Sirota on Obama’s “Team of Zombies”
David Sirota has a very interesting post in which he is very critical of Obama’s economic and national security teams. Here’s a taste:
Obama’s national security team, for instance, includes not a single Iraq war opponent. The president has not only retained George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, but also 150 other Bush Pentagon appointees. The only “rivalry” is between those who back increasing the already bloated defense budget by an absurd amount and those who aim to boost it by a ludicrous amount.
Of course, that lockstep uniformity pales in comparison to the White House’s economic team — a squad of corporate lackeys disguised as public servants. . . [R]egardless of election hoopla, Washington is the same one-party town it always has been — controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by Kleptocrats (i.e., thieves). Their ties to money make them the undead zombies in the slash-and-burn horror flick that is American politics: No matter how many times their discredited theologies are stabbed, torched and shot down by verifiable failure, their careers cannot be killed. Somehow, these political immortals are allowed to mindlessly lunge forward, never answering to rivals — even if that rival is the president himself.
This is a very intersting analysis. While I agree with the substance of his criticism, particularly of Obama’s economic team and the prominent role of Summers (and other Clinton-era stalwarts), I think the overarching conclusion he draws is a little bit too pessimistic (though perhaps only a bit). Here’s why:
One of the areas that Sirota fails to mention is Obama’s legal team. This also happens to be the field in which, as a lawyer, Obama’s expertise is greatest. So it is the area in which he feels most confident in his own judgment. And it is in his appointments of lawyers that Obama has shown the most independence from the “team of zombies” that runs D.C. Among the top people he has chosen are names like Dawn Johnson, David Barron, Marty Lederman, and Neal Katyal (not to mention a number of lesser known appointments in important posts). Several of these are people I have met in one capacity or another through the small world of the legal academy. While none of them are bomb-toting radicals, by any stretch, they’re also not consummate insiders. Katyal, Johnson and Lederman, for instance, each opposed the Bush torture and detention policies even before it was popular and risk-free to do so.
The strength of Obama’s appointments in the legal arena give me at least some hope that, as he finds his own voice in economic and military policy, and becomes less reliant on his underlings, he may begin to tap into independent voices in those areas as well. But only time will tell whether that hope is in vain.