Cracks in the Ceiling, Part II
Dear Ceiling, Where was I? Oh yes, random thoughts at the end of a long week: Speaking of lobbies and lobbyists, it’s interesting that despite the anti-lobbyist commitment of the president-elect, he has picked as deputy Secretary of Defense-designate the head lobbyist for a defense contractor. As it happens, William Lynn is a good guy and ...
Where was I? Oh yes, random thoughts at the end of a long week:
- Speaking of lobbies and lobbyists, it’s interesting that despite the anti-lobbyist commitment of the president-elect, he has picked as deputy Secretary of Defense-designate the head lobbyist for a defense contractor. As it happens, William Lynn is a good guy and an excellent choice. As are several other folks who are up for top Obama jobs who are lobbyists or who, like Tom Daschle or Carol Browner, are married to them. It’s not time to turn on these people, it’s time to gracefully back away from the pledge to keep lobbyists out of government jobs. DC being a government town, people who leave the government often go to work in businesses that have business with the government. Sometimes they advocate on issues that are important to them. That doesn’t make them sleazy. Being an active participant in democracy doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. Everyone would be better off if the focus was on scrupulously avoiding conflicts of interest.
- There are so many special envoys and czars popping up in this administration that I have reconsidered. I want to be a special envoy. I also want TARP money. In fact, I think I would like to be the special envoy to say, Goldman Sachs. (If I can use their executive dining room when I am in NY.)
- In case you missed the point, having so many special envoys and czars is a formula for policy-making gridlock, clashes of egos and lack of discipline in the policy development and implementation process. It is interesting that we already have perhaps six or seven very senior people who are going to be devoted to shaping greater Middle East/South Asia policy — envoys are being discussed for India-Pakistan, Iran, Israel-Palestine, plus an assistant secretary, plus someone at the NSC, plus a counterterrorism czar, plus the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of State, an Under Secretary for Political Affairs at State who is a Mideast specialist…and China is almost certainly our most important international relationship and not a czar or bevy of appointments in sight. And can you imagine the graceful handoffs between and among these czars as their issues overlap? Go see a demolition derby and imagine the names of your favorite foreign policy types painted on each of the cars….it’ll tell you the whole story.
- I watched "Morning Joe" this morning as I do every day while working out (I have learned blogging is very demanding and I have started to do special exercises to strengthen my rhetorical poise) and there were great expressions of outrage at the civilian casualties in Gaza. Two reactions: the losses are appalling, getting worse and the Israelis have both a moral and a political reason to stop them and to embrace offers of humanitarian relief assistance and secondly, what do we think is happening or has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan? Civilian collateral damage, deaths and suffering that make this Gaza exercise look insignificant by comparison. It is interesting how well the media cover the losses in Gaza and how badly they have been doing at covering the human cost in America’s two wars.
- We should welcome pushback on the stimulus from concerned Democrats on the Hill. Pushing money out via tax rebates or to mayors and governors who won’t make the best long-term use of it is a waste. Having a debate before spending a trillion bucks seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It might actually lead to a better understanding of what policymakers think the problems are and how they think their actions are going to solve them. But know this: at the end of the day not one soul knows whether this stimulus will work long term in slowing the tide of the recession…especially since so many risk factors exist well outside the U.S. economy and the control of the USG.
- Go re-read the articles on China rethinking its stance on U.S. debt. It could be a defining moment in the history of the U.S., our economy and our national security.
- Which swamp will we be in longer: Afghanistan or the stimulus business?
- Give the Obama administration and ourselves a break. The inauguration is the beginning of a journey. Not everything has to be or can be done at once.
- Oh, and as good as Florida was, USC is the best college football team in the country (and probably better than at least one NFL team…but let’s not pick on Detroit any more than necessary). The only reason I feel free to offer this comment is that I read somewhere that fellow FP blogographer Dan Drezner sometimes writes about his (sadly misplaced) fondness for the Boston Red Sox. (For some reason the Red Sox are a real Washington fetish, saying you like them down here implies subtly that you went to a fancy university in the Boston area. I once was in a business with former US National Security Advisor Tony Lake and in the course of things he sold me his house in Annapolis. When we moved in, we discovered that he had set his alarm codes to "1918" the last year the Sox, at that time, had won a pennant, and to Bill Buckner’s number. But the best Washington Red Sox story I know belongs to Bo Cutter, former Deputy to Bob Rubin at the Clinton National Economic Council. Bo’s father was in the last phases of a long decline and had entered a coma. Bo was at his side one day, near the end, when he briefly shocked Bo by awakening. Bo leaned forward as the old man whispered to him. "Fucking Bill Buckner ruined my life." He then returned to the coma and later died.)
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.