Barack Obama is back in Washington, and Washington is all about Barack Obama even as the current President is short-timing the end of his Presidency and shit is going up in flames.
Everyone is all a-Twitter today about Obama's selection of former Bill Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to run the CIA next year. And when I say a-Twitter, I mean that anyone who knows stuff about politics stared at their computer screens mouth agape and said or typed — as I did to Spencer Ackerman — "Leon Panetta??" Incoming Senate Intelligence Chair Diane Feinstein (D-California) expressed some skepticism at the choice of a Clintonista with no real intel experience, as did outgoing Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia). Talking Points Memo gets junior Intel Committee member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to say he totally knew and then speculates that the Obama team told him but not Feinstein rather than assuming, as I did, that his communications guy is either lying to make the boss look good or too stupid to check first (likely the latter, Wyden's staff is normally good people). Some people are even saying Panetta wanted the Commerce slot originally, which would make sense given his background (and would certainly make him more money in the private sector afterwards) — and we all know that position is now available. But the big selling point on Panetta — which is kind of a sorry state of affairs — is he's apparently the one dude with really, really minimal intelligence experience (case in point: Obama's team is trying to sell his time working on the Intel budget at the White House as such experience) who is seemingly really opposed to torturing people. That is to say that, after 7+ years of torturing people ourselves, rendering them to other countries to be tortured, plenty of faulty intelligence gained from those practices, the loss of American prestige in the world due to the knowledge that we're doing it even as we condemn other countries for doing so (with a wink and a nod these days) and a deep dissatisfaction among most people — other than those that think we ought to do it as punishment because they are deeply mean and stupid — at our country's practice of it, the Obama camp had to pick Leon Panetta to find someone who wanted to stop.
Oh, and in case you're wondering (as I was, since I hadn't been paying that close attention), Congresswoman and former House Intel Committee Chair Jane Harman was ruled out because she didn't hate wiretapping enough and totally not because of her feud with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that lost her the gavel in the first place. Because, obviously, known intellect Silvestre Reyes was always who we needed in that chair.
Anyway, back to Not Gonna Be Commerce Secretary Bill "Grabbyhands" Richardson, if you still care before any indictments come down. He swears he was totally forthcoming with the Obama vetters, just like he was probably totally transparent with the people of New Mexico and that his hopes and dreams of saving this country from a Depression will have to "take a back seat to what is best for the nation" and then I gagged from the bullshit he was trying to hand-feed me. Kathleen Sebelius' name is back in the Cabinetry mix as a possible replacement, though Latino leaders are stomping their feet and demanding it stay a Latino cabinet position despite having pushed for Grabbyhands in the first place and the League of United Latin American Citizens is trying to get Obama to nominate Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-California) who already publicly told Obama to shove the United States Trade Representative slot in favor of staying a Congressman so, yeah, I don't think he's gonna get a second offer guys. After that, all they got is mayors on their list, who aren't really gonna get Commerce given that it's a huge department with almost little to do with mayor-stuff, so the unseemliness of declaring Commerce for Latinos and State for the wimmins and the rest of the annoying identity politics shit that has gone on since the supposedly post-racial election aside (hello Roland Burris and Bobby Rush!), it's thankfully likely just to go back to the pool of qualified candidates regardless of race or gender. How quaint.
And while all this identity-politics shit makes my skin crawl, I'm still luckier than TSA employees whose new uniforms are causing actual rashes. That should totally put them in a better mood when they are slapping on the latex gloves to swab my shoes and figure out, again, whether I am wearing an underwire bra or not. (Answer: yes I am.)
In the meantime, Israel is continuing its ground offensive in Gaza, killing more people in the name of supposed security which decades of killing more people hasn't apparently brought and everyone is talking humanitarian crisis while some people are looking to broker a peace deal which it sort of also seems like we've tried before. What with all the significant attention paid to the region during his tenure in office, President Bush acted swiftly to bring the situation to a peaceful end... Ha, no just kidding. He ignored it for a while and then issued his first statement yesterday during a press conference.
"I understand Israel's desire to protect itself, and the situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas," Mr Bush said.
See what he did there? Because he wants us to be able to do whatever the fuck we want [cough, attack Iran, cough] internationally in the name of "protecting ourselves" pre-emptively (anyone remember the Bush Doctrine? Other than Sarah Palin, I mean...) he's not about to get up and say that maybe Israel shouldn't attack anyone for any reason and Hamas started it anyway. No wonder Israel launched its attack before the Inauguration.
Speaking of, Joe Biden's going to use the pre-Inauguration time to go on one last Congressional delegation as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — and he's going to South Asia, which is to say places like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They're not exactly going to take it as a Congressional visit, but that's sort of the point, too. Obama, on the other hand, is drumming up support on the Hill for his stimulus package — including his big tax cuts — where he managed not to run into "Senator" Roland Burris who, it is rumored, will indeed be seated if he, like, totes promises not to run in 2010 which is laughable because it isn't an enforceable promise and the Senate Dems will totally change their minds once they notice that a Republican is poised to win the seat back.
New York Governor David Paterson is taking no chances running into a Richardson- or Burris-type issue with his choice and has mailed all 6 contenders a 28-page disclosure package to turn in by Thursday so it appears La Kennedy will actually have to talk about some shit — including her finances — before she is the Senator and absolutely, positively has to. Other people still up for the seat, supposedly, are Long Island Rep. Steve Israel (not gonna happen), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (the Feminist Majority Foundation's choice), upstate sophomore Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (too junior), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (nope) and Nassau County executive (a government job, like mayor of Wasilla) Thomas Suozzi (definitely not, this guy's name is floated more often than a rubber duckie). Not on the New York Times list but, sadly, still likely on Paterson's short-list is state Attorney General Andrew "Shucking and Jiving Is Not A Racist Term, I Swear" Cuomo. Jerk. David, honey, just keep repeating to yourself "Change we can believe in" and see if you can even conjure up the name Cuomo.