Today's Topic



A Fleeting
Political Movement,
Part I

Part II
Part III

Natalia J. Garland

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Poof! Obama's hope and change movement has vanished. After campaigning on the promise that things were going to be done differently in Washington, D.C., President-elect Obama seems quickly to have retreated to a dependence on people who were not formerly regarded as agents of change. In other words, Obama's cabinet appointees can be categorized as Washington insiders--the very type of people Obama promised would no longer control the government.

In addition to having appointed cabinet members from the 1990's Clinton era, it appears that Obama might also appoint Senator Hillary Clinton herself. Obama defeated the formidable Clinton in the primaries. He sent her back to the Senate where she was likely destined (as others have also noted) to become the grand old lady of the Democratic Party, much in the manner that Senator Ted Kennedy is currently its grand old man. Obama sent Bill Clinton back to looking for work as a guest-speaker, although somewhat tarnished by his failure to have adequately campaigned for his Senator wife.

After winning a campaign based mainly on a strong anti-war message, why would Obama now consider Senator Clinton for the position of Secretary of State? Clinton was originally an Iraq War hawk. Why would Obama consider General Jim Jones and General Bob Gates for the positions of National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense? Gates is our present-day Secretary of Defense, having been appointed by President George W. Bush, and is one of the leaders of the Iraqi surge. And why would Obama support the decision to permit Senator Joe Lieberman to maintain chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee? Lieberman is and always has been a firm Iraq War hawk.

Obama's supporters hold different rationalizations in reaction to his choices. (1) We should trust his judgment. (2) He is a uniter. (3) He is so secure within himself that he can choose competent people and not feel personally threatened. (4) He is not entrenched in loyalty to friends who are not qualified for the job, such as is the case with Bush.

These rationalizations, however, easily fall apart. (1) Nobody owes Obama blind trust. On the contrary, he should be held accountable and should explain why he has made cabinet choices which defy his campaign promise. (2) There cannot be unity between war hawks and peace doves. Any decision for or against a war has extremely serious consequences. If you believe that the Iraq war was necessary and that victory is possible and desirable, there can be no agreement with those who believe the war was wrong from the beginning and who want immediate withdrawal. (3) It may be true that Obama has chosen some competent people. However, Obama's confidence in himself has no relationship to having made those choices from among the Washington insiders whom he so often criticized during his campaign. (4) Although misplaced loyalty is to be avoided, self-contradiction and unpredictability could become equally troublesome.

Where are the fresh, new faces? There must be hundreds of people who are qualified to serve as cabinet members--hundreds of Washington outsiders. There must be hundreds of elected officials, scholars, and professionals who are ready to march into the Capitol as Obama's staff and reform the government. Why is Obama not calling upon these outsiders? When he distinguished himself from Senators Clinton and McCain as an agent of hope and change, when he criticized the Washington insiders while his supporters cheered him on, did Obama never think about who would replace the insiders if he were elected president?

Apparently, Obama did not plan ahead regarding staff. Now that we are in a financial crisis, Obama may feel that he does not have time to do what he should have done during his campaign: begin a process of finding qualified new faces to implement his vision of hope and change for America. If Bush is to be remembered as the war president, Obama will possibly be remembered as the financial president. Obama probably perceived no alternative, in the midst of our financial crisis, but to quickly choose Washington insiders. He had to rely on people who served the last Democratic administration: the presidency of Bill Clinton, the people from whom Senator Hillary Clinton might have made her cabinet choices if she had won the Democratic nomination and then the presidency. We will have, after all, a Clintonian presidency as organized and supervised by Barack Obama.

For some Clinton supporters, as well as for some Republicans, a Clintonian government might be good news. Obama has chosen experienced people, and his lack of executive experience was a great concern among many voters. Obama has chosen war hawks and former war hawks to fill crucial positions. They can contribute their expertise to bring about a timely and successful withdrawal from Iraq (given the success of the surge), and advise Obama on military activity in Afghanistan. From the viewpoint of homeland security, a Clintonian government should serve the nation better than, let's say, a government drawn from a political base of certain Chicago activists or radical associates.

We might also say that the financial crisis has rescued America from Obama's messianic tones, or from the messianic image which was foisted on him by his supporters. Obama seems different now, as though he has descended from the vague rhetoric of hope and change into a post-campaign sobriety and practicality. This is our moment. Yes, indeed it was. Its message was fleeting. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Well, maybe not, because the ones we got were acquired from President Bill Clinton. (Written 11/27/08)

Addendum No. 1

Last week, Obama selected Pastor Rick Warren to deliver a prayer at next January's inauguration. Warren heads a megachurch in California, and has been politically vocal against abortion and same-sex marriage. Since women and the gay community were among Obama's major supporters, the selection of Warren has stirred more controversy as well as more rationalization. The current rationalization, coming from Obama himself, is that people can disagree without being disagreeable.

On the surface, Obama's remark appears cordial and astute. The difficulty, however, is that issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, like the issue of the Iraq War, involve deeply held beliefs about religion, culture, lifestyle, democracy and the role of government. Disagreement over abortion is much more serious than disagreement over whether to raise taxes on cigarettes or whether teachers should receive merit pay. War and abortion are matters of life and death. Same-sex marriage is a matter of civil rights for some, and a matter of religious conviction for others.

Although Warren cannot be regarded as a Washington insider, he represents a large church and other followers that strongly object to abortion and homosexuality. It is possible, eventually, that Obama's attempts at unity are going to strike his supporters as hypocrisy, tokensim, duplicity, or even self-doubt. Unity is not the same as a smorgasbord of viewpoints. Why would Obama invite Warren to pray? Warren probably prays to God every Sunday that Americans will change some of the very behaviors for which Obama advocates: abortion and homosexuality. It is possible, someday, that Obama's supporters will lose their infatuation with their leader. Then, the real work of government can begin. (Written 12/26/08)

[ADDED NOTE: Not only has Obama failed to choose from Washington outsiders, but some of his insider choices have proven to be embarrassing. A number of them have histories of failing to pay their taxes or having been involved in questionable financial dealings. Among them are Tim Geithner, Bill Richardson, Tom Dacshle, Kathleen Sebelius,* and Ron Kirk. As a consequence of public outrage, all but Geithner have withdrawn from appointment.] (Written 04/04/09)

[*CORRECTION: Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as Health and Human Services Secretary on 04/28/09.] (Written 04/29/09)

Addendum No. 2

Since taking office as President, in addition to appointing cabinet members, Obama has appointed many advisors or assistants commonly known as czars. Although other presidents also appointed czars, none ever appointed so many as Obama. There are currently 32 czars who answer only to the President--not to Congress or to the voters. The concern is not only about the number of czars, but also about their qualifications and whether they comprise or have the potential to comprise a separate government outside the framework of the U.S. Constitution.

There has been much concern over czar Van Jones who was the Special Advisor to the President for Green Jobs. Jones is reportedly a self-proclaimed Communist, a former member of S.T.O.R.M. (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement), and a 9/11 Truther (Jones signed a petition in 2004 that stated that President George W. Bush had allowed the 9/11 attack to occur in order to have a justification to declare war: Jones' signature is a documented fact). Other czars have made controversial remarks regarding abortion, sterilization, and euthanasia. Although the White House defended Jones' appointment, there was a strong call for his resignation from Republicans and Independents. The White House announced Jones' resignation yesterday: Sunday, September 6, 2009.

On July 30, 2009, the Republican National Committee issued a Resolution regarding the appointment of czars.

Resolution to Reform the Obama Administrationís
Policy of Appointing Czars

WHEREAS, in a major consolidation of power for the White House and usurpation of congressional authority, President Barack Obama has appointed over twenty "Czars" to oversee a variety of important policy issues; and

WHEREAS, none of these so-called "Czars" were appointed with congressional approval, yet each manages important areas of national policy, impacting millions of Americans and controlling a significant portion of the federal government's budget; and

WHEREAS, despite the presidentís campaign pledge of executive branch transparency, the appointment of "Czars" shows the Obama administration is circumventing congressional oversight as each of these officials is accountable only to the president; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Constitution states government officers with significant authority in policy issues must be nominated by the president and are subject to the Senate confirmation process; and

WHEREAS, these officers include cabinet-level secretaries tasked with duties similar to those performed by the "Czar" positions; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Constitution instructs that only the U.S. Congress can approve such appointments through Senate confirmation; and

WHEREAS, officials confirmed by the Senate are subject to congressional oversight and annual congressional funding; and

WHEREAS, by contrast, White House officials are agents of the president, and may be immune from congressional questioning because of Executive Privilege; and

WHEREAS, these "Czars" currently advise the president on crucial national policy issues, though the Founding Fathers framed the powers vested in the president to prevent the type of centralized authority President Obama now exerts; and

WHEREAS, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a senior member of the Democrat Party and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, has sent an official protest to President Obama, stating that his effort to appoint "Czars" is an attempt to subvert the authority of the U.S. Congress and is a threat to the "Constitutional system of checks and balances;" therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee recognizes that the current concentration of powers in the Executive Branch is in violation of the powers of the President of the United States as defined in the U.S. Constitution and is dangerous to the citizens of America; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee calls upon the Democrat leadership of the U.S. Congress to halt funding the operations of the federal government vested in these "Czars" until President Obama returns the lawful authority to his cabinet secretaries and lesser officers of the national government; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee calls upon the U.S. Congress to hold President Obama accountable; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee calls upon the U.S. Congress to initiate hearings regarding President Obama's appointment of "Czars;" and be it further

RESOLVED, upon approval of this Resolution, the Republican National Committee will mail this document to congressional Republicans and Republican state parties.

As approved by the Committee on Resolutions, July 30, 2009
[End of quote.]

Throughout his campaign Obama spoke of hope and change, and many people seemed inspired by this message. Nonetheless, it now appears that his campaign slogan may have carried a double meaning. Among voters, hope and change probably meant an end to government corruption--the riddance of certain Washington insiders. However, hope and change may have also been a code word understood only by Obamian insiders. The fundamental changes of which Obama spoke may have meant the attempt to subvert the authority of the U.S. Congress.

To think about the above setting is not a matter of paranoia or racism among those who are beginning to have doubts or suspicions regarding Obama's ability to govern well and appropriately. It is, rather, a matter of courage to take a sober look at the number of and qualifications of the czars and to become aware of their duties, ideology, and powers. At the least, in the case of Van Jones, there was enough evidence to warrant profound concern and consequent action.

Even if we did not attribute to Obama an intentional or conspiratorial attempt to subvert, we still could not overlook the reality that Obama has been politically or socially connected to controversial people (starting with Rev. Wright, Fr. Pfleger, and Ayers). Are these associations based on a shared ideology? Perhaps this is the greater question: is the entire Democratic Party shifting to the extreme left, and was this process begun (as true liberalism) and then sustained (meaning a deterioration of liberalism) by Senator Ted Kennedy (in his role as a major Washington insider), and will the shift reach an irreparable culmination under Obama's presidency? It was, after all, Kennedy's official support that propelled Obama to victory. That would mean the attempt to subvert (the lust for power and the drift into radical ideology) did not begin with Obama, but has been evolving over the past decades. Obama was simply The One to bring it to fruition. (Written 09/07/09: bibliography available.)

Addendum No. 3

This essay is becoming quite long but, as I uncover more information, I feel it is helpful to gather this information into one place and to try to make sense of it. In August, 2009, the Glenn Beck Program made a list of the number of czars that existed as of July 20, 2009. They also included some background information on each czar. Please refer to the Bibliography Notes to access the full document. Below is a brief adaptation of Beck's work.

A List of Obamian Czars

  1. Afghanistan Czar--Richard Holbrooke
  2. AIDS Czar--Jeffrey Crowley
  3. Auto Recovery Czar--Ed Montgomery
  4. Border Czar--Alan Bersin
  5. California Water Czar--David J. Hayes
  6. Car Czar--Ron Bloom (resigned)
  7. Central Region Czar--Dennis Ross
  8. Climate Czar--Todd Stern
  9. Domestic Violence Czar--Lynn Rosenthal
  10. Drug Czar--Gil Kerlikowske
  11. Economic Czar--Paul Volcker
  12. Energy and Environment Czar--Carol Browner
  13. Faith-Based Czar--Joshua DuBois
  14. Government Performance Czar--Jeffrey Zients
  15. Great Lakes Czar--Cameron Davis
  16. Green Jobs Czar --Van Jones (resigned)
  17. Guantanamo Closure Czar--Daniel Fried
  18. Health Czar--Nancy-Ann DeParle
  19. Information Czar--Vivek Kundra
  20. Intelligence Czar--Dennis Blair
  21. Mideast Peace Czar--George Mitchell
  22. Pay Czar--Kenneth R. Feinberg
  23. Regulatory Czar--Cass R. Sunstein
  24. Science Czar--John Holdren
  25. Stimulus Accountability Czar--Earl Devaney
  26. Sudan Czar--J. Scott Gration
  27. TARP Czar--Herb Allison
  28. Technology Czar--Aneesh Chopra
  29. Terrorism Czar--John Brennan
  30. Urban Affairs Czar--Adolfo Carrion, Jr.
  31. Weapons Czar--Ashton Carter
  32. WMD Policy Czar--Gary Samore
  33. Manufacturing Czar--Ron Bloom (as of 09/07/09)

If you refer to Beck's list, you can find more details on the czars: educational and employment history; in some instances their salaries (taxpayers' money) and amounts they donated to political causes; in some cases their ideology. The czars range in qualifications: some have stable backgrounds and some appear to have been involved in controversial activities. (Written 09/11/09: bibliography available.)

Addendum No. 4

The following list contains information on still more people who seem to have a connection to Obama. This is a list of the top contributors to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, as access from the Open Secrets website.

Top Contributors to Obama 2008 Campaign

  • University of California--$1,591,395
  • Goldman Sachs--$994,795
  • Harvard University--$854,747
  • Microsoft Corp--$833,617
  • Google, Inc.--$803,436
  • Citigroup, Inc.--$701,290
  • JP Morgan Chase & Co.--$695,132
  • Time Warner--$590,084
  • Sidley Austin LLP--$588,598
  • Stanford University--$586,557
  • National Amusements, Inc.--$551,683
  • UBS AG--$543,219
  • Wilmerhale Llp--$542,618
  • Skadden, Arps et al--$530,839
  • IBM Corp.--$528,822
  • Columbia University--$528,302
  • Morgan Stanley--$514,881
  • General Electric--$499,130
  • US Government--$494,820
  • Latham & Watkins--$493,835

It should be noted that the above amounts did not come directly from the organizations, but from organization PAC's, individual members or employees or owners, and individuals' immediate families. (Written 06/15/10: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008, 2009, 2010 Natalia J. Garland