Archive for the ‘cabinet’ Category

Obama Cabinet’s ‘Stumbling Start’ May Be Distraction on Economy

February 13, 2009

No drama Obama is no more.

The surprise withdrawal of Senator Judd Gregg as the nominee for U.S. commerce secretary was the latest setback in a turbulent start for President Barack Obama’s administration after a campaign marked by operational discipline.

By Julianna Goldman

Gregg, 61, a New Hampshire Republican, yesterday became the third Cabinet appointee to withdraw, along with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and former Senator Tom Daschle. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed only after coming under fire for underpaying federal taxes — one of three nominees to face tax-related questions.

Obama’s “stumbling start” with his appointments has the potential to provide a distraction when the focus should be on issues such as the economic-stimulus plan and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

“It’s a real problem that can derail him,” Wilcox said.

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Gaza Day 22: High Expectations for Cease Fire but Fighting Rages Still

January 17, 2009

 Israeli aircraft pounded 50 Hamas positions early Saturday.

The meaning is not to be misunderstood: Israel wants Hamas to make a decision on peace or war.
“This yet again illustrates that there is no place safe in the Gaza Strip,” said Chris Gunness, a U.N. spokesman. “This fighting has to stop because innocent people, women and children, who are taking refuge in neutral U.N. buildings are discovering that there is nowhere safe.”

Israel will make a decision this evening, Saturday, the 22nd day of conflict, to accept a cease fire or continue the fighting.

Tonight the Israel cabinet will meet to vote on a cease fire worked out by Egypt, Frace, Britain and others with input from Hamas and Israel.

But key to the cease fire is what Israel really wants: a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by the U.S. and Isreal to prevent the rearming of Hamas by smuggling.

For two days Hamas has offered differing versions of its intentions, first agreeing to a cease fire and then rejecting provisions and continuing to send rockets into Israel.
Earlier Friday, Hamas’ Syrian-based political chief Khaled Mashaal rejected Israeli conditions for a truce and demanded an immediate opening of the besieged territory’s borders.

Mashaal  called on all Arab countries to cut ties with the Jewish state during a summit of Arab leaders in Doha, Qatar.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad gave Mashaal their full backing, but significantly, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia boycotted the summit.

Now, Isreal says its cabinet will vote tonight on a unilateral cease fire.

Alalysts say the decision may mean that Israel has decided to end the operation in Gaza, “Cast Lead,” without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt.

Most insiders in Israel say Israel will end the fighting unilaterally on Saturday evening, and respond with “certain force” to any Hamas provocation.
Israel so strongly believed in the U.S. offer to prevent the rearming of Hamas that a trip was hastily put together Thursday to allow Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to be at the U.S. State Department for a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday.  The two inked the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the prevention of the rearming of Hamas.

U.S., Israel Sign Agreement Aimed At Preventing Rearmed Gaza, Hamas

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after signing a deal on stopping the flow of arms to Hamas. Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency

The MOU  ‘Unequivocally’ condemns “terrorism as unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed and whatever the motivation, in particular, the recent rocket and mortar attacks and other hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from Gaza by terrorist organizations.”

Livni called the deal, reached on the final working day of the Bush administration, “a vital complement for a cessation of hostility.” It paved the path for Saturday night’s vote in the 12-member Security Cabinet.

Under the deal, Egypt would shut down weapons smuggling routes with international help and discussions on opening Gaza’s blockaded border crossings — Hamas’ key demand — would take place at a later date.

By John E. Carey

 Israel Expected To Begin “Unilateral Gaza Cease Fire,” End Fighting Saturday

From The Associated Press


From al Arabia:
Gaza assault rages on as Israel prepares truce

The New York Times:

Humanitarian Situation in Gaza Worsens

PARIS (Reuters) – Medecins Sans Frontieres’ doctors cannot reach sick and injured civilians in Gaza because of Israel’s bombing campaign and may have to pull out if the security situation worsens, officials from the aid group said yesterday.Three weeks into a major offensive that has killed more than 1,200 Palestinians, Israeli forces have pushed deep into the city of Gaza despite international pressure on their government.

Flares are seen during an Israeli military operation in the ... 
Flares are seen during an Israeli military operation in the northern Gaza Strip as seen from the Israeli side of the border, Friday Jan. 16, 2009. Israel’s Security Cabinet will vote Saturday night on an Egyptian proposal for a truce to end the 3-week-old offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, a senior government official said.The official said a vote to approve the truce would amount to a ‘unilateral’ cease-fire, though Israeli forces would only leave Gaza after an official declaration that the fighting was over. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Bill Richardson Exits Obama Cabinet Under The Cloud of Possible Corruption

January 4, 2009

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he is withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obamas commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation.

Obama said in a statement Sunday that he accepted Richardson’s withdrawal “with deep regret” but that the governor was putting the nation first to avoid any delay in filling the Cabinet post.

A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities won a New Mexico state contract worth more than $1 billion.

Richardson said in a statement issued by Obama’s transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months and he couldn’t ask Obama to delay the Commerce Department’s work. Richardson said the investigation will show that he “acted properly in all matters.”

Richardson’s withdrawal was the first disruption of Obama’s Cabinet process and the second “pay-to-play” investigation that has touched Obama’s transition to the presidency. The president-elect has remained above the fray in both the case of arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the New Mexico case.

–Associated Press

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From The New York Times:
The Richardson withdrawal, first reported Sunday afternoon by NBC News, raises questions about the thoroughness of the Obama team’s vetting process, which had been touted as one of the most stringent ever. Stories about the investigation of the CDR contract and of the donations by David Rubin — the president of CDR and a major Democratic contributor — to the Richardson-linked political action committees have appeared in news reports at least since August.

Read the entire article:

Carville’s 2009 Predictions: Stand By For More Democrat Scandals

US President-elect Barack Obama (L) listens to New Mexico Governor ... 
US President-elect Barack Obama (L) listens to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson after announcing Richardson as his nominee for commerce secretary during a news conference in Chicago December 3, 2008.(John Gress/Reuters)

Gaza, Israel Highlight Stark Obama, Bush Differences

January 4, 2009

George Bush has been such a good ally to Israel  that most members of the United Nations said last night they were unable to get any statement condemning the bloodletting in Gaza out the door because of the U.S.

Libyan Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi said the United States during the discussions objected to “any outcome” on the proposed statement.
Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said it was regrettable that one permanent council member — a clear reference to the U.S. — refused to accept any statement at a time when “the aggression is escalating and more people are dying and the military attack on the ground is at its full scale.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, said: “We have war. We have aggression against the Palestinian people, and it is a sad and tragic moment when the Security Council cannot address this issue by at least demanding from Israel … to stop this aggression immediately.”

But the Obama camp was silent, almost, speaking only to again say there can only be one president at a time and that Obama was monitoring the situation “along with other global events.”
Not everyone was happy with that.
Obama’s  muted response has already drawn the anger of some in the Middle East.

“The start is not good,” said Khaled Meshaal, leader of the Hamas Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since June 2007, said of the Obama statement.


“You commented on Mumbai but you say nothing about the crime of the enemy (Israel). This policy of double standards should stop.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Above: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In July Barack Obama sought to boost his Jewish vote back in America with an emotional stump-speech in Sderot, a community in Israel which is a target for much of the Palestinian rocket-fire from Gaza.

Referring to his children Malia, 9, and Sasha, 7, the then US presidential candidate said: “If somebody is sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that – and I’d expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

But Israelis believes that Obama can and will never support them the way Bush has — and that in part drove the timing of the ongoing assault on Gaza.

Paul McGeough  wrote for The Advocate in Australia, “If Israel was to act against Hamas, it needed to move in these last days of the Bush presidency because, despite his words in Sderot, Israel worries that the incoming American president might be less supportive than his predecessor.”

Bush has often ignored the UN.  He even sent a very combatative Ambassador to the U.N. in New York, John Bolton.

Obama says he will embrace the UN and has said he’ll make his choice as Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, a cabinet level officer.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

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UN Diplomats Say US Blocked Any Gaza Statement:

Israel’s leaders are asking themselves two questions: Is the cost of sending sufficient ground forces into Gaza just too high? And, upon his inauguration on Jan. 20, will President Obama undercut Israel’s counterterror offensive before its goals have been reached?

Read the rest:


Israeli officials have told us that they believe the U.N. is dominated by anti-Israeli forces.

“The U.N. is no friend to Israel.  And any move to help Israel in the Security Council is blocked by China and Russia,” a senior Israeli diplomat told Peace and Freedom.

Read more:
Israel Sees Existential Fight: Enemies, Uncertainty All Around

Most Dangerous Obama Appointee


Obama: Move Toward the Center is Smart

December 27, 2008

Barack Obama is an annoying guy.

As of last week the U. S. President-elect had announced 20 cabinet appointments. Of these, only five are women. Granted, these women will hold some of the most powerful positions in the government; head of homeland security, secretary of state, labor secretary, ambassador to the UN, environmental protection agency boss.

Even so, CNN reports, some women’s groups are displeased. “There need to be a lot more women’s voices in this administration,” says Kim Gandy, of the National Organization for Women.

Gays and lesbians are irked at Obama too. During the primaries and in the presidential campaign he promised to be a strong advocate for them. But now he’s up and invited a conservative preacher, Rick Warren, to lead the invocation at his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren delivers a speech during the ... 
Rick Warren

Warren is strongly pro-life and staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage.

Zounds, say the liberals: How could our guy do such a thing? Aren’t there plenty of good liberal preachers around, people who actually backed Obama for the Presidency?

Others are upset, reportedly, because of Obama’s decision to leave Robert Gates in charge at the Pentagon. Gates is a holdover from the hated Bush administration and an implementer of the illegal war in Iraq. How could he possibly have a seat at Obama’s table?

You can hear the chatter percolating in the coffee houses and on the university campuses: He’s not even president yet, and already he’s walking away from some of our most deeply held positions. How could he?

Obama is doing precisely the right thing. In walking away from the leftist fringe and hewing to the centre, he is creating the much larger coalition that he absolutely needs if he is to succeed as president.

For this presidency will not be about business as usual. The United States faces a staggering trillion-dollar deficit next year.

Its military is at war on two fronts and struggling on one, in Afghanistan. It faces unfunded pension obligations that threaten national bankruptcy well into the future.

The Sun Times
Ontario, Canada

Some Women’s Groups Disappointed In Obama Despite Five Female Cabinet Officer Nominees

December 22, 2008

Who could possibly signify tolerance, openness and racial and gender clarity at the top of government more than Barack Obama?  Just as gays say his pick of Rick Warren was all wrong, and many Latinos say Bill Richardson is a “token,” some women’s groups now are saying Barack Obama could and should have been doing more for them…


What’s made up of five women, four African-Americans, three Latinos, two Republicans and two Asians, including a Nobel Prize winner?

By Jessica Yellin

The answer: President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

Obama is taking the big-tent approach to governing and wanted a Cabinet that stretches the tent wide.

“I think people will feel that we followed through on our commitment to make sure that this is not only an administration that is diverse ethnically, but it’s also diverse politically and it’s diverse in terms of people’s life experience,” Obama said December 16.

It might be diverse, but not everyone is happy. Some women’s groups are disappointed. Among Obama’s strongest backers during the election, they now say they don’t have enough seats at the table.

That’s because of Obama’s 20 announced Cabinet-level posts, five went to women: Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Rep. Hilda Solis as labor secretary, Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador and Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency chief.

A poll shows 71 percent of Americans approve of Barack Obama picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state.

A poll shows 71 percent of Americans approve of Barack Obama picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state.

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Gay Congressman Says Obama Made A Mistake on Pastor

 Why Has Obama Ignored Latinos for Top Jobs?

United Nations Ambassador-designate Susan Rice listens as President-elect ... 
United Nations Ambassador-designate Susan Rice listens as President-elect Barack Obama, not pictured, announces his national security team at a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Joe Biden on the Role of Joe Biden

December 22, 2008

Joe Biden said:  I think that the role of the vice president is determined in large part by his relationship with the president and the circumstances that administration finds themselves in.

And so when Barack [Obama] asked me about what I expected in return for accepting, if I accepted, what — I said I want to be there when you make every critical decision you make. I want to be in the room.

Vice President-elect Joseph Biden says he was asked to submit his recommendations for Cabinet posts.

Vice President-elect Joseph Biden

….I’d like to be able to give my input….

I’ve been asked to submit my own recommendations. I’ve been there at the table with a small group of people when each of these Cabinet potential nominees have been debated.

….Barack and I in the campaign — once he chose me after the nomination, after the convention — have been pointing out that one of the reasons to draw down additional troops in Iraq beyond the necessity to do it on its own was we need to be able to deploy more troops immediately to Afghanistan to help stabilize it….

Listen to Biden on a host of topics:
From CNN:

Obama’s New Vision for Vice President Joe Biden
Obama’s Artful Triangulation: “Arbiter in Chief”

Obama Cabinet: pragmatism could leave them rudderless, without intellectual cohesion

December 20, 2008

Placing too much emphasis on pragmatism could leave the Obama team rudderless and without intellectual cohesion.
“Pragmatism has its place, but there are limits, as well,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

“If you aren’t anchored to a political philosophy, you get blown about, and government becomes ad hoc and you make it up as you go — and if you’re not careful, you begin to go in circles,” said Wehner….

By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post

President-elect Barack Obama wrapped up his Cabinet appointments yesterday, meeting his ambitious holiday deadline by assembling a team full of outsize personalities with overlapping jurisdictions and nominees who are known more for pragmatism than for strong leanings on the issues they will oversee.

In Chicago, the president-elect announced his picks to lead the Departments of Labor and Transportation, the Small Business Administration and the office of trade representative. The announcement of the labor nominee, Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.), the daughter of a union family who has a strongly pro-labor voting record, came as a relief to some liberals who had grown slightly anxious about Obama’s commitment to organized labor’s agenda. “She’s an inspired choice from a working-class background, who represented a working-class district with middle-class sensibilities,” said AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuels.

Ken Salazar (L) speaks while US president-elect Barack Obama ... 
Ken Salazar (L) speaks while US president-elect Barack Obama listens during a press conference to nominate Salazar as Secretary of the Interior in Chicago. Obama Wednesday filled out his incoming cabinet with nominees to take over the agriculture and interior departments, two hot-button jobs where controversy is never far.(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

But many of Obama’s other picks reflect his apparent preference for practical-minded centrists who have straddled big policy debates rather than staking out the strongest pro-reform positions. Their reputations as moderates have won Obama plaudits….

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By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

Barack Obama has wholeheartedly embraced experience in choosing his Cabinet.

That may seem at odds with the president-elect’s campaign theme of “change we can believe in.” But some Democratic activists and nonpartisan analysts say it makes sense, given the dire economy and public anxiety.

Obama has tapped senators and representatives, governors and veteran bureaucrats to help him confront the challenges of two wars, a crippled financial system and a deepening recession.

“In uncertain times, Americans find it much more comforting that the people who are going to be advising the president are steeped in experience,” said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker. “A Cabinet of outsiders would have been very disquieting.”

To be sure, Obama’s inner circle includes far more veterans of elected office and federal agencies than government newcomers.

More so than his recent predecessors, he has drawn heavily from the Senate for top advisers. His choices for secretary of state (Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York), interior secretary (Ken Salazar of Colorado) and vice president (Joe Biden of Delaware) were fellow senators. Tom Daschle, named health secretary, was the Senate Democratic leader from South Dakota until he lost his seat in 2004.

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Liberals voice concerns about Obama

December 8, 2008

Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices.

Obama has reversed pledges to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He’s hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he’s stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left.

Now some are shedding a reluctance to puncture the liberal euphoria at being rid of President George W. Bush to say, in effect, that the new boss looks like the old boss.


“He has confirmed what our suspicions were by surrounding himself with a centrist to right cabinet. But we do hope that before it’s all over we can get at least one authentic progressive appointment,” said Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America.

OpenLeft blogger Chris Bowers went so far as to issue this plaintive plea: “Isn’t there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration?”

Read the rest:

Why Has Obama Ignored Latinos for Top Jobs?

December 5, 2008

About four years ago, I wrote a column praising President Bush for appointing Latinos to the Cabinet as he began his second term. The most obvious example was Bush’s decision to nominate Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, which many liberals would insist was a big mistake.

Alberto Gonzales

I disagree. But that’s an argument for another time.

This much can’t be argued: Gonzales represented a major breakthrough. You see, all Cabinet posts are not created equal and, before Bush broke the barrier, no Latino had ever been nominated for one of the top four jobs — defense, state, treasury, or attorney general.

A whole succession of presidents — including Democrats such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — who had munched nachos and posed with mariachis on the campaign trail, and enjoyed substantial support from Latinos, had somehow missed the opportunity to seat a Latino at the grown-ups’ table. Imagine that.

In that column, I also mentioned Bush’s decision to nominate Cuban-born Carlos Gutierrez to be commerce secretary. I had a line that read something like: “Commerce secretary isn’t chopped liver.”

A liberal reader who was obviously intent on denying Bush credit for anything positive wrote back, “Sorry, but commerce secretary is chopped liver.”

I stand corrected.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
The San Diego Union-Tribune

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New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson arrives to the University ... 
New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson arrives to the University of the Americas in Cholula, Mexico, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008. Richardson, who grew up in Mexico, visited Mexico one day after he was chosen as the next commerce secretary by President-elect Barack Obama, amid concerns in Mexico about whether Obama will try to renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)