sebelius is terrible on camera, very unpersuasive. And Napolitano was a distaster when she took to the airwaves to discuss the Christmas bomber (when did he stop being the underpants bomber?).

  6. 1970cs says:

    What influence do Gates, McCrystal, and Petreus have? Given the four advisors mentioned as having the most influence with Obama, the decision about Afghanistan can reasonably be seen as a political one.

    • scribe says:

      Don’t forget that “War is politics by other means.”

      I have to say, back during the primaries my second (or maybe third) impression of Obama was that he and his campaign were about “being President”, rather than “doing anything with the office”. That would be congruent with DLC-ism, which strikes me as “We’re pastel color Republicans who’ll hold things steady until the real Republicans get back in the electorate’s good graces.” FWIW, my first impression was “this guy’s a cipher” and my second (or third) was, after seeing the hope poster and the viral Obama videos “cult of personality, not substantive change”. But, hey, what the hell do I know – if I wasn’t one of Rahm’s fucking retards, I might be somewhere else not writing this….

      And, as to the source, who else thinks it might by Mr. Clinton? Obama’s cleaning out the Senate to stock his admin struck me at the time, and still does, as “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” in action. HRC can’t do anything other than parrot the party line lest she be canned – and then out of any power. In the Senate, particularly on HCR, she could (and likely would) have been a real pain in the ass to these insurance salesmen.

      • Mauimom says:

        HRC can’t do anything other than parrot the party line lest she be canned

        Yeah, I’ll bet Hillary’s gnashing her teeth, pissed that if she were still in the Senate she could be setting up shop to run a very successful challenge to Obama. [And the chances of the success of a challenge grow better by the day –if only there were someone to mount it.]

        It’s incredible how masterful Obama & his team were in defanging anyone who might challenge him. Why did they suddenly lose all those talents when it came to dealing with Republicans and Blue Dogs?

        Do ya think . . . .?

    • Larue says:

      Gates, Mac and Pet have the interests of the MIC, and corporate ownership of the MIC and corporate ownership of the military and the politicians behind them, they care not about Rahm or Rahm’s verbal meanderings. Because it’s all about AIPAC/Likud and military contracting trillions of dollars and the mideast resources.

      One of the three will likely contest for the Dem or GOP ticket in ’12.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Lessee, Obama needs a bastard with cast iron balls and unlimited gall. Someone who will ignore or support the constitution as needed. Someone who doesn’t mind being hated and it would be a bonus if he’s hated already. Someone who’s willing to do the dirty work and keep his boss’s hands clean.

      So whats Dick Cheney doing these days?

      Boxturtle (I didn’t start out thinking of Dick, but that’s where I ended up)

  7. orionATL says:

    this is an old story, repeated administration after administration.

    following election,

    brand new prez chooses pals to help him govern.

    pals “protect” prez.

    pals pile up legacy of errors of judgment while “protecting” prez.

    prez keeps pals in place.

    political disaster ensures.

    prez dumps pals.

    pals bid tearful farewells and issue “an honor to serve” statements.

    in the interim,

    country has suffered poor or incompetent leadership,

    again.

    several moths ago i suggested rahm would go after the mid-term elections if they turn out disastrous, as i suspect they will (thought that will outcome will be the prez’s fault, not rahm’s.)

    as an aside, obama’s oversees junkets would seem to be a fine target this fall, combined was they have been with his absence on the domestic scene from persistent and effective displays of genuine concern about employment.

    but then obama had no business ever being a presidential candidate, let alone president at this point in his life.

    he had zero experience as a political administrator and practically zero as a legislator.

    fortunately for team obama p.r. always winds the day in modern american politics.

    appearance over substance – always.

  8. orionATL says:

    scribe @ 15

    i’ve always felt von clausewitz got things exactly backward.

    politics is a continuation of war (actually it is a cultural refinement of war) where the deaths are of opportunities and careers, not living bodies.

  9. fatster says:

    O/T, back to “health insurance reform”. It seems it’ll happen whether DC does diddly or not. Big fish eating little fish, power and wealth ever-more concentrated.

    Overhaul’s Failure Will Ignite U.S. Health Mergers (Update1)

    “Insurers, drugmakers and hospitals will likely slash costs and merge companies to maneuver through a U.S. health-care landscape marked by rising medical expenses and the loss of millions of potential paying customers.”

    Link.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The characteristics of Rahm’s Obama’s visit to China mirror those of other powerful CEO’s. They and their magic circle huddle together like six year-olds playing soccer. China is too strange and intimidating, pronouncements are too fraught with implications, for the handlers to let their master out of finger’s reach – or to let policy geeks anywhere near him. If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a lot of knowledge might upset Congressional apple carts and challenge voters’ down home stereotypes.

    It’s a circus I’ve seen many times. The CEO is on parade. The handlers are showing off their purported control of him, as if he were a star four-legged beast, as much as the man himself. Meanwhile, the people who might productively add value to his knowledge and construct more meaningful policies are treated like the elevator attendant in an old Jack Lemmon film. Plus ca change.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Nobody better from Ensign Pulver to Felix.

        As does orionATL, I disagree with the description of Obama’s China trip as a “raging success”. With what substance and in whose eyes are good questions.

        China is a long term competitor that holds a lot of cards right now. It’s better at the long term game than the obsessively short term American politicians, for whom China issues are always domestic political issues rather than long term strategies. That’s especially true when American politicians are supposed to leave bidness to bidnessmen, like Goldman Scratch, while Chinese politicians work on policies that synthesize economic, political, social and military issues. (American policy geeks do that, but are usually three or more relationships removed from the president.)

        • WilliamOckham says:

          Check the link I left for orionATL. Fallows documented a ton of good hard policy objectives that the Obama team achieved. Check out Obama’s live Q&A with Chinese students that was widely carried within China and tell me that’s a short-term play. I think Obama and team have screwed up a lot, but the relationship with China is an area where we are clearly, measurably better off than we were a year ago.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Thanks for the link; the earlier one to Fallows’ site was as useful. I’m unconvinced by Fallows’ arguments that China’s positions on the described issues were as a result of American negotiations. China has its own reasons, independent of the US or US persuasion.

            China is courting Europe, for example, to get the jobs and investment manufacturing and other concerns no longer want to make in Belgium, Germany, France and the UK. It is also courting other countries that are the source of its raw materials, such as coal, oil, timber and minerals; that generate large infrastructure projects that the Chinese now successfully compete for; and that will increasingly either buy Chinese goods or be the avenues through which it will export further to others, such as Mexico and Canada.

            At any rate, the US has little to persuade with whose use would not backfire and hurt us more than the Chinese.

            • WilliamOckham says:

              I’m not arguing that Obama got China do something against its own interest. He did get them to focus on some things that are in our joint interest. That’s the way real international negotiations work. Sometimes the other side has multiple options to choose from that advance their own goals, but only one of those options also advance your goals. Getting them to choose the one you want is still a victory. At least they aren’t poking our eye out with stick just for fun (something they seemed to delight in while Bush was around).

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Obama’s rhetoric is not his problem. His policies and his choice of top staff are, as is his mishandling of virtually all his Congressional relations.

            I’m glad that relations have superficially improved with China; a mature relationship with it is vital to American interests. But compared with Bush and Cheney, you and I could have improved on relations with China. Mrs. Clinton, no doubt, contributed to that improved relationship, too.

            • WilliamOckham says:

              I agree about Obama’s rhetoric. Rhetoric is easy to both overvalue and undervalue. I’m sure some folks thought that MLK, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech was just words. That speech changed our understanding of the Civil Rights movement in signficant ways. We’ll have to wait and see whether Obama’s words will amount to anything.

              I haven’t seen any substantive criticism of any of Obama’s staff except Emanuel. He’s certainly been less effective than I expected.

              I’m not sure about Obama’s handling of Congress. Things in the House have gone pretty well, but I think Pelosi should get the credit for that. I think the Senate Dem caucus is too quick to blame Obama for its own failures. That said, Obama’s been too willing to cede control of his agenda to a group that is feckless, to say the least.

              I just can’t imagine many ways to improve on Obama’s performance vis a vis China. Also, Obama is the one who picked Clinton. (I, for one, thought that was a terrible idea. Boy, was I wrong about that one.)

              • emptywheel says:

                Well, presumably you’ve seen substantive criticism of Obama’s finance team, too? One of the other criticisms I’ve seen on this is that it ignores the centrality and similar bigfooted approach of Larry Summers and friends.

                • WilliamOckham says:

                  Yes, my comment was in reference to the Chicago 4 (I shouldn’t have said “any of Obama’s staff”). I’m all for substantive criticism, especially when it’s based in real consequential policy options. In the case of the criticism of Summers, et. al., I wholeheartedly agree with the criticism.

  11. JohnLopresti says:

    I wonder how it went for the cabinet people in the tenth car in the motorcade, at a time when that country is engaged in a wholesale effort to build nuclear plants for electric power. I may be waxing too policy attentive here, but I also note *clean energy* funding rhetoric now appears to cover both coal and nuclear. CA*s Diablo Canyon has just applied for a ~15 year extension of its permit with DOE. If Obama is issue centric, he might be interested in ways to ameliorate these misguided initiatives. I have not followed Rahm*s story. Yet, my sense is Obama is intelligently nudging policy into zones way more reasonable than McCainPalin. He has got a lot of latitude in the region, given the fringe which the Republicans have cobbled together to remain viable. If voters churn some Democrats in a classic *midterm rebuke*, the infinite stasis in Washington may become less stultified and more responsive to some serious problems government is trying to address. Evidently the South Carolina senator has set a world record by halting seventy nominations simultaneously in the name of the Republican party, on his state*s behalf. There is no government if every vote is 60/100 in the upper chamber. That is what Reaganism*s anticivilrights crusade, and Gingrich*s abolish entire agencies initiatives have produced: Republicans taking the tack of being the most intellectually impoverished; 60/100 sounds like a centrally planned economy approach in which comity has an ephemeral existence in support of the unitary executive. I thought little of Nixon*s forrays into the sinosoviet detente issue. Only historians wearing Republican goggles would write that he was a *liberal* within his party. His reputation in CA before his presidency was the polar opposite of *liberal* Republican; Reagan*s CA record was creatively more abominable than Nixon*s in CA. There is an immense amount Chu can do, with the firm guidance of a smart president. Being chief executive of the country is different from the experience of the saucer cooling chamber of the senate which is Obama*s past. DOE is one of the key agencies in our time. However, sometimes I like the part of the Republican message that advocates less government, especially when the decrease means less hinderance. I have read that NOAA and MMS are better run agencies under the current Democrat administration. Obama has a learning process going on, if he has the resources; he seems to. I read of a difficult exchange in a Hillary news conference in Pakistan in which one questioner asked her to explain modern robotic war morals. I would like to see her help contribute to that policy, as stateless actors have accentuated to importance of global vision, and arms continue to *develop*.

  12. Leen says:

    EW “it appears to be very high level dissastisfaction”

    Why is it taking them so long?

    Can anyone point to a success of Rahm’s?

  13. tejanarusa says:

    Most of my reaction to this has been said, however, there is one more thing I think is going on (and goes on in many administrations). I was listening to a psychologist talk about “influencing,” and how in groups with one dominant personality, that personality can influence the less dominant personalities to go along with him, even if he’s clearl wrong.

    I immediately thought of Obama and Rahm. Honestly, I think Obama, like Clinton, growing up a fatherless boy, and somewhat different from others in his peer group, learned to be a conciliator, the peacemaker. As we have seen in his blind insistence on biparatisanship, he wants everybody to agree, to avoid conflict.

    Rahm thrives on conflict, especially on creating conflict. He is a very dominant personality.

    Not to remove blame from Obama – it’s his job to be the decision-maker – but I think in many instances he can be influenced to move away from his best instincts by arguments of politics, of practicality.

    Yes, he needs someone to be ruthless, and he’s essentially conservative. Peacemakers usually are. But I think he has better instincts that are being suppressed, and Rahm has a lot to do with that.

    • Larue says:

      There’s a point in a hierarchy of reality where the psychological profiling falls by the wayside in comparison to the REALITY at hand.

      We have LONG passed the stage where psychological profiling shapes the politician.

      And the reality at hand has NOTHING to do with being fatherless, conciliatory or anything else other than bought, lock, stock and barrel by dominant corporate interests who own this country and it’s political process and our government, military, and civic services.

  14. Mary says:

    More love on the Luce piece from Steve Clemons

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-clemons/core-chicago-team-sinking_b_452664.html

    but with also some insight into why, even though he’s getting emails from different press quarters about how “spot on” the Luce article is, they are all confidential emails from people who don’t plan on doing anything with the story.

    But some of the big aggregators out there — Mike Allen at Politico and ABC’s The Note among others — didn’t give Luce’s juicy and lengthy essay any love.

    Why not? Allen is a good friend of mine and tries to keep a good balance between tough-hitting political stuff, but also goes out of his way to give strokes to those in the White House he can — particularly “Axe” — who is a regular in Mike’s daily Playbook. I try to do the same, to be honest

    and while many of the nation’s top news anchors and editors are sending emails back and forth (I have been sent three such emails in confidence) on what a spot-on piece Luce wrought on the administration, they fear that the “four horsepersons of the Obama White House” will shut down and cut off access to those who give the essay ‘legs.’

    Camelot, or Obamalot?

    • Rayne says:

      You’d think by now the tradmed would have gotten wise to this game; they saw it before with the Bushies, and they’re doing it all over again with the Obama administration.

      If they ALL cover this, the administration can’t single out any one of them. And the Obama administration needs and wants the coverage, because they’ve f*cked up OFA so badly they cannot rely on it as an alternative messaging system any longer.

  15. WilliamOckham says:

    I have a couple of problems with this. First, this narrative has been around since at least the 1400’s. Back then, it was usually the nobility complaining about getting shut out by the courtiers. No wait, never mind, this narrative has been around since 27 BCE. Back then it was Roman Senators complaining about those provincials and freedmen who surrounded Octavian (later Caesar Augustus). It’s safer to assume that it’s nonsense than give it credence because the sources for this stuff always have an ax to grind.

    Second, the China trip was a raging success. Read back through James Fallows posts on the subject.

    • Mary says:

      This link may work better for Fallows posts – it is to no t in a 1-5 series, with links to 1-4 at the beginning. There was some other Fallows on China stuff too, but those hit high points.

      http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/11/manufactured_failure_5_view_fr.php

      @40 – Putin’s [eyes]? (lame effort at humor)

      I don’t have a big takeaway on how Obama wanted to handle China while he was there – obviously, there would be some reasons for not bringing Geithner along to wave his currency manipulation claims in their face. There could be some good reaons for a white hat crew of smiley faces meeting with the Chinese. But I don’t think the article is about that, really – whether or not Obama was charming and had a successful debutante ball with his Chinese hosts. It was about what Obama does with that and other experiences when it comes to the synthesize info and and on it stage – iow, not quote so much that he has Jarret and Axelrod with him as he meets and greet, but that he he continues to exclude others with expertise in his admin when he’s done with the meet and greet and needs to either prepare for the next one or analyze and act on the last one.

      @55 – I’d add Gonzo and Card. If you can’t call the guys you send to threaten the AG in his hospital bed inner circle, who can you call ….

    • WilliamOckham says:

      In the U.S. and China. In whose eyes, well, reality.

      It’s more than a little odd that a trip allegedly dominated by the “campaign” was so disastrous from a PR perspective and so successful from a policy perspective.

  16. timbo says:

    Incurious is the word for this decade when it comes to American politicians and elites. They’re incurious and infecting the government with that disease. An infection that’s symptoms include a deterioration of the Bill of Rights, individual rights, and the legal framework of the government itself.

  17. Teddy Partridge says:

    That Obama Cabinet, full of rabid lambs and Jane Hamshers of the left.

    Next thing you know, Sebelius and Chu will be writing letters with Grover Norquist.

  18. WilliamOckham says:

    Btw, this, objectively, the stupidest thing I’ve read today:

    And barring Richard Nixon’s White House, few can think of an administration that has been so dominated by such a small inner circle.

    Does anybody believe that? Seriously. The first four years of the Bush administration was dominated by an inner circle of one (Cheney).

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Nice observation. One difference is that Cheney was effective; unlawful, cruel, brutal and dark, but effective. Rahm only has the first part down and at this point, seems unlikely ever to learn the second.

    • bobschacht says:

      The first four years of the Bush administration was dominated by an inner circle of one (Cheney).

      You really think so? I’d say at least two: Cheney for FoPo, Rove for domestic stuff.

      Bob in AZ

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, two, with Rove. And Rove especially was just as inept on policy issues.

      I don’t disagree with your Fallows point, btw–that goals were achieved. But I’m not all that convinced they were the key goals we wanted or have been lasting.

      That said, I am particularly interested in what I see as a shift in the last week or so, with the Taiwanese arms and the Dalai Lama. I sort of wonder whether, having successfully called China’s bluff on a few trade disputes, and seeing China’s economic imbalances growing faster than our own, and knowing China’s making deals on the side anway (Copehagen), Obama has decided to start calling China’s bluff on some issues.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        As you know from working with Ford’s team in China, state visits are theater. The real work takes place before and after the performance. It can all go up in smoke, if the star players try to one-up themselves and thereby put spokes in the wheels of all the work done by staff and geeks. Or that good work can be cemented because the top people reinforce the message their bureaucracies have been sending.

      • Rayne says:

        I suspect once the scale of the espionage which has taken place was revealed, it changed a lot of policy positions.

        My guess is that the administration has leverage hanging over the Chinese now, of major embarrassment to them should the administration choose to reveal how wide and deep the spying went.

  19. orionATL says:

    OrionATL @43

    My comments referred to American domestic politics only.

    “in whose eyes” was a query about the view American voters have on this and others of the president’s travels.

    Give the very difficult job market,

    I worry that Obama going to xxx,

    May be viewed like bush going to an Arizona fund raiser during the katrina disaster.

    I assume Obama’s Pygmalion thought these overseas trips would be good for him to have under his belt before 2012.

  20. Mary says:

    BTW – further to the China relationship issue, I see from the Foreign Policy “legal war on terror” pages/updates

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/05/the_lwot_the_underpants_bomber_talks_millions_for_the_ksm_trial

    that the last two Chinese Uighurs have left for Switzerland. We’ve been making wheelies and dealies with the Swiss left and right. These two were the brothers, one cleared earlier for transfer who ended up staying with his brother – who we had tortured insane and then wouldn’t clear for release.

    The last two of seven remaining Uighurs detained at Guantánamo have been offered asylum in Switzerland, staving off a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could have seen the men released into the United States. The two men are brothers, one of whom decided to remain at Guantánamo even after being freed in order to stay with his mentally ill sibling. The Swiss are taking the men despite Chinese threats.

    I’ve been out of it and didn’t see this at the time

    Addt’l stories:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5idiihsiu7e5Dap1WyvgzJ9bPf8tw

    The Swiss justice ministry said in a statement the decision was made on humanitarian grounds.

    “Today the Federal Council decided to admit for humanitarian reasons two Uighurs with Chinese citizenship, who have been imprisoned in Guantanamo for years by the United States without being charged with a crime nor condemned,” it said.

    You can tell a successful Presidency by how many countries have to give humanitarian assylum to victims of Exec branch crime.

    Or I guess the takeaway could instead be this:

    Shortly afterwards, a Swiss parliamentary commission also opposed asylum for the two Uighurs, prompting Swiss right-wing parliamentarian Yvan Perrin to note that a majority of the commission’s members “visibly preferred to face US wrath rather than China’s.”

    Things are going great when the Swiss are more afraid fo the US than they are of the Chinese? May need to tinker with that a bit.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8497532.stm

  21. JohnLopresti says:

    OT, the Dr. Dean link above contained a sidebar advertisement linking to a page of organizational information concerning the Netroots Nation Las Vegas summer 2010 event, which mentions today February 8 2010 is the final day for sending an idea of a session, and that ew is on the selection committee screening the concepts entered. One year I received a solicitation to design a session. I supposed at the time, I could have moderated a panel on labor intensive silviculture. Had fun at one day of the three day event called Restoring the Earth conference in 1988.

    Razor et al, tx for Fallows vectors re China, though WO*s first-mentioned link was to the blog mainpage, and Atlantic*s searchengine froze attempting to extract only the China commentaries.

  22. bluestorm says:

    “Team of rivals” ala Lincoln myth is undone. It was a convenient projection on the media’s part- thanks Doris Kearns Goodwin for all your CNN time.

    So much for the hope of another FDR, Lincoln etc… President in a bubble, betrays the base. Narcissist- check. Bubble – check. Corporatist – check. Captured- check.

    Strange thing is I can’t think of any other president in history who had both houses of Congress and turned his back on a genuine mandate. Bush claimed mandates based on 2% of stolen elections but the Obama/Rahm corporate crew won’t even stand up for what the majority of the country and the dem base wants.

  23. sagesse says:

    No one would really want Ken Salazar out there talking. The man is unqualified to be Interior Secretary – the cowboy hat and his cows do not qualify him to oversee the many millions of acres of BLM lands, and rare species, that he is supposed to be protecting.

  24. Sand says:

    I can imagine how seeing a failed attempt to pass healthcare stall attempts to bring peace to Palestine would rankle Secretary Clinton.

    sarcasm ?

  25. Sand says:

    With the mention of “Kathleen Sebelius” it then begs the question — why if she was only going to be used as a ‘place-mat’ (remembering Emanuel had brought his brother in to be his point man), did they want to pull her out of an important Senate seat — where I believe she was v. popular?

    Also, with “Napolitano”, I always assumed she knew that it would be Lieberman who would be really running the show?

  26. redX says:

    “we’ve got tourists dominating the policy, not experts.”

    Guess we know how people get experience now. When its new territory they allow the old hands to move in and get the experience.

    Just like we will get electric cars once industry is ready (assuming they decide not to kill it).

    Sad.

  27. redX says:

    Kathleen Sebelius – I think I saw her on TV like, um, at least 3 times last year. Twice for her rollout, and perhaps once so everyone would know she’s still around.

  28. geemany says:

    Exactly! How many times did Gov.Dean say they should have used fifty one votes through reconciliation to begin with? Rahm and his supporters in congress were lying to us and told us how they would fix the issues with NAFTA later. [sound familiar?] Then he bails when things get tough. This stuff about pre planned screen protection is just too wild and does not make sense.

  29. Larue says:

    I was way late to this thread, but to close:

    1) EW, once again Mz. Wheeler, yer all over it, thanks.
    2) BIG thanks to EarlOf and WilliamOck for a great schooling of Chinese/US policy dealings.

    Very, very insightful, illustrative, updated, and more . . . it was a pleasure reading your dialogues, especially as Mz. Wheeler waded in on them . . . you can’t BUY this kind of dialogue, insight and personal informative schooling.

    I very much appreciated all of that folks . . . *bows*

  30. ocean1 says:

    Yes, this story is circulating now…wonder why, but I tend to agree. Great discussion. Rahm is indefensible and when/if he goes, we may see the “change.”

  31. ruserious says:

    I wonder why Democrats aren’t just a little peeved that Axelrod (a media consultant) and Rham Emmanual ( a nuclear reactor), are setting policy for the country. Axelrod appears to be Obama’s spokesperson lately. Appears he has the authority to speak on all policy topics.

    I guess I am an elitist Democrat. I personally would like more class and maybe even a cabinet member once in awhile.