Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

June 7, 2009

PICKING PLAYERS FROM THE OTHER TEAM.... At this point, there are five Republicans with degrees of power and influence in the Obama administration -- LaHood, McHugh, Gates, Huntsman, and Leach -- and it would have been six were it not for the unpleasantness with Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). The NYT has an item today on the ways in which these moves have taken a toll on "Republican morale."

In picking Republicans like Mr. McHugh for top jobs, the Obama administration says it is assembling a coalition government that welcomes qualified members of the opposition. It gives the White House a claim to bipartisanship despite continuing clashes with Republican Congressional leaders.

But the political benefits are an equally strong incentive. Remaining Republican colleagues become discouraged and feel further isolated in the minority. Political vacancies are created. And Republicans can be painted as being hostile to more moderate Republicans or those willing to engage the Democratic administration.

It works, in other words, on more than one level. They'll no doubt keep doing it anyway, but it's more difficult for congressional Republicans to label the White House as strident partisans, unwilling to take GOP ideas seriously, when Obama has more members of the opposition party on his team than any modern president.

John McHugh's decision to join the administration as Secretary of the Army, though, seems to hurt more. Gates was already at the Pentagon, Leach and LaHood were already out of Congress, and Huntsman was out in Utah, but McHugh was a popular Republican leader in the House. Worse, his departure opens up a competitive House race in New York

These moves demoralize the minority, dwindle their numbers, make the president appear more magnanimous, and give the administration more bipartisan credibility. John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former top House aide, however, hopes to sow some seeds of division among Democrats.

"At some point," Mr. Feehery said, "the liberals are going to catch on, and they are going to have a fit."

Maybe. When the McHugh announcement was first announced, I received a few emails from Dems complaining that they'd like to see fewer Republicans in positions of military responsibility, fearing that Gates and McHugh reinforce bogus stereotypes.

But I suspect we're still a ways from a "liberal fit." The key, it seems, is the policy. If the president is going to work with a Republican Defense Secretary and a Republican Secretary of the Army to a) implement procurement reform; b) reform military spending in general; c) scrap "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; and d) revamp use of the military in the context of improving U.S. foreign policy, my guess is the left will give the Democratic president a reasonable amount of slack.

Steve Benen 11:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

When I read Feehery's comment, I thought it was as revealing as any tell in poker. Just like us "liberals," Feehery knows perfectly well that Obama is governing from the center in as bipartisan a way as he can manage. Next time you hear him or his colleagues railing about "Obama-the-socialist," that's the quote you want to remember.

Posted by: bcamarda on June 7, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK
it's more difficult for congressional Republicans to label the White House strident partisans, unwilling to take GOP ideas seriously, when Obama has more members of the opposition party on his team than any modern president.

Are you kidding? The leftover Congresscritters will just label the Repubs in the Admin stealth liberals and wrap themselves in the mantle of victimized minority.

"At some point," Mr. Feehery said, "the liberals are going to catch on, and they are going to have a fit."

We already know what's going on because we're not a bunch of brain-dead FauxSnooze addicts like Das Base.

These people make me laugh.

Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on June 7, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

If having a few high profile Republicans in the Department of Defense will allow for the elimination of Don't Ask Don't Tell, then I am all for it.

Posted by: jen f on June 7, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

If nothing else, it is a contrast to the deBaathification process Bush used in Iraq. Now if he would just round up and imprison some of the extremists, like Rove, Delay and the Cheney tribe.

Posted by: Danp on June 7, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

The Secretary of the Army is never going to be a position for a real liberal. The job requires massive commitment to maintaining the military industrial complex, making sure that the largest amount of money is shoveled into the Army and fighting off cost-cutting measures to ensure that as many Army bases as possible remain open.

This is a job best left to a raging bureaucrat who will follow orders from the President. Whether that man is a Republican or Democrat is really not that important. I doubt a real liberal could get appointed or if he were, would receive the institutional support of the Army.

In fact, if McHughs acts as a shield to loyally promote Obama policies that the Army isn't happy with (reforms) and take some of the heat, then it's probably MORE useful to have a Republican in the job than a Democrat. At least he makes it much harder for the right-wing to paint the Secretary as a wild-eyed radical tearing down the Army.

Gates as Sec. Def. is an even more obvious benefit. As much as I dislike him for his dissembling over Iraq, Republicans have built him up into such a Demi-God (similar to Gen. Petreus) that they can't mount any kind of attack on him at all, pretty much no matter what he does.

So, if he gets his marching orders from Obama and carries them out, Republicans are ham-strung in responding. They have to try and avoid anything that might seem criticism of Gates -- or wind up looking like utter hypocrites and fools -- which they often do of course, but this would be rather obviously self-defeating.

The right-wing has been almost completely de-fanged by these appointments, but at the cost of having conservatives committed to the Bush policies of the past in key positions giving advice to the President. So long as Obama maintains his OWN counsel, everything will be fine.

Posted by: Cugel on June 7, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

"scrap DADT"

Is that on some unknown siding out in the desert? If, they have put any time on this, they must have it in Slo-Mo. Sorta the old First Purge, Then Accept method.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 7, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

President Obama has bamboozled the republicans. He is so far out of their limited sphere of thinking that they will never ever understand what he is doing or how is doing it. Feehery's comment reflects what is happening to republicans. They are very good at projecting their own sins on to others, but they are fooling no one except themselves. Their antics are becoming ludicrous.

Posted by: CDW on June 7, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I realize it may not be his intention, but I can hope that one of Obama's achievements as President will be the total, complete, and irreversible destruction of the Republican Party.

Posted by: rob! on June 7, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Smart Government (SG) is not formed out of partisan politics - that mold has already produced failed government. The adherents to the extremism we are witnessing today, through rhetoric of mostly unelected officials, are merely from the remnants of the old order! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on June 7, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

McHugh is already backtracking on his prior opposition to DADT. Another point in the NYT article which Steve didn't mention is that McHugh is the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services committee, a very powerful position. His leaving it for an Obama position means he doesn't think that the House will have a republican majority anytime soon, or why would he be walking away from the opportunity for being the chairman of the committee.

Posted by: Toutatis on June 7, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody who isn't an idiot thinks this country will be as economically strong(given multinational speculation) as it is, 10 years from now. Only a sociopath could let this fall on the lower classes.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on June 7, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

It works, in other words, on more than one level.

Obama is unquestionably a master politician. I don't use "politician" as a pejorative - those we acclaim as "statesmen" were master politicians first. (Lincoln being the foremost example.) Time will tell whether Obama's political mastery will bring him to the level of statesman, or whether he will turn out to have been merely shrewd.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on June 7, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I said a year? ago, if Obama gets this country thinking straight, he will have attained greatness. That is why the right keeps screaming, crazily. His eloquence is the salvation of this country. The actions may have to come later, but, ain't no shit, we are skating on thin ice.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on June 7, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Obama is just being tactical here (not that OP implied such.) I think BHO really believes that incorporating members of oppo is a good thing. He studied Lincoln's use of same.

Posted by: N e i l B ☺ on June 7, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Well explained by Mr. Benen.

DATB is going to happen, Gitmo is going to go, boondoggle weapons spending is going to go down, we are getting out of Iraq, the torturers are going to be purged, and those Republicans are going to be a human shield for the Dems while it happens.

None of it was going to happen in the first weeks, and the recent splash about Gitmo tells you why: the Senate Democrats are too gutless and the Beltway media are solidly in bed with the thug wing of the Republicans.

It is all happening, slowly, but inevitably.

Posted by: Midland on June 7, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, get this straight Obama...I didn't vote for bipartisanship. I voted t try to get someone to get these idiots out of government and away from legislating our laws and policies. Stop trying to appease what we are trying to be rid of.

All the GOP does is water down and weaken the agenda we voted to implement. We want tax cuts for the wealthy rolled back...we want single payer not for profit health care ins., we want energy independence and to combat global climate change, we want an end to the torture and military commissions, we want wall street and the financial industry regulated...well regulated. Republicans don't want any of this...they want a fascist corporate state. We have enough bipartisanship between progressive dems and conserva-dems. Screw these obstructionists whose only agenda is to prevent democratic successes for political gain only.

Stop appeasing republicans...they don't believe in compromise or 'country first', that is just part of their hypocrisy.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 7, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Has it come down to "never elect a leader who has a family...he can be too easily gotten to". WTF is with this catering to the opposition. What about catering to his supporters...the people who got him elected. I mean what is with this 'do nothing' Holder or this moderate SC nominee?? Oh we mustn't make the repubs too upset now must we. This is the Supreme fucking Court life-time appointment...nothing but conservatives and moderates when the nation is dominated by Liberals.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

"...qualified members of the opposition."

if i was the obama people i'd keep hammering on the words "qualified" and "competent." that eliminates most of the possibilities and describes the few office holders the gop still has....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on June 7, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

During the roundtable discussion of this on ABC's THIS WEEK, Matthew Dowd claimed:

"Well, it's interesting, it's very similar to a strategy that George Bush tried to do"

WHAT ?

I seriously doubt that Chimpy even knew who his Secretary of Transportation was by name without a prior prompt.

This the problem with the American RightWing. They think they should get points just for FAKING concern about something.

Posted by: Joe Friday on June 7, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

""But I suspect we're still a ways from a "liberal fit." The key, it seems, is the policy. If the president is going to work with a Republican Defense Secretary and a Republican Secretary of the Army to a) implement procurement reform; b) reform military spending in general; c) scrap "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; and d) revamp use of the military in the context of improving U.S. foreign policy, my guess is the left will give the Democratic president a reasonable amount of slack.""

Isn't the principal role of the military to win the wars? By mentioning only secondary issues as Procurement reform and DADT, you help republicans stereotype progressive blogers (like yourself) as not interested in the major role of all armies:
War winning!!!

Posted by: Yoni on June 7, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

By all means, let's make sure that the GOP can say in future elections, "Even Obama doesn't trust Democrats with national security."

This is going to pay dividends. We just don't know to whom.

Posted by: gex on June 8, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly