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Looked at one way, it sounds like a good idea. Looked at another way, it’s not. Reminds me of the funny clips from “Animaniacs” years ago:

Good Idea. Bad Idea.

Many pre-inauguration decisions & statements made by President-elect Barack Obama have me seriously concerned. Mindful though, after eight years of George W. Bush, Barack Obama could be caught red-handed drowning a sack of puppies in the Potomac and I’d still wait for him to explain before condemning him.

With that said, listening to Obama repeat such questionable Bush-era assertions like “Iran is still pursuing a nuclear weapon” when much of the intelligence we’ve received up to this point all argue otherwise, and trying to expand his tax cuts… which run a serious risk of derailing any economic recovery… simply to attract Republican support that he doesn’t even need (not with the huge majority in the House and a near filibuster-proof 59-vote majority in the Senate), gives me great pause. Americans voted those Republican clowns out of office for a reason. They’ve seen what Republican policies do to the country and they want change. Why Obama is so desperate for their approval is beyond me. Perhaps he seeks to be the “Uniter, not a Divider” that Bush promised to be in 2000, but abysmally failed at becoming?

There’s a reason uber-wingnut Pat Robertson said of Obama recently:

Obama is absolutely brilliant. I would like to make a prediction. He can [be] one of the great presidents of the United States if he doesn’t get pulled too far off of center and gets over into some of the things the American people don’t want. If he governs the way he said he is going to do, as I say, he has the smarts and the charisma to pull this nation together and be an outstanding president.

You probably know by now Obama invited a number of Conservative pundits to join him for dinner at the home of Conservative columnist George Will Tuesday night. After dining with some of the Rights’ most obnoxious attack dogs, Obama made up for slighting Liberal pundits by inviting them to stand around and drink coffee out of Styrofoam cups the next morning.

The very next day, the Right rewarded Obama’s attempt to reach out to him with cries of, “He’s out to steal Lincoln’s identity!” from Fox’s Sean Hannity and mocking from Fox’s Charles Krauthammer who said of Obama’s outreach: “I’m [now] brainwashed. Totally in the tank for Obama.” Not sure what he expected from his little “greet & eat” with this obnoxious crew.

Hey, I’m all for “outreach” and trying to turn enemies into friends, but he’s making permanent decisions based upon how the Right will react… choices that could very well compromise the success of his presidency.

Consider some of his appointments so far. While I could… if pressed… make a case defending each choice, on balance, I see more downside than up with so many of these choices:

  1. West Virginia Gov. and V.P. finalist Tim Kaine to head DNC. – That’s right. Obama will be replacing Howard Dean, the man whose “50 State Strategy” led to the retaking of BOTH Houses of Congress in 2006 and not only retaking of the White House (and ELEVEN red states), but DRAMATICALLY expanding that lead in 2008, with the anti-choice, anti-gun control WV governor Tim Kaine. Though there doesn’t appear to be any slight involved with Dean’s ouster, Kaine is a very questionable replacement.
  2. Leon Panetta to head the CIA. – While I can definitely make a case FOR choosing Panetta… experience as a consumer of intelligence, managed the Clinton White House, and has spoken out against torture and Gitmo… the biggest negative is that he is a bureaucrat with no experience in intelligence gathering or operations, which could be an encumbrance when we have so many intelligence issues facing us after Bush ticked off a billion Muslims who are now out to exact revenge upon the U.S.. Picking Pannetta gives Republicans an opening to criticize the Obama Administration mercilessly on their key issue… national security… on the first instance of even the appearance of a mistake or questionable decision. With 42 million Republicans already on a “scandal hunt” with itchy trigger fingers, there’s no need to give them ammunition.
  3. Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State: This pick just makes no sense all the way around. While Hillary and Obama were closest in agreement on domestic policy, the thing they probably differed on most was foreign policy, so picking your chief critic on foreign policy to serve as your chief representative on foreign policy seems like a mistake. Her own credibility will come into question the first time she endorses a course of action she publicly criticized during the campaign. And no one needs their lead foreign policy representative constantly being second guessed as to whether or not she truly believes in her heart that the man she represents is right. A MUCH better role for Hillary would of been to take over as the “Lion of the Senate” from the (certain soon to retire) Ted Kennedy as Obama’s champion in the Senate. Wouldn’t you much prefer Clinton over milquetoast Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader? I sure would. (update: “Crooks & Liars” notes that Hillary is still a hawk on Iran. So it is any wonder she was approved 16:1 Tuesday?)
  4. Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary: Long-time readers of Mugsy’s Rap Sheet know what a fan of Richardson I am. Unparalleled in foreign policy experience, an incredibly successful diplomat that has secured the release of hostages, negotiated a nuclear weapons ban with North Korea, and as governor of New Mexico, made global warming an economic issue to appeal to Republican pocketbooks. After giving Clinton the plum role of Sec. State, appointing Richardson to Commerce Secretary seemed a huge waste and little more than a “consolation prize” for the high-profile Hispanic governor that snubbed Hillary to endorse Obama. It also seemed to show insufficient concern over the importance of the job of “Commerce Secretary” when we are facing an economy on the brink of collapse. The current “investigation” into Richardson’s dealing with a campaign contributor that forced him to step down from the appointment is a made up scandal that doesn’t even factor into why/why not I believe Richardson was an inappropriate choice. But rather than fight the obvious Republican-backed charges, Obama seemed all to quick to cut Richardson loose rather than fight for him.
  5. Rick Warren to give the invocation: This one probably received the most public outrage. I can understand Obama “reaching out” to the Evangelical Right-wingers by tapping the famed author/pastor of Saddleback Mega Church that opposed him in the election to deliver the inaugural blessing, but there was absolutely NO reason to reward someone whose attitudes you want the country to move away from with such a coveted spot during this historic inauguration. Maybe some sort of public outreach AFTER the inauguration would have been more appropriate, but don’t raise the stature & fame of someone like Warren with such an honor.
  6. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General: Every bit as bad a choice as Warren above, but worse because this is no two-minute gig. We’re talking about making a Conservative critic of National Health Care to be Obama’s chief adviser on health care issues as well as his chief representative on public health. The Seattle Post Intelligencier does a much better job than I ever could in so little a space explaining why Gupta is not qualified for the job.
  7. Allowed Joe Lieberman to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Security Counsel: There are few people outside the Bush White House that Democrats outright despise more than “Traitor Joe” Lieberman, who served as one of John McCain’s lead attack dogs to criticize Barack Obama during the campaign. There is probably no issue Lieberman and Obama disagree on more than National Security and how to proceed in Iraq, so allowing Lieberman to keep his seat as the head of the Security Counsel… probably one of the most critical jobs in the Senate as we try to exit Iraq… is a total mystery, and almost certain to create serious problems in the immediate future. When Lieberman ran for reelection in 2006 after businessman Ned Lamont beat him for the Democratic nomination, he did so promising to help “get a Democrat elected President in 2008”, only to not only campaign for the Republican, but speak at their convention. Though calling himself an “Independent-Democrat”, Lieberman has sided against Democrats and with Republicans on just about every major decision of the past ten years (Joe was chief Democratic critic of Bill Clinton, urging his impeachment in 1999). Again, Obama is not only reaching out to the people that oppose him on most issues, but people that won’t hesitate to stab him in the back at the first opportunity.
  8. Cass Sunstein as “Regulatory Czar”: Though it hasn’t been publicly announced yet, it now appears that Obama will be nominating someone that repeatedly puts feux financial concern over much needed, reasonable and rational government regulations. Think Progress has a more in-depth critique of Sunstein at the above link.
  9. The nomination of Timothy Geitner to be Treasury Secretary, who is currently answering question about failing to pay taxes, is still a giant question mark. He didn’t “evade” paying his taxes or try to hide his failure to do so after the fact, but the nomination brings the Obama team’s vetting process itself into question.

My bemusement is quickly becoming disgust.

One of President-Elect Obama’s best moves was to add a “Suggestion Box” to his transition website “Change.gov” where people can make suggestions and vote on ideas to help the country dig out of the mess left behind by George Bush (please visit & register to vote on ideas). Here are some Good Ideas of my own that I posted (Please vote):

  1. Make contract bids “firm”. When companies compete for a government contract, stipulate that if it goes “over budget”, the company absorb the cost. No more money. They said they could do it at a set price. Hold them to it. No more companies winning contracts by promising a bid they KNOW is unrealistically low, knowing the government will pay any cost overruns. Tell them that the price they quote you is the price you’ll pay. Make them responsible for any cost overruns out of their own pocket.

    And do NOT allow them to “keep the change” or provide “bonuses” for coming in under budget. This will prevent companies from “cutting corners” just to come in under budget and increase their profit margin. Make their “reward for a job well done” a spot on a “favored contractors list” that the government offers government contracts to before opening them up to the public. Such a policy will save the government BILLIONS in waste/fraud/abuse in government contract overruns. (Vote!)

  2. Free use of HOV lanes, toll roads, and city parking for super-high efficiency vehicles. The very reason for the existence of HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes in many major cities is to encourage carpooling to save energy and cut pollution. So why not allow drivers of super-high mileage, zero-emission vehicles to use the time-saving HOV lanes as well even if they are the only one in the car? And pollution is choking our largest cities as we try to cram more and more cars downtown. Allowing buyers of these vehicles to park for free downtown, as well as use toll roads and HOV lanes for free, would provide added incentive for the sale of more high-efficiency “green” vehicles that our auto industry needs to sell more of to survive. With the return of reasonably low gas prices, simply saving a few dollars on gas each year isn’t always enough of an incentive for most people to give up their gas guzzling SUV’s. You don’t need to build anything new to enact this logical and useful option, making the cost/benefit ratio EXTREMELY attractive. (Vote!)
  3. Distribute part of the TARP funds to GMAC and “Ford Financing”: One of the reasons the automakers are still having trouble selling cars (other than the bad economy) is that buyers can’t get car loans from their bank. With interest rates so low, the banks are unwilling to loan money to anything short of a “sure thing” that assures them the borrower will be able to make the monthly payments plus interest each month so that the bank doesn’t lose any more money. But car manufacturers don’t make their money on the interest from car loans. They make their money selling cars. Give part of the banking bailout money to The Big Three automakers to offer “zero percent financing, no interest” car loans to interested buyers. Smaller “car loans” run a MUCH lower risk of default than big-ticket home loans, meaning they can make more loans more quickly with less risk than banks. Automakers will benefit more directly rather than being at the mercy of banks without adding $1 to the amount of money already appropriated by Congress for the bailout, and help the ailing auto industry. (Vote!)
  4. Take over the health care of the auto industry: I mentioned this one last December in my discussion of the auto industry. GM spends more on health care each year than it does on steel. It is ridiculous to burden our corporations with the task of providing health insurance to every working American, and then force them to compete against countries that pick up the tab for every citizens’ health care. Where U.S. automakers are asking for roughly $10B each simply to keep them afloat for the next year, the Federal Government could take over the health coverage of every GM employee, their families, and retired pensioners, for a mere $7.2B.. Give every single one of them the same coverage as members of Congress. If is succeeds to rescue the auto industry from collapse, could you imagine a better advertisement for “National Single-payer Health Care”? How do Republicans continue to denounce such a system after millions of Americans see proof positive that the system not only benefits American businesses, but does not result in inferior care? (Vote!)
  5. Convert every distressed A.R.M. mortgage to a fixed rate they can continue to pay. A major reason why the economy is in so much trouble is because so many people have lost, or are in the process of losing, their homes because their “Adjustable Rate Mortgage” have risen to a level they can no longer afford to pay. Rather than give Billions to the banks to make up for the lost revenue, we can put millions of people back in their homes by converting their ARM’s to a fixed rate roughly 1.5% ABOVE the rate they agreed to at the time the loan was made. This is a MUCH more fair solution than just converting every ARM to a rate lower than what so many other home owners that fought to pay rather than declare bankruptcy. Not only do you keep MILLIONS of people in their homes, banks start receiving income again and the need for a continued bailout becomes less necessary. (Vote!)

What I fear most now is what I call “The Bush Inertia Trap“, where people are SO reluctant to attempt dramatic changes in how we do things both domestically and abroad that we end up doing “too little to be effective”… or worse… nothing at all. Right now, Obama has a tremendous opportunity to enact just such dramatic sweeping changes with minimal opposition not enjoyed since FDR took over from Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. This is an unprecedented opportunity that I pray Obama does not squander. But his growing record of trying to please Conservatives with no imaginable benefit have me concerned.

Postscript funny: I caught this image as it whizzed by on the side of a Turkish bus during the Oct 10th edition of BBC World News but never got around to posting it:

Photo on the side of Turkish bus (10/10/2008)
Photo on side of Turkish bus

Reminder: BI30.org gets a major facelift when it becomes “MugsysRapSheet.com” next Monday! See you there!

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