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December 01, 2008

National Security Adviser darling of energy companies

Barack Obama picked a national security adviser who fought the Senate climate change bill tooth and nail when he worked for the Chamber of Commerce:

President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, is giving hope to energy companies that backed Republican John McCain that their concerns may still get an airing in the new administration.

The appointment also could set up potential disagreements on climate change within the Obama team if the president-elect selects an aggressive global warming advocate for the Environmental Protection Agency or another administration post.

That’s what some observers anticipate will happen as Obama balances his Cabinet.

“For the EPA, expect someone who will go full force on the global warming agenda and use the Clean Air Act to battle global warming,” said Dan Holler, Senate relations deputy at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Time will tell if Obama can manage the competing forces.”

Jones comes to the White House by an extraordinary route – via the Republican-dominated U.S. Chamber of Commerce – where he was promoting an energy policy opposed by congressional Democrats and not fully embraced by Obama. And Jones has been a board director for Chevron. [Politico]

Two memes the "Team of Rivals" cliche needs to die. It's rhetoric is designed to make a virtue out of indecisiveness, incoherence, and downright self-sabotage.

Obviously, it's good to recruit people with diverse points of view and to encourage honest debate between them. Even Dick Cheney understood the importance of listening to open debate amongst his underlings.

On the other hand, idealizing "balance" as an abstract virtue for a cabinet is as specious as fetishizing balance in news coverage.

The Politico story tacitly accepts that it makes sense to "balance" an EPA that wants to fight global warming with the Clean Air Act with a national security adviser who is dead set against the idea.

Joseph Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, isn’t overly concerned about Jones’ views on energy and security, because the national security adviser’s role on domestic energy issues has historically been small. [Politico]

I'm not buying Romm's argument. First off, according to Politico, Obama is picking Jim Jones in large part because he's interested in eliminating America's dependence on foreign oil.

Energy is certainly a national security issue.

We don't want another national security adviser like Condi Rice who sought to ease the burden of America's dependence on foreign oil by using the military to reshape the political landscape of oil-rich foreign countries.

If seems inevitable that the next national security adviser will have more to say about domestic energy production. I don't expect to hear much from Jones about energy conservation as a national security issue, even though it's the logical flipside of increasing production.   

Jones hails from the right wing Chamber of Commerce. He and his allies in the oil industry want to expand domestic drilling because oil prices are rising and they hope to make quick profits with taxpayer subsidies.

Will Jones argue on bogus national security grounds to lift bans on offshore oil drilling and drilling in ANWR?


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The key thing to remember as Obama sells us (the left that paid for his election) out before he even takes office is that no matter how bad he turns out to be, McCain/Palin would have been much much worse. Though obviously not by as much as we had hoped.

Will Jones argue on bogus national security grounds to lift bans on offshore oil drilling and drilling in ANWR?

Probably, some idiot will, pretty soon at any rate.

See, the problem that a lot of "Drill Baby drill" proponents/other knuckle draggers can't see is that:

OK, you're going to pump more oil out of the ground, no matter what, because it is in our "vital national interests", but you never explain what you're going to do with the global warming increase that will go along with pumping it out of the ground.

They never answer that adequately, do they?

We have a society at odds with the scientific data: We want the one thing that will make the world worse off, and we want it bad enough to kill anyone that tries to get in our way.

--(the left that paid for his election)--

True, but that is a stupid attitude to take. And Obama is way too sophisticated to allow anyone to see him as a tool of the left.

The early signs are promising. Some right of center people on the radio and elsewhere are very happy with Mr. Obama so far.

You guys may have done the rest of us, and the country, a favor in disguise. Thank you!

Phantom, there's no favor in disguise. We did the country a HUGE favor by keeping an old warmonger and his know-nothing VP pick away from the White House.

And I know there's nothing better to do right now but I am really worn out about all this speculation over whether or not Obama is selling out X Y or Z with any of his picks. Does Obama's pick as National Security Advisor signal he was lying all along when he named energy/environmental issues as his #1 priority? I doubt it. Let's see what his administration actually does once he's in office before freaking out -- or in Phantom's case, trollishly gloating.

Look, I'm a rabid partisan, but I'm still happy that John Sydney McCain the Third did not win this election.

Don't let the right get away with "the left is pissed off at Obama" meme.


I agree with you on the Palin comment. She quickly proved to be completely unsuited for a national or international stage.

I disagree with you on McCain, but that's to be expected.

I am concerned about this pick, too. I am hoping that Obama is picking the most qualified people but putting them in areas where there is no conflict of interest.

We don't want another national security adviser like Condi Rice who sought to ease America's dependence on foreign oil by using the military to reshape the political landscape of oil-rich foreign countries.

I don't understand your point here. If you said Rice used the military seeking to ensure American access to foreign oil, I would follow you. But how can changing the political landscape of foreign countries ease dependence on foreign oil?

I meant it was meant to ease the burden of America's dependence on foreign oil, not to ease the dependence itself. I should fix that.

I think you make a good argument against Jones in the Obama administration. The obvious conclusion to draw is that Obama is committed to the war machine. While not surprising, for me it raises a strong question about how well Obama's administration can function. I suspect that the two wars won't allow the U.S. off the hook without some sort of concession in the use of war as a tool of imperial ambition. The most obvious concession is major reforms at home to succeed. Those reforms to cement support for the war machine abroad. Without reforms the war machine would fail and force hard choices on the U.S. system very rapidly. With a new national consensus based upon some sort of Obama reform agenda can the U.S. imperial ambitions go forward? I suspect not, but that is speculation that is hard to really know for sure.

The massive financial failures open the door to international challenges to the U.S. hegemonic power. The lessons in Afghanistan are not hard to apply elsewhere. So expect Obama to face the truth sometime in the next four years. That truth being a break down in the present imperial power schema much as Great Britain faced over the fifty years of two world wars.

Don't let the right get away with "the left is pissed off at Obama" meme.

Well, some people, like digby, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Bowers, Matt Stoller, the firedoglake crowd, etc., really do seem irritated at Obama over this. Others like Atrios, Matt Yglesias, and Kevin Drum seem to be taking a "wait and see" attitude.

As to the former group, one thing I'm not seeing is a list of progressive figures that they would want to see in office. Over the past couple years they've been good at identifying who they don't want to see in office, like John Brennan, Michael O'Hanlon, etc.

I saw a bloggingheads episode last year where Matt Stoller was grousing about how Obama was a phony progressive and this, that, and the other. The guy Stoller was talking to asked him, "Well, what could Obama do to prove to you that he's for real?" And Stoller said, "Maybe if he compiled a list of people who wouldn't get jobs in his administration or that he wouldn't listen to." I thought that was a very revealing moment about the way Stoller approaches politics.

But I can't think of anyone that this segment of the online left has positive feelings for who they'd like to see in a cabinet post.

If the "team of rivals" philosophy any merit for a cabinet, it certainly works for a polity.

We're on the left and we agitate for our agenda. That's how it's going to be. We'd rather have a more liberal president, and we're going to keep up the pressure, but it's not like we're facing some kind of disaster, or even much of surprise.

We've got about 4 years before we even have to think about whether we want to give Obama a second term. So, he's here and we're going to work as hard as possible to get him to do what we want.

Next up: more liberal primary challengers for some of the more recalcitrant Democrats who will face election.

Keep speaking up for what you believe in. That's all anyone can ask of you as a citizen.

I think it was Nate Silver who explained how judging by his first cabinet picks, Bush would look pretty moderate, too. He had people like Christie Todd Whitman and Colin Powell in his cabinet. You'd expect that with a Secretary of State who believed the US should only use war as a last resort and only when it had overwhelming force and an exit strategy, Bush could never invade a country based on idealistic fantasies.

Exactly, Alon! Sometimes Cabinet (or NSA) picks are great projections of what the President will do on a given issue, sometimes they're abysmal. How can you tell which is which? Wait to see what he actually pursues once he's sworn in.

Obama lacks an instinct of "lavishly reward the friends, punish the enemies" mindset when it comes to putting together his administration, and this has been clear throughout his career, dating back to his time on the Harvard Law Review. One can argue whether this is a good thing or a bad thing or not. He clearly thinks that Jones is a good pick for the NSA and doesn't feel the need to engage in some punishment/retaliation against him for working for the Chamber of Commerce on energy issues. I mean, in all likelihood, I doubt that anyone would hold Bush's presidency against him when choosing him for Baseball Commissioner. People have their own core competencies; presumably Jones would be a good national security adviser, even though his background on energy issues is pretty poor. We all have that friend or relative who's well-qualified in their field and very smart, but sometimes has wacky ideas on some other issue or another that we tend to tune out. I assume Obama is able to deal with this.

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