- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fear on the Left

“The mau-mauing of Barack Obama officially began less than 24 hours after he won the White House, when National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy piped up about the possibility of Obama picking Larry Summers as his Treasury secretary,” John Heilemann writes in New York magazine.

“Gandy told the Huffington Post she had ‘mixed feelings’ about Summers, saying he ‘doesn’t seem to get’ the economic implications of gender-based wage disparities. She cited Summers’s incendiary comments as president of Harvard about women’s intrinsic inaptitude for math and science — the ones that helped get him booted as a cause for concern. And she expressed some displeasure that no female economists are being mentioned as contenders for the Treasury job. ‘We’re gonna be forwarding some names to the Obama transition team,’ Gandy said. ‘It’s important that in this new administration women’s voices are heard and heeded.’ …

“That Obama’s appointments, potential or actual, would inspire caterwauling on the right has always been a given. But judging by the anti-Summers preemptive strike and the murmurs of discontent over Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, the agita on the left is shaping up to be just as fierce. Traditional liberal interest groups worry that Obama will be too centrist. Newfangled Obamaphiles fear that he’ll succumb to old politics. Both fret that his administration will wind up looking — horrors! — like Clinton III.”

Beware of Skippy

“The bright young think tank staffers at the progressive Center for American Progress (CAP) admire their boss, John Podesta,” Michael Crowley writes in the New Republic.

“But the staffers also fear his darker side. They fear … Skippy.

“Skippy is the name — coined during Podesta’s years as a top Clinton White House staffer — for Podesta’s evil alter ego. Skippy is cutting, acerbic, impatient, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Skippy will gladly tell you when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. And so, before arriving at a meeting to brief Podesta on some issue of importance, CAP staffers will nervously confer with one another. ‘I really want to avoid Skippy tomorrow,’ they might say, checking to make sure their presentations are solid enough to avoid provoking Podesta’s anger.

“If that sounds like a tough work environment, it’s also just what Democrats need. For years, the party has specialized in chaotic and self-destructive internal feuding that was partly responsible for the rise of the Bush Republicans. The Iraq disaster and the thrill of the Obama campaign have created the temporary appearance of unity. But the question is whether that will last once Democrats begin governing.

“If CAP is any indication, chances are that discipline will prevail. And no one has been more influential in creating that new ethos of single-minded purpose than John Podesta and his whip-wielding pal, Skippy. In the past five years, Podesta has turned his think tank into a combination of highly efficient liberal war room and Democratic administration-in-waiting. That feat, along with his crucial role running the Obama transition, has made Podesta arguably the second-most important figure in his party. And, while Podesta announced this week that he won’t leave CAP to join Obama’s White House team, in many ways the Obama presidency will reflect his influence in the years ahead.”

Vultures circle

The international vultures already are circling President-elect Barack Obama, Ralph Peters writes in the New York Post.

“Justified or not, the international perception of Obama is that he’ll be both passive and a pacifist. He’s going to have to show some Southside Chicago street grit. Fast,” Mr. Peters said.

“Our enemies haven’t wasted any time. The day after our election, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, speaking for Vladimir Putin, gave a Gucci-loafer version of Premier Nikita Krushchev’s shoe-heel-on-the-podium rant of a half-century ago.

“In a direct challenge to our president-elect, Medvedev announced that Russia would deploy its latest-generation battlefield missiles to the Kaliningrad exclave between Lithuania and Poland. The Russian president made it clear that the target would be the U.S. ballistic-missile interceptors to be based on Polish soil. …

“A day later, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran played good cop to the Russian bad cop, inviting the new U.S. administration to enter direct talks with Tehran. Now, negotiations can be useful — but only when conducted from a position of strength. Unfortunately, the Iranians view our election results as reflecting a greatly weakened American will.”

Suing NYC

A broad coalition of elected officials and others sued New York City on Monday over Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s bid for a third term in office, which the lawsuit says would be unconstitutional without another public vote.

The lawsuit in federal court seeks to bar the Board of Elections from listing term-limited city officials on ballots in the 2009 elections, the Associated Press reports.

The lawsuit noted that term limits were put in place to prevent entrenchment of incumbents in a city where only two out of 107 City Council candidates lost a re-election bid in the past decade.

Michael A. Cardozo, the city’s top lawyer, said: “We believe the claims lack merit and are confident the court will determine that the amendment to the term limits law was proper and lawful.”

New Yorkers voted in 1993 and 1996 to limit mayors and other city officials to two four-year terms. Mr. Bloomberg sought and won an extension of the law in City Council last month.

The billionaire businessman and independent politician said the change was needed too soon to wait for a public vote. He has said his financial background is needed to help the city navigate the fallout from the economic crisis.

The revised law means dozens of city officials may seek re-election. The field of potential mayoral candidates also may be much smaller, now that the race includes an incumbent with unlimited campaign funds.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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