Obama's 'Change': Back to the Democratic Washington Insiders
What's with Obama's choice of old-time Clinton cronies and recycled Washington insiders to run the transition to his new politics of change?
Can't the anti-Washington-insiders president-elect find anyone who isn't a Beltway has-been?
Judging by the appointments to his transition committee and leaks about possible top staff and Cabinet choices, Obama appears to be practicing the politics of status quo, not the politics of change.
Obama based his innovative campaign on an emphatic and convincing commitment to change the culture of Washington and bring in new people, new ideas and new ways of doing business. But now, Obama has definitely changed his tune. As president-elect, he's brought back the old Washington hacks, party regulars and Clinton sycophants that he so frequently disparaged. Like Jimmy Carter, the last president who ran as an outsider, Obama has reached out to the same old folks who dominate the Democratic Party and represent the status quo.
His Transition Committee looks like a reunion of the Clinton administration. No new ideas of how to reform the system there. The chairman, John Podesta, was Clinton's chief of staff. He presided over the outrageous last-minute pardons and his style is strictly inside-the-Beltway and make-no-waves.
Then there's Carol Browner, Clinton's competent former EPA administrator who became the consummate Washington insider. She's Madeline Albright's partner and recently married mega-lobbyist and former Rep. Tom Downey. During the uproar over Dubai taking over U.S. ports, Browner brought Downey to meet with Sen. Chuck Schumer to plead Dubai's case. Downey was paid half a million dollars to push Dubai's position. He's also a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, paid half a million to try to cover its rear on the subprime mortgage mess. Is this change?
Federico Pena was Clinton's secretary of transportation and of energy. The president felt he was unduly soft on ValuJet after its Florida crash and lost confidence in him. Now he's back as a Transition Committee member.
Bill Daley, Clinton's former secretary of commerce and the brother of the mayor of Chicago, is the epitome of the old Democratic establishment.
Larry Summers, president of Harvard and former Clinton secretary of the treasury, is not exactly an outsider, either. He's also alienated more than a few with his bizarre suggestion that women may be genetically inferior to men in math and science.
Susan Rice, assistant secretary of state under Clinton, advised John Kerry and Mike Dukakis. Does that tell you enough?
Obama has named one of his big bundlers — Michael Froman, an executive at Citigroup. Is this supposed to symbolize change? Obama's choice of a spokesperson for the transition is also surprising — hers is definitely not the face of reason and new politics. Stephanie Cutter is the brash and combative former Clinton, Kerry and Ted Kennedy mouthpiece. The liberal DailyKos.com once described Cutter as "a moron to the nth degree" when she tried unsuccessfully to force The New York Times' Adam Nagourney to treat her unsolicited email criticizing Howard Dean as "background" without mentioning her name.
Speaking of brash, Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff, makes Cutter look timid. Rahm is also a former Clinton White House staffer — and a very obnoxious one. He spent his White House years leaking to The Washington Post whenever he didn't like what the president was doing. Even Bill Clinton stopped trusting him. Any hopes of Obama keeping his commitment to reach across the aisle would go right out the window with Rahm's appointment. Instead of extending a hand to the opposition, it would be like raising just one finger. And Rahm's strident demeanor laced with the 'f' word in every sentence will do little to elevate the bipartisan dialogue in Washington.
Christopher Edley, another member of the transition team, is dean of the Berkeley Law School. He's a former member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission under Clinton, and his wife, Maria Echaveste, was Clinton's deputy chief of staff.
Transition committee staffer Christine Varney was a federal trade commissioner under Clinton and worked in the White House.
Throughout the early debates, Obama criticized Hillary as part of the inside-the Beltway establishment that needed to go. But now he's reaching out to these exact same folks. Some change.
To find out more about Dick Morris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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