Running Local

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Posts Tagged ‘Power Plays’

The Ironic World of Bobby Rush

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 6, 2009

Bobby Rush had a large tumor cut out of his throat to save him from cancer; the scar from that, however, is 2803066331_3498031398_onothing compared to the one where his nose used to be, the result of self-mutilation in spite of his face.

A founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party and every inch the radical that the GOP failed to portray Barack Obama as during the campaign, Rush has gone from being an effective agent of social change to the stooge that he always railed against. While many only need to read as far into Rush’s biography as the Black Panther tag, Rush took his notoriety and organization and did some amazing things with them back in the late Sixties and early Seventies. From sickle-cell testing and awareness to education reform and nutrition programs, Rush embodied his ethos and moved forward issues and programs badly needed by his community literally by force of will. The “radical organization as social services provider” model that he promulgated has been twisted to more nefarious purposes by many groups since, with Hamas being the one most currently in the public eye.

How sad it is, then, to see what Rush has become, an aging crank who is literally becoming the stooge of the people whom he so virulently railed against throughout his life. Over the past week Rush has forced himself back onto the scene by enlisting in one of the dumbest causes seen of late, the push by Rod Blagojevich to appoint Roland Burris to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Burris is an old line Chicago politician of a similar stripe to Rush, but with one significant difference– Burris knowingly sold out to the Chicago establishment years and years ago, maintaining his Civil Rights status as a thin camouflage for his naked ambition. His appointment by Blagojevich is seen by many as a “screw you” to Barack Obama, whom Blagojevich sees as the proximate cause of his downfall.

Rush’s frenzied support of Burris slips into that “Screw Obama” template quite handily. Rush has long despised the President-Elect as the reflection of everything that Rush saw himself to be in his youth but failed to be as a member of the establishment that he sought to reform. Young Obama, the community organizer on the South Side stomping grounds of Rush, brought a measured and calm approach to helping the community, yes, one part Alinsky but three parts Harvard. Whereas Rush would’ve railed against “the man” and crammed what he needed for the community down “his” throat, Obama worked the system to achieve his goals deftly and with a maximum of resident participation but also a minimum of screaming and stress. When a more mature State Senator Obama sought to move into the national scene, it was the aging dinosaur Rush whom he set his sights upon. Obama primaried Rush in 2000 for his House seat and suffered the only electoral loss of his career to date in a nasty primary that saw Rush frequently resort to harsh personal attacks on Obama, calling him at times a “…Harvard educated fool”, a “puppy”, and, most surprisingly from a civil rights leader like Rush, a “boy”.

This past week has seen Congressman Rush continue his harsh personal attacks on Barack Obama coupled with racial invective totally inappropriate to the situation. Rush has become the token black activist serving at Blagojevich’s behest, forwarding the cynical supposition that the Democratic resistance to Buriss’ appointment is a matter of racism rather than one of propriety and legality. From his hateful use of the lynching hot point to his comparison of the “cause” of Blagojevich & Burris to the Jena Nine, Rush parodies everything he has ever stood for.

He still is a racial firebrand, but his torch is now wielded not by an oppressed minority seeking to burn down their oppressor’s castle but by that cynical and haughty Duke himself in order to set light to the pyre upon which the original cause is burnt.

Rush today is Rush as satire and nothing more. Railing against the manifestation of his dreams, an African-American President drawn from the Community Organizing movement of the South Side of Chicago, for the sake of a guy who is every bit the plantation master would be comical were it not so sad. His is a very modern tragedy.


Posted in American Politics, Jerks | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Leon Panetta at CIA Means Bad Things Long Term for DNI

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 5, 2009


It is no secret that many view the CIA as, once again, a broken organization. Still reeling from the triple blows of the selective intelligence scandal that led to the disastrous   briefing before the start of the Iraq War, the indignity of the DCI having to answer to an “Intelligence Czar” after the 9/11 Commission Report hit and the misadventures of some of the folks on the Ops side of the house, CIA is little more than a gaggle of intelligent analysts working under a shell shocked and demoralized hierarchy of GS-15s and SES appointees trying to regain some swagger and find a direction. Sure, the meta-stuff is out there– track bin Laden, analyze alQ data, keep an eye on China & Russia, get a handle on the developing Egyptian situation, etc.– but that stuff is almost background noise at this point; it’s the stoplight idling of a sports car engine.

Enter management guru but intelligence naif Leon Panetta. Panetta is nobody’s idea of a DCI– he’s a political guy who happens to be good at running organizations; at the top level he doesn’t seem like someone who can restore the sense of purpose and bravado to the Agency. 

He’s actually uniquely suited to do so.

Barack Obama is a very pragmatic guy; some in the GOP may crow (still… yawn) about Democrats meaning big government, but I believe that Obama will be looking to set his government as an efficient machine and kick off the training wheels when he has confidence in each component. When I consider that the whole DNI overlord position is just another layer of bureaucracy rather than a true coordinator of disparate agencies and departments and hear in the background that idling engine stuck in traffic at Langley I start to see something new emerging. 

Leon Panetta is a mechanic. He’s there to tune the engine and fix the machine so that it can run on its own again. 

Panetta’s entire skill set revolves around taking malfunctioning bureaucracies and government institutions and making them work; look at the discipline and efficiency he imposed upon the biggest group of glory hounds we’ve seen in recent years, the Clinton Cabinet. If Mr. Panetta can bring that kind of efficiency and purpose to Langley, CIA may again become the useful tool that it once was and that I believe Mr. Obama intends for it to be again. If CIA under Panetta can gain the confidence of Obama in two years, I would look for the office of DNI to first be downplayed and then, eventually, eliminated as a cost savings to the American Government.

Dennis Blair, who will be installed at DNI, is exactly the intel pro who can keep the operations and analysis flowing while Panetta acts as a one man HR & Organizational Review shop. Put them together and you have the chance of CIA coming out of this being what it should actually be– a flexible organization that while task oriented also follows a long term strategic trajectory and does so without internal drama. Dare to dream.

As for the politics of the announcement, this one was a beauty. While incoming Chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee Diane von Furstenberg Feinstein got her designer togs all wrinkled rushing to find the nearest mic to scream into today over Panetta being chosen against her stated desires and without her even being consulted, other members of Senate Select Intel (notably the gentleman from Oregon) were waiting to cut her off at the knees with the acknowledgement that they had been consulted.

The whole announcement drama can be traced back to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s very public bitch-slapping of Rahm Emmanuel while he was effectively gagged by Patrick Fitzgerald and the Blago mess. Madame Speaker very kindly (and publicly) advised Emmanuel that not only was his advice and counsel not needed nor welcomed when the topic was House Leadership and procedure but that the incoming President was not allowed to speak to any member of the Democratic Caucus in the House without what amounted to her permission, and that the President was then to provide her with a debrief of every conversation that she chose to allow.  It would seem that Ms. Pelosi’s powerplay was deemed in need of a similarly public reversal, hence Mr. Obama choosing to embarrass the hell out of Pelosi ally Feinstein today by goign under, around, and over her without a word on the nomination. She’s not in a position to torpedo the nomination– Panetta has too many friends that Feinstein relies upon, and besides there’s no way any Dem is going to get in the way of the juggernaut that will be the Confirmation Hearings and come out unscathed.

In the end the Panetta pick is a slightly risky one for Obama– should CIA have some great failing in the next year due to a lack of professionalism, having a non-intel guy at the helm will look bad– but one that could pay high dividends, both in the return to function of the CIA as well as in undoing the dopey DNI implementation. That it sevred as an object lesson in power politics to Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid and all other interested parties– well, that was just cake.

Posted in American Politics, Intelligence (and lack thereof), Obama Cabinet | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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