The Shocking Pattern of Obama Repeating Some of the Worst of George W. Bush
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Advisers and nominees with views that were in line with Obama's 2008 election campaign or his professed goals in 2009, but who have since been fired, asked to resign or step down, or seen their nominations dropped:
1. General James Jones: Former Marine Corps Commandant and a skeptic of the Afghanistan escalation, Jones became the president’s first National Security Adviser. He was, however, often denied meetings with Obama, who seems to have looked on Gates as a superior technocrat, Petraeus as a more prestigious officer, and Donilon as a more fervent believer in the split-the-difference war and diplomatic policies Obama elected to pursue. Jones resigned in October 2010, under pressure.
A curious point: Obama had spoken to Jones only twice before appointing him to so high a post and seems hardly to have come to know him by the time he resigned.
2. Karl Eikenberry: Commander of Combined Forces in Afghanistan before he was made ambassador, Eikenberry, a retired Lieutenant General, had seniority over both Petraeus and then war commander General Stanley McChrystal when it came to experience in that country and theater of war. He was the author of cables to the State Department in late 2009, which carried a stinging rebuke to the conduct of the war and unconcealed hostility toward any new policy of escalation. The Eikenberry cables were drafted in order to influence the White House review that fall; they advised that the Afghan war was in the process of being lost, that it could never be won, and that nothing good would come from an increased commitment of U.S. troops.
Petraeus, then Centcom commander, and McChrystal were both disturbed by the cables -- startled when they arrived unbidden and intimidated by their authority. Obama, astonishingly, chose to ignore them. This may be the single most baffling occasion of the many when fate dealt a winning card to the president and yet he folded. Among other such occasions: the 2008-2009 bank bailouts and the opening for financial regulation; the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the opportunity for a revised environmental policy; the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns and a revised policy toward nuclear energy; the Goldstone Report and the chance for an end to the Gaza blockade. But of all these as well as other cases that might be mentioned, the Eikenberry cables offer the clearest instance of persisting in a discredited policy against the weight of impressive evidence.
Ambassador Eikenberry retired in 2011, and Obama replaced him with Ryan Crocker, the Foreign Service officer brought into Iraq by Bush to help General Petraeus manage the details and publicity around the Iraq surge of 2007-2008.
3. Paul Volcker: Head of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Carter and Reagan, Volker had a record (not necessarily common among upper-echelon workers in finance) entirely free of the reproach of venality. A steady adviser to the 2008 Obama campaign, he lent gravity to the young candidate's professions of competence in financial matters. He also counseled Obama against the one-sidedness of a recovery policy founded on repayment guarantees to financial outfits such as Citigroup and Bank of America: the policy, that is, favored by Summers and Geithner in preference to massive job creation and a major investment in infrastructure. "If you want to be a bank,” he said, “follow the bank rules. If Goldman Sachs and the others want to do proprietary trading, then they shouldn’t be banks.” His advice -- to tighten regulation in order to curb speculative trading -- was adopted late and in diluted form. In January 2010, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, which paid no federal taxes that year, replaced him.