President Barack Obama has an almost complete cabinet – pending the confirmation of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as secretary of health and human services.
Obama is ahead of the three previous presidents in making critical appointments, but according to a very informative Associate Press article from 12 April 2009, the president has a long way to go in naming lower-level appointments critical to the advancement of his bold agenda.
In the article, New York University professor Paul Light estimates Obama “has about 500 appointments to make that are subject to Senate confirmation, and about 3,000 positions to fill overall.”
At the cabinet level, Sebelius’ nomination has been approved by the Senate Finance Committee. According to The Progress Report, eight of the 10 Republicans on the panel voted against her, "underscoring the increasingly partisan nature of the emerging healthcare debate on Capitol Hill."
Obama has charged his cabinet to cut $100 million from their budgets, but House Minority Leader John Boehner, according to politico.com, says that’s not enough.
I am fed up with this sudden fit of frugality from the GOP. And, I feel a rant coming on, so get a cup of coffee and get comfortable!
While writing this post last night I caught a couple of Texas clowns on C-SPAN - Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX, 26th District) and Rep. John Carter (R-TX, 31st District). It’s a frightening thing to realize such crazos serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. They appeared absolutely crazed over the recently released DHS advisory on right-wing hate groups. You, dear reader, should have heard them: “They are accusing possibly 80 percent of Americans of being extremists.” While demanding the resignation of Homeland Security Secretry Janet Napolitano, these two twits made no mention of a similar advisory on left-wing extremists, issued by the DHS in February.
Are you comfortable yet?
I then watched the replay of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Republicans on the Committee, instead of probing her foreign affairs expertise, used their allotted time to rant about right-wing talking points.
One, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN, 6th District) used his time to quote from Natan Sharansky's “The Case for Democracy” – that’s the dog-eared book Dubya carried around, asking everyone he met, “Have you read this?” Pence then asked Secretary Clinton if Obama’s shaking hands with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez caused the president to be “used for propaganda purposes,” throwing one of Clinton’s campaign statements back at her. He was baiting her, and the lady held her own – beautifully. (Watch the video.)
"President Obama won the election,” the former first lady told Pence. “He beat me in a primary, in which he put forth a different approach. And, he is now our president, and we all want our president, no matter of which party, to succeed, especially in such a perilous time.
“The United States spent eight years trying to isolate Chavez, and what has been the result? I don't think it's been in America's interest. So, we're going to try some different things.”
During the Cold War, she recalled “virulent anti-American communist dictators threatening our country on a regular basis, and I remember our presidents meeting with them, shaking their hands and negotiating. They did not do so without conditions or without strong principles, but they did so.”
She told Pence his strong feelings about Chavez are “certainly understandable, because he has clearly been someone who has behaved in ways that don't accord with our values and our principles, but so were the Soviet leaders, and so did so many others with whom we eventually created an environment in which we could see some changes that benefited the United States of America.”
Nice to have a diplomat who can think in the hot seat.
“My bottom line is, I am here to serve my country, which I have loved ever since I was a little girl. And, I'm going to support my president, because he is committed to doing whatever he can in the time he is given to serve to make this a better, safer, more secure world. So, I appreciate your strong feelings, but I think that we are pursuing a course that may very well open up some additional opportunities that we hope will be in our interests, and advance our values, and protect our security." (Quotes from ABC News report.)
And so, I would ask the Fox News crowd: is there anything Obama can do at this point that will win the approval of right-wing leaders and pundits? Probably not. They are raising hell over every issue confronting this country – from economic recovery to Homeland Security alerts about hate groups to the public outcry for justice in the breaking of torture laws.
Americans are concerned about the economy, affordable health care, energy costs, two wars and so many other major issues – not the least of which is America’s image in the world. If the Republican Party had good, solid solutions to offer Americans, it would be in the majority and in the White House.
The mouths of the far-right – Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Savage, Malkin, Coulter - are very adept at brainwashing techniques; they’ve had eight years to perfect them. Their power lies in fearmongering. According to crime writer Ann Rule:
"For brainwashing to occur, a human being must be exposed to four basic elements: 1) a severe traumatic shock; 2) isolation, being taken away from persons or surroundings where a person feels secure; 3) programming, hearing what the mind controller wants the subject to believe - over and over and over and over; and 4) the promise of reward, often the subject's very life.
If you start with the trauma of 9/11, it’s not a stretch to apply these elements to what’s happening to some in this country. Just listen to the callers on C-SPAN!
The path to solutions is so slippery with right-wing red herrings at the moment, it will take a strong leader to guide us along. This nation is fortunate to have a president of keen intellect and sound moral judgment.
And speaking of moral judgment, here’s how Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, describes Obama’s deliberative selection process in filling important posts:
Obama is setting "Mother Teresa standards in a city with very few saints."
In the AP article cited at the beginning of this post: “West called the number of appointees in place ‘dangerously low given the enormity of the challenges we face. Obama is holding his people to such a high standard it is wounding his administration.’"
Has it come to that, Mr. West?
A return to morals after eight years of an amoral administration won’t work?
Damn the GOP, Mr. Obama, full speed ahead.
Read the Associated Press article.
For the convenience of readers, I have placed a link to a listing of Obama’s cabinet members and staff at the top of DemWit's left sidebar.