Barack Obama’s war on me: part I (the political part)

I’m a very sane guy. I was once married to a psychotherapist and I think the reason the marriage didn’t work out was that I was just too darned sane for her. (Which might lead you to ask how it is that Foreign Policy Editor-in-Chief Moisés Naím has had such a long successful marriage to ...

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588095_090303_85176282_resized2.jpg

I'm a very sane guy. I was once married to a psychotherapist and I think the reason the marriage didn't work out was that I was just too darned sane for her. (Which might lead you to ask how it is that Foreign Policy Editor-in-Chief Moisés Naím has had such a long successful marriage to a psychiatrist. Or perhaps that is self-explanatory.)

Because I am sane, it necessarily follows that I am not paranoid. This, in turn, is why I am so troubled by the unavoidable feeling that Barack Obama is out to get me. Not just people like me. But me personally.

I’m a very sane guy. I was once married to a psychotherapist and I think the reason the marriage didn’t work out was that I was just too darned sane for her. (Which might lead you to ask how it is that Foreign Policy Editor-in-Chief Moisés Naím has had such a long successful marriage to a psychiatrist. Or perhaps that is self-explanatory.)

Because I am sane, it necessarily follows that I am not paranoid. This, in turn, is why I am so troubled by the unavoidable feeling that Barack Obama is out to get me. Not just people like me. But me personally.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, perhaps Rothkopf ought to call his ex-wife — or Moìses’s wife — or both. But hear me out.

First, of course, there is the political context: I am a Democrat living in Washington, DC and early in the campaign cycle (which, in retrospect, seems so long ago that it may have been when I entered Junior High), I felt obligated as all Washingtonians do to get involved in a political campaign. So I went about searching for a potential candidate that I could help become the most powerful man or woman in the world. The process is very scientific, involving equal, carefully calibrated parts of both luck and instinct. The luck comes into it because unless you started out knowing a candidate closely (and I really don’t like politicians much so the odds of that are pretty low), having a shot at being in an inner circle in a campaign depends upon who you know who knows someone who knows the guy who can get you the thing. (This by the way, is how everything in the world gets done as documented in my book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making which happens to be coming out in paperback this week with a special new essay on how the economic crisis has rocked the world of the super-empowered.)

In my case, I happened to know a bunch of people around Senator Evan Bayh. Now, as luck would further have it, I had long watched Bayh’s career and had come to admire him a great deal. This is where instinct comes in. I have a nose for candidates who would be great presidents. Anyone who has seen my nose would immediately assume it must be useful for something important. It is a very important looking nose. For example, the very first person I ever worked for in a campaign (I was in college) was President Morris Udall. Later, the very first person I ever voted for in an election was President John Anderson. And later I distinguished myself with my enthusiastic support in 1988 for President Al Gore. That was followed by committed support for President Paul Tsongas. You get the idea. It works the same with me and real estate markets too. When I say “buy,” sell.  And, as it turns out, when I say “Bayh,” also sell. 

But I admired Bayh deeply. (Still do.) He was a fiscal conservative with a genuine conscience, a former governor from a red state with a great record of getting things done, notably in education. He was strong on defense and moreover, he looked like a president. I mean he didn’t have the 1 million gigawatt charisma that had drawn me to Paul Tsongas (and had led me briefly consider trying to help shape a movie career for the equally mesmerizing Warren Christopher) but he was pretty telegenic. He was even something like two days older than me which I found a vaguely comforting distraction from my own headlong plummet toward the abyss. (Presidents should be older than me, Barack. Are you listening?) As I got to know him, one other thing struck me. He was a genuinely good guy. Honest. Concerned. Ethical. In fact, I was absolutely certain he was the president we needed and so I signed on to become the chairman of his campaign’s outside policy committee. This was a group of experts convened to annoy his real paid Senate staff but who felt that if Bayh won, it would springboard us straight into his cabinet. 

Which is how, of course, I became secretary of state. Well, for a few months, it was how I had the great chance to be immersed in getting to know every policy issue of this campaign up close, mostly because everyone else who worked on the campaign was smarter than me. When Bayh withdrew, I realized that I would have to land with another candidate. I knew people in both the Obama and the Hillary camps and talked to both. I was drawn to Hillary who I actually did have a good instinctive read on. The more I learned about her, the more it was clear to me that she was not only far more than just Bill Clinton’s wife (although that alone speaks volumes about her fortitude if not her judgment) she was the better Clinton, the new and improved version, the one I would rather have as President. This was a deep, deep conviction fed by decades of studying Washington, examining my soul and by the fact that my conversations with the Obama team revealed that they hated me. Ok, not all of them hated me. But a couple folks atop the foreign policy team once worked with me and things had ended badly. I thought they were on the mend but, apparently, not so much that they wanted to help me help Barack save the world. So, as I said, I loved Hillary.

Another great call. (Although as with Bayh, and ultimately as with Obama, I came to appreciate each enormously. The reality is, in 2008, the Dems had some really good choices.) Anyway, Obama dashed my hopes again by beating Hillary. So, because I am very quick to pick up on the obvious, I started rooting for Obama to win. And later, after he did,  during the transition, I, like all other Dems in DC, tried to help out and I wrote some memos and gave some casual albeit unsolicited advice to friends on the transition (all of which I was sworn to secrecy about and like all even casual transition helpers I was given a small cyanide capsule to take in case anyone asked me anything about anything). These memos and conversations were all part of a critical Washington process that accompanies all major campaigns and transitions and which was characterized by former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger as creating “the illusion of inclusion.” Needless to say, if later anything goes right with the administration, I will suggest that my couple of pathetic little memos made a critical difference. But truth be told I suspect right now they are lining the bottom of Malia’s hamster cage. Not even. The hamster probably belongs to some Biden grandchild. (Not that they don’t seem like lovely grandchildren who would undoubtedly have lovely rodents.)

Anyway, I’m realistic and frankly, who wants to go work in the government anyway? You can take your stinking ambassadorship to Guinea Bissau and, well, look what happened there over the weekend, anyway. So I am absolutely content to keep doing what I am doing. Like most Americans with college age kids, I work three great jobs, none of which I would want to give up. For twelve hours a day I toil in the fields of our little green energy consulting company. For a few more hours a day I do research related to my work as a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment. And for four or five more hours a day I work on my next book. (Blogging I do in my sleep as should be apparent to any of you by now.) But this of course, brings me to the central reason that I believe Barack Obama hates me.

Reading the new budget and hearing the economic plans of the administration, I have come to the conclusion that while Democrats are obviously out to get the rich, the people they really hate are the upper middle class. (Or, because I am a Dem, does that mean, it’s the people “we” really hate? I’m so confused. Am I a self-hating paranoid? That doesn’t jibe at all with the comments I got to last week’s posts about Chas Freeman. They seemed to suggest I was a self-hating naïf.)

(To be continued…up next: Barack Obama’s war on me: part II (the economic part)

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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