The Shocking Pattern of Obama Repeating Some of the Worst of George W. Bush
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Where the nomination of an “extreme” candidate might have hardened the impression of Obama as an extremist, might not a public hearing have helped eradicate the very preconception that a frightened withdrawal tends to confirm? This question is not asked.
7. Greg Craig: For two years special counsel in the Clinton White House, he led the team defending the president in the impeachment proceedings in Congress. Craig’s declaration of support for Obama in March 2007 was vital to the insurgent candidate, because of his well-known loyalty to the Clintons. Obama made him White House Counsel, and his initial task was to draw up plans for the closing of Guantanamo, a promise made by the president on his first day in the Oval Office. But once the paper was signed, Obama showed little interest in the developing plans. Others were more passionate. Dick Cheney worked on a susceptible populace to resurrect old fears. The forces against closure rallied and spread panic, while the president said nothing. Craig was defeated inside the White House by the “realist” Rahm Emanuel, and sacked.
8. Carol Browner: A leading environmentalist in the Clinton administration, Browner was given a second shot by Obama as director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. She found her efforts thwarted within the administration as well as in Congress: in mid-2010 Obama decided that -- as a way to deal with global warming -- cap-and-trade legislation was a loser for the midterm elections. Pressure on Obama from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to heed business interests served as a strong incitement in forcing Browner’s resignation after the Democratic “shellacking” in midterm elections, a result that his quiet abandonment of cap-and-trade had failed to prevent. The White House had no backup plan for addressing the disaster of global warming. After Browner’s resignation in March 2011, her position was abolished. Since then, Obama has seldom spoken of global warming or climate change.
Moral and Political Limbo
The Obama presidency has been characterized by a refined sense of impossibility. A kind of suffocation sets in when a man of power floats carefully clear of all unorthodox stimuli and resorts to official comforters of the sort exemplified by Panetta. As the above partial list of the saved and the sacked shows, the president lives now in a world in which he is certain never to be told he is wrong when he happens to be on the wrong track. It is a world where the unconventionality of an opinion, or the existence of a possible majority against it somewhere, counts as prima facie evidence against its soundness.
So alternative ideas vanish -- along with the people who represent them. What, then, does President Obama imagine he is doing as he backs into one weak appointment after another, and purges all signs of thought and independence around him? We have a few dim clues.
A popular book on Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals, seems to have prompted Obama to suppose that Lincoln himself “led from behind” and was committed to bipartisanship not only as a tactic but as an always necessary means to the highest good of democracy. A more wishful conceit was never conceived; but Obama has talked of the book easily and often to support a “pragmatic” instinct for constant compromise that he believes himself to share with the American people and with Lincoln.
A larger hint may come from Obama’s recently released National Strategy for Counterterrorism, where a sentence in the president’s own voice asserts: "We face the world as it is, but we will also pursue a strategy for the world we seek." If the words "I face the world as it is" have a familiar sound, the reason is that they received a trial run in Obama’s 2009 Nobel Prize speech. Those words were the bridge across which an ambivalent peacemaker walked to confront the heritage of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King with the realities of power as experienced by the leader of the only superpower in the world.