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Daily Archives: March 8, 2010

Eric Massa’s a bit miffed

Heh … ok, a bit of an understatement.  Democratic Rep. Eric Massa thinks he’s been a victim of “the Chicago Way”.  And he has absolutely no use for either Steny Hoyer, the House’s number 2 Democrat or Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief-of-staff.

In a radio interview Massa let loose on Emanuel:

“Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn, Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) said. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”

Rep. Massa describes a confrontation with Emanuel in a shower: “I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me.”

He went on:

“When I voted against the cap and trade bill, the phone rang and it was the chief of staff to the president of the United States of America, Rahm Emanuel, and he started swearing at me in terms and words that I hadn’t heard since that crossing the line ceremony on the USS New Jersey in 1983,” Massa said. “And I gave it right back to him, in terms and words that I know are physically impossible.”

“If Rahm Emanuel wants to come after me, maybe he ought to hold himself to the same standards I’m holding myself to and he should resign,” Massa said.

As for Hoyer, Massa had this to say:

“Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me at all, never, not once,” Massa said. “Never before in the history of the House of Representatives has a sitting leader of the Democratic Party discussed allegations of House investigations publicly, before findings of fact. Ever.”

“I was set up for this from the very, very beginning,” he added. “The leadership of the Democratic Party have become exactly what they said they were running against.”

The allegations stem from an incident in which it is asserted that Massa made inappropriate comments to an aide at a Christmas party. Massa doesn’t dispute he made comments but claims that “political correctness” as well as a desire to make an example of a Democrat who isn’t and hasn’t played ball with the leadership is the real reason behind the demand he resign or face an ethics inquiry.

Of course, he has a point considering the outcome of the Rangel ethics probe in which Rep. Charles Rangal got off with nothing more than a virtual slap on the wrist (the ethics panel nor Democratic leadership requested he step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, pressure from other Democrats drove it) and he still retains his seat. He’s also a “yes” vote on the health care bill. Massa, of course, is a ‘no’.

I’m not sure which side is right on the allegations or their seriousness (here’s Massa’s side of it), but it is clear there’s a double standard at work given the treatment of Rangal v. Massa. And one can only hope that Massa will change his mind and continue to sound off about his treatment and expose the double standard. As someone said, if it is true, it amounts to extortion by the House leadership (vote our way or we do an ethics probe). But on top of the bribery we see daily, I’m not sure anyone should be surprised.


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Foreign Policy – why isn’t it working?

Jackson Diehl has a theory:

I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office. A lot of hemming and hawing ensued.

The hemming and hawing which ensued points to the fact that this president has done nothing to forge those sorts of “strong personal relationship[s]” that are so necessary to moving a country’s foreign policy forward. Diehl points to a few suggestions from the administration officials of foreign leaders with whom Obama may have a “strong personal relationship”. Diehl’s examination of each finds the claim to be unlikely. Unsurprisingly one who isn’t suggested is Britain’s Gordon Brown.

The bottom line of course is forging those sorts of relationships is vital to the conduct of foreign policy. Diplomacy is about friends, neutrals and enemies. Friends are THE vital component in forging alliances and the coalitions necessary to deal with the world at large. And without them doing what is necessary to advance your nation’s best interests becomes exponentially harder. A perfect example of that shortcoming playing out is our attempt to increase sanctions on Iran (something we’re apparently now backing away from somewhat). No one is willing to really back our desire to make it tougher on Iran. And if Britain is, given our Falklands gaffe and other slights, they’re probably less likely, or at least less enthusiastic about doing so. Russia has flatly said it’s not at all interested. And recently, so has Brazil.

If you can’t take the time to forge the relationships necessary to advance your country’s best interest, who’s job is it? Well, on a peer to peer level, it’s no one else’s job but that of the President. And, as we watch the stories coming out about these relationships, we find them to be, at best, cordial. And in many cases, they’re less than that.

Diehl ends by emphasizing why this failing to cultivate these strong personal relationships has an effect that can be the difference between success and failure in foreign policy:

Still, it’s worth wondering: Would Sarkozy have fought French public opinion and sent more troops to Afghanistan (he has refused) if he had been cultivated more by Obama? Would Israel’s Netanyahu be willing to take more risks in the (moribund) Middle East peace process if he believed he could count on this U.S. president? Would Karzai cooperate more closely with U.S. commanders in the field if Obama had embraced him?

The answers seem obvious. In foreign as well as domestic affairs, coolness has its cost.

The aloof, “you must come to me” attitude that Obama cultivates isn’t at all useful in the arena which is his exclusively – foreign policy. He talks about “engagement”, but he’s not apparently talking about himself. Engagement with foreign leaders is critical to his ability to successfully conduct the business of the US. A disconnected “leader” focused internally can’t do that. Again, Obama’s leadership is found wanting and wanting in a critical area that could find the next person to hold his office in a very bad relational situation with our allies that will take years to repair.


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Lesson learned?

Simon Heffer of the UK Telegraph pens a fascinating look at the Obama administration’s problems.  Heffer finds the difficulties of President Obama and his team to be a result of their inability to manage “expectations”. The promise of the campaign has not translated into a promising presidency by any stretch.  And the reasons are legion.  But among the most obvious:

Mr Obama benefited in his campaign from an idiotic level of idolatry, in which most of the media participated with an astonishing suspension of cynicism.

Heffer notes that the “sound of the squealing of brakes is now audible all over the American press”, but of course, it’s two years too late. Unlike the determined and concentrated “vetting” of Sarah Palin by the press, things that would have been headlines if it were her, were virtually ignored when it came to Obama. A giant FAIL for the press and the result is sitting in the White House, looking less and less capable every day. Has that lesson been learned or will we be treated to another liberal savior in days and years to come? I opt for the latter and will be interested to again hear the press lament its continued decline as a result.

However, you can bet the press will now try to make up for its malfeasance with a vengeance. And thus the analogy to “squealing brakes” as it stops and changes direction, hoping to salvage some semblance of credibility with the reading, viewing and listening public.

Heffer also notes the telltale signs of a disintegrating administration.

It is a universal political truth that administrations do not begin to fragment when things are going well: it only happens when they go badly, and those who think they know better begin to attack those who manifestly do not. The descent of Barack Obama’s regime, characterised now by factionalism in the Democratic Party and talk of his being set to emulate Jimmy Carter as a one-term president, has been swift and precipitate. It was just 16 months ago that weeping men and women celebrated his victory over John McCain in the American presidential election. If they weep now, a year and six weeks into his rule, it is for different reasons.

Despite desperate attempts to characterize the failure to pass any of its agenda items into law on the opposition party, the Democrats have had the power for a year to pass anything – anything – without a single GOP vote. The failure is not a result of Republican opposition or disagreement, but opposition and disagreement within their own party. And only now, at the 11th hour with the whole health care reform agenda circling the drain and having lost their supermajority in the Senate does Barack Obama step forward and try to lead.

Meanwhile, the infighting goes on, the scapegoat has been fingered (Rham Emanuel) if failure is the result, and the clueless advisers who’ve managed this mess to this point give us Alfred E. Newman’s best “who me?” For those of us who oppose the Obama agenda, it’s been a thankful reprieve from something we pretty much counted on as being inevitable. Some of us remember the Jimmy Carter administration – and not fondly. Again, thankfully, the Obama administration is turning into the Carter administration on steroids.

Speaking of administrations, Heffer points out that, Obama faces what another Democratic president faced with the possible loss of majorities in the mid-term elections. Bill Clinton not only faced them, but saw that possibility come true. Yet he managed to both weather that and successfully campaign for re-election. But, as Heffer says, Obama’s no Bill Clinton:

But Mr Clinton was an operator in a way Mr Obama patently is not. His lack of experience, his dependence on rhetoric rather than action, his disconnection from the lives of many millions of Americans all handicap him heavily.

In fact, the handicap Heffer speaks of has become so obvious it is a joking matter now. Certainly it’s dark humor, but the butt of humor none the less. It reminds me of Hillary Clinton during the campaign talking about Obama’s lack of experience in doing anything by alluding that the only thing he could bring to any situation wan’t experience, but a “nice speech”.   She was widely panned for the comment.  However, in every situation faced by the country thus far, that’s pretty much all he’s brought to the table, isn’t it?

Heffer goes on:

It is not about whose advice he is taking: it is about him grasping what is wrong with America, and finding the will to put it right. That wasted first year, however, is another boulder hanging from his neck: what is wrong needs time to put right. The country’s multi-trillion dollar debt is barely being addressed; and a country engaged in costly foreign wars has a President who seems obsessed with anything but foreign policy – as a disregarded Britain is beginning to realise.

Not only is Britain beginning to realize it, but so is the rest of the world. There is no coherent foreign policy plan. Gaffes are constant. Our South American strategy, for instance, seems to be to cozy up to dictators while ignoring or actively opposing our allies in the region – like Colombia and Honduras. Or dissing them – like Britain. As one expert said recently, Obama wants a “quiet world” so he can indeed ignore foreign policy and concentrate domestically.

However, he appears to be failing in both areas. The rest of the world is noting the diminished American diplomatic presence and leadership and beginning to react in ways not in our best national interest. Domestically the lack of leadership has had telling results as well – factionalism within the governing party that has all but ground Obama’s agenda to a halt.

Above it all, aloof and disconnected, is Obama who, it seems, was under the impression that he was going to be a ruler who merely had to suggest what needed to be done and power of his personality and vision would be enough to have his minions fashion the proper legislation and pass it by acclimation.

Leadership is a very difficult art. Oh certainly there’s some science too it, but for the most part it is an art. And an unfortunate “truth” of that art is you rarely get a second chance to establish yourself in a leadership role. First impressions are incredibly important and lasting. If you are perceived as weak, inexperienced and clueless that will constantly work against you as others attempt to exploit those weaknesses. One of the lessons of leadership in the military, for instance, is when you take a new leadership position, you come in hard, make your mark and then, if the situation warrants it, you can back off at a later date. But come in any other way and you’re likely to see you leadership questioned and challenged.

A variation of that theme is now playing out in Washington DC as Obama’s leadership, such that it is, is most definitely being questioned and challenged. The growing perception is he’s weak and ineffective. That his only strength, as Hillary Clinton alluded too, is a good speech. That he’s all talk and no action.

While that may be greeted as good news among domestic political opponents, it is bad news for this country internationally. And it could lead to all sorts of situations which a very detrimental to our national interest.

That takes me back to the initial lesson to be learned. Heffer talks about Obama “sycophants” (Axelrod, Jarret, etc) and how they’ve done Obama a disservice with their advice. In fact the largest and most complicit group of sycophants that I hold most responsible for the present situation are the press.

They did none of the hard and dirty work of vetting this man that they apparently delighted in doing with other candidates, most notably Sarah Palin. They completely abrogated their self-assumed and oft proclaimed responsibility to inform the public and became cheerleaders and propagandists. And they did the nation a horrible disservice. And because of their overwhelming backing of a marginal and mostly unknown candidate who they found attractive for various reasons and gave a good speech, they ignored his associates, inexperience and lack of accomplishment. He now sits in the White House, his inexperience and ineptness obvious to all.

If there is any lesson in this which should be internalized by any entity, it is the press who should now be doing some very heavy soul searching. Hint: this may also help explain part of your precipitous demise and growing credibility problems as well.


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