Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't Play Poker With This Man

I am not a gambler. It's not my idea of an entertaining way to spend my money. I have spent some time at the blackjack table and if I consider those times, all on the lowest available minimum table I think I am probably slightly ahead. I have rolled craps once or twice and for kicks put a bet on red at the roulette wheel, and pulled a few slot handles, losing on all of those. I think I've attempted to play poker three times in my life in penny ante games and did miserably every time, having no fun amidst the smoke, booze, and banter all the while. But damned if I can't spot a talented card player when I see one, and Barack Hussein Obama, my friends, is one hell of a card player. I'm glad I don't have to play against him.

In the past few days, my man has offered up the job of Secretary of State to Hillary Clinton and assured that Joe Lieberman retains all the perks of his position in the Senate as if he still deserved it after his behavior during the campaign. The big talk throughout all this is that Obama is patterning himself after Lincoln as described in Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. Now, I haven't read that book and my trust in the punditry on the accuracy of that comparison is suspect at best. Another good line being used is the one from LBJ that "it's better to have [people] inside the tent pissing out than it is to have [them] outside pissing in." That might work as far as it goes with Joe the Schmuck, but as for Hillary, well, I think she would be more likely to squat, so this one won't work. In any event, the idea is that Obama is strong-minded and self-aware enough to be surrounded by widely ranging opinions and approaches to issues around him without being unduly swayed away from his own true course once he's taken it all in. That may be true but I don't think that is why he has taken the approach he has with these two wily politicians.

Hillary is not State Department material. She isn't presidential material either. She isn't a leader, and it has not a thing to do with her matching X chromosomes. She is a policy wonk and an inside player. She has spent her entire adult life playing second banana to the biggest banana in the bunch, and at age 60, it's way too late in the game to play a different role. She can handle a small staff beholden only to her but when things get large and unwieldy, with competing egos, differing agendas, hidden ambitions, and a need for a final authority to oversee it all, unlike Obama, she's just out of her depth. All the evidence one ever needs happened in almost plain view when the presidential nominating process which was designed for her to sleepwalk through turned out to be something she nearly DID sleepwalk through. She is absolutely perfectly suited to be a senator. She should turn down the offer of State and return to the Senate and become the distinguished leader in that chamber which she will be capable of becoming. In an Obama administration, she will chafe dually under the requirements of a foreign policy she doesn't endorse as well as her big banana as he continues to cavort and blather across the globe. If she stands back, she will be a great stateswoman while Bill will become an international ambassador without portfolio. And then someone more appropriate for the role at State, my choice is Bill Richardson, can wield that banner.

Joe the Schmuck. Oy. The best thing that ever happened to Obama (besides winning), is that the Democrats haven't clinched 60 seats in the Senate. (The Senate requires a vote of 60 to end debate and get to a vote, so as a practical matter, if a party doesn't have 60 votes, they have to always compromise with the opposition to get things done.) If that happens (which would require them to sweep the remaining unfinished elections in Alaska, Minnesota, and Georgia, a fairly tough set of odds at this point), Joe Lieberman becomes potentially the most powerful man in the Senate. As a nominal independent who caucuses with the dems, he becomes vote 60 and can use his vote to extract almost anything he wants unless some wayward Republican can be brought over (can you say Olympia Snowe?). The more likely scenario has the Dems falling a vote or two short. Such a situation means Joe has to stand up and be counted as a good American to get things done or be the one guy on whom all derision for inactivity can fall. Droopy Dog will come to heel or he will be put down with the rest of the mangy republican curs. Without 60, the Dems in congress can't go overboard with their agenda and swing the country too far to the left. They will have to take Obama's policies and convince a few stragglers (Joe the Schmuck, a re-Mavericked McCain, the aforementioned Snowe, and maybe doughface Lidsay Graham) to do the right thing.

So for now, Obama has given these two giant egos, Clinton and Lieberman the means by which to step up or step out. Absent the trifecta in the undecided seats, these folks will need to demonstrate loyalty to administration and the power of the bully pulpit of the presidency if they wish to remain viable in big game of American politics. As long as Obama's decisions work once he's finally in office, they better follow or they will be pushed out of the way very quickly. The not-yet-president is playing a very high stakes game with an angle on pulling the best out of his people however he can get it. They are smart people and for all of our sakes they'd best not call his bluff. He ain't bluffing.

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