Usually, when people like Leslie Gelb start baying for human sacrifices from a floundering Administration, they have to be satiated in one way or another, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Team Obama cut a few people loose. I doubt that they would let go of someone like Larry Summers, who is genuinely talented and smart. But James Jones? Rahm Emanuel? They may soon find the desire to spend more time with their families.
That having been written, what is Gelb thinking with his “except for the right-wing crazies, most Americans still recognize [President Obama's] great talents and promise” comment? No one doubts that the President is talented, but his political problems stem more from the disillusionment of liberals, and the near-wholescale abandonment of the Administration by moderates and independents, than from conflicts with “right-wing crazies” (I am surprised that the word “teabagger” did not issue from Gelb’s computer). And while I am not the type to underestimate the President’s political skills, isn’t the breathless paean Gelb emits for the President undercut by comments like “Obama is forever taking strong stances only to backfill and trim,” or “Obama doesn’t know what’s really going on. Regarding the Middle East . . . [h]e had to be totally out of it not to realize that the Palestinians and Israelis were nowhere close to sitting down with each other and dealing,” or “Obama wants to get along with everyone so badly he doesn’t recognize real opposition when he sees it—let alone know how to deal with it,” or “[i]t’s even hard to follow his latest Afghan policy”? Some consistency in the argument would be nice here.
As for Gelb’s suggestions, they basically involve bringing back old Washington hands, which disrupts the whole “Change We Can Believe In” paradigm. Amusingly enough, Gelb wants Tom Daschle rehabiliated. I presume that the IRS approves, but why must the rest of us? And by “rest of us,” I mean, you know, those of us who actually pay our taxes, and obey the law. I was under the impression–one supported by our friends on the port side–that paying taxes was an honor, a privilege, a joy, and the best way to avoid halitosis. Why then, is it that people like Daschle, and Geithner, and Sebelius, and various others failed to pay their taxes, but keep getting recommended for plum jobs in the White House by éminences grises like Gelb?
Shockingly and amusingly, Gelb thinks that Jake Tapper should be Press Secretary. The theory here, presumably, is that if the Administration can’t beat Tapper, he should join it. I have no doubt that Jake Tapper would be excellent, but Gelb should really want Tapper to remain in the White House Press Corps, speaking truth to power, instead of trying to spin it.
Zbigniew Brzezinski for National Security Adviser is another Gelb recommendation. Because, of course, his last tour of duty at that job turned out so well. And of course, Brzezinski’s views are tremendously enlightened.
I have no doubt that the President needs to revamp his team. And to be sure, some of Gelb’s recommendations may be well-taken. But a great many are not. To close this post, a question to Obama supporters: Don’t you worry that with columns like the one Gelb has penned–and with the likelihood that, as mentioned above, a body or several will be thrown to the side to satiate the bloodlust of the punditocracy, which now believes that personnel changes are absolutely necessary for the President to be able to turn things around–that the Administration you thought you had elected into office is now in danger of turning into something entirely different?