The Mudville Gazette comments on reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has agreed to stay on under President-elect Barack Obama, a development that Jules Crittenden sarcastically refers to as Obama’s vote for Bush. The Mudville Gazette also notes Obama has shifted his policy on Iraq for the third time altering “a campaign-era demand that the U.S. Congress ‘must approve’ it [SOFA] to a simple acknowledgment that Congress ‘should review’ the agreement.”
That’s his third major shift in Iraq policy, by the way. The first was ‘clarifying’ that “immediately begin withdrawal/16 months” bit last July, the second was quietly dropping the call to eliminate “security contractors” (probably in light of reality) – and I give him much credit for those choices, too.
TalkLeft is undismayed, noting that not everything about Bush was bad. “Unlike a lot of folks, I respect Bush 41ers like Gates. My one problem with this is that it sends the message that Dems can’t do Defense.” The Daily Kos was predictably livid. “Should Barack Obama choose to retain Robert Gates, if only for a year, he will telegraph a victory of the bankrupt status quo in the far-reaching and foremost area of Defense. Having already appointed two Tenet alums, John Brennan and Jami Miscik , President-Elect Obama needs to show as much certitude with Defense as he is doing with Treasury.” The Moderate Voice makes a virtue of the disappointment of the far left wing of the Democratic Party, describing the Gates choice as evidence that Obama will chart a “centrist” course — “a signal again of how Obama seems to seriously study an issue and reach a decision even if some clamor for a different outcome.”
The alternative explanation is that Obama knew from the start what Talkleft openly admitted: that major elements of the GWB’s security policy were quite competent, whatever he said to the contrary on the campaign. When his own political future was at stake — the one thing that could ruin Obama’s Presidency was a national security disaster at the start of his term — he voted according to his true beliefs. Obama chose the man with the track record of achievement, Robert Gates. And the dangers have not yet abated. ABC News reports, for example, that authorities have learned of al-Qaeda’s plans to attack New York’s subways. “The FBI has warned New York area law enforcement of a ‘plausible but unsubstantiated’ al Qaeda suicide bomb attack against the area’s commuter rail systems over the holiday. … The use of the term ‘plausible but unsubstantiated’ suggests the information came from a ‘walk-in’ to a US embassy, said former CIA intelligence officer John Kiriakou, an ABC News analyst.” Other things he could take a chance on: Hillary at State, Richardson at Commerce, Holder at the AG’s. But in the one single thing that could ruin him in an instant, BHO simply gave, as Jules Crittenden said, Bush’s defense policies a “third term”.
Glenn Reynolds seems relieved that Obama lied to the Left, or at least let them mishear him. “So, who are the rubes this time? Glenn Greenwald has a clue. ‘So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes. But it wasn’t Obama who misled them. It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered.’ Well, the master bullshitter always lets the rubes hear what they want to hear. And knows that there will be some rubes who will make excuses, even after the truth is revealed.”
But that is cold comfort. As any woman who has considered having an affair with a married man should know, any man who can lie to his wife can lie to his mistress. Any man who has hosted a dinner guest famous for robbing his fellow diners should start counting his spoons. Maybe another way to be a rube is to think that BHO is a closet conservative. The most probable reason why Barack Obama offered Robert Gates an extension at Defense was because he thought it was good for Barack Obama.
What will be interesting to watch — and even the Left are beginning to notice that they don’t really know Obama as well as they thought — is how he will behave when his own political ambitions and the welfare of the United States might diverge. The greatest measure of Winston Churchill’s leadership were his years alone: the time between the wars when he could have had office, honor and power were he but to tell a lie or let himself be misheard. In the summer of 1935 the forgotten Winston greeted his wife Clementine upon her return from a 30,000 mile sea-voyaging holiday with friends. She brought home with her a Bali Dove: “a dear little pinky-beige bird with coral beak and feet, who lived in a wicker cage resembling a lobster pot”. The Bali Dove lived two or three years and died in the closing days of the long weekend from history. Clementine buried him under a sundial with words taken from a poem:
Here lies the Bali Dove
It does not do to wander
Too far from sober men
But there’s an island yonder
I think of it again.
That quiet time with his inner light, and not the War Cabinet Crisis of May, 1940, was his finest hour.