Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

Obama Team Surprised By Detail Bush Demands, Complexity of Wartime Government

December 2, 2008

Many in the Obama transition team had experience in the Clinton Administration that ended almost eight years ago.  Those people are finding many surprises in the post 9-11 complexity of the White House,Pentagon and elsewhere in government…..

By David E. Sanger
The New York Times

None of these newly arrived archaeologists would allow their names to be used when discussing their findings; to preserve cooperation with the Bush White House in a handover-of-power that still has 49 days to go, President-elect Barack Obama’s top aides have imposed a gag rule. But few can contain their amazement, chiefly at the sheer increase in the size of the defense and national-security apparatus.

“For a bunch of small-government Republicans,” one former denizen of the White House who has now stepped back inside for the first time in eight years, “these guys built a hell of an empire.”

Eight years ago, there were two deputy national security advisers; today there are a half-dozen, each with staff. In the downstairs suites of the West Wing and across the street in the Old Executive Office Building, the returnees tripped into the Homeland Security Council, created to keep order in the new, vast, often dysfunctional Homeland Security Department. In the Pentagon’s deepest crevices, the Joint Special Operations Command has mushroomed in size and influence because of the demands of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The list goes on.

But several say that their biggest surprise came when they learned more about how President Bush spends his day, and how he gets his information.

It’s not clear what they expected; perhaps after all those jokes on Letterman and Leno, they thought Mr. Bush spent the heart of his day on the stationary bicycle. Instead, they have been surprised to see the degree of tactical detail about two wars and a handful of insurgencies — from the tribal areas of Pakistan to Sudan and the Congo — that surrounds him. Partly this is because the high-tech makeover of the Situation Room, completed about two years ago, makes instantaneous conversation with field commanders easier than ever.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/02/us/
politics/02web-sanger.html?_r=1

Latinos unhappy with Obama picks

November 30, 2008

If there is one message President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has broadcast about Cabinet picks, it is that ethnicity and gender will not be the first considerations when filling the slots.

Credentials over tokenism, after all, was a fundamental principle of Obama’s presidential campaign that highlighted his ideas and community values over his African-American background. Still, if all goes as planned, Cabinet members with hefty résumés will present a picture of diversity.

Hispanic political leaders agree. Their expectations for seats at the president’s top policy table are not about meeting quotas but about advancing the reality that within this fastest-growing ethnic group are seasoned policy experts who understand the economic, foreign and domestic policy concerns shared by everyone.

Obama promised hope and change, and Hispanics hoped for the usual two Latinos in the Cabinet. And heck, why not three or four? Now that would be a change.

Gebe Martinez, Politico

But at this early stage in the appointments process, there is a trickle of disappointment running through the Latino community.

First, the most prominent Hispanic leader, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, lost the plum secretary of state assignment to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Last spring, Richardson angered the Clintonistas by backing Obama over Clinton during the heated Democratic Primary contest, only to now see her being offered the top diplomatic post.

“There’s nobody more prepared and experienced” for the job than Richardson, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Richardson was energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, and he helped free hostages in North Korea, Iraq and Cuba.

Second, grass-roots immigrant rights activists have mixed feelings about Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano being the likely nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security.

President-elect Barack Obama listens to Democratic governor ... 
President-elect Barack Obama listens to Democratic governor Janet Napolitano (L) of Arziona during a economic discussion in June 2008 at the Chicago History Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Napolitano is a breast cancer survivor, mountaineer and Monty Python buff who has been on the front lines of the battle against illegal immigration.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Jeff Haynes)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20
081130/pl_politico/15967;_ylt=At
k3r5UkmUacGrtgejl8jUes0NUE

Hillary At State And Obama: Never hire someone you can’t afford to fire

November 29, 2008

One rule of employee relations? Never hire someone you can’t afford to fire. Barack Obama’s offer to let Hillary Clinton be secretary of state has already been marked down as a brilliant co-option of his former rival. But nothing comes for free, and the question is just how big a price Mr. Obama will pay in the end.

Wall Street Journal Editorial/Commentary
By Kimberley Strassel

[Potomac Watch] 
Associated Press

For now, he is getting only praise for his surprise pick. The move fits neatly into the media narrative that Mr. Obama is drafting a team that will challenge his thinking. It’s also being described as a gesture that could heal party wounds and mollify Clinton supporters Mr. Obama never won to his side.

The actual motivation? Short term, Mr. Obama understands his real struggles are going to be in the Senate, where he will need 60 votes. Left there with nothing but a potential future run against Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton would be tempted to use her position to highlight her differences with the sitting president. Even as a junior senator, she could gum up his works. Mr. Obama does not need that.

The job at State all but eliminates this threat. As the nation’s top diplomat, Mrs. Clinton will be barred, both by law and by custom, from partisan politics. She’ll have to dismantle her extensive political operation, and end the patronage that has earned her continued loyalty.

There’s arguably also not enough time for Mrs. Clinton to make her mark as secretary of state, and find a reason to break with her boss, and piece back together her empire, and get into a presidential race. They both know that in taking this cabinet post, Mrs. Clinton is clearing herself from Mr. Obama’s political path.

Read the rest:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122783202017862989.html

National Security Pick: From a Marine to a Mediator

November 29, 2008

James L. Jones, a retired four-star general, was among a mostly Republican crowd watching a presidential debate in October when Barack Obama casually mentioned that he got a lot of his advice on foreign policy from General Jones.

By Helene Cooper
The New York Times

 

“Explain yourself!” some of the Republicans demanded, as General Jones later recalled it.

He did not. A 6-foot-5 Marine Corps commandant with the looks of John Wayne, General Jones is not given to talking about his political bent, be it Republican or Democrat. And yet, he is Mr. Obama’s choice for national security adviser, a job that will make him the main foreign policy sounding board and sage to a president with relatively little foreign policy experience.

The selection of General Jones will elevate another foreign policy moderate to a team that will include Robert M. Gates, a carry-over from the Bush administration, as defense secretary and Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. By bringing a military man to the White House, Mr. Obama may be trying to cement an early bond with military leaders who regard him with some uneasiness, particularly over his call for rapid troop reductions in Iraq.

But General Jones will also be expected to mediate between rivals, particularly in dealing with Mr. Gates, who has his own power base at the Pentagon, and with Mrs. Clinton, who has told friends that she does not expect the national security adviser to stand between her and the president.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/us/politics/
29jones.html?_r=1&hp

In this Sept. 6, 2007 file photo, retired Marine Corps Gen. ... 
In this Sept. 6, 2007 file photo, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, chairman of the Iraqi Security Forces Independent Assessment Commission, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Jones, 64, is expected to be announced by Obama next week as part of the president-elect’s national security team, along with Robert Gates as secretary of defense and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.(AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)

The Man Most Responsible, Perhaps, For American Progress in Iraq

November 18, 2008

I suppose it’s possible that George W. Bush would award Stephen J. Hadley the Medal of Freedom. Certainly the president’s national security adviser has earned it, for work that made possible the success we are now seeing in Iraq. And it would be within the president’s prerogative to see that work acknowledged with this honor before they both leave the White House come Jan. 20.

By William McGurn
The Wall Street Journal
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But how much better it would be all around — for the country, for the recipient, and even for Barack Obama — if Mr. Hadley were to receive this honor from the hands of the 44th president of the United States.

[Main Street] 

Stephen Hadley.  Photo by AP

Now, Mr. Hadley is a former colleague of mine from the White House. We did not always see eye to eye, and I know this self-effacing man well enough to know he would be appalled to find anyone putting his name forward for a medal. Yet one fact trumps everything else: Without this good man’s courage and persistence, there would have been no surge.

I don’t think I am talking out of school to mention facts that have been recorded in newspaper articles and books as different as Bing West’s “The Strongest Tribe” and Bob Woodward’s “The War Within.” The surge story begins back in 2006, when al Qaeda finally succeeded in setting the Shia and Sunni at each others’ throats. That October, with Baghdad consumed by sectarian fires, Mr. Hadley tasked William Luti to come up with a new way forward.

Read the rest:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122697257619435911.html

Bush criticized on Iraq, N.Korea

November 18, 2008

President Bush’s efforts to resolve two major foreign-policy challenges in his waning days in office have prompted double-barreled criticisms, with leaders here and abroad questioning concessions his administration has made to Iraq and North Korea.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton said Monday that he was “deeply troubled” by a pending status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) with Iraq because it could result in American troops being prosecuted in Iraqi courts.

Across the globe, Japan and South Korea have gone public with rare dissent, saying they are worried over an agreement on how to verify North Korean pledges to give up making fuel for nuclear weapons.

Mr. Skelton, the leading House Democrat responsible for the U.S. military, said: “I do not believe it was wise to push off major decisions about the legal protections U.S. troops would have in such cases or the crimes for which they could be charged.”

By Sara A. Carter and Nicholas Kralev 
The Washington Times

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/
nov/18/bush-criticized-on-iraq-nkorea/

Russia’s Medvedev Learned PR Skills from Hitler, Chavez, Khrushchev and Putin?

November 17, 2008

One has to ask, “Where is God’s name did Russian President Dmitry Medvedev learn his public relations skills?”  Well, there are several great role models: Russia’s Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev took his shoe off to bang the table at a “diplomatic” meeting.  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, standing at the U.N. in New York City, called President Bush “El Diablo” (the Devil).  And we all know Adolph Hitler’s diplomatic and PR track record.  But Medvedev is a protégée of whom?  Vladimir Putin, if we recollect correctly….

By Vladimir Frolov
The Moscow Times

President Dmitry Medvedev’s first state-of-the-nation address raised a lot eyebrows abroad both by its content and tone. If the objective was to make people shake their heads in bewilderment, it succeeded beyond expectations. But if the intention was to send a reassuring message to the international community, it was a stunning failure.

It is hard to understand why, after so much preparation, Medvedev’s team managed to deliver such a disastrous act of public diplomacy.

The speech was purposely delayed to Nov. 5 to give Medvedev an opportunity to send a signal to President-elect Barack Obama several hours after his election victory was announced. Medvedev’s team deliberated for some time whether Medvedev should send Obama a warm, handwritten note or an impersonal diplomatic cable. They wound up sending him a public ultimatum on missile defense. “It was an almost caricature case of the Kremlin being tone-deaf,” said one prominent Russia analyst in the United States.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the Washington Club ... 
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the Washington Club in Washington, November 15, 2008. Medvedev visited Washington to attend the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy on Saturday.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES)

If the intention was to signal the Kremlin’s willingness to re-engage the United States under the new administration, then the Iskander missile threat and the failure by Medvedev to immediately congratulate Obama directly was really dumb.

Medvedev’s clueless speech, filled with lots of U.S.-bashing, made it much more difficult for those on Obama’s team who argued that the relationship with Russia, badly bungled by the administration of President George W. Bush, needed the priority attention to be repaired.

Medvedev’s Iskander threat sounded like an attempt to publicly blackmail Obama out of missile-defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic. By laying down this marker, Medvedev unintentionally made it much more difficult for Obama to back down from the missile-defense deployments. To cancel the project now would be tantamount for him to buckling to Moscow’s pressure — something that U.S. presidents are not too fond of doing. Moreover, blackmailing a U.S. president-elect is not the best way to improve U.S.-Russian relations.

Russia's "Iskander" missile system on display ... 
Russia’s “Iskander” missile system on display at a military exhibition in the Siberian town of Nizhny Tagil in 2005. President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia will place short-range missile systems on the EU’s eastern border to counter planned US missile defence installations in Eastern Europe.(AFP/VEDOMOSTI/File/Evgeny Stetsko)

Medvedev took a page right out of Soviet leader Yury Andropov’s book by threatening to place missiles on the country’s western borders. Many Russian specialists in Washington believe that Medvedev’s threats make him sound like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In a few months, Medvedev’s Kremlin will encounter a tightly knit and efficient Obama administration. Medvedev needs much better advice to hold his ground with Obama in public diplomacy. Right now he is clueless in Moscow.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government relations and PR company.

Related:
Russia’s Putin and the Great Deception

Japan Slides Into Recession; Obama Presidency Seen as No Help

November 17, 2008

Japan’s economy slid into a recession for the first time since 2001, the government said Monday, as companies sharply cut back on spending in the third quarter amid the unfolding global financial crisis.

The world’s second-largest economy contracted at an annual pace of 0.4 percent in the July-September period after a declining an annualized 3.7 percent in the second quarter. That means Japan, along with the 15-nation euro-zone, is now technically in a recession, defined as two straight quarters of contraction.

The result was worse than expected. Economists surveyed by Kyodo News agency had predicted gross domestic product would gain an annualized 0.1 percent.

Japan’s Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano said following the data’s release that “the economy is in a recessionary phase.”

But the worst may be yet to come, especially with dramatic declines in demand from consumers overseas for Japan’s autos and electronics gadgets. Hurt also by a strengthening yen, a growing number of exporters big and small are slashing their profit, sales and spending projections for the full fiscal year through March.

Toyota Motor Corp., for example, has cut net profit full-year profit forecast to 550 billion yen ($5.5 billion) — about a third of last year’s earnings. And Sony Corp., whose July-September profit plunged 72 percent, expects to make 59 percent less this fiscal year than last year.

“What we’re starting to see is the extent of deterioration in external demand start to weigh more heavily on the Japanese economy,” said Glen Maguire, chief Asia economist at Societe Generale. “And I think looking forward, there’s every indication that dynamic is going to continue.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081117/ap_on_bi_ge/as_jap
an_economy;_ylt=ApHIyzOiyEFeB_wFtelfrris0NUE

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For Japan, Obama Signals A Shift Closer to China, Away From “Traditional” Asian Allies
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The Japanese do not share the jubilation seen almost everywhere following the election of Barack Obama. 

Economically, Japan sees an Obama White House funding the American Big Three Automakers: GM, Chrysler and Ford.  And that’s bad for Japan’s automakers.

Japan, for one nation, prefers to allow the “system” to work without more government intervention.

On the foreign policy level, Japan fears North Korea’s erratic behavior and nuclear capability.  It also fears China as a tradition enemy of immense wealth, population and size which can easily overwhelm the economy of Japan.

Japan fears the presidency of Barack Obama.  “So far, no good,” one senior diplomat told Peace and Freedom.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapal, Virginia

Related:
Obama Not Such A Hero In Japan

Can Obama Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? Yes He Can, Maybe

November 16, 2008

Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.
.
Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.

For years, like legions of other professionals, Mr. Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry. The device has rarely been far from his side — on most days, it was fastened to his belt — to provide a singular conduit to the outside world as the bubble around him grew tighter and tighter throughout his campaign.

 
Above: Senator Barack Obama with two campaign constants: his BlackBerry and his chief strategist, David Axelrod.  Photo: Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
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“How about that?” Mr. Obama replied to a friend’s congratulatory e-mail message on the night of his victory.

But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/us/politics
/16blackberry.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Obama’s White House Limo: Mean Machine

November 14, 2008

An analysis of unauthorized photographs taken while the car was being tested last summer on public roads suggests that the presidential ride will be a truck-based Cadillac. It will presumably replace the Cadillac that President Bush has used since 2005.

 
This Cadillac, disguised for testing, may go to Washington.  Chris Doane/Brenda Priddy & Company
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This new car will be a Caddy like no other. The photos by Chris Doane, a spy photographer who hunts big automotive game — future models that haven’t been publicly revealed — for magazines and Web sites, provide clues about how specialized presidential transportation has become since the first White House fleet was ordered for William Howard Taft in 1909. President Taft rode in a stock White steam car or a conventional Pierce-Arrow, but the next president will travel in a fortress-like vehicle that was mostly built from scratch.

The photographer noted that the limousine was being tested, possibly for comparison purposes, with a pair of GMC Topkick medium-duty trucks. The limousine seemed to be riding on the same 19.5-inch Goodyear Regional RHS tires as the trucks, indicating that it is far heavier than a civilian Cadillac — even the longest stretch limousines built with the G.M. division’s heavy-duty coachbuilder package. Indeed, it is believed that the limo is based on G.M.’s 2500 line of trucks, which includes an extra-heavy-duty version of the Suburban.

Although the raised roof and wide windshield pillars are inherited from the ultra-armored limousines that entered presidential service in 2001, only educated guesses can be made about the technical details. Because neither the Secret Service nor General Motors will discuss the car, or even confirm that a new one has been under development, it is impossible to provide basic specifications or dimensions. Calls to Cadillac’s media relations department were not returned, and the Secret Service declined to comment.

Read the rest From The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/automobiles/02LIMO.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

See also Fox News:
http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/11/14/obama-chic-potent-
new-presidential-limousine-spotted/