Tom Donilon: The Last Best Hope to Help Obama Make Vital Strategic Leaps

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jones obama donilon.jpg
(Outgoing National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, President Barack Obama, and newly named National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon; photo credit: Talk Radio News)
Recently I met with David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy blogger and one of Washington’s premier chroniclers of American national security personalities and architecture, for lunch and discussed with him who President Obama’s next National Security Advisor should be.
richard haass dede.jpgOur list was provocative, a bit reckless in a way because we were grasping for names as symbols of certain views or confiding to each other private understandings we had with some of the contenders. Neither of us agreed with all of the names the other threw on to the table.
I won’t say who survived our own mutual, back-and-forth vetoes, but the roster included Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, National Security Council senior staff Dennis Ross, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, CSIS President and former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, CIA Director and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, former US Senator Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman General James Cartwright, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, CNN GPS and Time essayist Fareed Zakaria, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, and former New York Times foreign affairs columnist and Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus (and Daily Beast wunderkind) Leslie Gelb.
There are obvious problems with the candidacies of a number of these people – some because of temperament, some perhaps age, political stripes, or most importantly -whether President Obama could work with the person closely and comfortably.
richard holbrooke dede.jpgExtending this chatter, Les Gelb asked me at the recent Atlantic Monthly/Aspen Institute/Newseum sponsored Washington Ideas Forum if I didn’t have to worry about political reality who would be my “choice” for National Security Advisor. I hedged by giving him a shorter version of the above – but told him that for various reasons, the most interesting candidates would be Haass, Holbrooke, Panetta, Donilon, and Steinberg.
Haass, Gelb and I both thought – as well as Rothkopf, would be too much of a stretch for Obama even though the President really does like to incorporate reasonable, centrist, pragmatic Republicans and their thinking on his team. Richard Haass though would make a formidable National Security Advisor — perhaps better for a Democratic president who too frequently thinks he/she needs to do symbolic things to show toughness rather than a Republican.
Richard Holbrooke is the contemporary Machiavelli of the Democratic political establishment – and I admire him for it. Of all the leading Democratic foreign policy practitioners, Holbrooke is the most tenaciously committed to results in the often fuzzy, inchoate realm of humanitarian, global justice efforts. But the Obama-Holbrooke chemistry reportedly has high toxicity levels, even though there has been recent improvement.
Leon Panetta would have been an interesting choice – sort of the guy who can do everything. Bob Woodward’s recent book on the Obama team recounts how Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell warned incoming DNI Admiral Dennis Blair not to underestimate the “knife fight” he would get into over defining the turf between CIA and DNI no matter how well he knew and liked Leon Panetta. McConnell was right and Panetta ended up clobbering Blair. But to resolve the competing, vague lines of authority in the intelligence, war fighting, diplomatic, stabilization, and development functions of government, Panetta could have been a modern day James Forrestal in getting government to work better and less dysfunctionally on these tasks.
James Steinberg and Tom Donilon are both experts in national security decision making process as well as strategy. They have both been key in moving the Obama administration’s machinery as well as it could be moved given the miserable economic and foreign policy portfolios passed off to them by the George W. Bush administration. Steinberg has handled the Asia portfolio well – and Tom Donilon became something of a Wizard of Oz in the White House, orchestrating behind the scenes literally hundreds of Deputies and Principals meetings with perhaps the most inclusive structure of non-traditional voices and institutions at the table in national security questions in US history.
In fact, the whole question of what is and isn’t a national security issue has undergone revolutionary broadening in the Obama administration, and Donilon’s task has been to make discussions of the new roster of challenges – everything from water and climate to development and natural disasters to migration – a real part of the national security structure rather than tokens.
While the Obama administration has had some serious strategic trip-ups, particularly in Israel-Palestine deal making, the fact is that Donilon’s furious, competent pace has kept the country and the White House afloat and kept the system from taking on too much water and getting bogged down.
After the announcement that Tom Donilon would succeed General Jim Jones as President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Donilon went from being the busiest man in the White House to the even busier busiest man. This is good, and bad, news.
donilon obama oval office.jpgDonilon really did have to be the President’s National Security Advisor. Next to Denis McDonough, who moves from NSC Chief of Staff to Donilon’s former position, no one is trusted or relied upon as much by Obama than Donilon. None of the other contenders on the list above – with the sole exception of Leon Panetta – has the broad institutional grasp and political understanding of how to move the administration’s many national security prima donnas forward.
Donilon’s incumbency in the middle of all of the action today made him stand out more than Steinberg, Ross or other potential inside options who had more narrowly defined portfolios.
Obama’s decision making system – which is huge now and an obvious corrective to the cabal-like operation that Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard Cheney ran during the G.W. Bush years – simply could not function without Donilon (and McDonough).
But that does not mean that the role of being the premier adviser to the President on America’s global threats and challenges can be properly filled by someone who is excellent at a speedy, inclusive, decision making process but too overwhelmed to get distance to think and advise strategically.
Some of the early reactions to the Donilon appointment have focused on his political connections and savvy over his intellectual merits and standing. These critics couldn’t be more wrong.
While Donilon has not taken the path to power that many others in the national security establishment have of carefully pruned and crafted exposes on American foreign policy – published in journals of record like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, National Interest, and American Interest – he has been actively engaged for years in national security strategy groups and working meetings.
His thinking about US foreign policy is known to any who have worked with him in these groups. He’s a systematic, creative, pragmatic thinker about America’s foreign policy challenges – and whether he has expressed himself in roundtable discussions rather than a large volume of opeds makes no difference.
Donilon is a pragmatic, non-ideological practitioner who knows that America’s greatest challenge today is restoring its stock of power and its ability to positively shape the global system. He knows that American power is doubted today and needs to be reinvented – and he thinks about this all of the time. It is what animates him and the furious pace he keeps.
Jim Jones is also being misread by many critics who seem to be cheering his departure. They scoff at his distance from the President, his alleged aloofness – though I never found him aloof in my encounters with him. I found him straightforward and a wry wit. What they are missing is that Jones demonstrated that the NSC job should not be overly reactive to moment by moment events — and to a large degree, he was right.
Jones instinctively knew that if he allowed himself to get sucked into granular, involved-in-every-detail realities of the President’s national security inbox, then the Obama administration would lose its ability to make strategic leaps and place bets on power and possibility that would position America beyond just reacting to the crisis of the day.
Vice President Joe Biden was right in saying during the 2008 campaign that Barack Obama and the United States would be severely and frequently tested by the international system – by friends, by foes, by states and non-state actors – to see where the lines of power were faked and where they were real. Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft has called this “the age of 1000 pinpricks”. Both are right – and General Jones knew that his job was to preempt a ‘reactive presidency’ from undermining a ‘strategic presidency.’
Jones also wanted to think through how to assemble economic and traditional power voices into national security discussions and decisions – and contributed much to the blueprints for a new national security decisionmaking experiment that Tom Donilon and Denis McDonough have implemented.
donilon profile.jpgDonilon is at the helm now – and needs to accomplish several things and keep some key factors in mind:

1. Figure out how to keep the elaborate interagency machinery of policy formulation, review and decision making going without Donilon’s constant supervision. Delegate and train the next Donilon.
2. Step back from the freneticism of the operation now and build capacity to think strategically – create a new “Solarium Project” in which the administration tasks teams to systematically think through the costs and consequences of alternative paths to vital national security objectives. Iran comes to mind. Get your key people into a retreat. Get them to think out loud. Push restart with them.
3. Remember that the Department of Defense is not an independent stand alone body that is a rival to the White House. The Department of Defense and everyone in it – from Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen and his strategists to the various service chiefs and even David Petraeus – work for the White House. Establish protocols for reasserting control of the system. It is unhealthy and imbalanced when the Pentagon can outgun the National Security Council with its strategists, its intelligence capacity, its fleet of cars and jets, and its resources in what often looks like a competition between the White House and DoD. Obama must vest Donilon with the authority to bring the military into a position where it works for the White House – not competes with it.
4. Go back to candidate Obama’s remarks about the interconnectedness of challenges and resist the silo-ing that is going on in much of the administration with regard to Afghanistan policy, China, Russia, and some other high profile concerns.
5. Create a basic primer course for the political shop on American foreign policy, national security and international economic policy challenges. The political team – from those engaged in public outreach, political strategy, and communications – need to better understand the consequences of the NSC’s tasks today, and politics should trump policy only in rare times. America’s power situation is eroding badly and needs to be corrected. Regrettably the political shop is keeping the President from doing not only what is bold but what is necessary to reverse the perception and reality of American decline today. Obama should give Donilon’s operation greater leverage in final policy decisions.

There are probably many other items that should be added to this list – but Tom Donilon and his team are going to have a huge job ahead as no one will remember to give them credit for an improved US-Russia relationship, an on-then off-then back on restart with China (which Donilon engineered during a recent trip to Beijing), vast gains in restoring the non-proliferation commons and locking down nuclear and WMD materials, and the like. They will only see the problems and challenges ahead – Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran, transnational terrorism, the domestic and global economy, and whatever Iraq evolves into.
Donilon’s job needs to be about more than process now.
He needs to work with President Obama to show him how to change the way global gravity is shifting.
Donilon thinks this way. He is a realist and a skeptic of many of the military’s grand schemes in which large resources are given, big promises made, and then no accountability for the military down the road. His ascension telegraphs that President Obama feels he does need to bring the Pentagon to heel, and Donilon is the right guy to do this.
Rather than spending his time in tractionless pursuit of platitudes or remaining safely in the grooves of inertia and incrementalism, Donilon’s political skills and his knowledge of the policy terrain may give us our only chance for the Obama team to finally begin making key strategic leaps that will benefit the nation and international system.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

154 comments on “Tom Donilon: The Last Best Hope to Help Obama Make Vital Strategic Leaps

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    http://palestinenote.com/blogs/blogs/archive/2010/10/15/the-quot-israel-as-a-jewish-state-quot-mantra.aspx
    “Actually, the “core” of the conflict was the refusal by Israelis and Palestinians to recognize each other’s right to the land period. And that ended in 1993, when the Palestinians formally recognized “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” At the same time Israel recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people (every prime minister since 1993 has recognized the Palestinians’ right to a state).”
    “In other words, the Palestinians have met Oren’s demand that the Palestinians “recognize us as their permanent and legitimate neighbors” and he knows it. But, of course, neither he nor Netanyahu will accept “yes” for an answer. They are all about “no.”"
    “To their credit, however, the Palestinians seem not to be falling into this trap. Rather than having to face blame for holding up negotiations by not agreeing to Israel’s latest demand, they tossed the ball right back.”
    “Speaking for the Palestinians, senior negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the Israelis could define their state any way they choose.”
    “He said, “we recognize Israel by whatever name it applies to itself…”
    “The only condition is that the state they recognize would first define its borders. (After all, can anyone expect the Palestinians to recognize Arab East Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron, Jenin, and Ramallah as part of a Jewish state?)”
    “This is exactly right. It is up to Israelis to decide what kind of state they want to live in – a secular democracy or a theocracy (the majority will obviously choose the first). The Palestinians have enough to worry about without defining Israel”
    “One has to hand it to Netanyahu and Oren. This time they have come up with the most bogus excuse ever for not negotiating. And it sounds so innocuous. It isn’t”

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “My initial comment said, go for it, and I still say go for it”
    Thats the whole point, questions. You refuse to recognize that this offer is the exact OPPOSITE of “going for it”, if in fact you define “going for it” as trying to reach any sort of agreement with the Palestinians.
    You keep insisting that if you kick a dog in the head, he’s gonna wag his tail. Such an argument is, as I said; asinine.

    Reply

  3. questions says:

    No, not extricating anything.
    My initial comment said, go for it, and I still say go for it. It’ll be regretted eventually as such things are, but political development is an ugly and messy process.
    US history is littered with the detritus of racism, slavery, state sanctioned wickedness of all sorts. And indeed, our current situation is merely marginally better.
    When you have a right wing coalition, that has been elected in fair elections, you’re stuck. We in the US will be stuck with a bunch of Tea Party nutwings and we’ll have to compromise with them if we’re to get anything at all done.
    Natanyahu has to work with Lieberman and the far right nuts in Israel. They let the nuts in, they gotta work with ‘em.
    If the nuts provide some political cover for Netanyahu, then they do.
    Regardless of motivation, regardless of intention, regardless of wicked or deceptive or gaming horror, I would very much like to see borders, status shift, Fayyad’s vision of institution building and political legitimacy come to fruition.
    If it takes the citizenship oath to do it, so be it.
    The more agreeable the Palestinians are here, and the more dignified and decent they are, the dumber Lieberman looks. Let history judge the racist oaf on his racist oath.
    And while we’re at it, let’s look at US treatment of “others” as well…. We’re not all honey sweet, now, are we?
    We have plenty of right wing nuttery of our own, and we deal with it.
    Setting up nations is an ugly business. You need previously occupied land, you need to mark yourself off as different from all those who have come before, you need some level of hatred, war, foundation sacrifice, new ceremonies and new presto magico incantations and documents…. The transformation of some people into a people is violent, ugly, nasty, useful, protective all at the same time.
    That the US went through a similar process, that the US excluded many people from joining, that the US is still doing so, that the US would like to deport parents of citizens, native born citizens of non-citizen parentage, and that these preferences get some traction — this is really not so far from Israel’s citizenship oath.
    Let Lieberman have his day. Let the Palestinians have a city-state or whatever in the WB. Let the political development be a little less ugly than what their neighbors have been through. Let Hamas domesticate or go defunct. And let’s all move on. In the end, a successful, prosperous Palestine is the best way to trash Lieberman’s worldview. The continued fighting only confirms in his head what he already thinks.
    So agree to “Jewish and democratic” and move on.

    Reply

  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Oh I didn’t miss your “point”, questions. I just think its as asinine as the rest of your prattle has always been. Assuaging the bigotry and fanaticism of political allies or opponents at the cost of constructive dialogue with the Palestinians is hardly what one should consider a pathway for “settling the violence”.
    Frankly, I think you realize your initial comment was as asinine as I have argued it was. Now, with your typical mouthful of oatmeal, you are trying to extricate yourself from a ridiculous narrative of your own making.
    Carry on.

    Reply

  5. Paul Norheim says:

    “When you have a right wing nut case coalition to hold together,
    you have to do a few right wing nut case things to keep them
    happy.” (Questions)
    And how difficult is that, if you yourself happen to be a
    calculating and manipulative rightwing nut case and liar? When
    exactly did Netanyahoo suddenly get transformed into a
    responsible, moderate, peace-loving statesman? Some of the
    members of his coalition make him SEEM responsible and well
    meaning and moderate, but that’s a trick anyone can perform
    when you allow a clown to be your foreign minister.
    Team up with Nadine, and you will seem moderate and
    reasonable. Let Nadine team up with Marcus, and SHE will
    suddenly seem seem moderate and reasonable.

    Reply

  6. questions says:

    POA, I know you don’t “do” nuance, but you really missed my point completely and utterly and totally and absolutely and it wasn’t even that subtle.
    So, just for you, here’s the point — Netanyahu has a right wing nutcase coalition to hold together. When you have a right wing nut case coalition to hold together, you have to do a few right wing nut case things to keep them happy. When you do some right wing nut case things, you do indeed make some stab at political change. And then you regret your stupidity in a couple of generations.
    So if it takes a citizenship oath (and that’s actually what it is) applied to the few Arabs marrying into Israel to get the two sides to draw up boundaries and start moving forward, then in my mind it’s probably not the worst trade off.
    Not that you’ll understand this either because, as I said above, you don’t “do” nuance…..
    By they way, I got a bonus check!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I see columnists in Israel are now publically making the obvious observation that “offers” such as swapping oaths for temporary freezes are obvious attempts, by Netanyahu, to derail the “talks” and paint the Palestinians as the “spoilers.
    Or of course, you can take questions’ stance, and consider these kinds of offers as a pathway to “settling the violence”. I’m sure that opinion resonates quite well in Nadine’s world. Its about time those two teamed up, isn’t it?

    Reply

  8. Don Bacon says:

    All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue.– Plato

    Reply

  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Hey,I got my check”
    No, I don’t think so. No one, except probably a college somewhere, would be willing to pay you for your inane and flimsy prattle.

    Reply

  10. questions says:

    Hey,
    I got my check!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Defending Israel: A How-To Guide
    June 1st, 2010 Eli Clifton
    Today

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Israel’s newest PR weapon: The Internet Megaphone
    Steve Linde
    11/28/2006
    Foreign Ministry is urging supporters of Israel to become cyberspace soldiers in the PR battle. As Al Jazeera’s 24-hour station takes to the air in English and with other new Arab English-language media initiatives such as the Ramallah-based Palestine Times fresh off the press, Israel has begun effectively using a new weapon in its public diplomacy arsenal to fight the media war on the Web – a locally-developed computer software tool called the “Internet Megaphone.” The Foreign Ministry itself is now pushing the idea, urging supporters of Israel everywhere to become cyberspace soldiers “in the new battleground for Israel’s image.” The Megaphone, which was first reported on in The Jerusalem Post when it made its debut in July during the Lebanon war, alerts activists about polls and articles about Israel on the Internet and enables them to express their support or opposition by e-mail. After just four months, it has been downloaded by more than 25,000 people from the Web site called GIYUS (Mobilization) which stands for Give Israel Your Support. Amir Gissin, who heads the Public Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry, has been working behind the scenes to promote the idea. “During the war an initiative began, and we had the opportunity to do some very nice things with the Megaphone community,” Gissin recently told the David Bar-Illan media conference in Ariel. “An Israeli company developed a type of software that functions like a beeper from one central place. They send alerts and anyone who downloads the software gets a pop-up with links to an activity. It can be to vote for Israel in a CNN survey or react to an especially nasty article. We still have a long way to go, but this is our future.”
    continues…….
    http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=42902
    After the last year, is it unreasonable to assume Nadine is a participant in such a program?

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Thought-police is here
    Rona Kuperboim slams Foreign Ministry

    Reply

  14. questions says:

    More on the MERS thing….
    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/what-mers-and-what-role-does-it-have-foreclosure-mess
    Wonder if this will all be wished away, or if there will be enough legal questions to undermine the domestic real estate finance, foreclosure, title, and purchase system.

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “BTW, surely this joke about “hasbarist handlers” is worn out by now?”
    Who’s joking? Whether a participating member of a state (Israel) sanctioned online effort that we all know is very real, or not, your purpose here is to disseminate misinformation, revised history, and opinions that seek to sway sentiments towards Israel. If not an official Hasbarist, surely it is not inaccurate to consider you a card carrying participant in the Megaphone machine.
    Israel’s online propaganda efforts ARE NOT a “conspiracy theory”. It is well known that there is an organized and well funded effort to influence the information flow online about all things Israel. Why should we NOT think you are part of such an effort? What talking points and propaganda have you failed to deliver on Israel’s behalf in a timely and seemingly coordinated manner? Are we to just consider it a coincidence that your opinions and claims of “facts” usually mirror the AIPAC talking points du jour????
    I am one of the individuals here that has made no secret of my belief that you are a part of the Hasbara efforts. If I have mislabeled you, and awarded you with a badge of proffessionalism that you do not deserve, I apologise. If you are not a proffessional propagandist for the state of Israel, and just some wackjob RW zionist that actually believes the Israeli propaganda that you peddle here 24/7, then you have certainly missed your calling. There is certainly no more effective a prevaricator than one who believes their own lies. You should turn in a job application, you might as well get paid for it.

    Reply

  16. DonS says:

    “BTW, surely this joke about “hasbarist handlers” is worn out by now? Nobody is “handling” my opinion any more than they are “handling” yours.”
    Nadine, you tripped in here a year or two ago as one snotty, really offensive poster.
    Your manner may have change a degree or two. The content of your message is as hateful as ever.
    Not to be unpleasant, but you are not trustworthy any more than the radical zionist crowd you hang with.

    Reply

  17. nadine says:

    “I mean to opine that evangelicals, in their simplistic view of the universe and, specifically, of the relationship between their beliefs and geopolitics, are misguided. I stand by that. They are.”
    DonS, I think the Evangelicals have received your message loud and clear. Their message will come by return post on Nov 2nd.
    BTW, surely this joke about “hasbarist handlers” is worn out by now? Nobody is “handling” my opinion any more than they are “handling” yours.

    Reply

  18. DonS says:

    Nadine, I did not mean to imply that your take on evangelicals was misguided. No, I think you and your hasbarist handlers and information providers know exactly what you are doing.
    I mean to opine that evangelicals, in their simplistic view of the universe and, specifically, of the relationship between their beliefs and geopolitics, are misguided. I stand by that. They are.

    Reply

  19. Sand says:

    Well, the topic at hand was sure changed at the hand of usuals!
    bottom line:
    “…To me, however, the primary reason I am worried about the Donilon appointment is that taken with the fact that the president has filled the other prominent recent openings in his staff from within is that it puts the administration at risk of deepening a case of the worst thing to afflict the most unsuccessful of White Houses: **groupthink**…”
    http://rothkopf.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/11/more_on_the_jones_donilon_transition
    God I wish the guy would wake up and realize who he is.

    Reply

  20. Cee says:

    According to Gallup, over 40% of Americans self-identify as Evangelical…that’s an awful lot of people you’ve managed to miss
    Grab your snakes for the evening service.

    Reply

  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting. They pulled Plitnick’s blog post off the front page over at Palestine Note and archived it. I’ve never seen them do that. Usually a post just gets moved down the page with each succeeding blog post, until finally its archivedwhen it arrives at the bottom.
    I wonder why it was removed.

    Reply

  22. Dan Kervick says:

    I thought Mark Zuckerberg was the Antichrist.

    Reply

  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “And I should read that because . . .”
    Your programming is in need of reconfiguration. The newest Nadinonet #3 software should fix what ails you, even if it does use a your backdoor to do so. Fear not, its painless, especially if you use the Lubricon anti-virus program.

    Reply

  24. nadine says:

    “Bill Kristol commenting on the report from a Republican polling firm. And I should read that because . . .”
    …because they are reputable firm with a good track record. I read Nate Silver and PPP for that reason, though Nate leans left and PPP works for the Dems.

    Reply

  25. Paul Norheim says:

    Ah, yes, the New Testament…but I thought you neocon Jews
    were less picky on demonological issues.

    Reply

  26. Don Bacon says:

    Bill Kristol commenting on the report from a Republican polling firm. And I should read that because . . .

    Reply

  27. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The absolute baseline requirement for any potential Antichrist is that he be a strong and successful political leader”
    Couldn’t agree more, Nadine. Obama just couldn’t cut the mustard as an Antichrist.
    If in fact we ever do have the Antichrist as President, it is far more likely that it will be someone YOU consider a “strong and successful political leader”.
    Yes indeedee, if we ever elect the Antichrist, I have no doubt he’ll be a staunch Republican and a solid Zionist.

    Reply

  28. nadine says:

    “In a Harris Poll from March 2010, 24 percent of Republicans
    agreed that Obama

    Reply

  29. nadine says:

    DonS, my comments aren’t “typical” of anything but my ability to read recent polls. As opposed to your 50 year-old stereotypes!
    Here is Bill Kristol’s summation of a recent McLaughlin poll on the election & fp.:
    “The American people strongly support the state of Israel, and want their elected representatives to do so as well. An astounding 93 percent of those polled say the United States should be concerned about the security of the state of Israel. A majority

    Reply

  30. Don Bacon says:

    Good exposition and good points about Obama’s lack of support in his own party (and it’s in both domestic and foreign policy). It’s similar (just similar) to what Jimmy Carter experienced from Scoop Jackson and then Ted Kennedy.
    If a president can’t exert discipline in his own party how can he hope to get respect elsewhere.
    Obama should have said to his party back in May 2009 — Hey, the citizenry (blogosphere) is after me for nonperformance so you need to get behind me or everybody loses.
    Instead the Dem sympathizers back then, and even many of them now, said/say that the citizenry should cave and accept the table scraps that have been offered because the other party is even worse.

    Reply

  31. questions says:

    http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/foreclosure-fraud-for-dummies-4-how-could-this-explode-into-a-systemic-crisis/
    Part IV — not linked in Part III — runs over what happens if, say, title insurers, ya know, stop doing their thing. Like, no mortgages for a while while everyone sorts out the mess.
    No wonder the admin was sort of hoping this would go away.
    Just imagine a time when you can’t buy or sell even at greatly reduced prices. You can’t close out estates, you can’t move for a job, you can’t leave. You can’t arrive.
    The systemic fraud, the lack of regulation and enforcement of any existing regulations has created such a climate of uncertainty that the entire housing market in the US could simply shut down for a while as everyone tries to piece together title, land, payment, ownership, debt level, payoff amounts…. All of this, by the way, statuses that exist because of regulation.
    There’s no property without the kind of third party enforcement and mutual recognition that government brings to bear on the situation. Outside of this system, all there is the the land you can shoot across to kill interlopers.
    And the Tea Party thinks there’s a problem with regulation?

    Reply

  32. PissedoffAmerican says:

    I get it, Don. Read my comment there.

    Reply

  33. questions says:

    Part three of the Rortybomb series goes over the odd incentives in place in the system, and notes that amounts due have been fabricated according to court records.
    From the link, three court cases:

    Reply

  34. Don Bacon says:

    Not so fast. You gotta read it to the end. Plitnick hasn’t given up. “In one sense, then, the failure of the Obama Administration’s efforts opens an opportunity. If we acknowledge that these talks cannot succeed, and the eventual solution, because of the massive expansion of settlements and ongoing split in the Palestinian polity, is going to necessarily be different from the one we have previously envisioned, then we have the time to change the political landscape here.”
    Sure.

    Reply

  35. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hey Dan, check it out. Plitnick has had a recent epiphany that mirrors your own, experienced sometime back. It doesn’t say much for Plitnick’s powers of observation that it took him so long to jump off of Obama’s sinking ship of credibility….
    http://palestinenote.com/blogs/blogs/archive/2010/10/12/giving-up-on-obama.aspx?CommentPosted=true#commentmessage

    Reply

  36. questions says:

    Part two of the Rortybomb series is really interesting. For homeowners, the possibility of short sale, improperly assessed fees, improper collection all loom; for investors, there can be a requirement that the debt be repurchased.
    I think maybe the bonuses shouldn’t go out quite yet as they might be needed for some other purpose. Hmmm.

    Reply

  37. questions says:

    Rortybomb blogging on the foreclosure fraud event:
    http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/foreclosure-fraud-for-dummies-1-the-chains-and-the-stakes/
    Multi-part explanation.

    Reply

  38. questions says:

    Interesting note on the foreclosure thing — some of the comments on the diary are especially interesting. Wow, if this all holds up, what a mess!
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/12/909766/-BREAKING:-Fannie-to-Servicers:-Dont-Mention-Mers
    especially “jfromga”‘s at 11:40:55 a.m. pdt
    A little history about why and how MERS started and what’s up with it now. (mortgage electronic registration systems) — an assignment of a unique mortgage id number to allow for easier e-transfer — but it seems to have gotten a little complicated in terms of who or what can be named in foreclosure documents as the issuer of the mortgage.
    State by state legal checks on every foreclosure to see if it conforms to state law on property transfer.
    The mortgage market could be unsettled for quite some time if this plays out at the individual level. Just wow.
    If anyone knows more about this, please post. I never depend solely on unvetted web posts, and so I don’t know how much of an issue this will be. I am curious, though.
    *****
    And by the way, What Ezra Klein Says.

    Reply

  39. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Geez Dan, I think you are taking Capt.Kangaroo waaaaay too serious.
    Its interesting seeing the good Captain raising such a visceral response from you when you apparently still think that measured debate is possible with Nadine and wig-wag.
    I have found that viewing Captain Kangaroo’s utterances as political satire works very well for me. And surely you must realize that chuckling at his pompous over-elucidated nattering is far less rewarding for him than your obvious irritation is.
    He has appointed himself as blog comedian. I suggest you join in the chorus of laughter his literary absurdities deserve. He has earned it.
    Show some charity.

    Reply

  40. Don Bacon says:

    Advocating revolutionary violence in another country is as American as apple pie, but don’t try it at home.

    Reply

  41. Dan Kervick says:

    “The question is whether Americans will allow this to happen and whether they will have the intelligence and courage to use all means to halt him in his tracks and thus put an end to Obama

    Reply

  42. PissedOffAmerican says:

    You can’t drive Nadine nuts. Impossible.

    Reply

  43. DonS says:

    Evangelical, at least down South, is mostly aligned in a political and cultural way, as Carroll noted. It’s not that you have to be dumb as a post, or let’s say ‘unsophistocated’, but there may well be – and I’d love to see the stats – a correspondence between decline in educational competence and the rise of the evangelical trend.
    But, you know, that point that nadine made about evangelicals loving Israel more than American Jews keeps coming up in my throat. It is so typical, and so God awful misguided and really an indication of how blindly led these souls are (the evangelicals, and nadine too, for all I know). There is nothing remotely corresponding to the notion of a “Jew” that most Southern evangelicals can relate to, at least in a positive way. They are merely spouting back the zombie like, though often quite loud, interpretation of the “literal word of God” – that would be what sane people refer to as the Bible – that preacher Bob just told them, and by God he got it on good authority, maybe even special delivery along with his credentials.
    I understand how all this works politically to the neocon advantage, and one must take that dead seriously, but I cannot fathom how a supposedly intelligent person can make the “argument” with a straight face.
    In any case, I don’t hold much of a brief for any organized religion above any other, but I do think, in a secular democracy, they ought to stick to their snake handling, turning water into wine and whatever, and keep their ‘witnessing’ out of the political realm.
    Used to be that religionists were at least somewhat aware that stepping into the political arena was questionable, maybe even unconstitutional. So far have we come that they, and mainly the evangelicals, shout their politics from the housetops. Isn’t that what we’ve got against the Mullahs?
    As to Don B’s question “So why isn’t every Christian an evangelical?”, you might ask WWJD? But you don’t even want to go there.

    Reply

  44. Don Bacon says:

    Well, for the fun of it (and to drive nadine nuts) let’s take a different tack.
    How many Christians even know the definition of evangelical?
    Evangelical: Of, relating to, or in accordance with the Christian gospel, especially one of the four gospel books of the New Testament.
    So why isn’t every Christian an evangelical?

    Reply

  45. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing how common sense can arrive at the same conclusions as polls can, isn’t it? Cheaper to employ, too.

    Reply

  46. Don Bacon says:

    U.S. Evangelicals: How Many Walk the Walk?
    Fewer fit description than claim to be evangelicals
    by Albert L. Winseman, D. Min. May 31, 2005
    “It has been difficult for experts to get an accurate read on the percentage of evangelicals in the United States, and estimates can vary widely. Looking only at the basic Gallup Poll self-identification question, “Do you consider yourself to be born-again or evangelical?”, it would appear evangelical Christians make up a sizable portion of Americans — 42% according to an April 18-21 poll. However, when taking a different approach and analyzing respondents’ answers to three questions that most evangelical leaders would say are core evangelical doctrine, only 22% of Americans fit the description of an evangelical in Gallup’s May 2-5 poll. (That number is further reduced to 18% if it is limited to those who are Protestants or unaffiliated Christians.)”
    http://tinyurl.com/24w937g

    Reply

  47. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “According to Gallup, over 40% of Americans self-identify as Evangelical….”
    30% of which don’t have a friggin’ clue what that means, or what they are supposedly proffessing to be. To them, the question is akin to “Do you believe in God”…….
    “Gee, I better answer yes, I don’t want them to think I’m a heathen. Besides, Marge down at Albertsons reminded me the other day that this is a Christian nation when we were talking about Barbara Smith’s pathetic little faggot son.”

    Reply

  48. Don Bacon says:

    There’s not much we Americans do about it, is there. We don’t have a parliamentary system for one thing, so there’s no possibility of a vote of confidence.

    Reply

  49. kotsabasis says:

    These revelations of Bob Woodward are toxic to Obama

    Reply

  50. Paul Norheim says:

    In a Harris Poll from March 2010, 24 percent of Republicans
    agreed that Obama

    Reply

  51. nadine says:

    According to Gallup, over 40% of Americans self-identify as Evangelical…that’s an awful lot of people you’ve managed to miss, Carroll.

    Reply

  52. Carroll says:

    Does anyone here talking about education, religion or attitudes in the South even live in the South?
    Let me tell you how it is here…in most respects it’s just like everywhere else. Nuts and non nuts, idiots and educated, bigots and non bigots.
    I don’t personally know any evangelicals, no one I know knows any evangelicals. I am sure there are some around but the only sort of evangelical type I have met is a guy in the country I buy vegetables from in the summer and I think he is a bit off because of his VN days actually. Every time I go out there I have to ‘visit’ and ‘sit awhile’ to listen to his tales about his Daddy and WWII and about how doomsday is coming cause the bible says so.
    Religion in the South is more ‘social” than it is religious…something most non Southerners don’t understand about ‘how things work’ here…LOL
    The South like most places, maybe a bit more so than some regions, is about class, education and politics first…then other things and attitudes come into place behind those.

    Reply

  53. Don Bacon says:

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    Marvell-small, energy-efficient classroom servers, advanced

    Reply

  54. DonS says:

    Convenient, isn’t it, that the ‘enlightened’ evangelical Southerners love, the Jews, according to Nadine, but the ‘liberal’, ‘socialist’, ‘left wing’ commenters on TWN hate the Jews.
    Not even a believable lie.
    When it comes to understanding the South Nadine, you are a total fraud. More garbage fed to you by your handlers material.

    Reply

  55. DonS says:

    “It’s a new South (well maybe Carroll represents a throwback) and a very different set of Evangelicals – they are more pro-Israel than American Jews. Seriously.”
    Evangelical support of Israel is related to a backward concept of religion; it has little to do with hating Jews. Jews are still sterotyped in the South as much as anywhere. Stop believing your own propaganda. We don’t.

    Reply

  56. DonS says:

    Nadine, your response not with standing, these ‘stereotypes’ as you call them are anything but. While they do not represent the majority of school districts, what you consider fringe stereotypes are being fought over constantly in school board meetings and petitioned for by local fundamentalist and right wing groups. In some more rural areas, ‘enlightened’ viewpoints’ don’t even have a chance.
    Don’t discredit things that you have no first hand knowledge of. I’ve lived in the South for over 40 years and see it every day. Prejudice against gays, blacks and Muslims is not being monitored. It’s being promoted. You need to stop speaking from some newsletter version of the truth.

    Reply

  57. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “……and a very different set of Evangelicals – they are more pro-Israel than American Jews. Seriously”
    And you consider that a good thing? Doesn’t send you a message, does it, Nadine?
    Wooooosh. Nadine, proudly marching Israel into the abyss.

    Reply

  58. nadine says:

    DonS, the stereotypes you have of Southerners and Evangelicals are amazing. It’s clear that while prejudice against gays, blacks and Muslims is being carefully monitored by the PC police, it’s open season against some groups. ‘Southerners defend slavery and racism’, ‘Evangelicals hate Jews’, you come out with these offensive and bigoted remarks so matter of factly.
    What’s even more ironic is that the period when those stereotypes represented even a partial truth ended 40 years ago. It’s a new South (well maybe Carroll represents a throwback) and a very different set of Evangelicals – they are more pro-Israel than American Jews. Seriously.

    Reply

  59. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “But what explains the bible belt states, which by most standards have turned out the least well-educated students in America for decade after decade after decade?”
    Inter-cousin diddling?

    Reply

  60. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “…….that offers poor kids a lottery ticket to get out of their local deadly failing schools…..”
    Thats a heaping steaming pile of shit. And you know it.

    Reply

  61. DonS says:

    “The Left has hijacked the curriculum; American history is presented as a litany of slavery, racism and crime”"
    That might be in your more effete Northern abode. In the further South regions, is all redneck heaven, Joe McCarthy, the Earth is 6 days old, slavery was a benign social work program, and such bull shit.
    Some people, you will pardon the allusion, have their head stuck so far up their ass they have to look up to look down.

    Reply

  62. Dan Kervick says:

    OK, Nadine, that might explain some big city school failures. But what explains the bible belt states, which by most standards have turned out the least well-educated students in America for decade after decade after decade?

    Reply

  63. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And Nadine, having had raised a daughter as a single parent, and putting her through private school from preschool to high school, I KNOW what a JOKE a voucher system, as proposed, would be. The amounts offered are a pittance, and even with such a subsidy, most middle class, lower middle class, and poverty level parents would be unable to afford private schools for their children. If you right wing wackjobs have your way, “education” will be a luxury only afforded by the wealthy, while the public education sector rots on the vine. It is already true, in a large part, on a collegiate level. We have priced a quality “education” out of reach for most Americans. And your bullshit “voucher” con-job is just that, a huge stinking con-job.

    Reply

  64. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The Left has hijacked the curriculum; American history is presented as a litany of slavery, racism and crime”
    Beats the shit outta “George Washington and the Cherry Tree”.
    And I can only imagine the “History of Israel” that you’d like to see written and taught.

    Reply

  65. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The Shocking Doctrine of Ed Reform Laid Bare by NBC
    By Sue Peters – October 2nd, 2010
    When I saw the roster of invited guests for NBC

    Reply

  66. nadine says:

    Dan Kervick, for the last generation, the NEA and the Left have had a headlock on education.
    Spending per pupil has gone up and up while educational results have flatlined. The failing DC public schools have a budget well over $1 billion for fewer than 50,000 pupils, a per-pupil expenditure of nearly $30K per. The Left has hijacked the curriculum; American history is presented as a litany of slavery, racism and crime. The NEA works tirelessly to protect the jobs of all its teachers and administrators, whether performing or failing, the students be damned. And OF COURSE the NEA lobbies to kill off the voucher systems that offers poor kids a lottery ticket to get out of their local deadly failing schools – Obama just obliged them by killing the DC voucher system, while his own kids go to Sidwell Friends.
    Care to connect the dots, Dan?
    Have you seen “Waiting for Superman”? I hear it is excellent.

    Reply

  67. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Don B, I misread my own post. Uh oh”
    Don’t feel bad, Don. Cell phone glued to my ear, talking with an associate, I parked my truck in the driveway last week. Upon exiting the truck, I embarked on a panic-mode search of the interior, frantically searching for said communication device. My solution was to suggest to the associate that perhaps he should call my phone, and the ring would enable me to find it. His responding silence returned me to the planet Earth.
    This gettin’ old shit ain’t for sissies.

    Reply

  68. Dan Kervick says:

    Don, I think we’re talking past each other. You seem to be arguing against the claim that the sorry state of the American mind is due to years of educational neglect. But the alternative causes you cite are things I would indeed count as “educational neglect”. Everything we as a society fail to do to turn out highly well-educated citizens is an aspect of our neglect of the duty to educate the young. That includes the social permission of economic inequality and disadvantages.
    Similarly, we are guilty of neglecting our people’s physical health not just when we allow substandard hospitals and clinics, but when we do not teach and impart the habits of a healthy lifestyle, or provide people with the economic wherewithal to sustain such habits.
    And since the educational potential of a society should be in good part a function of its resources, it is appropriate for us to measure ourselves against other rich countries, not much poorer ones.

    Reply

  69. DonS says:

    “I saw no problem with your comment and I didn’t quote you.”
    Don B, I misread my own post. Uh oh.

    Reply

  70. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “By the way, that goes for academics and the college educated. There has been quite a bit too much soft and faddish pseudo-intellectualism in the humanities in recent years. That’s one reason the real left has been weakened and decimated over the past few decades, and replaced by a lame cultural left with no deep and disciplined knowledge of anything, and increasingly incapable of bringing evidence and powerful, compelling arguments to bear on the issues they allegedly care about”
    I nominate “questions” for President of that faculty!!!!!

    Reply

  71. Dan Kervick says:

    “Will the real Dan Kervick please rise?”
    There is no conflict between those two statements Don. The value of democracy and the right of democratic citizens to govern themselves does not depend on their education level or even common sense. I want to support and revitalize our democracy. That doesn’t mean I should start with sentimental and unrealistic assessments of the current state of the American intellect. We all need to elevate our games, mentally speaking.
    By the way, that goes for academics and the college educated. There has been quite a bit too much soft and faddish pseudo-intellectualism in the humanities in recent years. That’s one reason the real left has been weakened and decimated over the past few decades, and replaced by a lame cultural left with no deep and disciplined knowledge of anything, and increasingly incapable of bringing evidence and powerful, compelling arguments to bear on the issues they allegedly care about. We need more scientific, mathematical, logical and economic competence on the left, and fewer flimsy epicycles of shallow, made-up fields and sophomoric self-absorption.

    Reply

  72. Don Bacon says:

    DonS, I saw no problem with your comment and I didn’t quote you.

    Reply

  73. DonS says:

    “So don’t blame “years of educational neglect” when the problem is a societal one.” Yes, Don B, you’re right. I was, by my too rapid enthusiasm to quote the seemingly damning statistics on education, perhaps subconsciously underplaying the “child well being” category. Sigh. You’ve caught me out.
    Anyway, I would add to your list of contributing factors:
    -too much TV
    -too much sugar
    -too much caffeine
    -too much refined food products
    -too much christian fundamentalism
    -parents stupider than previous generation, and not able to/taking time with their children

    Reply

  74. John Waring says:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-10-10/tom-donilon-and-obamas-war-with-the-pentagon/
    I hope Peter Beinart is right, that Donilon wants to wind down the Afghan war.

    Reply

  75. Don Bacon says:

    “Out of 33 nations measured by the OECD, the U.S. ranks 27th for student math literacy and 22nd for student science literacy. — Years of educational neglect has left us with an intellectually unequipped population.”
    Horsepucky.
    First, look at the whole quote:
    excerpt: “Out of 20 “rich countries” measured by UNICEF, the U.S. ranks 19th in “child well-being.” Out of 33 nations measured by the OECD, the U.S. ranks 27th for student math literacy and 22nd for student science literacy.
    Deficient child well-being contributes to problems in education and so such problems should not be blamed on “educational neglect”. For one thing, teachers are one of the most overworked and underpaid professions in America. High school teacher: $43,000 median pay. We pay them so little, and we turn our greatest assets over to them during the day. And it’s one of the most stressful jobs there is.
    Why? a few reasons:
    * one in four children live in poverty
    * 21 percent of students speak a language other than English at home
    * schools are more segregated now than in the sixties
    * more than two million children in the U.S. have a parent in prison
    * the federal government is getting more involved, but charter schools, NCLB and Race To The Top are not solutions and are often harmful.
    * many children are “latchkey” kids — with both parents working long hours.
    So don’t blame “years of educational neglect” when the problem is a societal one.

    Reply

  76. PissedOffAmerican says:

    WHOA!!!! Thats quite a post, Chandra. You must like the idea of having the CIA in your personal life.
    You deserve them. I hope they don’t dally in their efforts to find you, whether your rant is false flag or not.
    BTW, a guy would have to be a fuckin’ idiot to click on your link.

    Reply

  77. James says:

    Philip Giraldi on Jones Resignation (The Return of Sandy Berger)
    http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2010/10/11/the-return-of-sandy-berger/

    Reply

  78. Don Bacon says:

    Will the real Dan Kervick please rise?
    *But, alas, many Americans and their leaders are utterly and ideologically blind to the lessons of history, too selfish and anti-social to see themselves as part of a team and a national community, and too stupid to accept the obvious.
    *Americans also have a right to participate in the governance of their society and help choose its future.

    Reply

  79. Don Bacon says:

    Okay, we know the rules.
    When the Steve-bashing gets hot & heavy it’s time for me to suck up.
    It’s easy to forget how many times he’s been right.
    Steve was way correct on Emanuel (he preferred Daschle, remember?):
    Oct 30 2008
    Will Rahm Emanuel help Obama create a more transparent and accountable White House — or will he propogate secrecy? Will Rahm Emanuel work to disown and give back many of the usurped powers that the White House tried to secure for itself at the expense of the legislature and judiciary — or will he try to maintain many of the monarchial instruments Bush and Cheney put in place? I don’t know the answer actually. I hope Rahm will realize that he’s going to have to see a roll back of White House power for Obama to succeed in the eyes of those who support him and sent him to the world’s top job. We’ll see.
    And on Jones:
    Jun 12 2009
    Friends at the National Security Council respect a great deal the way in which NSC Deputy Tom Donilon is managing his brief. Many see him picking up the load that Jones seems unable or unwilling to carry. Donilon is deeply engaged in the broad Middle East and Iran portfolio, the non-proliferation/WMD/arms control portfolio, the China economic and security portfolio, and he has — according to reports — supported and helped cultivate relationship building between State, DoD, the NSC, and other parts of the national security bureaucracy.

    Reply

  80. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Years of educational neglect has left us with an intellectually unequipped population”
    I have contended for years that the ignorance of the masses is not an accidental symptom of our manner of governance, but is instead a carefully nurtured goal pursued by those who govern.
    Only the hopelessly ignorant would allow trillions to be spent on war when the educational system rots away to third world status. And the recent gas pipeline explosion is indicative of our neglected infrastructure. These pieces of shit that have driven the bus to this dead-end are actually going to “Positively shape the global system”???? You gotta be kidding me.

    Reply

  81. nadine says:

    “. . . there’s a broader issue with the appointment of Tom Donilon, a creature of Congress whose professional formation has taken place entirely within the Washington bubble. Nothing in his background as a lawyer or aide to elected officials and political appointees hints at any skill at strategic thinking, foreign policy formulation, or diplomatic maneuver that is directed at anyone other than domestic constituencies. He gives every sign of faithfully reflecting the political risk aversion, venal deference to campaign contributors, and constipated strategic imagination of the Washington establishment. We Americans have spawned our own version of the eunuchs of old, who flourished inside the walls of the Forbidden City or Topkapi/Dolmabah

    Reply

  82. Dan Kervick says:

    “Out of 33 nations measured by the OECD, the U.S. ranks 27th for student math literacy and 22nd for student science literacy.”
    And people wonder why our popular political culture is so dumbed down, DonS. Years of educational neglect has left us with an intellectually unequipped population.
    But will the major media report the sad news to their viewers about how dumb they are? It’s doubtful.

    Reply

  83. DonS says:

    “Collapsing Empire Watch”, via Glenn Greenwald
    excerpt: “Out of 20 “rich countries” measured by UNICEF, the U.S. ranks 19th in “child well-being.” Out of 33 nations measured by the OECD, the U.S. ranks 27th for student math literacy and 22nd for student science literacy. In 2009, the World Economic Forum ranked 133 nations in terms of “soundness” of their banks, and the U.S. was ranked in 108th place, just behind Tanzania and just ahead of Venezuela. ”
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/10/11/empire/index.html
    Now of course the ‘government is the problem, the whole problem and the only problem’ crowd will point to indications of Americas decline and see, not the need for radical reform; they will see the solution as elimination of government and removing all regulation from other institutions of power. That, of course, is a fucking brilliant conclusion.

    Reply

  84. Dan Kervick says:

    We are our own government in America, Nadine. When we succeed in governing ourselves, and our actions are legitimate expressions of democratic majority rule, then the hand of government is not heavy.
    Voluntary associations *are* good. But Americans also have a right to participate in the governance of their society and help choose its future. The rights of a democratic citizen do not consist solely in the right to form one’s own club and then be left alone.

    Reply

  85. nadine says:

    “But there are other deep streams of American popular thought as well. Many people have a longing to be part of a team and close community, and believe that if they recognize they are “in this thing together” and work shoulder to shoulder with their fellows on a cooperative project, they might just have a Wonderful Life like George Bailey, and end up as “the richest man in town.”" (Dan Kervick)
    That’s the wonderful thing about voluntary associations, Dan, which Americans form all over the place — except where the heavy hand of government teaches them that they are helpless, entitled dependents. The operative word being “voluntary”.
    I still can’t get over your thinking that “A Great Leap Forward” is a good name for a collective effort.

    Reply

  86. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “After all, it’s all too difficult and complex for mere citizens to grasp”
    Besides, who can ponder it when the house is going back to the bank, and little Timmy has no health insurance, and chronic tummy aches??
    Forget the bullshit about “revolution”, Americans have become far too apathetic and detached. More likely than not the collapse will not be punctuated by revolution, but instead will see riots, motivated by individual anger and need rather than a people’s concensus seeking change.
    One thing is for sure, as things are going, it won’t be long now.

    Reply

  87. DonS says:

    “This nation cannot continue on its current path and maintain the masquerade we have costumed as “democracy” for much longer.” (POA)
    It’s been obvious to me for quite a while, especially comparing prioritized spending between US and Europe — similar cultures let’s say — that the US is heading into second or third world status, if we’re not there already. Much like South America perhaps where the social/financial strata means the very wealthy control the apparatus of government and, short of revolution, the rest struggle.
    Of course the libertarians and wingers figure it’s all the fault of government (except defense of course) which, if ‘eliminated’, would right everything. They never question that it’s the masters of the game, the financial owners of too much of the country, who are the real problem and who prevent government from working for the citizenry at large. Delusional of course, but it’s where they project their anger. I refer back up thread to Dan’s rather eloquent summary of the lack of government responsiveness to social purpose. And while Dan K and Don B may split hairs to some extent over whether what’s need is a top down or a bottom up response, I think most of us hereabouts are clear that something is drastically wrong with the priorities of the government that supposed represents all the people, not just the war mongering class.
    Too bad that message doesn’t resonate in Washington; I fear it just get’s laughed at if it’s recognized at all. After all, it’s all too difficult and complex for mere citizens to grasp.

    Reply

  88. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “over at mondoweiss chas freeman has this on Tom Donilon”
    Yes, Kathleen already linked to it upthread.
    Wouldn’t it be illuminating to be able to get inside the minds of some of these DC pundits, insiders, think tankers, and politicians as they are typing these essays such as Steve’s? I wonder at the dichotomy we’d find between the content of their essays, and their actual honest mindsets.
    We now have a culture of deception that permeates the ruling class and those they rub shoulders with. It has become impossible to take anyone at their word if they have been tainted by DC politics. Even someone as likable and seemingly open as Steve is becomes suspect as to motives and alliances. I am not saying this to insult him, as I have a great deal of fondness for Steve, and he has certainly been a gracious and friendly online acquaintance. It just seems to me that this culture of deception, backstabbing, unspoken alliances, and inability to be open and forthright with TRUE ideologies, opinions and sentiments is a matter of survival in DC politics. If one wants to travel in those circles, one must play the game. Sadly, it leaves us, outside the beltway, clueless and powerless, unable to discern fact from fiction, and paralyzed by our own inability to place any trust in those who are tasked to “represent” us. Vote for whom?? Vote for what?? The goals and motives of politicians and policies are so often misrepresented, so rarely adhered to as promised, that our vote seems meaningless.
    Can this societal malaise, apathy, and anger continue on indefinitely, hidden behind the curtain of feigned representation and the charade of national security? Something has to break. This nation cannot continue on its current path and maintain the masquerade we have costumed as “democracy” for much longer.

    Reply

  89. DonS says:

    John W, et al, I was just pulling a 10% cut in all defense related spending out of the air. It’s the sort of cut I’ve been required to deal with over the years in state and federal agency jobs, as well as private non profits. Seems like when times get tough with the budget, the old 10% across the board comes out, as a minimum. Of course the devil is in the details, the way in which cuts are achieved, the time frames, etc etc.
    Still, I take you word for it that 25-30% would be more realistically in line with what we can (not) afford. But my real point of course is that defense is never on the serious chopping block (the way social programs sometimes are). Let’s just call it obscene. (But heavens forbid we should even consider raising taxes on the filthy rich, who can figure out enough ways to use their assets. That would stifle entrepreneurism doncha know)

    Reply

  90. samuelburke says:

    over at mondoweiss chas freeman has this on Tom Donilon.
    . . . there’s a broader issue with the appointment of Tom
    Donilon, a creature of Congress whose professional formation
    has taken place entirely within the Washington bubble. Nothing
    in his background as a lawyer or aide to elected officials and
    political appointees hints at any skill at strategic thinking,
    foreign policy formulation, or diplomatic maneuver that is
    directed at anyone other than domestic constituencies. He gives
    every sign of faithfully reflecting the political risk aversion, venal
    deference to campaign contributors, and constipated strategic
    imagination of the Washington establishment. We Americans
    have spawned our own version of the eunuchs of old, who
    flourished inside the walls of the Forbidden City or
    Topkapi/Dolmabah

    Reply

  91. Don Bacon says:

    I can’t find Cathy Donilon’s salary figure, but Michelle Obama’s COS Anita McBride is at $172,200 (2009), with the total First Lady staff at over $1.5m. Tom Donilon was also at $172,200.

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  92. Carroll says:

    Posted by John Waring, Oct 11 2010, 10:22AM – Link
    We simply can’t afford our current foreign policy. Our economy cannot sustain our expenditures, and, sooner or later, the world will refuse to buy our paper.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Too true.
    This interview is several years old (2004) but proved very accurate and since the dollar is now falling again it’s a good reminder of consequences.
    “Q: What does the U.S. Treasury do with foreign investment?
    “The U.S. Treasury uses investment from abroad to finance the federal deficit – which, in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, was $413 billion. Much of that deficit is a result of the Bush administration’s tax cuts, and spending associated with homeland security and U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    “In a very real way, foreign investment has been used to finance our national security activities abroad and at home,” Zandi says.”
    ..the rest at
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4186041

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  93. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Hey, any chance of finding a spot for my wife? She’s bored, and drinking like a fish.”
    “Yeah, why don’t we hand her over to Jill? We oughta be able to pull a hundred fifty thousand a year or so, and a lack of experience is no big thing, I’m sure Jill can tell her what to do.”
    Just ruminating, not claiming its fact. But, uh, ain’t that the way these sacks of shit do things in Washington DC?

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  94. Don Bacon says:

    The Second Lady has a chief of staff! Who knew that she even had a staff. I guess everybody in Washington has a staff with critical national issues crossing their desks.

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  95. Don Bacon says:

    Obama: “Tom has a wealth of experience that will serve him well in this new assignment. He has served three Presidents and been immersed in our national security for decades. Over the last two years, there is not a single critical national security issue that has not crossed Tom

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  96. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “He claims that this post is motivated by little more than a desire to suck up to Donilon”
    Whatever the motivation, Steve’s essay seems quite lengthy, in spite of not actually saying anything substantive or specific about Donilon’s qualifications for this particular position.
    Perhaps Steve just wants to lubricate some gears that are obviously beginning to freeze up. But something tells me these yahoos in DC don’t need ego boosts, as their heads are already bursting at the seams.
    At can’t quite put my finger on it, but this particular appointment has me feeling a sense of ominous foreboding. I think something is about to pop, in a big way. But perhaps I am just down, realizing that these incompetent sacks of shit have squandered what was a clear majority, and an opportunity to institute REAL change in the status quo. You are about to see dismally low voter turnout on ther left, and some real scary, ignorant, and unqualified wackjobs are going to get their hands on some super dangerous power.

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  97. Dan Kervick says:

    Thanks John. Yes, I really do appreciate David Kaiser’s perspective.

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  98. Don Bacon says:

    Dan, I mis-read your comment and you do eschew government by stakeholders. Your comment “I agree about the replacement of the bottom-up with the top-down model” threw me off.
    But you still cling to the idea that a top-down consensus must be built because the people are too stupid. “But, alas, many Americans and their leaders are utterly and ideologically blind to the lessons of history, too selfish and anti-social to see themselves as part of a team and a national community, and too stupid to accept the obvious.”
    We’re not “part of a team” and we’re not “too stupid to accept the obvious.” We’re individual unique differing people who want and expect the government to protect our rights, follow the law and fulfill campaign promises.
    Protecting our rights means that the government should recognize and protect our human and civil rights according to the Constitution.
    Following the law relates to war and the detention, torture and murder of Americans and others, among other matters.
    Fulfilling campaign promises is self-explanatory.
    None of these requires us to see ourselves as any part of a United-We-Stand, With-Us-Or-Against-Us, One-Nation-Under-God, Well-Disciplined team engaged in great leaps.
    Take your policy in the microcosm. Would any sane person expect TWN readers to see themselves as part of a team and a community? Hell no. We’re all unique and different, from nadine to POA, and more, and thank god for that. From diversity comes strength.
    quote from Noam Chomsky’s ‘Hegemony or Survival”:
    [Woodrow] Wilson’s own view was that an elite of gentlemen with “elevated ideals” must be empowered to preserve “stability and righteousness.” Leading public intellectuals agreed. “The public must be put in its place,” Walter Lippman declared in his progressive essays on democracy. That goal could be achieved in part through “the manufacture of consent,” a “self-conscious art and regular organ of popular government.” this “revolution in the practice of democracy” should enable a “specialized class” to manage the “common interests” that “very largely elude public opinion entirely.” In essence, the Leninist ideal. Lippman had observed the revolution in the practice of democracy firsthand as a member of Wilson’s Committee on Public Information, which was first established to coordinate wartime propaganda and achieved great success in whipping the population into war fever.///end quote
    “No man is wise enough to be another man’s master. Each man’s as good as the next — if not a damn sight better.” –Edward Abbey

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  99. John Waring says:

    Dan,
    David Kaiser develops several of your thoughts on his blog. I think you would enjoy reading his posts.
    http://historyunfolding.blogspot.com/
    DonS,
    10% cut to defense and intelligence? 25% to 33% would be more in line with what we can afford.
    This discussion on Mr. Donilon has an air of unreality to it. We simply can’t afford our current foreign policy. Our economy cannot sustain our expenditures, and, sooner or later, the world will refuse to buy our paper.
    At present one issue should take primacy, and that is the 18% real unemployment in this country. Mr. Obama has two years to turn this around, or the American people will turn him out.

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  100. Dennis says:

    Panetta is a joke.

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  101. Dan Kervick says:

    I didn’t see Steve’s post as pure sucking up. It seemed primarily aimed at conveying the 5-point list of recommendations at the end of the post, and the sucking up was just some softening up to put Donilon and his people (the Donilon “franchise”?) in a receptive mood.
    A couple of the recommendations were of the “delegate, back off and don’t try to control everything” variety.

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  102. Dan Kervick says:

    “What democratic Americans desire to be, first and foremost, is individuals and not members of the collective.”
    Yes, Nadine, I know that there is a strong component in America thought of lonely Randian individualism, one that has a paranoid and egomaniacal aversion to any kind of teamwork and sociality, and fears all instances of these things as absorption into the “collective”. People who carry this kind of stunted adolescent outlook far into adulthood are uncooperative and don’t play well with others and are always worried they are being turned into body-snatching pod people.
    But there are other deep streams of American popular thought as well. Many people have a longing to be part of a team and close community, and believe that if they recognize they are “in this thing together” and work shoulder to shoulder with their fellows on a cooperative project, they might just have a Wonderful Life like George Bailey, and end up as “the richest man in town.”

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  103. Dan Kervick says:

    “Dan, what part of democracy don’t you understand. By “grass roots” and “bottom-up” is meant that policy should originate with the people and not with the “stakeholders” AKA the establishment.”
    Don, I’m having trouble understanding your comment. Didn’t I just criticize the “rule by stakeholder” approach Obama took?

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  104. Dan Kervick says:

    questions, I’m not making any claims about what should or shouldn’t be done in the foreclosure matter. I’m just making the political observation that you can quickly build grass roots political support for some pretty radical measures – like shutting down home foreclosures entirely – with a few prominent scandals and negative news stories about corruption and systemic failure.

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  105. WigWag says:

    Dan Drezner disses Steve Clemons. He claims that this post is motivated by little more than a desire to suck up to Donilon. That seems a little harsh, doesn’t it?
    To wit,
    http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/11/meet_the_new_nsc_advisor_same_as_the_old_nsc_advisor

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  106. questions says:

    Just as a follow up, I am not an economist, but I get the feeling I have a better sense of what money is than, say, Mankiw (who is an economist.)
    One’s own stash of money is far less meaningful than economists seem to understand. That Mankiw has a few million to hand his kids doesn’t guarantee what he wants it to guarantee, but he can’t get himself out of that pre-civil society Hobbesian fantasy that a private stash is a guarantor of life’s triumph over death.
    Private money does nothing to stave off the ravages of other people. It doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be set upon, robbed, beaten and murdered. (Read Hobbes.)
    Private money doesn’t guarantee that the people around you will be industrious, rule-abiding and pleasant. (Read Hobbes.)
    Private money doesn’t guarantee that there will be an entire medical profession devoted to curing what ails you. (Read Hobbes.)
    In fact, private money, especially at the levels we are currently experiencing, does the exact opposite of what Mankiw’s fantasy would suggest.
    With concentrated wealth, the public services that guarantee education, decent behavior, disease control, fire control, transportation, creativity, entertainment…all of this evaporates as we lose out on the wonders of the brains of the masses.
    The more you keep, the less you have. The less taxation there is, the less education, the less creativity, the less beauty, safety, health. Hobbes notes that there is no industriousness or planning for the future in the State of Nature.
    Getting people to exchange, to share, to invest in one another, to agree that schooling matters, that books matter, that short term highs come with long term pains — it’s far more than a bully pulpit we need. We really need to defy the law of universal gravitation of money towards money.
    But the oligarchs and the Mankiws and the angry law professors of the world don’t see it that way, and won’t see it that way.
    They think money is something it isn’t.
    Hobbes had this figured out in the 1600s. Funny, that.
    (Of course, Plato got there first….)
    Social capital is far more valuable than is private capital. And as (?) Mozi (?) said, If you want to make sure your parents are cared for, make sure all parents are cared for.

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  107. Don Bacon says:

    Dan, what part of democracy don’t you understand. By “grass roots” and “bottom-up” is meant that policy should originate with the people and not with the “stakeholders” AKA the establishment.
    On health care, for example, the people wanted single-payer, Obama campaigned on a public option, and then Obama reneged to the establishment and went with the unconstitutional law forcing people to buy insurance policies.

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  108. DonS says:

    “Bullhorns can work; shaming can work; public communications plans can work; well-spent money can work. Public attitudes don’t spring up from the soil and brain cells by spontaneous generation. A lot of them are created by clowns like Glenn Beck. And they can be changed by people willing to fight back.” (Dan)
    . . . which is another reason I still miss Steve Gilliard:
    http://www.thenewsblog.net/
    Note the blog logo: “We Fight Back”
    Gilliard could burn the eyebrows off the likes of a, well you know who, with impeccable words, incisively chosen and delivered in emotionally singing voice. All in the cause of humanity and progressivsm.

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  109. nadine says:

    No, Dan, I missed the earlier comment, though I still think appropriating “the great leap forward” as a label for your program is equivalent to calling it an “Aryanization” program — the hideous connotations should be obvious to all.
    Your recipe for “democratic” collectivization reads like a recipe for scrumptious creamy cheesecake that promises zero calories. Something will be lost in the execution.
    What democratic Americans desire to be, first and foremost, is individuals and not members of the collective. The one counter-example you keep citing, the mobilization of the whole economy for WWII, required enormous applications of fear of Nazi & Japanese conquest, large doses of privation enforced by law, and a massive internal propaganda campaign to achieve the effect. In a good cause, one could argue, but still.
    There is no way short of a World War that you could make Americans go along with your program, so what do you do when more and more people begin to bolt from the program? That’s when heavy government duress comes in; because it has to, or admit failure on the program. That’s when the prisoners start getting shipped off in bulk. That’s when the shortages created by central command are used to starve uncooperative regions into compliance. It comes with the system, Dan.
    Hell, look at the reaction of the American people to two years of Obama’s lurch to the left, small as that lurch may seem to you. (If you don’t see the reaction yet, you will after Nov 2.) Yet you fantasize that they would go along with some massive centrally planned collectivization scheme.
    This is the perpetual fantasy that there’s nothing wrong with socialism; just with Mao personally, or certain implementations. Show me the working model, Dan.

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  110. questions says:

    But there is this other sad, painful, awful, hideous truth about a foreclosure moratorium — there were people in the process of closing on foreclosed properties whose closings were halted because maybe just maybe the sale was problematic.
    Now, clearly, if someone has paid faithfully on a mortgage and the bank steps in and seizes the property DESPITE payment, the foreclosure shouldn’t go through.
    But, honestly, if the mortgage hasn’t “performed” in 15 or 20 months, honestly, what do you do? When the property was overvalued, and the buyer and seller of the mortgage lied to each other, and the current resident of the property will never ever make payments anywhere near the mortgage amount, honestly what’s the right thing to do?
    Somewhere, somehow, someone has to take a huge fucking loss on these insane mortgages. The “poor little rich law prof” whose blogging I was following is an interesting example. He’s in way over his head, underwater, still paying, though. What if he stops paying? Who takes the loss? Should he be foreclosed upon? Should there be a moratorium from which he’d benefit? The guy took out a million dollar mortgage on a 900,000 dollar house, did a fixer upper thing for 100,000. He timed it badly, is all. Should he be protected in a way that keeps the house from recirculating at a significantly lower price?
    I know the paper work is screwy. I know the chain of ownership of the slices and dices is uncertain, badly documented, and yes, frequently fraudulent. I know there are companies whose sole purpose is to forge the “missing” links in the great chain of being….
    BUT, if the mortgages are non-performing, there’s really an issue to figure out. I’m not particularly on the side of the banksters given the level of fraud, but, geeze, it’s not like some of these mortgage takers/homebuyers are particularly non-fraudulent either.
    The real estate market needs to work the kinks out. Sadly, of course, the kinks are real people with real kids and real stupid visions of themselves as homeowners who really could afford real big houses.
    And, as I work my way through Broke, USA, and see the level pushiness on the subprime end of the market, I could really scream. Very decent people get pushed routinely into very undecent credit situations because we haven’t figured out a way to set gentle credit terms for the low end.
    So the injustice shines forth brightly, no doubt.
    But there’s a new crop of regular people who will be frozen out of buying houses at more rational prices until the market is cleared. And if we dump the entire sick-fucking low end credit market, desperate people will be driven to loan sharks rather than to Household Finance and Jackson Hewitt and H and R Block.
    Policy always picks and chooses, always has to compromise.
    If we stop the mortgage foreclosures, we’re picking winners and losers, still.
    It sucks.
    (Oh, and regarding shaming, the Facebook/Newark shame fest probably isn’t going to help Newark very much at all. The donation LOOKS big, but is tiny (1/9 of Newark’s annual school budget), it’s in stock that doesn’t entirely exist near as I can tell, AND there are legal issues given that part of the point is to have Newark control the money, not Christie, but NJ law seems to be in the way.
    (Shaming will piss off precisely the oligarchs we need supporting the system. They’ll dump more money into the US CoC….)
    Obama has a balancing game the likes of which puts “backwards and in high heels” to shame. He’s not a bankster, but he needs the banksters. He’s not a corporate toad, but he needs the toads. Again, look at that Mankiw piece. WTF do you do about a poor little rich kid who just can’t afford a 4% increase in his marginal tax rate because his kids won’t inherit as much…. Never once does he think about the fact that if his kids inherit less, they might even end up with educated neighbors and fellow citizens, educated internists and rheumatologists and oncologists to fix what ails them, educated teachers to teach Greg’s grandkids, educated car mechanics, educated software engineers…. All he can think about is his own damned savings account and his own damned portfolio. He doesn’t live in a society, he lives as a single celled beastie in some fantasy of the State of Nature.
    And that is where all oligarchs live.
    As I said above, what’s an Obama to do?
    Every intervention he makes will come with a reaction, and that reaction may well be not at all what we’d all like. The wealthy don’t like loss any more than anyone else, and if someone making north of 250k per year feels pain over a small bite, shame is insufficient to overcome that. The love of money is pathological, the lack of social feeling is short sighted, and shame isn’t going make people see that they need the whole society to function well.
    We’re all separated and/or divorced from one another — different regions, different health systems, different modes of transportation, different economies, different information services, different neighborhoods that are so separated from each other that the intervening blocks might as well be separate nations. We don’t feel one another’s pain. We don’t identify, we aren’t mutual.
    Shame has no impact on that situation.
    Shame didn’t stop BoA from foreclosing, threats of lawsuits did. They’ll separate out some paperwork and move forward.
    Mankiw and the sad law prof feel no shame complaining about how hard it is on income significantly north of 250k/year.
    There is no shame here.

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  111. Dan Kervick says:

    “What’s an Obama to do when the wealth concentration is truly at oligarchic levels, when seizing the palace doesn’t really work anymore (besides, he’s got the keys for now), when the mass of people and the structures of government basically support the system as it is?”
    “A bullhorn doesn’t work. Sticks don’t work. Namecalling is far more divisive than it is functional. The moneyed interests really do have the money at this point, and the only way out of this structure is the carrot thing.”
    I disagree, questions. Look at what happened recently with the mortgage foreclosure business. The breaking news of a single outrageous scandal raced through the body politic, and within the space of a few days forced the nation’s biggest commercial bank to halt all of their foreclosure operations *entirely*. The momentum from the same scandal then raised calls for broader action at the government level.
    But these kinds of stories and messages are lying all about, just waiting to be picked up and spread, and brought to bear to mobilize public action. A government that was really willing to fight this communications battle for hearts and minds has more than enough ammunition at its disposal.
    A government that is really committed and dedicated to building public support behind a progressive message and plan of progressive action can do plenty to sell that message and sell that plan of action. Ten or twenty highly-publicized stories about the rich behaving badly and employing their abundant funds wastefully and ludicrously; outrageous but true stories about corporate greed and waste; a well-organized plan of public shaming of anti-social behavior among the affluent corporate class; a few well-taught lessons about the nature and role of investment; and some clearly articulated visions of what can be accomplished if we all pull together and work with solidarity and purpose on a coherent plan – a government doing these things could rout the plague of confused and self-defeating public ignorance and subservience, and build broad support for energetic government action on behalf of a more equal and more prosperous society. FDR did it. We can do it again.
    The reason the Obama administration hasn’t taken this step is not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to. Summers and Geithner, to take just too examples, along with the owners of our national media corporations, represent the same classes that Mankiw does. The “progressives” who the White House leans on are only very, very slightly leftish-tilting and philanthropic wing of a generally conservative neoliberal establishment. They are committed above all to holding onto their own class prerogatives, privileges and wealth. Summers is not only one of the most highly-paid professors in academia, but a guy who has amassed a fortune through private investments – a fortune that I am sure he would like to hang on to. Obama decided on a doomed strategy of selling himself to the moneyed classes as the guy who would shield them and stand between them and the pitchforks, while selling lame half-measures to the public behind an African-American face that can easily “pass for progressive”. But it doesn’t work. The owners of America don’t need a pseudo-progressive Democratic conservative in power when they can have a bona fide Hooverite Republican.
    Bullhorns can work; shaming can work; public communications plans can work; well-spent money can work. Public attitudes don’t spring up from the soil and brain cells by spontaneous generation. A lot of them are created by clowns like Glenn Beck. And they can be changed by people willing to fight back.
    What the Democrats have to do is get out of this politically disastrous business of taking money from the person making $50K or $75K to give it to the person making $20K. They should be taking it from the people making $1M and giving it to everyone below that. Why can’t they come up with a plan to turn 90% of Americans into clear net winners?

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  112. Dan Kervick says:

    “Are you not aware that Mao murdered as many as 50 million people during his “Great Leap Forward” through famine and DELIBERATE starvation of those the rulers deemed unworthy? And yet you would have America emulate Mao’s centrally-planned industrialization? Incredible.”
    Are you not aware that I wrote the following about Mao on this very blog three days ago, Nadine?
    “Mao was not just a psychopath, but a totally incompetent and genocidal psychopath, who wrecked the country economically and starved his impoverished people while he was oppressing the society politically and giving it nutjob cult-communist marching orders.”
    An “American-style” great leap forward, which I advocated, would first of all be democratic. There is a world of difference between a national project based on the self-chosen and self-ratified plan of a democratic society and a totalitarian project dictated from some “vanguard” above and foisted on a non-participating and unwilling people. The example of WWII shows that not all centrally organized public investment projects are doomed to the kind of failure. When they have a spirited and broad-based national commitment behind them, and represent the free democratic choice of a free people, they can be triumphantly successful.
    In the second place, an American-style plan of democratically organized public investment and government activism in the economic sphere would not seek to micro-manage all aspects of production, distribution, compensation and capital flow, in the manner of totalitarian socialism, but would only set broad national targets, strategic aims and benchmarks. Such a plan would harness and organize sufficient capital to fund the project; establish a set of practices and well-defined end goals; mobilize the public through networks of public communication, with awards and citations; and then leave most of the job to the entrepreneurial creativity of the American people. The method for combating unemployment and underemployment would not be to assign people to the micromanaged productive tasks the central authorities chose for them, but to hire them all immediately to go to school and re-learn basic and advanced skills, so that they are rapidly made more employable and available to be absorbed into private enterprises.
    This will all take money. One of the chief roles for the government component of a democratic great leap would be to harness some of the large amounts of private capital that are lying around funding nothing productive, due to inadequate demand in the sputtering private market, or that almost just as bad are going into funding unsustainable and wasteful high-end consumption among the super-affluent, expenditures that provide only cheapie one-shot buzz hits of economic stimulation instead of the long tail value of investment expenditures.

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  113. Dan Kervick says:

    “Specifically, and unfortunately, the bottom-up model was replaced by the top-down model, more toward the “well-disciplined polity” model which you admire.”
    I agree about the replacement of the bottom-up with the top-down model, Don. The health care process was precisely the opposite of the process that was advertised. Rather than build a consensus for change that worked from the bottom up and locally toward a national consensus in Washington, the administration took the old approach of getting the wealthy “stakeholders” together in a private room – or in phone conferences whose contents have still not been divulged to the public – hammering out a secret pre-agreement with them, and then ramming this agreement through Congress with no significant public role.
    But a well-disciplined polity and bottom-up change are not incompatible. A strong and cohesive national team for progressive action, based on vibrant and functioning institutions of self-government and democratic consensus-building, can coach itself and develop its own disciplined plan of action and solidarity movement to take on entrenched power. Discipline doesn’t have to be imposed from above.

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  114. questions says:

    We’re not going to have a great leap forward, or world war iii. There’s no way to FORCE the banksters and the capital class in general to give up their stash as too many people across the economic horizon think that taxation is theft, and even if many might like to raise marginal tax rates a bit, the Senate makes diffuse preferences hard to act on.
    Read Mankiw’s little fuss about how much less he’ll “work” should the Bush cuts go away — it’s hilarious. The guy is quite comfortable financially, he says — Harvard pays pretty well, he writes text books, and he gives talks.
    He lets us know just how much that thousand dollar honorarium will be worth after the magic of compounding and then tells us he is devastated to learn that if the marginal rates go up, his thousand dollar honorarium won’t make his kids’ inheritance vastly larger.
    No thought that if he doesn’t collect the honorarium, then maybe someone else will, perhaps someone not at Harvard, maybe someone without tenure, maybe someone with a new idea, maybe someone who will use the honorarium to make a rent payment instead of thinking about how to pad his/her kids’ inheritance.
    Because Mankiw, not a rich bankster, but in really good shape at the height of a dep/recession nonetheless, cannot even formulate the thought that the money that doesn’t go to him might still go somewhere valuable, I’m guessing we as a people are going to have a hard time thinking that money needs to circulate beyond its current course.
    What’s an Obama to do when the wealth concentration is truly at oligarchic levels, when seizing the palace doesn’t really work anymore (besides, he’s got the keys for now), when the mass of people and the structures of government basically support the system as it is?
    A bullhorn doesn’t work. Sticks don’t work. Namecalling is far more divisive than it is functional. The moneyed interests really do have the money at this point, and the only way out of this structure is the carrot thing.
    We have to entice money back into circulation, we can’t really force it.
    And just as electricity won’t flow if it doesn’t have a return path, so money isn’t going to move until it sees a way to return.
    Show the banksters a reasonable rate of return on investment and the money will move. As long as it’s flowing we’ll all get a piece for a time and we’ll feel rich.
    And by the way, the practice of encouraging the vasty fields of greenbacks to engorge might actually play out in really important ways — they are sitting on huge amounts of money that might end up covering some of the losses they took in the securitization market. Who pays for this? We do of course. But then, we were the ones who overpaid for our housing, overspent on technology and entertainment and food, we are the ones who refused to build good schools everywhere to cut down on the upward pressure on suburban housing prices, we are the ones who agreed to disinvest and allow the capital to accumulate. So we might as well pay for it, I guess.
    Uncle Sam could indeed tax us directly and we’d get pissed at him. Or Uncle Sam could let the banksters “tax” us, and the effect is vaguely the same. The debts have to be made good one way or another. And if private industry takes our money, it never feels quite like a “taking” the way it does when the guvmint does the same. I’ve never quite understood this sentiment, but plenty of people feel this way for some reason.
    The war issue, near as I can tell, isn’t what it seems. My offhand guess is that Pakistan both invited us in for the drone attacks and then attacked us for the same attacks because Pakistan is suffering from multiple personality disorder and we have to play along! Fun stuff.
    No all out war, just this medium temperature droning with occasional tantrums in return. And we will put up with it because, umm, oh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, India and China, Pakistan and anyone else in the region who worries us….
    Geostrategy is some seriously fucked up shit, a game of guesses, half guesses, reputational concerns, prisoners dilemmas, resource worries, alliance and dalliance. And when you see that Pakistan’s internal games mirror the worldgame, all you can do is cry over a beer, mourn the lost sons and daughters, and long for the days of the British Empire. (Ok, maybe not.)
    We have a world system so complex at this point, so suffused with conflicting interests, gaming of position, movement of resources, playing with reputations…so suffused with strategizing that we can no longer work through the chain of consequences for any action in any clear way. We built ourselves a monster, and we don’t know how to tame it.
    Just imagine a spike in oil and metal prices right about now.
    Just imagine Pakistan goes total nutwing.
    Just imagine Mankiw’s suffering when his marginal tax rates go from 35% to 39%, the poor dear. He just won’t work as hard. Imagine the rhetoric.
    Spend a few minutes thinking up worst case scenarios that we all know the DC insiders are imagining.
    Then what would you do?

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  115. nadine says:

    “…one has to suspect Obama will choose war – and a big one – as the only politically viable way out of the doldrums.” (Dan Kervick)
    No sign of that, Dan. Woodward’s book makes it plain that Obama only campaigned on “Afghanistan is the good war” for political cover; he’s looking for the exits, not a victory, a word to which he seems allergic. He sent more troops because he bowed to the strong desire of the military not to throw away what they see as a necessary and winnable conflict. But war is a test of will, and Obama’s manifest lack of will, declaration of exit deadlines, and the like, make a bad result more likely than it would otherwise have been. Obama, as I think you’ve noticed, is a weak President.
    “If Obama were even 1/20th of the “socialist” the right portrays him as being, instead of just another neoliberal tool, or if he had even one drop of the moxie, can-do spirit and bully, visionary stuff that flowed through the veins of other presidents whose seat he now fills, he would have figured out how to mobilize the nation behind a massive and comprehensive public investment program – an American-themed “great leap forward” for the 21st century.”
    I am flabbergasted that you would use the term “great leap forward”. China-envy must really be running rampant among the Left. Are you not aware that Mao murdered as many as 50 million people during his “Great Leap Forward” through famine and DELIBERATE starvation of those the rulers deemed unworthy? And yet you would have America emulate Mao’s centrally-planned industrialization? Incredible.
    “As the war experience shows, energetic government action, economic intervention and public mobilization, applied in periodic and relatively short-term crisis busts in between the ordinary years of less centralized, private-sector driven development, can have amazing effects. You can get people to work hard and work together as a team, to save more and defer individual consumption and gratification, and to build the economic foundations of their country with an energetic spirit of optimism, inspiration and urgency”
    Ah yes, “You must sacrifice for the common good! I will lead you.” How many lives have been sacrificed on that altar of tomorrow? The only way you can do it in a democracy is for a cause so great that people more-or-less voluntarily give up their freedom and do what the cause requires (even so, there is coercion required; look at all the emergency laws, drafts and rationing of WWII). Are you hoping for another total war effort, Dan?

    Reply

  116. Don Bacon says:

    Dan Kervick: “But, alas, many Americans and their leaders are utterly and ideologically blind to the lessons of history, too selfish and anti-social to see themselves as part of a team and a national community, and too stupid to accept the obvious.”
    Time for a history lesson.
    excerpt from “Herding Donkeys,” by Ari Berman:

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  117. DonS says:

    Wonderful rant, Dan. Except you forgot to note that Obama will still be complaining about us ‘whiners’. And they’ll still call him a socialist. Fool.
    “There are none so blind as those who will not see”.

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  118. Dan Kervick says:

    Maybe Obama thinks he needs a guy like Donilon to manage his new war.
    Given the continuing deep weakness of the US economy, with its profound unemployment problem, persistently sagging demand, severe corporate hoarding and underinvestment, and no clear end in sight for any of these problems; and given the paralyzed and dysfunctional US political system with its structural incapacity for mobilizing significant employment and public investment projects, decadent popular information culture and fragmented, demoralized and bewildered population; one has to suspect Obama will choose war – and a big one – as the only politically viable way out of the doldrums.
    If Obama were even 1/20th of the “socialist” the right portrays him as being, instead of just another neoliberal tool, or if he had even one drop of the moxie, can-do spirit and bully, visionary stuff that flowed through the veins of other presidents whose seat he now fills, he would have figured out how to mobilize the nation behind a massive and comprehensive public investment program – an American-themed “great leap forward” for the 21st century. Such a program could have put millions of unemployed people to work building the physical, educational and institutional infrastructure of the new US economy. It could have leveled outrageous income imbalances, dipped into the wasteful and unproductive individual bank accounts of the anti-social and parasitical moneybag classes, and steered all that dormant and frozen capital lying unused in corporate accounts into places where it would catalyze dynamism and long-term, productive growth. And it would have handed an inspiring national project and moral equivalent of war to an American population absolutely desperate to take charge of their destiny, take on some noble and inspiring national project, and build their future rather than have that served up to them by the vicissitudes of fate.
    But instead of the moral equivalent of war, we’ll probably just get real war instead. That’s because we’re Americans, who have all been taught since the cradle to believe that large, capital-intensive government projects of any kind are thoroughly evil, *except* when they are projects for organized, global-scale murder. Only the latter such projects can be redeemed from the dark shadows of evil collectivism and declared *good*.
    The size of the US economy doubled during the years from 1939 to 1945 – DOUBLED! And yet that economy was, as we all know, the most centrally planned economy in US history. Nor did the gains vanish after the war, as the economy was returned to the private sector. Instead the industrial and infrastructural foundation that was laid by the war years sustained dramatic postwar growth for decades.
    As the war experience shows, energetic government action, economic intervention and public mobilization, applied in periodic and relatively short-term crisis busts in between the ordinary years of less centralized, private-sector driven development, can have amazing effects. You can get people to work hard and work together as a team, to save more and defer individual consumption and gratification, and to build the economic foundations of their country with an energetic spirit of optimism, inspiration and urgency. And you can get full employment while you do it! With the right kind of leadership, you should be able to get people to understand that you don’t need a war to mount such a national economic development project.
    But, alas, many Americans and their leaders are utterly and ideologically blind to the lessons of history, too selfish and anti-social to see themselves as part of a team and a national community, and too stupid to accept the obvious. So instead we’ll get real war. We’ll eventually take out a massive hit on a designated enemy, and then work hard together to build up and whip out the fancy new hardware so that we can incinerate and blow up lots and lots and lots of Iranians, Lebanese and Afghans – and maybe several other national populations to boot in what is likely to prove a pretty extensive global donnybrook. We’ll also grind up plenty of young, expendable Americans too.
    Obama and Donilon can Blackberry the whole thing from the safety of their Washington offices. When we’re done with the mayhem, we will declare this highly centralized project good, all the while chastising socialists for supporting less murderous and more productive versions of precisely the same thing. We will then congratulate ourselves on the supposed triumph of “free market” capitalism.

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  119. Paul Norheim says:

    As for restoring the “enigma of US power”, I’m not sure if John
    LeCarr

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  120. Don Bacon says:

    That’s amazing — an extensive to-do list for Donilon on national security, with five main topics, but AfPak is not one of them. Afghanistan is mentioned only in passing later on and Pakistan and India are not mentioned at all.
    Donilon needs to accomplish several things:
    1. Delegate
    2. Think strategically
    3. Corral the Pentagon (good luck on that)
    4. Resist silo-ing
    5. Increase leverage on policy
    All process activities.
    I thought we needed a “new way forward” on AfPak?
    The Study Group Report:
    “At nine years and counting, the U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest in our history, surpassing even the Vietnam War, and it will shortly surpass the Soviet Union

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  121. Sand says:

    Some background material on the alleged snitch Lippert (the source link from a Robert Dreyfuss Nation article has disappeared?)
    Steven J. Rosen: “…Mark Lippert, a senior national security adviser to Obama during the campaign, will be chief-of-staff at the National Security Council.
    In that role, he’s likely to be a constant presence by Obama’s side. Lippert, an intelligence officer who served in the Iraq war, was the first foreign policy adviser that Sen. Obama hired.
    Robert Dreyfuss at the Nation said of Lippert, disapprovingly: “Obama’s key staffer was Mark Lippert, a former aide to Senator Patrick Leahy. A Wall Street Journal profile of Lippert last fall portrayed the two men as intimate friends and quoted Obama calling Lippert ‘one of my favorite people in the world.’ According to those who’ve worked closely with Lippert, he is a conservative, cautious centrist who often pulled Obama to the right on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East and who has been a consistent advocate for increased military spending. ‘Even before Obama announced for the presidency, Lippert wanted Obama to be seen as tough on Iran,’ says a lobbyist who’s worked the Iran issue on Capitol Hill. ‘He’s clearly more hawkish than the senator.’”
    Lippert served on the staff of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee–the foreign aid committee–for six years, and is well known to pro-Israel activists…”
    http://www.meforum.org/blog/obama-mideast-monitor/2008/12/mark-lippert-chief-of-staff-at-the-nsc
    Yipee…

    Reply

  122. DonS says:

    Via the link Sand provided above
    ( http://justworldnews.org/archives/004093.html) Helana Cobban writes,
    “Scarier still: he [Donilon] already has a strong record of having forcefully pursued policies that led our country to the brink of disaster. From 1999 through 2005 he was legal counsel and a “top strategic thinker” at the government-backed mortgage company Fannie Mae.”
    OK. We have been trying to unwind that mess for several years now, with minds every bit as brilliant, it seems to me, applied to the task, without great result. Anyway, it’s not a fact I would highlight on my resume.
    The, Helena goes on:
    :So there we have a picture of Donilon as the ultimate Washington Beltway insider. . . As is his wife, who is Mrs. Biden’s chief of staff. . . Small wonder . . . that he thinks that having Dennis Ross guide the country’s policies on Palestine and Iran is quite the best thing to do.”
    A Dennis Ross/Rham Emmanual coup? Or something else. Cobban suggests that Gen. Jones lost out on some “very significant” policy debate, prompting his inauspicious departure, just prior to the mid term elections.
    Cobban also floats some further ‘wild’ suggestions on the timing of Jones departure: 1) a ‘wag the dog’ crazy scheme having Obama launch some military dazzle just before the elections or possible 2) disgust [my word] at Israel’s continued violation of international law and land grabs, as well as stiffing Obama repeatedly in the negotiations process.

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  123. Sand says:

    Intriguing:
    Helena Cobban: “…Tom Donilon, is a politician well honed in the arts of inside-the-Washington-Beltway politicking (and with almost zero experience of international affairs.) And by all accounts it was Tom Donilon who cleared the path for Dennis Ross to glide back in from being board chair of the Jerusalem-based “Jewish People’s Pubic Policy Institute” to lording it over Obama’s originally designated envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, Sen. George Mitchell– to the point where Ross now has all the reins of Washington’s Middle East policy firmly in his own hands…”
    –Jones’s departure– linked to dog-wagging?
    http://justworldnews.org/archives/004093.html
    vs.
    Steve Clemons: “…Donilon is a pragmatic, non-ideological practitioner who knows that America’s greatest challenge today is restoring its stock of power and its ability to positively shape the global system. He knows that American power is doubted today and needs to be reinvented – and he thinks about this all of the time…”
    Something doesn’t compute here… Ross = restoring American power? Also, seeing the amazing amount of nepotism and cronyism that surrounds this guy + “almost zero experience of international affairs” (minus the evidence of smiley photo-ops) — I would put him down to being more a political opportunist rather than a non-ideological pragmatist having the *US* best ‘global’ interests at heart?

    Reply

  124. Paul Norheim says:

    Dating my mother? My sister?
    And Madeleine Albright?
    I have to say that in my book, that would certainly indicate
    a readiness to think outside the box. In comparison,
    Angelina, Beyonce & Pamela would be among the first on a
    “dismally constricted and unimaginative list”, equivalent to
    Hass, Panetta & Holbrooke etc.
    If Holbrooke is such an egotistical bastard (Biden) and a
    Machiavellian of our times (Clemons), I guess he should
    replace Mitchell in the Middle East. And while we’re at it,
    why not let Mitchell replace Holbrooke in Kabul? The light
    at the end of the south-central Asian tunnel seems to be a
    couple of centuries away anyhow, so he’ll do just fine with
    his patience and mild manners and perpetual optimism.
    What have Pamela & Donilon got to do with “vital strategic
    leaps”? Why not someone who has shown a willingness to
    actually go to China, like Flynt Leverett?

    Reply

  125. Warren Metzler says:

    I assume that everyone remembers the children’s fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, whose essence was, from my view, a communication that just because most people believe in something, that thing can still be a delusion, be a figment of people’s imagination.
    And what is the relevance of that to this current post of Steve’s? The following. I suggest that it is literally impossible for any country to produce a desired “geopolitical position”. So it is time we stop acting as if it can occur, and stop assigning people responsibility to have it occur. Look at the recent history of the US. What was the basis for the Vietnam war? The so-called domino theory: if we didn’t stop the communists from taking control of Vietnam, it was only a matter of time before we were dealing with an invasion of California. What is the reality? Vietnam was captured by communists, and here forty years latter, we and Vietnam have diplomatic relationships, and they are slowly but surely moving toward a free enterprise democratic society.
    The same with China, Russia and all the former Soviet countries.
    Just because there are massive amounts of bright people in international affairs, in think tanks, and in government positions, all postulating how the US can exercise its power and intellectual prowess to get the other countries in the world to act as we wish; and spending tens of thousands of hours putting effort into designing and carrying out the plans they construct; doesn’t mean that any such action will ever bear fruit. And I suggest that a rational assessment of the post wwii era would reveal that not one such plan has ever born fruit. All such plans have had outcomes, but never one that really benefited the US in the long run.
    Now to the NSA. We have the Pentagon to tell us how to fight wars that we start. We have the State Department to tell us the mindset of other countries. And we have the intelligence services to let us know major threats we need to respond so. It is totally irrational to believe that a NSA, along with his or her staff, would be able to discern any reality other than to give the president up to date assessments of what are the options given what being presented by the Pentagon, the intelligence services, and the State Department. If that is the only real phenomenon the NSA can provide, then let us look for a smart person who can accomplish that ongoing information gathering, and stop this nonsense of assuming there can ever be a NSA lion tamer, keeping in line all those selfish, prima donna lions from capturing more turf than they deserve.
    Let’s get real people. If we each put our efforts into doing work that is genuinely productive and contributes to the consumers of our work, we can return to having a great planet, that is making steady progress toward peace, fulfillment, contentment and joy for all.

    Reply

  126. Sand says:

    Slightly OT, but not completely.
    –Neocons Talk Deficit but Won

    Reply

  127. Sand says:

    “…His ascension telegraphs that President Obama feels he does need to bring the Pentagon to heel, and Donilon is the right guy to do this.” (Steve)…”
    Yeah! however, my first reaction to this line — is what ‘faction’ of the Pentagon are we talking about? The MIC faction – nah… but what about the faction in the Pentagon that still has some sanity left and knows to attack Iran would be madness — Is that the faction Donilon is being brought in to gang up on?

    Reply

  128. erichwwk says:

    Dan Kervick,
    Wow! Do you ever get it!
    “Steve has the better argument”? Not even close.
    What’s the point in “knowing how to get the job done” if you are clueless in “what the job is, that is worth doing?” Have no experience in that area?
    Wigwag, you disappoint. How can you assume that it is a straight husband to whom the question is posed? Would not my “mother”, “my sister”, “my-ex wife”, Madelaine Albright all be the appropriate answer for a different “someone”? Are traditional husbands the extent of people you conceive in the subset “someone”?
    To have an out-of-control process that can only look for solutions in the arena where peace comes from force is rather troubling (all right, its over-the-top OBSCENE).
    Reminds me of the story about the drunk looking for his keys on the lit porch, rather far down the dark driveway where he suspects they are, because that’s where he is better able to see.
    “Its not what you don’t know that get’s you into trouble, but what you know for sure, that just ain’t so.”

    Reply

  129. DonS says:

    “His ascension telegraphs that President Obama feels he does need to bring the Pentagon to heel, and Donilon is the right guy to do this.” (Steve)
    Lets. . . hope . . . so . . . .
    “Rather than spending his time in tractionless pursuit of platitudes or remaining safely in the grooves of inertia and incrementalism, Donilon’s political skills and his knowledge of the policy terrain may give us our only chance for the Obama team to finally begin making key strategic leaps that will benefit the nation and international system.” (Steve)
    “Strategic leaps” eh? Now exactly what those leaps might be and what one construes “will benefit the nation and international system” is subject to one’s vision of America’s role in the world.
    If you’re a neocon, you think America’s role is to kick every non-neocon conforming ass in the world, the level of kicking being the only matter of concern. Let’s hope Donilon isn’t explicitly in that camp though it’s hard to say Obama’s decisions have demonstrated a seriously radical difference. But, for the hell of it, let’s just dismiss the neocon option as insane, including the neocon commenters here who are feeling in high cotton and love to play the “I told you so” game and the “Obama’s so bad” game while reveling in the apparent vacuum Obama has left for the neocon agenda to significantly proceed in fact.
    No let’s think at least somewhat more middle of the road, you know, what Obama was actually elected to do: wind down America’s crazy wars aned attend to strengthening America internally as a nation. I would go further and posit that what would benefit the “nation and the international system” would be a lessening of America’s footprint all over the globe with a concomitant lessening to the arrogant exceptionalism that masquerades as altruism, on the one hand, and moral exemplar on the other. Oh how deluded we are.
    I realize that with the MI juggernaut controlling most of the landscape that, even if the new “team” wanted to unload it, that burdensome portfolio it couldn’t be liquidated all at once. But steps indeed could be taken that would immediately signal a change in direction. Discontinue all drone strikes? Stop supporting the wrong side in Somalia? Slash the Pentagon budget 10% across the board? Countless other possibilities beg for attention, so rich is our bloated ego and military budget.
    Don’t know if I’ll live to see the day when this misguided tanker of American foreign and military policy get’s redirected. It’s a whole lot bigger that Republican or Democrat, of course. But I’m long since tired of our kabuki government and the attendant systems that nurture it and feed off it, and not so incidentally result in declining current and projected standard of living for Americans long into the future.

    Reply

  130. Carroll says:

    A lot of FP blogs say insiders say that Ross and Rham promoted Donilon for the position.
    Sounds plausible.
    Jones and Gates sure didn’t recommend him.

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  131. Sand says:

    e.g. “…Jones instinctively knew that if he allowed himself to get sucked into granular, involved-in-every-detail realities of the **President’s national security inbox,** then the Obama administration would lose its ability to make strategic leaps and place bets on power and possibility that would position America beyond just reacting to the crisis of the day.
    Go on…
    especially when we hear this:
    “…Jones apparently didn’t get along with most of the White House political advisors, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, senior advisor David Axelrod, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and NSC staffers Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert. Woodward reported that Jones called them the “water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia” and the “campaign set.” Jones almost quit once when one of the “water bugs” denied him access to Obama during an overseas trip to Europe.
    The book revealed that Jones confronted Emanuel for dealing with Donilon instead of him, telling him once, “I’m the national security advisor. When you come down there, come see me.”
    Jones chose Donilon as his deputy at the insistence of Emanuel, despite having no personal connection to him, and later came to regret the choice. Woodward reported that Jones also worked to oust Lippert, whom he accused of leaking information about him to the media…”
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/08/how_bob_woodward_drove_the_nail_in_jim_jones_s_coffin
    So, is Woodward just blowing smoke. Why would Emanuel et. al. bypass Jones — for what possible reason?

    Reply

  132. Sand says:

    “*Leon Panetta*… has the broad institutional grasp and political understanding of how to move the administration’s many national security prima donnas forward…”
    So what you mean his skill set is rather like a conflict mediator, a bit like a marriage counselor — strange when this man’s primary job is ‘supposed to be directing and running the CIA’? So while he’s mediating, who’s actually running department?
    “*James Steinberg* and Tom Donilon are both experts in national security decision making process as well as strategy. They have both been key in moving the Obama administration’s machinery as well as it could be moved given the miserable economic and foreign policy portfolios passed off to them by the George W. Bush administration.”
    James Steinbery a neocon PNAC’er, vice president for Foreign Policy Studies, the Brookings Institution — what looks like yet another Israel policy centric and branded operative…
    http://www.newamericancentury.org/defense-20050128.htm
    Why… “…Steinberg’s record is reassuring to the pro-Israel establishment. He has advocated an increased role for Arab states in helping to create conditions for a Palestinian state, long the position of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee…” as well as all the other ties.
    http://jta.org/news/article/2008/11/24/1001192/jews-praise-obama-appointees
    I’m disappointed, I expected more from you Steve — opening up and discussing what a Donilon power changeover could really mean to our foreign policy direction — esp. Iran.

    Reply

  133. Sand says:

    “*Leon Panetta*… has the broad institutional grasp and political understanding of how to move the administration’s many national security prima donnas forward…”
    So what you mean his skill is rather a conflict mediator, a bit like a marriage counsellor — strange when this man’s primary job is ‘supposed to be directing and running the CIA’? So while he’s mediating, who’s actually running department?
    “*James Steinberg* and Tom Donilon are both experts in national security decision making process as well as strategy. They have both been key in moving the Obama administration’s machinery as well as it could be moved given the miserable economic and foreign policy portfolios passed off to them by the George W. Bush administration.”
    James Steinbery a PNAC’er, vice president for Foreign Policy Studies, the Brookings Institution — definitely another Israel centric policy branded operative…
    http://www.newamericancentury.org/defense-20050128.htm
    Why… “…Steinberg’s record is reassuring to the pro-Israel establishment. He has advocated an increased role for Arab states in helping to create conditions for a Palestinian state, long the position of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee…” as well as all the other ties.
    http://jta.org/news/article/2008/11/24/1001192/jews-praise-obama-appointees
    I’m disappointed, I expected more from you Steve — opening up and discussing what a Donilon power changeover really means.

    Reply

  134. Carroll says:

    “He needs to work with President Obama to show him how to change the way global gravity is shifting”
    You mean Obama doesn’t know already? He said he knew during his campaign. Did he forget?
    “Positively shape the global system”?
    Bizarre.
    Here is the latest declassified AFPAK report
    http://www.fas.org/man/eprint/wh-afpak.pdf
    Yep, what we need is more processes, metrics, matrixs, study groups, retreats, political operatives who are closet FP whizes, plans to regain America power and all that stuff.
    It’s always so successful.
    Or we could save a whole forest of paper by using all the prior proc’s,met’s,mat’s, sg’s,ret’s,po’s and just change the name of the country.
    Hard to believe that all this was spawned from one attack by 15 Saudi terriers who belonged to ALQ, who the CIA said in 2001 had only 2,000 members and only 200 hard core ALQ operatives. And who today, as of July 2010, CIA Panetta says less than 50 to 100 remain.
    But by all means let the GWOT proceed, it is still a GWOT regards of Obama’s terminology. We’ve only invaded three countries if you count Pakistan…got to stir up more terriers.
    What would Washington do without “a dangerous world” to rule?
    Think of all the unemployment it would cause.
    DC home values would plummet.
    I can’t think about this today, it will make me crazy, I’ll think about it tomorrow.. said Scarlet.

    Reply

  135. Bart says:

    What Linda said.
    What we need is someone who will ask Obama to justify our endless wars of sticking sticks in ME eyes.

    Reply

  136. sanitychecker says:

    “Sir, I must inform you that…”
    “Now Geoffrey, old chap, don’t you think the grand piano would look just marvelous right by the fireplace? And I’d move the chairs to the back for the acoustics. Oh, and I don’t care what lady Astor will say: these velvet cushions are gone!”
    “Geoffrey, Geoffrey, what’s all this water gushing in??!!”

    Reply

  137. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “…….no one is trusted or relied upon as much by Obama than Donilon”
    So what??? To what end? Point us to some “successes” that Donilon has engineered in this Administration.
    “None of the other contenders on the list above – with the sole exception of Leon Panetta – has the broad institutional grasp and political understanding of how to move the administration’s many national security prima donnas forward”
    What “prima donnas”??? Escalating hostilities with Iran? Increased internet invasions of privacy?? FBI raids on anti-war groups? Can you be a bit more specific?
    “Donilon is a pragmatic, non-ideological practitioner who knows that America’s greatest challenge today is restoring its stock of power and its ability to positively shape the global system”
    ROFLMAO!!!!!!!
    “Positively shape the global system”
    Thats rich!!! Two disastrous wars, hundreds of thousands dead, on the verge of economic collapse, diminishing global credibility, a subservient whore to the travesties committed by Israel against the Palestinian people, torture, rendition, a complete and utter disregard fopr accountability before the law…..
    Gee Steve, how’s that business of “postively shaping the global system” working out for us? Anyone out there feelin’ “positively shaped” by these incompetent self-serving posturing assholes running our ship of state??
    “…an on-then off-then back on restart with China (which Donilon engineered during a recent trip to Beijing)….”
    HUH???? What the hell does that mean? Are you saying Donilon had some successes in China??? Name one.
    http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.7362/pub_detail.asp
    “…vast gains in restoring the non-proliferation commons and locking down nuclear and WMD materials, and the like…”
    You gotta be shittin’ me. We, here, are producing MORE nuclear weaponry under Obama, and Obama is nurturing Israel’s refusal to join the NPT. This horseshit about Obama having a positive role in non-proliferation is nothing but propaganda, unsupported by the facts. It is indeed disheartening seeing you selling this myth, Steve.
    “He needs to work with President Obama to show him how to change the way global gravity is shifting”
    Yet you have not given us one single concrete example of anything in Donilon’s background that qqualifies him for such a task. I know lots of go getters in their particular field. The best framer I know wouldn’t have a fuckin’ clue how to hang a set of double entry doors. Over simplistic? I don’t think so. A field of expertise is a field of expertise, whether you’re vacuuming elevators, or planning startegies for national security. Being good at one doesn’t make you good at another. This guy is little more than a professional political hit man. A hack. An attack dog.
    Your essay really doesn’t do anything to list qualifications that pertain to any sort of national security expertise. Its vague, general, and gushing. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear questions was the ghostwriter. It really doesn’t say anything, Steve.
    If I take your essay at face value, I now know that Donilon is a go getter. But I haven’t a friggin clue what it is that he’s gonna go get, or what his abilities are to actually get “it”.

    Reply

  138. JohnH says:

    Kervick’s point is great. Why does the issue always seem to revolve around restoring American power? Why does America always have to be the baddest ass? Why not instead choose an unlikely NSA, someone who sees America’s place as constructive, solving the world’s problems, and making it a better place for all?
    This blind emphasis on power echoes any of the world’s great dictators–it was always all about them, their personal narcissism, perks and privileges.
    If, instead of trying the be the world’s baddest ass, the US achieved renown by consistently negotiating win-win situations to tough problems, it would become the consensus world leader–with a fraction of today’s “defense” budgets, leaving lots more money to educate Americans and keep them healthy.

    Reply

  139. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “….and to nominate my dog Rico for the Alpo Foundation’s Global Prize for Canine Excellence”
    Why stop there? I think ya oughta put Rico up for the Nobel Peace Prize. If past recipients are any clue, he’s got a good chance of winning.

    Reply

  140. Dan Kervick says:

    “The polite debate between Steve and Dan is an interesting one; I think Steve has the better argument. Would we really be better off with a National Security Advisor so outside of the mainstream that he doesn’t have a clue how to get the job done? Isn’t national security experience important? Isn’t knowing how to maneuver the Washington bureaucracy important. Would we as Americans be safer or less safe with the type of nontraditional candidate that Dan suggests?”
    It’s not a debate, WigWag. I harangued, and Steve responded briefly and politely. Then I harangued some more. That’s all.
    The Gelb question, as I understood it, was not, “Who is the best person, all things considered, to handle the NSA job?”, nor “Who is the person best equipped with the connections, bureaucratic know-how and political skills necessary to get the NSA job done?” Nor is it a question about whether we would actually be better off with an outsider as opposed to an insider.
    The question was about whom would Steve pick *if he didn’t have to worry about political reality*. To me, that’s an invitation to say something about one’s fundamental and overriding global values and ideals and about who, in all the world, best gets the global scene, and has the best overall vision of how to advance the American prospect within that global environment. Surely such a question calls for a different kind of answer than a question about which of the usual suspects in the usual pool of US foreign policy practitioners would be the most sensible and politically realistic choice. Given some of the very interesting figures and thinkers Steve has discussed glowingly on this blog, I can’t imagine he is incapable of coming up with somebody less safe and less bureaucratically vetted.
    On the dating question, as a guy who hasn’t had a date with a woman other than my wife for about 26 years now, I would probably just scratch my head and think “What’s a date?” or “There are other women?” But no doubt I would then emit the expected, chivalrous answer in very enthusiastic and convincing tones.
    Let me also take this opportunity to cite my son as the recipient of this year’s and every year’s Son of the Year award, and to nominate my dog Rico for the Alpo Foundation’s Global Prize for Canine Excellence.

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  141. LInda says:

    I like the way Wigwag has restated the question here and probably won’t comment again but will attempt to state it more bluntly and nicely than POA would, i.e.,
    “If you could sleep with any man/woman in the world, who would it be when you either know or don’t know for sure the results of their HIV tests?”
    It was an easier question to ask eight years ago when the build-up to the Iraq War was happening and Obama was opposing it but not even in a position to vote on it. At best now, the U.S. and most of these candidates already has the virus and so the debate really is about who of them will stay on their meds and not develop full-blown AIDS.
    So, for me, this debate is mental masturbation.
    I’ve almost resisted making any reference to O’Donnell instead of O’Connell–except to say that our national security and foreign policy right needs some magic and witchcraft to get us out of the mess we are in.

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  142. WigWag says:

    “It’s like asking someone, if you could have a date with any woman in the world, who would it be?’ and getting the answer, Either my wife…” (Dan Kervick)
    It seems to me that the answer “my wife” to the question, “who would you date if you could date any woman in the world” is an excellent response. A husband who would respond that way is a thoughtful gentleman; just the type of person the world needs more of, not fewer of.
    The polite debate between Steve and Dan is an interesting one; I think Steve has the better argument. Would we really be better off with a National Security Advisor so outside of the mainstream that he doesn’t have a clue how to get the job done? Isn’t national security experience important? Isn’t knowing how to maneuver the Washington bureaucracy important. Would we as Americans be safer or less safe with the type of nontraditional candidate that Dan suggests?
    My guess is that we would be less safe.

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  143. Ayse Veli says:

    There’s one man who would be an exceptional National Security Advisor to Obama…..David Miliband.
    David tells things as he sees them without compromising integrity and national interest. Obama needs a person who is this combination as well as being open and unafraid to face off with both the opposition party, his own party and the media. DM has a wide wealth of knowledge and experience which will give Obama the reality check and confidence he desperatley needs in keeping the policies that work and shifting those that don’t whilst maintaining leadership credibility.

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  144. Ayse Veli says:

    There’s one man who would be an exceptional National Security Advisor to Obama…..David Miliband.
    David tells things as he sees them without compromising integrity and national interest. Obama needs a person who is this combination as well as being open and unafraid to face off with both the opposition party, his own party and the media. DM has a wide wealth of knowledge and experience which will give Obama the reality check and confidence he desperatley needs in keeping the policies that work and shifting those that don’t whilst maintaining leadership credibility.

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  145. James says:

    Steve, how can you continue to say such when Donilon is an obvious political operative (lacking national security experience) who has been in support of harsher measures against Iran as well (obviously for AIPAC/Israel!)?:
    New NSA replacing Jones supports harder line against Iran (for AIPAC/Israel of course!):
    http://tinyurl.com/JonesreplacementwantsIranwar

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  146. David Billington says:

    “Rather than spending his time in tractionless pursuit of platitudes or
    remaining safely in the grooves of inertia and incrementalism, Donilon’s
    political skills and his knowledge of the policy terrain may give us our only
    chance for the Obama team to finally begin making key strategic leaps
    that will benefit the nation and international system.” (Steve)
    I don’t see the possibility of inertia next year. If the President moves to
    extend the commitment to Afghanistan and ratchet up the pressure on
    Iran, he will antagonize his base and risk wider war. If instead he moves to
    disengage from the region, he will avoid some risks but incur others for
    which Republicans may hold him to account in 2012. I see no alternative
    to strategic decisions. The question is the direction in which they will go.

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  147. Dan Kervick says:

    “Donilon is a pragmatic, non-ideological practitioner who knows that America’s greatest challenge today is restoring its stock of power and its ability to positively shape the global system. He knows that American power is doubted today and needs to be reinvented – and he thinks about this all of the time. It is what animates him and the furious pace he keeps.”
    Yikes! That sounds rather frightening. He thinks about power *all the time*? Donilon sounds like a guy perfectly poised to become the Robert McNamara of his generation – another manically ambitious and hyperactively kinetic ball of driven craziness – one of The Best and the Most Frenzied. As Lyndon Johnson said of McNamara:

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  148. Dan Kervick says:

    ” … my choices were really the ones I thought would be good in the job.”
    Fair enough, Steve. But I’d love to see you get more into the spirit of the “if you didn’t have to worry about political reality” part of the question.
    Surely there must be somebody you think really “gets” the world, but is utterly and outrageously inappropriate from the standpoint of beltway acceptability. George Soros? John LeCarre?

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  149. steve clemons says:

    hey dan — respect your perspective, but my choices were really the
    ones i thought would be good in the job. and remember, I like Bob
    Gates, though I disagree with him on his views of Donilon and his
    approach to the Afghanistan War. all best, steve

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  150. Dan Kervick says:

    “… if I didn’t have to worry about political reality who would be my “choice” for National Security Advisor. I hedged by giving him a shorter version of the above – but told him that for various reasons, the most interesting candidates would be Haass, Holbrooke, Panetta, Donilon, and Steinberg.”
    I have to say, Steve, that given the open-ended invitation offered by Gelb’s hypothetical, you produced a rather dismally constricted and unimaginative list. It’s like asking someone, “If you could have a date with any woman in the world, who would it be?’ and getting the answer, “Either my wife, my mother, my sister, my ex-wife or Medeleine Albright.”
    Maybe you just didn’t want to give Gelb the satisfaction of a more revealing or intriguing answer, but I think maybe you need to slow down, take a breath, expand your horizons, stop breathing so much airplane air and get off your Blackberry – because it looks like you are developing a sad case of Beltway Traumatic Brain Disorder. Every one of your picks is an utterly safe, vetted and vested member of the loyal and fraternal order of DC zombie undead. One of those steady eddies plus a category five hurricane might actually succeed in gently rocking a boat just a millimeter or two – but I wouldn’t count on it.
    If those are the five guys you might pick if you *didn’t* have to worry about political reality, then who would you pick if you *did* have to worry about political reality? Bob Gates, Bob Gates, Bob Gates, Bob Gates and Bob Gates?

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