Change or More of the Same? Obama Introduces National Security Team
And you wanted this man? Sure McCain was nuts, but McCain being in a stolen office would have rallied everyone against him. Now we have another corporatist and the Sheeple Big "D: Democrats will claim that the "progressives", "liberals" and the Left are whinning. "Oh please give him a chance" they will tell you as he potentially looks into extending war into Central Asia.
You get what you voted for, idiots! Learn to read next time instead of being transfixed on pretty lights and a catchy little slogan of "Hope and Change."
"I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. "
"I think the problem here is that the Obama that tilted to the right during the election campaign, supposedly to protect himself against Republican criticism, in fact, turns out to be the real Obama. When he says, change comes from me, we are seeing the kind of change he believes in by appointing this centrist pro-military cabinet. That means In effect, that means it is change, that they're not neoconservatives, certainly they are not going to look like John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feif, but it will look very much like the national security establishment of the Cold War and the post cold war 90's." ROBERT DREYFUSS
Change or More of the Same? Obama Introduces National Security Team
President-elect Barack Obama named former rival Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Monday and said Robert Gates would remain defense secretary. Other nominees included retired General James Jones to be National Security Adviser and Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations. Is that change or more of the same? We speak with investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss of The Nation magazine and Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation [includes rush transcript].
President-Elect Barack Obama officially introduced his national security team at a news conference in Chicago yesterday. In announcing his choices of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be secretary of state, Defense Secretary Robert Gates to continue in office and retired Marine General James Jones to serve as national security adviser, Obama has selected the core group of people who will be in charge of foreign policy decisions in his administration.
After Obama's introduction, each Cabinet nominee gave brief remarks. The first was Senator Hillary Clinton. If confirmed as Secretary of State, she would be the nation"s top diplomat in the Obama administration.
Obama asked that Robert Gates remain as Secretary of Defense, a post he has held since late 2006 when he was tapped by President Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Prior to that, Gates served as director of the CIA under president George HW Bush. Questions have swirled around his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal and his role in the US government's arming of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. At yesterday's news conference he thanked Obama for his offer to continue as Defense Secretary.
Obama introduced retired Marine General James Jones as his national security adviser. Jones is the former supreme allied commander of NATO. He now sits on the board of Chevron and is president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. The institute has has been criticized by environmental groups for, among other things, calling for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production and issuing reports that challenged the use of the Clean Air Ar to combat global warming. Jones thanked Obama for selecting him as his national security adviser.
Among his other Cabinet selections, Obama also named Susan Rice as his ambassador to the United Nations. Rice served as a senior foreign policy aide to Obama during his campaign. Under the Clinton administration, Rice worked for the National Security Council and the State Department. At yesterday"s news conference, she outlined some of the challenges that lay ahead.
For more on Obama's national security team we are joined by two guests in Washington DC. Robert Dreyfuss is an investigative reporter and contributing editor at The Nation magazine. His blogs at the Nation online at The Dreyfuss Report. Steven Clemons is a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation where he directs the American Strategy Program. He runs the popular blog The Washington Note.
Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter and contributing editor at The Nation magazine. He is author of "Devil"s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam."
Steven Clemons, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation where he directs the American Strategy Program.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Barack Obama officially introduced his national security team at a news conference in Chicago yesterday in announcing the Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be Secretary of State, Defense Secretary Robert Gates to continue in office and retired Marine General James Jones to serve as National Security Adviser. Obama selected the core group of people who will be in charge of foreign policy decisions in his administration. Obama praised their qualifications and record of service in government and civilian life.
BARACK OBAMA: In their past service in plans for the future, these men and women represent all of those elements of American power in the very best of the American example. They have served in uniform and as diplomats, they've worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and executives. They share my pragmatism about the use of power and my sense of purpose about America's role as a leader in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: After Obama's introduction, each cabinet nominee gave brief remarks. The first was Senator Hillary Clinton. If confirmed as Secretary of State, she'll be the nation's top diplomat in the Obama administration.
HILLARY CLINTON: By electing Barack Obama our next President, the American people have demanded not just a new direction at home, but a new effort to renew America's standing in the world as a force for positive change. We know our security, our values, and our interests cannot be protected and advanced by force alone. Nor, indeed, by Americans alone. We must pursue vigorous diplomacy using all the tools we can muster to build a future with more partners and fewer adversaries. More opportunities and fewer dangers. For all who seek freedom, peace, and prosperity.
AMY GOODMAN: Obama asked that Robert Gates remain secretary of defense, a post he has held since late 2006 when he was topped by President Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Prior to that, Gates served as director of the CIA under President George H.W. Bush. Questions have swirled around his involvement in the Iran contra scandal and his roles on the U.S. government's arming of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Yesterday's news conference, he thanked Obama for his offer to continue as Defense Secretary.
ROBERT GATES: I am deeply honored that the President-elect has asked me to continue as Secretary of Defense. Mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world and with a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty as they do theirs. How could I do otherwise?
AMY GOODMAN: Obama introduced retired Marine General James Jones as his national security adviser. Jones is the former supreme allied commander of NATO. He now sits on the board of Chevron and is president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. The institute has been criticized by environmental groups for, among other things, calling for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production and issuing reports that challenged the use of the Clean Air Act to combat global warming. Jones thanked Obama for selecting him as his national security adviser.
JAMES JONES: As has previously been mentioned, national security in the 21st century comprises a portfolio which includes all elements of our national power and influence. Working in coordination and harmony toward the desired goal of keeping our nation safe, helping to make our world a better place, and providing opportunity to live in peace and security for the generations to follow. I am deeply humbled and deeply appreciative of this great opportunity.
AMY GOODMAN: Among his other chemists elections, susan rice is and as ambassador to the united nations.—among his other selections, susan rice is named as ambassador to the united nations. She outlines some of the challenges that lay ahead yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: Among his other Cabinet selections, Obama also named Susan Rice as his ambassador to the United Nations. Rice served as a senior foreign policy aide to Obama during his campaign. Under the Clinton administration, Rice worked for the National Security Council and the State Department. At yesterday's news conference, she outlined some of the challenges that lay ahead.
SUSAN RICE: With your election, President elect, the American people have signaled to the world, that our nation is on the path to change. Now we must fulfill that promise by joining with others, to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century. To prevent conflict, to promote peace, combat terrorism, prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons, tackle climate change, and genocide, fight poverty and disease.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on Obama's national security team we are joined by two guests in Washington DC. Robert Dreyfuss is an investigative reporter and contributing editor at The Nation magazine. His blog at The Drefuss Report is at the nation.com. Steven Clemons is a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation where he directs the American Strategy Program. He runs the popular blog The Whasington Note.com. We welcome you both to DemocracyNow. Steve Clemons, let's begin with you. Your accessment to the national security team, starting with Hiliary Clinton, and Robert Gates, and James Jones?
STEVEN CLEMONS: Is certainly is a fascinating trio. When you take all of them together, it has created some grief on some parts of the liberal political establishments. They were saying, hey, wait, didn't we elect Barack Obama, not a Clintonized version of him? I encourage people to take a step back. Because one of my concerns in the campaign was that frequently, as my friend Bob Meyers pointed out, Obama kind of carved out a McCain-like position on Pakistan, on the role and future of the Pentagon. He actually wanted to increase the size of the military force, etc. I think we are going to see a lot of Pentagon hugging strategies from this group. What is interesting though, it is not a status quo preserving group. I think if you were to imagine some of the big Nixon goes to China moments that this country needs, particularly with Iran, with countries like Cuba, delivering on Syria and getting on a Libya- like tracks, this team seems to me more able to do that kind of thing than many other assemblies. And so while I know that Hillary Clinton during the campaign was very much an advocate of coercive diplomacy, something that I thought she talked too little about carrots and too much about sticks, I do think that she has to rewire herself and have a makeover, essentially, in much the way Obama has. Obama is not the same guy who ran during the election. We are seeing a very different Obama today. To some degree, I think we are going to see a different Hillary Clinton. Just in quick conclusion: the problem with this team, is it is very big guns. If Barack Obama takes his eye off the ball for a moment, if he is not engaged with these people for a moment, if he allows any distance to grow between himself and what he issues as national security policy in these big changes he wants to achieve, I think we are going to end up with a paralyzed national security team. In many ways it is a brilliant move, but it is hugely risky.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Dreyfuss, your assessment?
ROBERT DREYFUSS: I agree with many things Steve said, but it is important to point out that the people who are not named, the people were not picked by Obama or the people who were not on the stage yesterday with the president elect. There was nobody there from the anti-war wing of the Democratic party. There were none of the liberal Senators or even people like Jim Webb who spoke out against the war. John Kerry and Al Gore were not there. Bill Richardson was not there. You can go down a long list of people who he did not choose. Instead, he chose what the Wall Street Journal and many other publications are calling a war cabinet. The problem is, in order to fulfill his central campaign promise, which is to get our troops out of Iraq, he is going to have to do some direct hand-to-hand combat with people like Robert Gates and General Petraeus who has political ambitions of his own, Admiral Mullen at the Joint Chief and elsewhere, who are going to be urging him to slow down, to take a step back, to relax, and not mess up the search that Gates has spent the last two years overseeing. I think he'll be under a lot of pressure from the national security team that he himself is creating, to slow down the withdrawal from Iraq. He certainly left the door open for that. More generally, he pledged during the campaign to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which I think the rest of his team is fully in support of. Certainly, Robert Gates and general Petraeus have endorsed the notion of adding another 20,000 to 25,000 troops to that failed war, which I think is another catastrophically bad decision. He may find himself turning what had been Bush's failed war in Afghanistan into his own failed war, especially if he carries it over across the border into Afghanistan. I think the problem here is that the Obama that tilted to the right during the election campaign, supposedly to protect himself against Republican criticism, in fact, turns out to be the real Obama. When he says, change comes from me, we are seeing the kind of change he believes in by appointing this centrist pro-military cabinet. That means In effect, that means it is change, that they're not neoconservatives, certainly they are not going to look like John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feif, but it will look very much like the national security establishment of the Cold War and the post cold war 90's.
AMY GOODMAN: We will take a break and come back to this discussion. Our guests are Robert Dreyfuss with the Nation, he is author of "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam". We're also talking to Steven Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation. We'll be back in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Robert Dreyfuss of the Nation and Steven Clemons at the New America Foundation, talking about the new - well what people are calling the war cabinet. In fact, just looking at the numbers, there were 130 members of the House, 23 members of the Senate who voted against war. Barack Obama did not choose one of them to be in his Cabinet. I wanted to asked Steven Clemons about Jim Jones, about the new National Security Adviser who he has chosen. Looking at a piece in the Los Angeles Times today, he is on the board of-this is General Jim Jones-he is on the board of Chevron and Boeing and has been President and Chief Executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, which as been criticized by environmental groups. "They have a reprehensible record," said Frank O'Donnell-the outspoken leader of Clean Air Watch- of the institute led by Jones. The institute calls for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production, nuclear energy and clean coal technology, in addition to investment in renewable and alternative energy sources. O'Donnell criticized institute reports under Jones that challenged the use of the Clean Air Act to combat global warming and the right of states such as California to impose environmental standards that go beyond those set by the federal government. O'Donnell said "Since global warming is a security threat, this election raises a real eyebrow". He asks, "Will Jones be predisposed to compromise the new administration's environmental agenda both at home in the international arena? Stay tuned." Steven Clemons?
STEVEN CLEMONS: Oh I think it is a legitimate question. There is no doubt General Jones is a leading member of what you would classically call in Eisenhower's sense, the military-industrial complex. Barack Obama is making a very conscious decision to bring in someone like Jones who has a sort of profile he does with Chevron and Boeing with large firms that are part of the defense industry. He also has other parts of this profile where as you mentioned, Supreme Commander of NATO he was the Middle East envoy for defense- sort of looking at national security issues from the Middle East region. And so, when you look at any one of the profiles, you can move on Hillary Clinton, or even Bob Gates, I think Bob Dreyfuss characterized Bob Gates pretty well,-I think that Gates is an unusual choice. I was prepared to oppose him staying on for a variety of reasons. Mostly because why would you want a guy who played a certain important role in out-Cheneying Cheney in my view, in the Bush Administration. Why would you want that sort of constraint in a new forward leaping, forward looking Obama cabinet? But, I've grown in a different direction—
AMY GOODMAN: What do mean out-Cheneying Cheney?
STEVEN CLEMONS: Well I think that one of the things both Jones and Gates have, which is in the positive column for them, is that they understand the national security inter-agency decision making process virtually better than anyone else, and they can crunch out the kind of ambiguity that people like David Addington and Vice President Cheney, John Hannah who was one of Cheney's National Security Advisers, and others, use to exploit to move their agenda. You found people like Stephen Hadley and Condi Rice very, very poor at generating that kind of understanding of both presidential priorities, established White House policy, and in that ambiguity that is where we got hatched the Iraq war in my view and some other very misguided steps that got this country very close to new sets of wars, particularly with Iran most recently, that didn't happen.
So I think, to some degree, we owe Gates something for keeping us from tilting over the edge again with Iran. But why would you want that in the Obama cabinet? Why would you want someone like Jim Jones who is sort of representing the oil industry and the military-industrial complex? That- it tells me that on one hand Obama is not putting them there to deal with climate change. That will not be part of their portfolio. The only reason they make sense is if Obama does anything strong with regards to re-changing and reshaping America's strategic position with the Middle East and trying to get us on a different railroad track with certain key countries, like China, Russia and Iran.
Otherwise, this team makes no sense at all. So the other issues that are part of their portfolios, certainly I agree are problematic, but that doesn't seem to me to be why they are there as part of Obama's team. I think that he's had a fear, particularly given his positions in saying he would meet some of the world's leading sort of thugs, if you will, and believed in engagement. I thought that was one of Obama's greater strengths. I thought we do need some game changing moves in the strategic position of America and we do need to talk to our enemies as well as to our friends. I think he is afraid of being called the appeaser in chief if he really began moving. I began to fear frankly- one of the things that hasn't been talked about- what if he brought in a lot of the people that Bob Dreyfuss suggested should be part of that cabinet? I think Obama would have to go out and bomb a small country or something to show he was tough and had the ability to deploy force, so he could then say, now I can still began talking about, you know a different direction with Raul Castro, a different the Supreme Leader Khamenei in Iran...
AMY GOODMAN: Let me get a comment from Robert Dreyfuss on that.
ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, there are a few things to say here. First of all, there is a connection between national security and energy, and General Jones is at the very heart of that. When he was at NATO as the NATO commander, he did what he could to steer NATO in the direction of taking on responsibility of out-of-area action in regard to securing energy supplies, which points NATO in the same direction that the Bush Administration and of course many other administrations have gone in terms of taking military responsibility for the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, which is really what the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is going to be about. To the extent the United States believes and NATO believes that it is responsible for securing that part of the world and protecting energy supplies. It is not necessarily a cooperative approach where we then go to the big energy users like Japan and China and India and talk to Russia as well about a cooperative effort to stabilize that part of the world, but a more unilateral one. That's a concern
The second point I would make, is that the people of the next levels down at both the State and Defense Department, is going to be very very important. And there is no indication at all the Barack Obama intends to oversee that process. Who Robert Gates keeps on at the Defense Department including some fairly troubling characters in important posts there, is something that we're going to have to watch very closely., and as well at the state department, whether Hillary Clinton turns to people, including some of the muscular democratic hawks like Richard Holbrooke and in particular Dennis Ross, who is now ensconced at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is an AIPAC spin-of, and brings these people in to help run the State Department is another big question. So, there's a lot of aspects of managing a huge foreign policy apparatus that cannot reside in the hands of Barack Obama alone. He is not going to do this, change will not come from him personally except in the broadest outline. The implementation of foreign policy is going to come from the people that he picks. The last, I would say is he hasn't picked anyone yet for the intelligence posts. That's another case where, well he's leading towards Admiral Blair who's another component of the military-industrial complex. But the fact he hasn't picked an intelligence person tells us again something important about the approach he's going to take. Because the intelligence system in the United States has traditionally been a bastion of opposition to neoconservative ideology. And, I think there's a lot of people who will be elbowing to make sure that he does not pick someone in that job who might speak out against some of those policies...
AMY GOODMAN: Its been interesting watching the networks now. I can't figure out who is more laudatory in the discussions on the networks, the Democrats or Republicans, of Barack Obama's choices. There is hardly any debate around this. I want to see what you think of this, Robert Dreyfuss, Steve Zunes piece on Alternet saying Hilary Clinton "..allied herself with the Bush Administration and many of its most controversial actions, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, threats of war against Iran, support for Israel's 2006 offensive against Lebanon and 2002 offensive in the West Bank, opposition to the International Criminal Court, attacks against the International Court of Justice, and support for the unrestricted export of cluster bombs and other anti-personnel munitions used against civilian targets".
ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, it is true that she supported all those things. In part, though, the trauma of 9/11 shifted politics radically toward the right and a lot of people-and I'm not excusing Clinton's decisions, but a lot of people got caught up in that avalanche period. Obama distinguished himself by not being caught up in it. I think the fact that Clinton supported that long litany of things, is troubling to me and to many other people who are hoping for a clean break, to use a term of art of the Bush Administration got caught up in, to make a clean break with a lot of those past policies. I think its going to be difficult for him to execute that pivot. I think its going to be a battle on many of these issues with Senator Clinton to make sure that she stays on message.
AMY GOODMAN: You have written about it possibly being a moment for Barack Obama to distinguish himself outside of the Cabinet he has chosen, that people could possibly be expecting this.
ROBERT DREYFUSS: I think people put too much faith in Barack Obama the person. I think he is asked us to make the leap of faith in thinking he can be the embodiment of the change of people have been hoping for. In fact, it cannot be done by one person. In fact, it is not clear yet that Barack Obama is the person to bring that change. I think the message of this war cabinet he has named is that critics of the Bush Administration policy and people in the peace and justice movements are going to have to continue to mobilize, that it is not a time to relax. It is a time for demonstrations and letter writing and grassroots of activities to make sure what we hope to be more responsive to administration to those kinds of activities will start to pay attention to them or as with the Bush Administration, we were clearly knocking on a locked door.
AMY GOODMAN: What about Susan Rice? Your assessment of Susan Rice as the UN Ambassador? Lets go to Steve Clemons on that.
STEVE CLEMONS: I think Susan Rice is a believer in coercive set of tools as well. She is well known for after Rwanda and after other comments about significant genocide moments that she would advocate strong military intervention. I think she is a conscientious part of the global justice part of the foreign-policy community today that is very focused on climate change, poverty, remediation in the world, dealing with disease and aids and development's nuclear non- proliferation—the sorts of issues that do not fit neatly into the plastic geostrategic sorts of issues that I think Bob Gates and Jim Jones and to some degree Hillary Clinton in part represent. And so I think she is going to be quite talented and important for the United States and restoring a least a sense of commitment to these big, broad international issues. One of the problems that Barack Obama is courting is that people like Susan and Tony Lake to some degree represent a kind of liberal interventionism, if you will. To some degree, there is a crowd of folks in the democratic foreign-policy establishment which are either the structural realists, where I think I would put myself, that think the America's national security position has been so eroded that you have to be very cautious before throwing military force at any other issue in the world today because we've got to fundamentally rethink our engagement and move much more cautiously. Then there is of values driven crowd, which I think is often focused on very good and important objectives but they do not quite know how to get there and they do not often set the sorts of priorities that I think help deliver that and to some degree, we saw that with the neoconservative establishment reckless in that case, deploying force recklessly and I think Susan, to some degree, belongs to this crowd that wants to achieve great objectives in the world, but my view is that I think she needs to work a bit more on the game plan to get there. But overall, I think it is very wise for Barack Obama to send someone who is so committed to these issues to the United Nations to represent us there. It is a huge step over someone like John Bolten in the past.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Dreyfuss, we just have thirty seconds. Do you think we will see anti-were protests at the inauguration as we saw with president bush?
ROBERT DREYFUSS: Oh I am sure there will be some protesters, but I do not think the country is prepared for any kind of mass movement yet. I think it will be small and contained. I think to a more likely see an outpouring of tremendous support. In fact, Washington is preparing for may be as many as 2 million more people to come and celebrate the inauguration I think we're not yet at this stage for people have woken up to the fact the struggle continues and that the millennium is not here yet.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Dreyfuss of The Nation Magazine, author of "Devil's Game" and Steven Clemons of New America foundation, thank you.
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