January 25, 2009

Obama ‘Shifting Power From Traditional Cabinet Posts’; Will Media Complain About ‘Too-Powerful Executive’?

I guess President Josiah Bartlet, the mythical president in The West Wing television series, would have been pleased.

Jonathan Martin at Politico.com reports that the Obama Administration is concentrating lots of power at the top (bolds are mine):

West Wing on steroids in Obama W.H.

President Barack Obama is taking far-reaching steps to centralize decision-making inside the White House, surrounding himself with influential counselors, overseas envoys and policy “czars” that shift power from traditional Cabinet posts.

Not even a week has passed since he was sworn in, but already Obama is moving to create perhaps the most powerful staff in modern history – a sort of West Wing on steroids that places no less than a half-dozen of his top initiatives into the hands of advisers outside the Cabinet.

For all the talk of his “Team of Rivals” pick in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama last week handed the two hottest hotspots in American foreign policy to presidential envoys – one to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and the other to a man who knows his way around Foggy Bottom better than Clinton does, Richard Holbrooke.

“Czar” Carol Browner will head up Obama’s fight on global warming, where once his energy and environmental chiefs might have stepped in. Tom Daschle scored a ground floor office in the West Wing not by running Health and Human Services – but because of his role as Obama’s health-reform czar.

Pulling power close is something all recent presidents have done – and on the campaign trail, Obama spoke out against George W. Bush’s attempt to expand his executive authority.

But when it comes to building his own team, Obama is taking the notion of a powerful White House staff to new heights, leaving little doubt who will set policy and guide the politics of the his newborn administration.

….. Aides say he believes the Cabinet structure is outdated because it doesn’t recognize that problems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them.

That helps explain the selection of Browner as an “energy-environment” czar, said one Obama aide.

…..What’s notable about Obama’s approach – and expands on the approaches taken by Bush and Bill Clinton – is the number of different areas where Obama is seeking to tap a central figure, outside the Cabinet structure, who will carry out his wishes.

Does anyone remember candidate Obama telling us that “the Cabinet structure is outdated”?

A later Politico paragraph notes that “The structure also allowed Obama to bypass the Senate confirmation process on two nominees who would have proven controversial, by merely picking them for White House jobs instead.” Heck, why have a Cabinet at all?

Does anyone expect the press to object to this apparently unprecedented consolidation of power that avoids the Senate’s advise-and-consent role, or to let readers, listeners, and viewers know how Obama’s actions compare to his campaign rhetoric?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, Jan. 28: Here’s a marker for the future, from a MySpace blog sent to me by a fellow bloger (minor language cleanup and spelling corrections were done) –

Enough Please

He is in office now. So you can stop.

Ok, I really did not say anything when he got elected.

I really did not get up in arms when before he was sworn in he was tied to 4 scandals (Blagojevich, Bill Richardson, Biden’s Family, and Secretary of Treasury nominee Timothy Geithner.).

I said nothing when the harpie…..ahem ladies on the view assaulted Ann Coulter.

I did not say anything when the “dark economic times” were acknowledged by the most expensive inaugaration ever.

I glossed over VH1′s best week ever mocking President Bush on his way out of office.

I lightly chuckled when America elected a President that may very well not have even been born in this country.

I laughed in the irrelevant yet hiliarious comparisons to great American Presidents.

I also laughed when he was elected on his ability to cut a promo, yet really has no plan for America, save shutting down the prison where we keep people who want to kill as many of us in a single serving.

It’s been funny to me. Really funny, that someone who knows nothing, and has not a single attribute other than the ability to speak in public, has been, and continues to be revered as a Christ figure.

But to log on to MySpace… and see celebrities…PLEDGING THEIR ALLEGIANCE… NOT TO AMERICA….BUT TO OBAMA HIMSELF…

It’s bullsh**.

THERE, I SAID IT!

That my friends, is some straight up Hitler behavior. Period.

Posters with his beautified, saintly visage, inscribed on there, people weeping at the chance to touch him, collapsing at the inaugaration in a heap of emotion.

These my friends, as history has shown us, are the path to dictatorships.

Is he the AntiChrist? The Beast? Most likely not. He isnt that smart, and a lot more things have to happen before that does.

Do the way people treat and act around this guy leave open the potential for him to expand government to the point where they may very well control every facet of our life? Yes.

Not a one single person out there except for the polite minority I like to refer as “Conservatives” have spoken up or questioned a SINGLE thing that this guy is doing. At all. He is getting a free pass to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, and kids, thats not how democracy works.

We the people.

We the people govern ourselves. We are the captians of industry, and the purveyours of our own destinies.

Have we grown so weak as a society that we are enslaving ourselves to a man with a good marketing campaign?

For the next four years we are.

Im just waiting for the speech “The power you grant me I will lay down when this crisis is over!” WINK!

So this is how freedom dies, with thunderous applause.

Column of the Day: Bush’s Real Sin Was Winning in Iraq

From William McGurn, in last Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal (bolds are mine), has a parting thought on George W. Bush’s departure:

As he leaves, he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium of the permanent class that inhabits our nation’s capital. Yet perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on.

Here’s a hint: It’s not because of his failures. To the contrary, Mr. Bush’s disfavor in Washington owes more to his greatest success. Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.

Here in the afterglow of the turnaround led by Gen. David Petraeus, it’s easy to forget what the smart set was saying two years ago — and how categorical they all were in their certainty. The president was a simpleton, it was agreed. Didn’t he know that Iraq was a civil war, and the only answer was to get out as fast as we could?

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — the man who will be sworn in as vice president today — didn’t limit himself to his own opinion. Days before the president announced the surge, Joe Biden suggested to the Washington Post he knew the president’s people had also concluded the war was lost. They were, he said, just trying to “keep it from totally collapsing” until they could “hand it off to the next guy.”

For his part, on the night Mr. Bush announced the surge, Barack Obama said he was “not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

Three months after that, before the surge had even started, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronounced the war in Iraq “lost.” These and similar comments, moreover, were amplified by a media echo chamber even more absolute in its sense of hopelessness about Iraq and its contempt for the president.

….. As with Vietnam, with Iraq the failure of nerve was most clear in Congress. For example, of the five active Democratic senators who sought the (presidential) nomination, four voted in favor of the Iraqi intervention before discovering their antiwar selves.

As in Vietnam too, rather than finding their judgment questioned, those who flip-flopped on the war were held up as voices of reason. In a memorable editorial advocating a pullout, the New York Times gave voice to the chilling possibilities that this new realism was willing to accept in the name of bringing our soldiers home.

“Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave,” read the editorial. “There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide.” Even genocide. With no hint of irony, the Times nevertheless went on to conclude that it would be even worse if we stayed.

This is Vietnam thinking. And the president never accepted it. That was why his critics went ape when, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he touched on the killing fields and exodus of boat people that followed America’s humiliating exit off an embassy rooftop. As the Weekly Standard’s Matthew Continetti noted, Mr. Bush had appropriated one of their most cherished analogies — only he drew very different lessons from it.

Mr. Bush’s success in Iraq is equally infuriating, because it showed he was right and they wrong. Many in Washington have not yet admitted that, even to themselves. Mr. Obama has. We know he has because he has elected to keep Mr. Bush’s secretary of defense — not something you do with a failure. ….

The hope is that Barack Obama won’t bungle his way into losing what George Bush and the US military won.

His two terror-sympathetic moves noted here on Thursday are not good omens. Whether he intends them to be terror-sympathetic is not the point; the odds, based on history, even recent history, are that they will work out that way.

Previous moves made by the US military and the Bush Defense Department have already turned out to have been terror-sympathetic:

Two men released from the US “war on terror” prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a jihadist website, the SITE monitoring service reported.

One of the two former inmates, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or prisoner number 372, has been elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, a US counter-terrorism official told AFP.

….. The Defense Department has said as many as 61 former Guantanamo detainees — about 11 percent of 520 detainees transferred from the detention center and released — are believed to have returned to the fight.

The latest case highlights the risk the new US administration faces as it moves to empty Guantanamo of its remaining 245 prisoners and close the controversial detention camp within a year.

Perhaps these were moves were made with the best of intentions. Too bad; it’s the results that count, and in this case they were horrible.

So why would Obama repeat them, especially if the remaining Gitmo prisoners might be on balance more dangerous than those who have already been let go?

We must hope against hope that the influences of Obama’s documented relationships with terrorist sympathizers and terrorist supporters don’t prevent him from doing what is necessary to keep us safe (the linked post doesn’t even include domestic terrorist and “family friend” Bill Ayers, whose influence surely should not be discounted).

A Report from the March For Life

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 8:55 am

From an e-mail from Ken Joseph (also posted here; the observations are his; bolds are mine):

Life Comes To Washington

Washington, DC

In the aftermath of the Inauguration, in fact the very next day a wonderful blessing took over the city of Washington and the National Mall.

Beginning with a massive rally at the Verizon Center, the March for Life made its presence known.

A local Police Officer attending the new crowd said `they couldn’t be more different. It is a joy to watch over this group.`

With estimates up to 150,000 and a march that stretched over a half mile long the March For life took over downtown Washington with a cheerful, upbeat group.

They came in all sizes, shapes and groups. Priests and nuns, kids from just about everywhere, babies that had been saved from abortion.

The March for Life memorialized the 36th anniversary of the passing of the life altering passage of Roe vs. Wade.

As if to personally insult the group within hours of the end of the march,  one of the first executive orders of the new administration was to roll back the anti-abortion provisions that had been in place for the past eight years.

“We are very concerned that all the accomplishments of the past years will be overturned” said one participant “we face a new administration that is hostile to life”.

Within hours, she was proved right.

Nonetheless, with signs like “We Choose Life”,  “I Love Babies” and “Stop Abortion Now” the joyful crowd assembled at noon on the National Mall on the same site that hours earlier proponents of limitless abortion had gathered for the inauguration.

The irony was not lost on the many that interacted with the group from hotel staff to police officers who all commented on the dramatic difference between the crowd that had assembled for the inauguration the day before and the March For Life Participants.

In a show of cross denominational cooperation Catholic, Protestant and just about every denomination in the middle gathered around the single theme of protecting life.

“In a sense it is good that for the first time in a long while we face a Washington that now wants to restore Abortion. It forces us to work harder to protect life” commented one participant.

….. The swiftness with which – on the very second day of the new administration – restrictions on Abortion were removed surprised many, but the old-timers in the movement  had seen it before.

The battle ahead may be hard with a new administration and Congress hostile to the pro-life movement, but for just one day, Life took over the National Mall and downtown Washington DC, culminating in a rally in front of the Supreme Court where 36 years ago to the day Life had been dealt a near fatal blow.

The concern on many faces as the rally wound down was how different the situation would be a year from now when they meet again.

Positivity: Pope channel makes debut on YouTube

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

From the Catholic News Agency:

Pope Benedict XVI has launched himself into the digital age today with the Vatican announcing that a YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/vatican dedicated to his activities and events at the Vatican is now online.

The Vatican’s announcement of its new partnership with Google’s YouTube coincides with the release of the Pope’s annual message for the World Day of Communications, which this year focuses on how to utilize new technologies to promote a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See’s press office, described the Vatican’s YouTube Channel at a press conference today.

Currently, the Channel contains clips of Pope Benedict XVI delivering his Christmas Message and Blessing, the January 1 celebration of the World Peace Day and some segments of the Pope speaking about the advantages of new social technology. The footage for the clips is being provided by the Vatican Television Center (CTV) in conjunction with journalists and the web team of Vatican Radio (RV).

According to Fr. Lombardi, the new channel will be updated daily with one or two news pieces each day, none longer than two minutes. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.