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Day 17

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The Road to DC

Obama’s Team of Losers

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

Back in December, I wrote that “Change we can believe in” was looking suspiciously like Clinton III. I promised I would revisit the issue once there were more points on the data line. Now that we’re 28 years and two months into the “Reagan Revolution,” I’m ready to assess.

One and Done

My brother suggested keeping a list of positive “Changes” coming out of the Obama Administration. I’m into credit where due, so I started one. Granted it’s only been two months, but the list is rather short: a seeming retreat from the insane anti-medical cannabis government position that saw DEA agents raiding California dispensaries and depriving sick people of their medicine; trials, at least, for Gitmo prisoners; suspending (but not killing) funding for Yucca Mountain; allowing Stem Cell research and…not much else. When one adds in the critical non-changes at Defense and the Treasury, the picture is very bleak, indeed.

I was ready to add Michelle Obama’s Spring Equinox planting of a Kitchen Garden at the White House to the positive change list – an idea I fully support. But, then Alexander Cockburn immediately pointed out the idiocy of advocating fresh, home-grown vegetables while appointing a Monsanto whore as Secretary of Agriculture.

The appointment of former Iowa governor tom Vilsack, the first 2008 presidential primary contender to withdraw (and then go on to support Hilary Clinton) represents no change at all from the pattern of appointing Agriculture Secretaries from a pool of former farm state administrators – every one tied to the Genetically Modified food giants.

Aside from the fact that not a single true progressive has been even considered by the administration for any position, we have Rahm Emmanuel as chief of staff – the only guy around who can make Snakehead Carville seem human. We have Hillary Clinton at State. We have the smug crook Timothy Geithner – who with a pack of the greedy idiots drove the economy over the cliff, retained to continue pillaging the Treasury and lining the pockets of their co-conspirators with tax dollars – consumer credit did not “start flowing again,” as advertised, but Timmy’s bankster buddies at Goldman Sachs got $12.9 billion of AIG’s first round of corporate welfare – the largest known hand-off of the taxpayer AIG funds to come to light, but that’s sure to be surpassed.

Of course, Timmy G. himself failed to pay $44,000 in taxes from when he was employed by the IMF. That oversight was seen as no problem by the compliant Senate who confirmed him on a 60-34 vote (yes, I’ll go out on a limb here and predict criminal charges for Timmy G., and/or Benny B., their godfather Robert Rubin and capo Larry Summers before this is over. If not, then I predict a one-term presidency for Obama and the return of the Bush Crime Family to helm an even more dangerous, bankrupt Empire.)

Left on the Bench

Vilsack, Geithner, Emmanuel et al., at least got their jobs. Even the inept Janet Napolitano now heads up Fatherland, er Homeland Security. What about the rest of President Obama’s appointments?

Retired four-star Marine General Anthony C. Zinni, former Imperial commander in the Middle East and a fierce critic of the original Iraq Invasion plan, was promised the job as Ambassador to Iraq in late January. He even met with Secretary of State Clinton and she promised the job. VP Joe Biden, a guy who’s “I’m smarter than you” hubris is in the same league with Geithner and Summers, sent his congrats.

The general, who had the audacity to call for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld back in the run-up to the invasion, was ultimately bounced from consideration. The out-spoken general, not one to go down without a fight, wrote in an e-mail “As a sorry offer to placate me, they offered ambassador to Saudi. I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

Charles Freeman was ousted as candidate to head the National Intelligence Council. The bleating from some of the braver Dems (read: non-office holders or ones from safe Districts) is that Freeman was another victim of the always-odious Israel Lobby. True enough. Yet, a quick examination shows that Freeman must not have been vetted. He was already under investigation by the Office of National Intelligence’s Inspector General due to his unsavory financial ties to China and Iran.

Freeman had been serving on the International Advisory Board of CNOOC, China’s state-owned oil company. During the election, the Obama Campaign made noise about Charlie Black, a senior McCain advisor. The lobbyist Black held CNOOC as one of his clients, which led to condemnations from the Obama Campaign that "many of his (McCain’s) top advisors lobbied for companies (CNOOC) doing business with Iran or otherwise have a vested interest in Iran."

Yet, while Freeman sat on the advisory board just last year, CNOOC was given sanctions by the US Treasury Department due to its involvement with drug trafficking and worker abuse in Burma.

At the same time that Freeman was cut loose, we found out that Obama’s aptly-named “Urban Czar” nominee Adolfo Carrion accepted free home remodeling from architects and contractors while he served as Bronx borough president. Once again, it’s hard to see how he was vetted, given the issue surfaced as far back as November 2006.

The Tax Bracket

Then there is the cadre of tax-cheats. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk made it through hearings to become the nation’s chief trade negotiator. But, the hearing process uncovered “errors” that resulted in Kirk paying an additional $10,000 in taxes. Fair enough; plenty of people make errors on their taxes given our arcane tax laws.

But, a pattern has emerged: “pay-to-play,” but don’t pay your taxes.

Former Senator Tom Daschle was picked to lead “Health Care Reform” as Secretary of Health and Human Services. It quickly emerged that he owed over $146,000 in unpaid taxes due on the millions he garnered in the lucrative ex-Senator market in just three years. He eventually withdrew.

Nancy Killifer, picked by Obama to be “Performance Officer” ended up withdrawing the same day due to her own tax issues. She amazingly wrote upon resigning, “I have also come to realize in the current environment that my personal tax issue of D.C. unemployment tax could be used to create exactly the kind of distraction and delay those duties must avoid.”

Gee, only in the “current environment” is such stuff a problem? Said “current environment” meaning exposure as opposed to the usual “environment” of what? The one where it’s OK for government officials to not pay their taxes as long as it doesn’t distract?
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was benched as Commerce Secretary nominee after it came out that he was under Grand Jury investigation for “pay-to-play” corruption – the same charge that ousted Ill. Governor Blagojevich – the first time “pay-to-play’ tarnished the administration. Though, it’s not the last of even that one as Obama’s Senate replacement chosen by Blagojevich, Roland Burris, has the familiar stench of “pay-to-play” wafting about him and calls for resignation abound.

March Madness

On March 5, we saw another two-fer: two Obama nominees withdrew as Daschle and Killifer did on the same day in early February. The smarmy, fact-challenged Sanjay Gupta withdrew from consideration for Surgeon General, the nation’s top health care official, making it oh-for-two (Daschle) when it comes to Obama’s grand plan for health care “reform.”

The TV doctor Gupta, a Big Pharma/Health Care toady if there ever was one, was depantsed by Michael Moore after Gupta perjured his way through an attack on Moore’s “Sicko.” It was an easily disproved, deceitful attempt to whitewash corporate wrong-doers.

Annette Nazareth, a long-time toothless watchdog for the Securities and Exchange Commission was well on her way to becoming yet another of the failed economic “experts” Obama decided were the best available to deal with the crisis they created. Her “personal decision” to withdraw as Timmy G.’s deputy is also said to do with problems with her taxes.

And, then there is that other strange two-fer, the bizarre Judd Gregg nomination and Friday the 13th withdrawal. Obama tapped the conservative GOP senator to replace Richardson as Commerce Secretary nominee. Something must have come up in the vetting process, as Gregg simultaneously announced he would not seek Senate reelection in 2010.

Team Obama: The new Washington Generals

Just what is going on? Even ignoring the utter lack of any progressive values as indicated by these nominations, can it be that we’ve elected a president who’s a very bad judge of character; an administration that seemingly cannot vet a White House groundskeeper, much less the people necessary to bring about real “change?”

Instead of “change,” we have a record now of retained war-mongers and rejected anti-invasion/occupation generals; retained Wall Street crooks; tax cheat Democrat cronyism; and an administration where the Israel Lobby picks (Emmanuel) or rejects (Freeman) candidates for government offices.

The famed pick-up basketball player in the White House has assembled a team not unlike the Washington Generals, doomed to constant defeat at the hands of New York-based Globetrotters.

As the 97-year-old great coach John Wooden once said, “Sports do not build character; they reveal it.”

And, who one picks as teammates reveals volumes.

PS By sticking to the conservative approach and primarily picking 13 of the top 16 seeds, Obama’s NCAA bracket has 14 of the 16 teams left in contention. Only two of the top 16 teams have lost and Obama called one of those correctly.

MICHAEL DONNELLY notes that Wooden also said, “It’s not who starts the game, but who finishes it.” With many of Obama’s worst “starters” sidelined; maybe things will improve, maybe not. He’ll monitor the Generals’ record and report back. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com