Former Bush Officials Speak Out Against Obama So They Don’t Make Cheney Mad

Posted by | January 4, 2010 16:38 | Filed under: Top Stories

Matty Yglesias has the angle on Peter Baker’s upcoming New York Times piece about how the real objection the Bushies have isn’t with Obama’s policies, as much as with his style.


But the underlying complaint seemed less about any particular policy than about Obama himself — how he reacted, how he spoke, how he led. Although he held conference calls every day with [Deputy Homeland Security Secretary] Brennan, who was back in Washington, it took Obama three days to emerge from his Hawaiian vacation to address the matter in public, and when he did, he was typically cool and cerebral, with none of Bush’s bring-it-on, dead-or-alive rhetoric. Never mind that Bush took six days to publicly address the 2001 case of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, or that Reid was charged in civilian court, not as an enemy combatant…


Baker was told directly that it was politics, not policy, that is driving much of the GOP criticism of Obama:

A half-dozen former senior Bush officials involved in counterterrorism told me before the Christmas Day incident that for the most part, they were comfortable with Obama’s policies, although they were reluctant to say so on the record. Some worried they would draw the ire of Cheney’s circle if they did, while others calculated that calling attention to the similarities to Bush would only make it harder for Obama to stay the course. And they generally resent Obama’s anti-Bush rhetoric and are unwilling to give him political cover by defending him.


Even some of the Bushies wanted change:

“Mr. President-elect, we’re doing things very well, but we’re losing the messaging war,” Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told him a week after the election, according to an official informed about the session. A significant share of the global population thought America was at war against the rest of the world, Leiter maintained. “You have an opportunity to change that message, to change how the struggle is perceived,” he said.


And many Bushies are still part of the security apparatus:

For all his talk of change, Obama has kept a lot of veterans of the Bush administration in place. Besides Brennan, there is Gates still atop the Pentagon, as well as Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appointed by Bush, and Michael Vickers, still the assistant Defense secretary for special operations. While Obama tapped Leon Panetta to take over the C.I.A., he kept the deputy director, Stephen Kappes, along with Leiter, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Obama fired the top general in Afghanistan, but the head of the regional military command overseeing both Afghanistan and Iraq remains Bush’s favorite officer, Gen. David Petraeus, and the White House coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan is Bush’s Iraq war czar, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute. To manage the effort to close Guantánamo, Obama named one of Bush’s assistant secretaries of state, Daniel Fried. The Treasury under secretary chasing terrorist financing is still Stuart Levey, and the National Security Council’s senior director for combating terrorism is still Nick Rasmussen.


Kind of puts a crimp in the idea that Obama is a radical, surrounding himself with radicals, looking to move 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

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By: Alan

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