National Affairs

By Ray LeMoine
Obama moves into the White House in one week. Here he is last year in New Hampshire at a fundraiser.


Random House HQ

By Ray LeMoine
I’d love for Obama–who has made the majority of his money off book royalties—to offer publishing a bailout like the auto industry is getting, as NYMag suggests. The story details the recent imprint mergers at Random House:

What’s the difference between the books from Knopf and Doubleday, anyway?

It’s true. Of thethe Times’ 10 Best Books of 2008, all are Random House titles except Bolano…


Thirteen Stories
By Steven Millhauser.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.

By Toni Morrison.
Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95.

By Joseph O’Neill.
Pantheon Books, $23.95.

By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, cloth and paper, $30.

By Jhumpa Lahiri.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.


The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
By Jane Mayer.
Doubleday, $27.50.

By Dexter Filkins.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.

By Julian Barnes.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95.

Death and the American Civil War
By Drew Gilpin Faust.
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95.

The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
By Patrick French.
Alfred A. Knopf, $30.

The Battle For Foggy Bottom


By Ray LeMoine

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

A British paper getting an unsourced scoop like this has left many scratching their heads. are “skeptical,” but note the Brits do know gossip.

Every other news organization is writing about Bill Clinton’s sketchy dealings. I understand all the controversy surrounding Bill and his world traveling, billionaire hanging out with, money taking from questionable autocrats style. But had Hillary beat Obama it wouldn’t have stopped her from the presidency, and thus makes all this “vetting” mute. Lil Annie Lowrey writes a great piece defending the selection, also in the Guardian:

Today, managing Foggy Bottom means managing a vast bureaucracy prone to infighting, particularly since the rise of the National Security Council, national security adviser and other executive-branch agents. Hillary ran a rocky campaign, so might she falter in dealing with the other entities and people managing American diplomacy, let alone her department?

Hillary ran a good campaign and runs an excellent Senate office. She surely would consult with Obama as to the next national security adviser, and already works well with fellow foreign-policy leader vice-president-elect Biden. She may not have extensive experience managing a massive bureaucracy, but few members of Congress do. More importantly, she surely possesses the leadership skills to criticise her own work and seek excellent managers within State.

Others complain about the choice highlight O’s and Hill’s differences on Iran and Pakistan policy, and point out the Obama campaign disliked Hillary. Politico:

“The specific policy area at issue seems to be one in which the two of them aren’t all that well-aligned,” wrote the liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias.

During the primary, top aides like David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs developed a particular distaste for all things Clinton, one that filtered down through the campaign.

Yes, early during the primaries, Obama said he’d talk to Iran “without preconditions.” And Hillary called him “naive.” But since then Obama’s position has moved closer to Hillary’s. Also, Obama has said he’d unilaterally attack Pakistan, a policy that’s already in place and is failing to halt the Taliban’s comeback. So shifting that position won’t be hard. On Iraq, both want the war to end, blah.

On the second point, let’s remember that Plouffe is likely not coming to DC and Gibbs is a dick. A more important Obama sage, David Axelrod, has worked with Clinton.

And of course the “progressives” are weighing in:

One writer on Daily Kos called Clinton “too centrist, too collaborationist, too accommodating.”

Wait, isn’t that what people said about Obama when he was a state senator? “Progressives” need to wake up and realize they voted for a guy who is to the right of Clinton domestically. Did they really think he wouldn’t possibly edge to the center on foreign policy as well? Not that it matters. Saying Hillary Clinton is “too centrist” on foreign policy forgets that US policy has remained largely the same for both parties since WWII—containment/Wilsonian internationalism—save a brief flirtation with Bush doctrine. If anything, the Clintons’ legacy is that of humanitarian intervention, which succeeded in ending the Balkan wars. 

I must admit being shocked by this whole thing, however. On the Sunday before the election, Hillary wrote an oped in the NYDN saying Obama would bring “all Americans” health care. That’s a distinct shift from the plan Obama had been offering, which would leave 15 million uninsured. I assumed a deal between the Clintons and Obama had been made, but never thought it involved State.

By Ray LeMoine
You know it’s a weird day when I’m loving George Will but hating on Obama. Anyway, Will writes a column titled “‘Socialism’? It’s Already Here.” On socialism, he says:

America can’t have that, exclaimed the Republican ticket while Republicans…and their administration were partially nationalizing the banking system, putting Detroit on the dole and looking around to see if some bit of what is smilingly called “the private sector” has been inadvertently left off the ever-expanding list of entities eligible for a bailout from the $1 trillion or so that is to be “spread around.”

Then he echoes what I said Friday:

The Depression, which FDR failed to end but which Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor did end…

WWII, first lean lease then our direct involvement, not the New Deal, pulled America from Depression.

Of course, Will closes his column arguing against further government intervention in the private sector. And I’m obviously way more a fan of social democracy than conservatism. But it is nice to hear Will speaking some truths to GOP power.

Obama’s Dr Evil
Parc Grove, a housing project Valerie Jarrett failed at running, is now back in federal hands. Pic by me.

By Ray LeMoine
Chicago power broker Valerie Jarrett has been named Obama’s “senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernment relations and public liaison.” Whatever the fuck that means…

Jarrett may have been number three during the campaign, just after the Davids in terms of influenece, but she was barely reported on. On election night, the campaign trotted Jarrett out on every network—the face of the new America.

Yesterday Gawker got all love-y:

Are we about to fall in love kinda like we did with Condi Rice but only for real this time?

…she’ll be a breath of fresh air to the country at large.

Before we worship Jarrett, let’s remember she’s hated on Chicago’s South Side by the local black community. When she spoke at U Chicago on MLK day this year, protesters disrupted the event. Why? Because Jarrett’s long been a controversial figure tied to the real estate crew—Rezko, Allyson Davis, Marty Nesbit—that gave Obama his initial political seed money.

In the mid-90s, that crew pushed Obama to back private-public housing policies from which they reaped tens of millions in federal tax credits. The crew took the money and flipped it into condo and parking lot development. As CEO of Habitat INC, Jarrett ran several housing projects back into federal hands, leaving residents worse off than before.

The Boston Globe ran a 4000 word story about these failed policies this summer, but few others—including the GOP—took note. In all my reading about Obama, the Jarrett-Nesbit-Davis-Rezko nexus were as sketchy as he got. The GOP likely didn’t touch this Swift Boat-style because it would backfire: “Obama f–ks over inner city blacks” is a message like that would’ve actually helped Obama attract Swift Boat-target honkies.

Sure, Obama won, and the glow surrounding the end of the Bush era feels unreal and amazing, but let’s cast off the deification for a moment. Chicago is hardly a town of political purity and insiders like Jarrett demand skepticism.

By Ray LeMoine
A lot of us want Obama to come in and launch an FDR-style new New Deal, complete with a new WPA and restructuring of all state-funded programs. But I just remembered that it was Lend-Lease, when we basically built the British an army on credit, that began the end of the Depression. Of course, America’s building itself a world-class, Jap and German beating military was what really relieved our economy—not to mention upgraded us from a third rate to super power. So, now that we spend more than all other nations combined on defense—some $500 billion a year—are we going to have to use our military to take back some booty? Ha, maybe gunboat diplomacy be the answer to our economic distress. Oh wait, Bush tried that with Iraq. We’re fucked.


By Ray LeMoine
Thrity-one of Obama’s forty-seven transition team members are ex-Clinton staffers, via Politico:

Most of those appointees weren’t West Wing heavy-hitters, but lower-profile policy hands like former Deputy Secretary of Defense John White and former State Department official Wendy Sherman. They include former deputies to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Defense Secretary William Perry, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and some currently work at consultancies run by those Clinton administration principals.

Others are old Obama allies who also have Clinton ties, like Michael Froman, a transition advisor who was Obama’s classmate at Harvard Law School and served as Robert Rubin’s chief of staff at the Clinton Treasury Department, and Christopher Edley, who taught Obama at Harvard and also served Clinton, and is married to a former Clinton deputy chief of staff.

It’s not surprising Obama’s turning to low-level, former Clintonites. After all, what other living Democrats ever worked for an administration? Sans Carter’s four year stint, you’d need to go back to JFK/LBJ to find experienced White House hands. Meaning mostly dead people.

This does, however, slightly contradict Obama’s new politics of change mantra. Especially with the news that he’s considering Hillary for State:

Two Democratic officials confirmed that Clinton – long rumored to be a contender for the job – is under serious consideration. Adding to the intrigue, Clinton was spotted aboard a flight to Obama’s hometown of Chicago yesterday, NBC reported.

I doubt this has much truth, but wouldn’t mind seeing Hillary (or Kerry) end up with State.

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