Open thread on Hillary Clinton and Obama's national security team

At MyDD Todd Beeton has excerpts from this morning’s press conference:

Obama’s introductory remarks are remarkably poetic. “America’s values are our country’s greatest export to the world.”

He’s announced his nomination of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state (“I am proud that she will be our next secretary of state…She will help restore our reputation around the world,”) Robert Gates at defense (“responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control”,) Eric Holder for Attorney General (“The Attorney General serves the American people…I have no doubt he will uphold the constitution,”) Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security (“she insists on competence and accountability,”) Susan Rice as Ambassador to the UN and Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

“We will shape our times instead of being shaped by them.” […]

As for his choice of Clinton at state, “it was not a lightbulb moment…she shares my core values and the values of the American people. I was always interested after the primary was over in finding ways to collaborate…It occurred to me that she could potentially be an outstanding secretary of state, I offered her the position and she accepted.”

On whether he still intends to remove troops from Iraq in 16 months: “Remember what I said during the campaign. I said that I would remove our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months keeping in mind that it might be necessary to maintain a residual force…As I said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders.”

Like I said last week, I have a bad feeling Gates and Jones were chosen in order to give Obama cover for breaking his campaign promises on Iraq.

Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press has details about the deal Bill Clinton made to allow his wife to become Barack Obama’s secretary of state. Apparently, the former president agreed:

-to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward.

-to refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference.

-to cease holding CGI meetings overseas.

-to volunteer to step away from day to day management of the foundation while his wife is secretary of state.

-to submit his speaking schedule to review by the State Department and White House counsel.

-to submit any new sources of income to a similar ethical review.

I still think Hillary Clinton would be able to accomplish more over her lifetime as a senator from New York, but clearly she was strongly motivated to accept this position in Obama’s government.

However, I continue to be amused by the anguished commentaries from those Obama supporters who got too wrapped up in the primary battle to deal with Hillary in her new role.

Share any relevant thoughts in the comments.

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Open thread on Obama's national security team

According to ABC, Barack Obama will roll out his national security team soon after this weekend.  

All indications suggest that Hillary Clinton will become secretary of state.

ABC says keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates on for at least a year is "a done deal." Others likely to be appointed include  

Marine Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) as National Security Adviser; Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.) as Director of National Intelligence; and Dr. Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 Todd Beeton goes over the pros and cons of keeping Gates in place.

 A lot of Obama supporters seem comfortable with this decision. If the new president keeps his promise to withdraw most of our troops from Iraq safely within 16 months, there’s an argument for sticking with someone at Defense who’s already familiar with the situation on the ground. My main concern is that Gates will strenuously argue that we need to keep a large contingent in Iraq and give Obama cover to break his campaign promise.

Looks like no one who opposed the Iraq war from the start will be in Obama’s inner circle on foreign policy.

In the unambiguously good news column, John Brennan withdrew his name from consideration to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Glenn Greenwald (among others) made the case against Brennan last week.

UPDATE: Jon Soltz, co-founder of VoteVets, argues that “the Gates pick works.”

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Who thinks we'll be out of Iraq in 18 months?

Two months from now, Barack Obama will be inaugurated, having promised to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months:

Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – more than 7 years after the war began.

Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. They will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.

I’ve been skeptical about whether Obama would follow through on this promise ever since I learned in April that Colin Kahl, the man Obama put in charge of his working group on Iraq, was secretly recommending that the U.S. leave 60,000 to 80,000 troops in Iraq at least through the end of 2010.

As of June, Kahl was still Obama’s leading adviser on Iraq, and he co-authored a report advocating that “a large contingent of American forces [remain] in Iraq for several years”.

Now Obama is leaning toward leaving Robert Gates in charge of the Department of Defense for some time. In the best-case scenario, Gates would oversee the phased withdrawal of troops over a 16-month period, and then Obama would put someone else in charge of the DOD. On the other hand, it seems plausible that someone George W. Bush trusted to enact his Iraq policy might strongly advise the new president to back off from his planned timetable.

Consider Obama’s reported choice of General Jim Jones as national security adviser. Does it seem likely that this man, who backed John McCain for president, would encourage Obama to get us out of Iraq as quickly as we could safely do so?

The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported over the weekend,

There is growing concern among a new generation of anti-war foreign policy analysts in Washington, many of whom stuck their necks out to support Mr Obama early in the White House race, that they will be frozen out of his administration.

Mrs Clinton is expected to appoint her own top team at the State Department, drawn from more conservative thinkers.

A Democratic foreign policy expert told one Washington website: “They were the ones courageous enough to stand up early against Iraq, which is why many supported Obama in the first place.” Their fear, he added, is that they will not now secure the mid-level posts which will enable them to reach the top of the Washington career ladder in future.

Although I never thought Obama and Clinton were very different on Iraq or other policy matters, I feel sorry for the policy wonks who supported Obama because they thought he would be better on Iraq.

As Al Giordano recently reminded us, these people took a big risk for Obama:

Way back in ancient times – I’m talking about 2007 – the most difficult place to be a supporter of then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid was inside the Washington DC beltway. […]

If you were a Democrat in or around DC and backed Obama for president you were a pariah, shunned, no longer invited to the cocktail parties or policy panels. And no small number of Clinton bandwagoneers would take every chance to remind you that, once the White House had been reconquered, you would be screwed to the wall, and viciously so.

I have no contacts in DC, but this account has the ring of truth for me. I remember one particularly obnoxious Clinton supporter who used to comment at MyDD regularly during 2007. When Hillary’s nomination seemed inevitable, he would brag about his Washington connections and how after she wrapped things up on Super Tuesday, hellfire would rain down on certain people who had supported Obama for president.

I am not opposed to Clinton as secretary of state, but I think Obama owes something to the people who were there for him early on because (they thought) he was a strong opponent of the Iraq War.

For me, the most shocking part of the Telegraph story was this:

Suspicion of Mr Obama’s moves has been compounded, for some liberals, by the revelation that Mr Obama has for several months been taking advice from Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush.

Scowcroft? I know a lot of Democrats would be happy to see Obama serve out Bill Clinton’s third term, but I’m pretty sure none of them voted for Obama so that he could serve out Poppy Bush’s second term.

The Wall Street Journal confirms the connections between Obama and Scowcroft:

Many of the Republicans emerging as potential members of the Obama administration have professional and ideological ties to Brent Scowcroft, a former national-security adviser turned public critic of the Bush White House.

Mr. Scowcroft spoke by phone with President-elect Barack Obama last week, the latest in a months-long series of conversations between the two men about defense and foreign-policy issues, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The relationship between the president-elect and the Republican heavyweight suggests that Mr. Scowcroft’s views, which place a premium on an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, might hold sway in the Obama White House.

Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see Obama pick up the Israeli-Palesstinian peace process, and I am aware that Scowcroft has criticized George W. Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq.

Still, it seems unjust for Obama to get elected on the promise of big change and then turn around an appoint a bunch of Scowcroft’s buddies to his foreign policy shop–especially if the foreign policy experts who were there for Obama early on are left out in the cold.

I would love to be proved wrong, but I am finding it hard to believe that the American military presence in Iraq will be down to a small residual force 18 months from now.

Your thoughts and rebuttals are welcome in the comments.

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Yet another thread on Obama cabinet appointments (updated)

The more I think about it, the more I think Hillary Clinton should stay in the Senate. However, most analysts are speculating she will accept Barack Obama’s offer to become Secretary of State. Here’s a roundup of recent coverage on the appointment.

Tom Harkin thinks Hillary will be secretary of state, and he likes the idea:

Harkin said he was confident that former President Bill Clinton would not pose conflicts, as he’s agreed to make public the donors to his foundation and clear his travel schedule and speeches with the Obama administration, should his wife become secretary of state.

“If he’s willing to do whatever the Obama team and the president wants – and he should understand it, he’s a former president – that would be fine,” Harkin said.

He also said Obama naming her would be a demonstration of unity to the world. Sen. Clinton and Obama waged an intense, six-month campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.

“I think it would send a good signal to the world if Hillary Clinton were secretary of state,” Harkin said. “The signal it sends to the world is we can have big fights politically here in the United States and yet after the election’s over, we pull together.”

Where does that leave Bill Richardson? I hope he ends up in the cabinet. UPDATE: ragbrai08 has heard rumblings Richardson might become Secretary of the Interior, which would be a decent fit for him.

Kia Franklin of the Drum Major Institute wrote an interesting piece on Eric Holder, the likely attorney general, and where he stands on civil justice issues.

John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs blog offers “A Different View of [Tom] Vilsack,” the front-runner to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict when, where and from whom leadership will emerge. The book on Tom Vilsack is not complete, and perhaps that is a good thing. He does not get a perfect score on my litmus tests. But, when I disagree with him in the future I will continue to engage him, just as I always have, whether he is a private citizen or the Secretary of Agriculture. And he will engage me, just as he always has.

I hope that, at the end of the day, our next Secretary of Agriculture is the kind of leader that can help create a future for rural America with thriving family farms and ranches and vibrant rural communities. I believe Governor Vilsack can provide that leadership. Perhaps he just might get the chance.

James L. of Swing State Project is concerned that Obama might choose either Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin or Representative Collin Peterson for the USDA job. Both are from Republican-leaning districts that would be hard for a different Democrat to hold.

Obama supposedly was leaning toward offering the Commerce Department position to uber-fundraiser Penny Pritzker, but she withdrew her name from consideration.

Haven’t heard much about a possible secretary of transportation. Obama supports greater investment in core infrastructure as well as high-speed rail and public mass transit, so I am hopeful he will put someone with vision in charge of this department. The highway bill comes up for reauthorization in 2009 and is sure to be one of the major battlegrounds in Congress.

Still no word on a Treasury Secretary. Matt Stoller remembered another reason why Larry Summers is wrong for the job.

Most people seem to think Robert Gates will stay on as Defense Secretary. I don’t see why Obama can’t appoint a Democrat for that position. We have plenty of qualified people in our party. Keeping the Republicans in charge of defense supports their propaganda that the GOP is best for defending the country.

The Mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, is being considered either for Transportation or for Housing and Urban Development. Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is not interested in the HUD appointment.

Share your opinions or predictions in the comments.

UPDATE: Why does Obama want to reinforce Republican stereotypes about how they’re the only ones who can handle national security? Now General Jim Jones, a supporter of the Iraq War and John McCain, is tipped to run the National Security Agency. That is just crazy. Put some Democrats in charge, please. It’s not as if we don’t have people who could do this job well. I would not be surprised if Jones undermines Obama in this position.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times says Hillary Clinton will take the Secretary of State job.

Several news outlets are saying Timothy Geithner, about whom I know nothing, will be Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee. Geithner is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

NBC News says Bill Richardson will be Commerce Secretary. I don’t like him nearly so much for that job as I would like him for Secretary of State, Transportation, or Interior. Richardson’s a corporate Democrat, judging from his record in the 1990s. He ran the whip to get NAFTA through the House during Bill Clinton’s first term.

Still no progressives in Obama’s cabinet.

UPDATE 3: My brother, who works in the investment field and is much more of a moderate Democrat than I am, is “sick” about the prospect of Geithner running Treasury. His other comment about Geithner is not printable at this blog.

UPDATE 4: This is from a speech Geithner gave in May 2006:

Credit derivatives have contributed to dramatic changes in the process of credit intermediation, and the benefits of these changes seem compelling. They have made possible substantial improvements in the way credit risk is managed and facilitated a broad distribution of risk outside the banking system. By spreading risk more widely, by making it easier to purchase and sell protection against credit risk and to actively trade credit risk, and by facilitating the participation of a large and very diverse pool of non-bank financial institutions in the business of credit, these changes probably improve the overall efficiency and resiliency of financial markets.

With the advent of credit derivatives, concentrations of credit risk are made easier to mitigate, and diversification made easier to achieve. Credit losses, whether from specific, individual defaults or the more widespread distress that accompanies economic recessions, will be diffused more broadly across institutions with different risk appetite and tolerance, and across geographic borders. Our experience since the introduction of these new instruments-a period that includes a major asset price shock and a global recession-seems to justify the essentially positive judgment we have about the likely benefits of ongoing growth in these markets.

Despite the benefits to financial resilience, the changes in the credit markets that are the subject of your conference have also provoked some concerns and unease, even among those on the frontier of innovation and the most active participants in these markets.

These concerns are based in part on uncertainty-a candid acknowledgment that there is a lot we do not yet know about how these instruments and the increased role of nonbank institutions in these markets will affect how the financial markets are likely to function in conditions of stress.  […]

Let me conclude by reiterating the fundamental view that the wave of innovation underway in credit derivatives offers substantial benefits to both the efficiency and stability of our financial system.

Hmmm, he didn’t seem to have seen any of the current problems coming. Also, he apparently was involved in the bailout negotiations. So it seems like this is a very status quo pick for Obama.

On an even less encouraging note, Obama’s leading candidate to run the CIA is a “Bush-Cheney apologist.”

That’s not exactly “change we can believe in.”

UPDATE 5: Two people on Obama’s short list would both be highly competent and celebrated by progressives: Representative Raul Grijalva for Interior (he heads the House Progressive Caucus) and former Representative David Bonior for Labor (he has close ties to organized labor).

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Obama VP speculation open thread

Paul Rosenberg still wants John Edwards on the ticket, citing new opinion polls that show he helps Barack Obama more than many other possible running-mates.

Virginia Senator Jim Webb seems to have taken himself out of the running by co-sponsoring a bill to allow offshore oil drilling in Virginia.

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold seems to have taken himself out of the running by criticizing Obama for opting out of public financing for his general-election campaign.

General James Jones has to be off the list after he accompanied John McCain to a campaign event in Missouri.

As I’ve written before, Obama must above all do no harm with his VP choice. That means he can’t choose anyone who would alienate the Democratic constituencies that favored Hillary Clinton in the primaries. If I were in his position, I would probably choose someone close to the Clintons, like Wes Clark.

However, if Obama doesn’t want to tap someone from the Clinton circle, a number of other choices, including Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and John Edwards, would be ok by me.

If he wants an “old wise man,” I much prefer former Florida Senator Bob Graham to someone like former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn.

I am absolutely, implacably opposed to putting any Republican (such as Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel) on the Democratic ticket. The next president is going to appoint several Supreme Court judges, and I don’t want any conservative to have any chance of becoming president.

Make the case for the running mate of your choice in the comments.

UPDATE: Good discussion about the pros and cons of Biden on the ticket in the comment thread under this diary: Biden Drank Graham’s Milkshake: Veep Audition?

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