The most important appointment decision Obama will make during the transition, bar none, is who becomes, or remains, Secretary of Defense. As I have noted in the past, the Department of Defense oversees the expenditure of 52% of all discretionary spending, rendering it literally impossible for any other cabinet Secretary to oversee as much federal money. Further, keeping Gates on would only worsen Democratic image problems on national security, as he would be the second consecutive non-Democratic Secretary of Defense nominated by a Democratic President. The message would be clear: even Democrats agree that Democrats can't run the military.
It is actually both a smart and good choice. However, since Gates was deeply involved in the war in Iraq (and was part of the team which helped turn it around) and worked for George Bush, continuity during a time of war takes the backseat to politics and all that implies.
More fuel for the belief that even Democrats think Democrats are weak on defense and only Republicans can serve as Secretary of Defense. If Gates stays the full four years, it would mean that from 1953-2013, a Republican will have held the SecDef post for 51 1/2 of 60 years.
Again, notice - not a word about what would be best for a country at war. All about the image it projects and the thwarted desire of the Netroots.
Todd Beeton at MyDD tries, but fails to get beyond the politics of the pick:
I'd certainly prefer to see Gates canned as both a very real and a symbolic closing of the door on the Bush years, particularly on foreign policy, but I'm also well aware that Obama is using this transition period and his cabinet appointments to build up goodwill among his critics and the skeptical establishment. As he continues to build upon the significant political capital he collected on November 4th, one of my concerns is at what point after Jan. 20th does he actually intend to spend it. The downside of Robert Gates is tolerable as long as it wins us something much more valuable in the longrun. As of now I'm willing to give President-elect Obama the benefit of the doubt, he's earned it, but my patience is not limitless.
I can't wait to see what "not limitless" means in reality.
For instance, as Chris Bowers argues persuasively, keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates is inherently a bad idea, because it keeps the same leadership in charge of half the Federal budget and, worse, sends the message that Republicans are needed to manage national security.
Of course Gates and DoD don't at all control "half the Federal budget", but about half of the discretionary portion of the budget (which totals about 36% of the total budget). In fact, entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare) and interest on the debt (which should be rising markedly after the bailout) make up 64% of the budget.
But, of course, discretionary spending is the only area where money is available to divert toward social programs favored by the left. Consequently what you see here in the criticism of the Gates pick is the growing belief - other than the stated one that this affirms the conventional wisdom that Democrats aren't capable of managing national defense - that military spending will remain at or near the level it is now.
Naturally, with the probability of "health care reform" being high on the agenda for the Democratic congress and the incoming administration, the money to fund it has to come from somewhere, wouldn't you think?
Reading the Netroots, you can easily figure out from where they'd like to see it come. And yes, if that's the case, then it certainly does confirm the conventional wisdom that Democrats aren't capable of managing national defense. It also hands Republicans an issue on a silver platter.
Both Gates and Clinton are good choices. Also, this suggests that Obama is going to move quickly to get out of Iraq.
Robert Gates was a leader in the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton which advocated negotiations with other regional actors, including Iran and Syria. By all accounts, Gates agreed with that recommendation. When he joined the Bush Administration he could not advocate such positions publicly because he had to represent and implement Administration policy. By keeping him on, Obama could move towards those aspects of the ISG findings which President Bush rejected. It’s clear that as the US leaves, future Iraqi stability requires involving Iran and Syria, especially because of Iran’s intense influence on the Iraqi government and various militias. Gates is a realist, not a neo-conservative. Realists are less willing to use military means to achieve policy results, they focus on diplomacy, and in fact are willing to negotiate with enemies because that’s where you need diplomacy the most. Gates thus serves two uses for Obama: a) his approach to diplomacy is likely similar to Obama’s, and b) because he was in the Bush cabinet he will help lend credibility to the Obama foreign policy from the right.
In short, Gates and Clinton both give Obama cover and credibility to execute a dramatic shift in US foreign policy.
It’s a smart move to retain Gates, but Obama doesn’t deserve much credit for doing it, not after running down the U.S. effort in Iraq to secure the nomination from the nutjob base of the Democratic Party.
But fear not nutjob base, before he’s done Obama will likely severely weaken or even cripple the U.S. defense capability.
I note that Erb is singing from a year-old sheet of talking points (no doubt from memory) about Iran’s influence, etc., apparently unaware still that Iraqi Shi’a while sharing their version of Islam with the Persians are themselves Arabs, speak a different language, have a different culture, and their own country, and are disinclined to be governed by their neighbors. Especially given that they have finally secured their freedom from the formerly ruling Sunni minority.
The Iraqi Shi’a have as likely had their fill of Iranian-sponsored trouble as the Sunni have had their fill of al-Qaeda.
And, yes, Gates was a member of the thankfully forgotten "Iraq Study Group," and then joined Bush and Petraeus in prosecuting the surge and achieving victory in Iraq. He will be remembered for that, not for his part in the bloviations of that group.
"There’s no need to be so strident. I’m sure we can negotiate a solution that will address your concerns."
"I ain’t interested. Just give me your money. Right now, before I shoot you!"
"I can see you’re angry, and I’m sure you have legitimate grievances. Since I have a lot of money, I’m sure something can be done about this. How about if you only take half my money now, and I’ll set up a drawing account so you can get the same amount of money each year?"
"How about you give me all your money right now, including the whole drawing account? And then I won’t shoot you."
"Well, if you insist, as long as you respect the negotiation process. I’m glad we were able to come to an accommodation."
Conservatives really need to beat down this whole "cutting the military will save our budget" line hard. Even if we cut the military 100%... it’s not even close to enough, because SS and Medi* spending are SO FREAKING HUGE.
If the situation is so desperate that we absolutely need to cut military spending forthwith, then we have a wildly greater need to cut SS and Medi* spending forthwith.
I have shown many people the graphs of the spending, and almost without exception they are surprised. People do not realize that military expenditures are dwarfed by social expenditures. Another press fail, with their much-ballyhooed "layers of editors" mindlessly transmitting what are basically lies about our expenditures because they don’t like the military.
Jeremy Bowers - People do not realize that military expenditures are dwarfed by social expenditures. Another press fail, with their much-ballyhooed "layers of editors" mindlessly transmitting what are basically lies about our expenditures because they don’t like the military.
Um... A press "fail" implies that it’s done unintentionally and from ignorance. Why on earth should we believe that the MSM doesn’t know how much of the federal budget is spend on guns vs. butter?
O’ course, it may be like the Iraq and 9-11 "connection": people believed it existed even though nobody claimed that it did. There are also people who believe that The Annointed One is some sort of genius despite a near-complete lack of any evidence for this.
People have odd beliefs, and they tend to resist anything that challenges them. Hence, for example, the persistent belief in the efficacy of socialism, a belief that is about to ruin our country.
Sorry but you’re stuck with a competent Democrat President, stop believing your own propoganda.
By what possible standard do you declare him competent? He hasn’t been president for one day yet, and he’s never done anything. He’s a sales pitch.
He mouthed off about the "same old failed policies" and the need for "Change!" and so far he has staffed up his politburo with Clinton retreads and Bush’s guy at Defense after predicating his entire candidacy on what a disaster Iraq was.
He was the guy who was against it from the beginning! He promised surrendur and defeat, no matter what. He would sweep out the old order and bring "Change!" and "Hope!" Now he’s got Clinton! and Bush! in the two top cabinet spots, and the protege of CitiBank’s Rubin! at Treasury.
In other words, no Change! Just a guy who had no serious plan, no clue, no new people, just a girlyman rent-a-regime.
A press "fail" implies that it’s done unintentionally and from ignorance.
I would say it’s a fail when it fails to inform us and instead puts out false and misleading statements; the reasons why don’t impact whether that happens or not.
In other words, no Change! Just a guy who had no serious plan, no clue, no new people, just a girlyman rent-a-regime.
Well, one thing has impressed me about Obama, beyond just sticking it in the Left’s eye. He is showing some evidence that all his Bush-bashing was just stuff he knew wasn’t true, which he needed to get himself elected. I still have little "hope", but even a man who simply maintains half of Bush’s seriousness should give our enemies pause, with extra-double shock from expecting a total pushover. He speech talked up capitulation, but his actions so far are "Bush term 3.0" on the foreign policy front. We’ll see what happens when it goes beyond personnel selections alone, but perhaps it won’t be a complete foreign policy disaster. (Goodness knows we’ll have enough domestic disaster...)
I mean, that’s hardly an endorsement ("Good news, he was lying, just like all the other politicians!"), but it’s something.
Very few countries operate under a ’your money or your life’ approach. Iran clearly doesn’t. Diplomacy is complex, it’s misleading to compare it to dichotomous situations where it’s either kill or be killed. That comes up sometimes, and good diplomats have to recognize it. But the US has found itself in a position of limited options. Smart diplomacy works from there to see what can be done. What other options are there?
Well, one thing has impressed me about Obama, beyond just sticking it in the Left’s eye.
The big target is the health care system. As Mark Steyn notes, that’s pretty much the point of no return for a free and dynamic society. The Clintons went for it and whiffed.
Obama doesn’t want to scare anyone before he makes his big moves. He wants the markets to stabilize and Iraq to fade into the sunset. Right now he has both houses of Congress. With that he wields immense power.
If we don’t cross the line into the socialist tar pit this time, it will be a miracle.
We’ll lose our superpower status, with the military cut way back and incapable of projecting power when its needed. That will lead to a much more deeply unsettled world.
With Hillary in the lead at State, our sovereignty will be bargained away and strapped into a trans-national treaty structure.
If you think that it was weird, bizarre, frightening the way the media went into the tank for Obama during the election, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is going to be a catastrophe.