Gayle who? Obama’s quiet consigliere Gayle Smith is rarely in the public eye and seems to prefer it that way. At least most of the time, so when she mounted the podium to deliver a eulogy at the funeral for Ethiopia’s late, genocidal strongman Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa in 2012 I stopped what I was doing and started paying attention.
Obama’s Special Assistant and Senior Director at the National Security Council spoke fondly of her self described 30+ years of friendship with Meles Zenawi going back to their days together in the trenches of the Ethiopian and Eritrean resistance to the Soviet backed Mengistu regime and the great droughts of the early-mid 1980’s.
This consigliere knows what getting down and dirty really means, having served her time literally,“in the trenches” of one fo the more nasty independence struggles/civil wars the 20th Century was to endure. Of course in those days she was an “award winning journalist”, at least until the war ended with Eritrean independence and the overthrow of the Mengistu regime in 1991.
A dramatic career change saw her phenomenal rise to become Chief of Staff for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) three years later in 1994.
In just 3 years transforming from “award winning journalist” to Chief of Staff of what has for decades been known as USCIA. As in USAID, recently caught red handed in the scandal in Cuba using anti AIDS programs to try and destabilize Cuban society.
Than in 1998, just in time to see the launch of the next round of Ethiopian invasions of its neighbors, she turns up as the head of African affairs at the National Security Council, then headed by Anthony Lake, today the boss of UNICEF.
Then Gore lost to Bush in the 2000 Presidential election and Gayle who? seamlessly transitioned into civilian life, landing a juicy spot at a neo-liberal ngo next door to power in Washington D.C. She soon launched the “Enough Project” infamous for its fabrications about the conflict in Dafur.
She then took up with a rising star in the Democratic Party, one Barack Obama, endowed at the time with the nickname “Senator Slither” by the late Alexander Cockburn. Gayle Smith brought on board Susan Rice, the god daughter of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, for whom Gayle who? had become a big sister/mentor to during Ms. Rice’s rookie days as Under Secretary of State for African Affairs under Bill Clinton in the mid 1990’s. They along with Tony Lake made up the senior triumvant of the foreign policy capos in the 2008 Obama campaign for President.
Today Gayle who? occupies an office close to her Godfather, Barack Obama in the White House, avoiding the sunlight and dispensing very dubious council considering the desperate shape the USA has been finding itself in matters of world affairs. Where she will end up if Queen Hillary is restored to the Presidential throne in 2016 remains to be seen but if history is to be the judge it seems that the heady days of sitting on top of the worlds sole superpower are gone forever. Though one must never forget that a stricken, cornered beast is at its most dangerous and who knows what new wars will be launched based in part on advice given by Obama’s quiet consigliere, Gayle Smith.
Thomas C. Mountain has been living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006 and can be reached at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.