Streetwise Professor

October 9, 2010

A Disturbing Harbinger of Things to Come

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:05 am

It gets better and better.  We will soon have a bona fide political hack as National SecurityAdvisor.  One whom SecDef Gates slammed in Woodward’s book:

In the book “Obama’s Wars,” Woodward writes that, “Gates felt that Donilon did not understand the military or treat its senior leadership with sufficient respect.”

“The secretary later told Jones that Donilon would be a ‘disaster’ as Obama’s national security adviser,” Woodward wrote.

The man he is replacing, Jim Jones, was even more scathing:

Jones — a former Marine Corps Commandant who served as Obama’s national security advisor since the first days of the administration — also warned Woodward about Donilon’s shortcomings, saying though he had “organizational skills,” his deputy didn’t know enough about the subjects on which he was advising the president.

“He had never gone to Afghanistan or Iraq, ‘or really left the office for a serious field trip,’ ” Jones said of Donilon in Woodward’s book. “As a result, he said, ‘you have no direct understanding of these places. You have no credibility with the military. You should go overseas.’ ”

Woodward adds that Jones told him of one occasion where Gates almost walked out of a meeting in anger over a “strong, spur-of-the-moment” comment Donilon made about an unnamed general.

“You frequently pop off with absolute declarations about places you’ve never been, leaders you’ve never met, or colleagues you work with,” Woodward quoted Jones as saying about Donilon.

Great. Not just a hack.  An arrogant, ignorant hack.  Arrogance and ignorance always go so well together.

Jones was no prize as NSA, but he had spent his life in, you know, national security.  In contrast, just what do you learn about national security while serving as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae? Or as a consultant for Goldman and Citi?

Oh.  He was Chief of Staff to a Secretary of State.  Problem is, that SecState was Warren Christopher.  The guy who Hafez Assad left twiddling his thumbs while he met with the Russian foreign minister–back when Russia’s power and relevance was at its nadir–just to show Christopher who was boss.  And Christopher took it.  The most feckless Secretary of State in modern memory.

There are two types of big time lawyers in DC:  The kick ass litigators and the kiss ass fixers.  Donilon is a classical example of the latter.  Working on political campaigns.  Lobbying for the likes of political creatures like FNMA.  Close family connections with the political establishment. (Donilon’s brother has worked for Biden: his wife is Biden’s wife’s chief of staff.)

His appointment is proof of the abject politicization of national defense under Obama. National security as the continuation of domestic politics by other means.  Yes, Bryan, there is inevitably a political component to defense policy.  But in his subordination of security to domestic political considerations, Obama has gone beyond the pale.  This appointment puts the exclamation point to that statement.

This appointment is revealing about two broader issues.

First, it is a telling confirmation of Michael Barone’s hypothesis that the left’s disenchantment with Obama is rooted in national security issues:

So why are Democrats less enthusiastic? And why has “the progressive donor base,” as Democratic consultant Jim Jordans reports, “stopped writing checks”?

I don’t think it’s just because the economy remains sour or that Barack Obama failed to jam a public option in the health care bill.

I find a more convincing explanation in an offhand phrase in a subordinate clause in a brief article by Adam Serwer of the Center for American Progress on The Washington Post’s opinion pages. “There’s no question,” Serwer writes, defying anyone to disagree, “that Obama has completely reversed on his promises to roll back Bush-era national security policies.”

As his political support craters, and more importantly, as the political strength of the Democratic party among independents craters, Obama is almost completely dependent on the support of the progressive left.  Add that to the fact that that’s where is heart is, and it’s no surprise that he appoints somebody like Donilon in the National Security Advisor post.

Second, and relatedly, it is a harbinger of how Obama will deal with a changed political landscape post-November.  Rather than tack center a la Clinton in 1996, Obama is going to go to the mattresses.  “Hand-to-hand combat” indeed.  He is going to hunker down, surround himself with ideological allies, and wage two years of scorched earth political conflict.

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  1. He is going to hunker down, surround himself with ideological allies, and wage two years of scorched earth political conflict.

    I really hope he does that. By trying to play the moderate, he’s only earning the hatred of the right and the scorn of the left. The time is ripe for total war.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — October 11, 2010 @ 1:17 am

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rehabable, R. R said: Another great read from Professor Pirrong 'A Disturbing Harbinger of Things to Come' #tcot […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Streetwise Professor » A Disturbing Harbinger of Things to Come -- — October 11, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

  3. Will you be on the front lines, S/O?

    Front lines are for fanatics. I’ll be egging them on from the sidelines.

    Are you ready for hand to hand combat?

    If it comes to that, though I prefer guns and nukes.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — October 11, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

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