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BACK TO THE FUTILE
Here in post-election D.C., things are pretty turbulent. Topic numero uno, of course, is The Transition. The usual power addicts, greed heads and war-mongers are all licking their chops, despite what looks like a clear mandate to get the government the hell away from them. If you voted for Obama, it’s almost already time to get pissed because it’s become apparent that you are irrelevant. Me, too, mind you. Every night I find myself at 3 in the morning watching the late night repeats of the cable shows with a pile of empty beer cans and full ashtray at my side. I think the disillusionment is already setting in.
But how can you possibly compete? You gave five bucks to Obama for America and Move On. Sure, there were lots of you, but it was mere ‘giving’, which any good American consumer knows is never as rewarding as ‘buying’. Big business, on the other hand, funneled millions. It was more of an ‘investment’, really, because it looks like they will actually be seeing returns in the form of administration jobs for every DLC-type and their mother. Probably the best investment those Uptown New York yuppies have made all year. As for you? Just don’t quit your job at the Gap because you needed that Wednesday off to riffle through the Plum Book and fill out the vetting questionnaire. I’m definitely going to keep scraping by with the writing gig, and attending these goddamned transition think tank events where the experts don’t say anything, to avoid stepping on any toes just in case they get picked. Seriously, people don’t return phone calls. Some of my sources who do pick up (must not have caller ID) refuse to go on the record.
Ahh, the chosen people – a cautious bunch. But I guess it’s working for them: They just get chosen over and over again. Of course, Bush didn’t choose the Clinton people. But now every Clinton-era ‘New Democrat’ and liberal interventionist is lined up for a big gig. It only took them eight years to get back in the driver seat!
Sure, the big O has rebuffed the DLC since his Senate run four years ago. He even asked to be taken off their list, which never works for me – despite my pleas, I still can’t get on an airplane without having my ID checked a thousand times and sometimes even my balls cupped. Nonetheless, those Wall Street guys up in New York, who can’t even afford their coke habits since their bonuses took a dump, all opened up the wife’s checkbook (their own is dedicated to their dealers and Scores) and forged her signature for a fat wad payable to Obama. Maximum contributions and donations to PACs for legal political laundering was in full swing. They must really love him in them thar fancy office-building penthouses.
And Obama’s closeness to the extravagant world of greed has never been a secret. He loves them right back. He said as much in his book, where he admits he likes to pal around with investment bankers and the like because they’re intelligent and, y’know, I guess dig paintings and stuff. And plus, some rich people throw serious parties. Now, the poor folk here in D.C. have ragers, too, but cheap bottles of beer and Patrick slaving over barbecued wings on his roof at four in the morning ain’t exactly free top-shelf booze and easy-on-the-eyes waitresses with silver trays of fresh Maryland crab cakes and those spring rolls with the sweet chili sauce.
So Barack, in a gesture of his love for these people, is giving their duly bought representatives all kinds of seats at the table of power. Looking back, it makes perfect sense and we should have seen it coming from the beginning. Obama was at his most progressive in the Illinois state legislature before had to run for the Senate, a moderating body if there ever was one (more so than the White House, apparently, as Bush pulled hard right during his stint). From there on, it’s all the Clinton model: Run as populist, govern to win reelection votes from moderate republicans and the Godforsaken Blue Dogs as a business-friendly, moderate/centrist guy.
Maybe that’s the reason for all these Clinton-era reappointments. I mean, the list goes on and on, and none of it is very reassuring. First there was Clinton chief of staff John Podesta appointed to lead The Transition. Next up was the son of an Israeli terrorist (I know, I know, sins of the father and so on, and then he did the Arafat-Rabin handshake photo op) and a guy with fingerprints all over the DLC, Rahm Emanuel – appointed to be Obama’s chief of staff. It’s like musical chairs with Clinton White House heavy hitters, and Al Gore is the asshole left standing every time. The prime Clinton pick, of course, is Clinton. If she lands at State then I simply give up. All the discussions about rumor mills and leaks (rare from team O) should just be brought to a halt. If moves to keep Bob Gates on at Defense or offer Hillary the gig at State are any indication, then anything is possible.
You heard me, you poor saps who actually chipped into Obama’s campaign through Move On. A real possibility of the second Bush Defense Minister and H-I-L-L-A-R-Y in the cabinet. There’s your good anti-war candidate for you, you sad peaceniks (leaving alone that Obama’s been for escalating Afghanistan since day one). You can take your 58 million and shove it up your collective asses, then fill out your draft papers for the Iran invasion, about which Hillary’s belligerent language bolstered concerns about her judgment raised because of the Iraqle Debacle (I’m going to try to coin a phrase in every article until they give me Tom Freidman’s Times column). In fact, were it not for No You McCain’t and his singing, which incidentally I’m convinced all came out of a Hanoi Hilton flashback (“bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Vietnam”), we might all still be talking about how incredibly irresponsible it is for a leader to use the word “obliterate” about any country in any context.
Of course, Hil fits in quite well, with her right-tilting views on Iran. Dennis Ross, a lawyer for the AIPAC-formed Washington Institute, is rumored to be clamoring for the Iran portfolio. And while Ross is relatively good on the Israel-Palestine issue (relatively good for a Clinton-era ambassador to Israel who has been accused by even fellow American negotiators as being Israel’s lawyer in deliberations), his Iran experience is limited at best and he’s been a leading voice for batting around Iran like that half-dead mouse my childhood cat used to play with before it ate the whole damn thing except for the guts. That kind of a meal scenario is total, open war with Iran – an inevitability of playing around with an increasingly injured mouse, in this case “surgical strikes”. I mean, that poor mouse rarely got away.
One decent expected pick that I think is worth mentioning is Jim Steinberg for National Security Adviser. Yes, I’m a little pissed that I wasted two hours last week listening to him and Kurt Campbell of American Progress tell jokes about throwing away Transition binders instead of really digging into the important part of the process – the vision, loyalty, ideology, and compatibility of potential picks. Irrespective of his entertainment factor (I’ve been at a party he was at before, too, and he was very low-key), Steinberg seems like a good guy. Two things to look out for with him, though, are that he (of course) is a Clinton person, and his associations with fellow Brookings traveler Ivo Daalder. Now, Ivo, as his name would indicate, is a smug son of a bitch in European suits and expensive sunglasses. But I can’t fault him for snooty tastes alone. What really worries me is that he’s always pushing this stupid fucking Concert of Democracies idea, which has been repudiated by loads of its former boosters because of the damage it could do if the mechanism falls into the wrong hands. Without getting too wonky, the idea is that all the democracies in the world (well, at least the Western ones, where we have “real” democracy) are in a security organization. It’s essentially a wet dream for any mildly pragmatic neocon in post-unilateral preemption world: You only have to sell your fellow rich, white, Northern Hemisphere allies on going to war. You know how those neocons like Bolton want to chop a couple of floors off the U.N.? Well this one ups that: It doesn’t take buttons off the elevator and instead actually usurps the power of the U.N. to be the only legitimate and inclusive forum for those gravest matters of security.
What’s worse (okay, not really worse than war itself, I suppose) is that it appears that the Obama foreign policy is being completely strong-armed by these by these DLC-interests. Hil isn’t even in yet, and already she’s bullying people out of positions. That’s the word on the street (which quickly filtered all the way up to the New York Times) as to why Greg Craig, a relatively well-respected foreign policy guy, won’t be specifically tasked to that arena. Craig, who so far has the stupidest name of any pick, with his two-first-names-that-sound-super-alike bullshit (and this includes a president elect named Barack Hussein Obama and a chief of staff named Rahm Israel Emanuel, who my pop thought was “Mexican” until yesterday), was critical of Hil’s foreign policy during the primaries, despite connections with both Clintons going back to law school, and more recently when he was tapped to defend the Clinton with the penis from impeachment. Craig, whose only major skeleton, as far as I know, was his lobbying work for a family of the anti-democratic Haitian oligarch class created by Papa Doc, was presumed to land in a good gig at State (Deputy Secretary) or perhaps on the NSC. Alas, Clinton, the power player, swooped in and declared that she couldn’t possibly work on international affairs with this guy. It all seems very high-schoolish, doesn’t it?
“Like, Barry, you better listen to me. I totally would ride in your limo on the way to prom, but not if that loser Greg is going to be there. Did you hear what he said about me during homecoming? Oh – My – God!” (Yeah, I went to high school in the nineties.)
So instead of having a promising international guy who gave us the foreign policy that Obama ran on (Craig was a top adviser), he is getting squeezed out to make room for minds more like Clinton’s. God forbid she deal with someone who disagrees with her. That would be crazy, like that whole Lincoln ‘team of rivals’ idea I keep hearing about on the news. (Shameless namedrop here: I met Doris Kearns Goodwin last year and talked Lincoln with her for a little bit and she was sharp and pleasant. I’m glad her book is on Obama’s reading list. She should send Hillary a signed copy, too.)
If Obama could nail some picks right about now, it would be a real relief, and I wouldn’t have to be excited about the book that he’s reading and could actually be excited for the government he was putting together. Jesus, here I am railing against an administration that has made two picks so far and doesn’t take office for two months. I feel a bit like I’m pushing for a late-term abortion here: “Is it too late to change our minds, honey?” Yeah, it probably is.
Well at the very least, every Elliott Abrams-style hack is filling in applications to rejoin Wolfowitz, Bolton and Perle at the American Enterprise Institute. So instead of actually running shit, they can go back to putting together these shadowy foreign affairs apparatuses like Project for a New American Century. If nothing else, watching those fuckers take a hike from their offices will be worth all the potentially painful Obama appointments. At least that will be some modicum of change. Even with all these folks getting new jobs, I don’t expect all the excess condos in Columbia Heights to get filled up real quick with an infusion of new blood into DC: Most of these old windbags have been living here for the past twenty years.
Nonetheless, ‘Transition’ is in the air! Even this environmental NGO girl I’ve been shtupping has faded in favor of a cute magazine editor (a conservative magazine, no less, but a high minded one). In the long view, that might be the biggest change to come out of this Transition – Everything else looks like it will fall into place very conventionally.
Anchor Downs is a real working DC reporter, who excorcises his demons with scotch, riding crops and pseudonymous BEAST articles.
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