Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Obama Administration"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
If ISIS isn't going to lay down their arms there's really only one solution to it. Just nobody wants to say it.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

That’s definitely the problem. We know the only way to combat ISIS, but it is 2014 and we want to feel like we are a civilized people, and we just can’t bring ourselves to say how we have to fight them.

There is a reason that the President and leading officials in the U.S. government keep saying that we will “destroy ISIS”. It’s the mildest possible way to describe what we have to do. They know how horrific it sounds to acknowledge the real strategy for defeating this particular group. No one wants to hear the President of the United States say, “Our plan is to kill all of them. We can’t simply disrupt their capabilities or capture their leaders — we are going to kill every single ISIS terrorist.” And you can be damn sure that the President doesn’t want to have to say that. But let’s not fool ourselves — that’s the strategy.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
That Duck Dynasty guy was on Bill O'Riley's show and said the only way to beat ISIS is to convert them or kill them. Obama doesn't have a strategy. Who is right?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, nobody on Duck Dynasty should ever be taken seriously, especially when it comes to foreign policy. “Convert them or kill them” is literally the exact same mission statement that ISIS has. So, fuck Duck Dynasty and everybody involved in it. This issue probably shouldn’t be decided by someone on a reality show who is just as religiously fanatic as the ISIS terrorists, but instead of having ridiculous beards and beheading people, they have ridiculous beards and have something to do with ducks (I assume that’s what they are about. I’ve never watched the show because I’m not…you know…an idiot.)

As for President Obama not having a strategy, that’s not accurate; the Obama White House just has the worst Communications team in Presidential history. It’s actually remarkable how terrible Obama’s Communications strategy has been — for BOTH terms — considering the main strategy of the 2008 election was telling personal stories and delivering a solid message. I sat in Camp Obama in San Francisco for three days in August 2007 learning the importance of message, message, message, and seven years later (Holy shit, seven years!?), the Obama White House fumbles everything that it doesn’t punt. In 2012, I did a semi-live blog of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and this is what I wrote when Bill Clinton spoke:

"Clinton is just straight breaking down everything that’s happened from 2009 until today, why it has happened, and what it means for you. If he can’t be President anymore, can we just have him explain everything that our government does? Would anyone have an issue with that?"

As I said back then, can’t we just make Bill Clinton the National “Where’s What Happened?” Czar?

One last point about ISIS or ISIL or IS (for a barbaric terrorist group with such high-quality production value, you’d think they’d do a better job of branding) — it’s not that the Obama Administration doesn’t have a strategy; they just don’t know how to explain the fact that this can’t ever be a traditional war or military intervention. ISIS isn’t going to throw away their arms, shed their uniforms, and run into the desert. ISIS isn’t going to renounce their ways and there isn’t going to be some de-ISISfication. ISIS isn’t going to be pounded into submission, sign a peace treaty on a warship, and then train to be a legitimate police force. ISIS is the Mujahideen in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion. ISIS is those Japanese soldiers in World War II who wouldn’t surrender and wouldn’t believe anybody who told them that the Emperor DID surrender, so they kept hiding in some jungle on a remote Pacific island for 40 years. ISIS isn’t a group of Iraqis or Syrians fomenting terror against their own government. ISIS is a band of terrorists from all over the globe — including Americans and the British — who genuinely believe that they are creating an Islamic Caliphate that will take over the world. Syria and Iraq isn’t the goal; it’s their launching pad.

I don’t know how to solve the problem. I know that the United States can’t do it alone, and I know that a coalition should include a significant, leading role for the Arab states because they should be scared to death by ISIS. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt — they should all realize that they are next on the ISIS list. But that coalition needs to be built soon and it needs to be built carefully because what happens if ISIS attacks Israel? Israel won’t hesitate to fight back or to protect itself, and then we’d see Israel’s traditional enemies in a position where they can’t fight ISIS overtly because allying themselves with Israel would be unpopular with the Muslim majorities within their countries. And that would open up even more opportunities for ISIS to gain footholds in other countries in the region and destabilize it even further. This is a frightening situation.   

Do you think Hillary's recent right of center comments on foreign policy will affect her appeal to some of the more left-leaning members of the electorate? I think Hillary stands an excellent chance of running and winning, though I worry more and more that she's not grown at all since the 08 campaign.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Some of the more lefty-liberals (and full disclosure: I am one of them) will grumble about Hillary Clinton’s positioning, but far-left Democrats understand that Bernie Sanders can’t win a national election. I’m not sure if far-right Republicans recognize that Rick Santorum or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz can’t win a national election. That’s the difference between the extreme wings of the party, in my opinion. At some point, people need to understand that they will not get everything that they want from every candidate; parties will nominate the candidate that has the best chance to win, and it might not be everybody’s first choice, but Hillary Clinton is that person for the Democratic Party in 2016.

I don’t worry about whether Hillary has grown since the 2008 campaign. First of all, she knows that she’s not invincible. I think that there was an arrogance to her campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2007 and 2008. Not that Hillary was being arrogant, but that her campaign as a whole felt like it was a coronation. There is a risk of that in 2016 because she’s been put forward as the inevitable candidate, but I think Hillary recognizes that possibility, which is why she’s putting off an official announcement for as long as possible. Plus, she’s older and doesn’t want to run a 20-month-long national campaign. On top of all of that, Hillary’s term as Secretary of State was a different type of experience for her. She gained some time as an actual decision-maker in the Executive branch and became a foreign policy heavyweight. Hillary’s biggest challenge in 2016 isn’t going to be that she hasn’t grown; it’s going to be her connection to President Obama. If his popularity continues to nose-dive — and Presidents don’t normally get a spike in popularity during the final two years of a two-term Presidency — she’ll have to distance herself from him even more, and that won’t be easy.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I've honestly been wondering this for so long. Why do people give Biden so much crap, and make him the butt of a lot of jokes?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Vice Presidents always tend to be easy targets and since Biden is so affable and open, people seem to underestimate him. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the Obama Administration would be without Vice President Biden. It’s no secret that Obama has been terrible with building relationships with Congress (and that’s certainly not solely his fault), and can be aloof at times because that’s just one of his personality characteristics — he’s not cold, he’s just a very serious, focused, cautious person. On the other hand, Biden is open and candid — sometimes to a fault — and it makes it easy to poke fun at him. Biden lacks a filter and often says things that he probably shouldn’t say — not necessarily because he’s saying something inappropriate, but more so because he’s so authentic. Like I said, some people find that to be a fault, but I find that to be incredibly refreshing, especially in a political leader who has basically spent his entire adult life in elective office.

But Biden has built bridges between the White House and Congress that have helped accomplish the big things that the Obama Administration has actually been able to get done. That’s because of Biden’s masterful political skills and the relationships and connections that Biden forged through nearly 40 years in the Senate. Biden likes to be underestimated because Biden knows exactly how gifted he is. He has never lacked that confidence — not even when he first ran for the Senate. I mean, Joe Biden is a guy who was so confident in himself that he ran for the Senate (and won) even though he wasn’t yet Constitutionally eligible to actually take his seat until a few weeks after the election.

Plus, a lot of people don’t truly know Joe Biden’s story. They know that he’s been around forever and that he spent decades in the Senate, but he’s never been the stereotypical fat cat incumbent clinging to his spot on Capitol Hill. Biden has always been active, always been a fighter, and always been straightforward. Biden earned everything that he has ever obtained and he worked for the people of his constituency in Delaware every day since his 1972 election, and he’s continued that work on behalf of the people of the United States every single day since he was elected Vice President. I wish that everyone would read more about Joe Biden, learn his story, and see how much he has overcome and how hard he has worked to get to where he is today — Jules Witcover’s Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (BOOK | KINDLE) is a great place to start.

On a personal basis, I don’t hesitate to stay that Vice President Biden is probably my favorite politician alive today; it’s a close race between Biden and Bill Clinton. But from a professional standpoint — removing any of my personal biases or political beliefs from the equation — I think Joe Biden is probably the best Vice President in American history. Dick Cheney was a more powerful Vice President, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence. Al Gore was the most influential VP up to that point, but his relationship with President Clinton wasn’t as symbiotic as Biden and Obama’s. Barack Obama is the mind and the conscience of the Obama Administration, but Joe Biden is the heart and soul.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Should Eric Shinseki resign?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, but sometimes just letting a member of the Administration save face and resign doesn’t do enough to send a message.  I understand the importance of loyalty and going to bat for your people, but in this instance, I think the President should fire General Shinseki. The systemic failures were taking place before Obama took office and Shinseki took over the Department of Veterans Affairs, but for an Administration trying to bring an end to the longest war in American history and responsible for the care of millions of veterans of all ages, an example needs to be set.

Shinseki needs to go and the VA needs to be torn apart and restructured in a way so that it works effectively and efficiently for all of the veterans who need it. When my friend, Keith, and I made a documentary about vets from Union, Missouri who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, every single one of them was proud of their service and their connection to the military. Yet, every single one of them privately expressed frustration and downright anger at the VA. Most of them were closely involved with the American Legion because they found that they could receive support and provide help to other vets more quickly and much easier through the American Legion than through the VA. And that was just a couple dozen of veterans living in small Missouri town who had the same terrible experience with the department, so imagine the scope of issues and failures throughout the entire nation.

So, USAID covertly funded and created a “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo in an effort to “destabilize” the Cuban government. Obviously worked out really well…oh wait…USAID ran out of money and it sputtered.

By the way, covert actions by federal agencies require Presidential authorization. Apparently, President Obama has learned nothing about the resiliency of the Cuban Revolution from his TEN IMMEDIATE PREDECESSORS.


Really, the whole White House Communications Office has been a mess for a while.  The biggest mistake of the Obama Administration (in my humble opinion) was taking ownership of the name “Obamacare”.  It’s divisive.  In fact, it’s intentionally divisive.  That was the idea behind branding the Affordable Health Care Act as “Obamacare” by the right, and it’s the same reasons that the left co-opted the name.  Both sides are playing the same game, and we’re losing.

There is a huge difference between campaigning and governing, and I feel like Obama’s Communications team is still in campaign mode.  You won..twice…now govern.

I think it’s just time to hire the writers from The West Wing to run communications.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think of the new reports about Obama and Biden's relationship from 'Double Down'? It seems the two still clash a lot in private.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m looking forward to reading the book.  I didn’t get an advanced copy of Double Down: Game Change 2012, so I probably won’t get a chance to read it until the beginning of next week.

I’m not surprised that the Obama campaign thought about dumping Biden for Hillary — it’s politics, and while Plouffe said they never seriously considered it, I’m sure they did because there was a point where it looked like Romney could actually win the election.  But as I said last year when I was asked whether they SHOULD dump Biden for Hillary, Joe Biden has been a hard-working, loyal, and incredibly influential Vice President.  They only reason that they should have done the switch and made Hillary VP and Biden Secretary of State is if Biden wanted to do it.  He deserved that much.  Biden has been the closer on several significant pieces of legislation with Congress.  Obama has needed Biden, no matter how much Biden might tend to go off page (and I think his tendency to speak his mind if both overrated and refreshing).

By the way, there’s no way Hillary Clinton would have taken the Vice Presidency in the second term of an Obama Administration.  She spent most of her time as Secretary of State traveling the world, and the best possible strategy for her potential 2016 run was getting the hell out of government.  If she was Vice President, whoever her opponents are in 2016 (both Democrat and Republican) could tie her to whatever goes wrong in Obama’s second term.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What did you think of Robert Gates?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think Robert Gates is probably the best Secretary of Defense (or Secretary of War) since Henry L. Stimson and probably in the Top 5 in all of American history (a lot of Americans would probably be surprised to realize that many historians, including myself consider Jefferson Davis to be #1).  Gates was loyal, dependable, incredibly smart, eminently qualified, and had the respect and confidence of not only the military, but two Presidents from different parties who had almost nothing in common other than Robert Gates as their Secretary of Defense.  For President Bush and President Obama, Secretary Gates was the ideal Cabinet member — supportive, yet unafraid to voice objections or an opposing viewpoint, and completely capable of managing his department and getting the most out of his people.  I have nothing but respect for Robert Gates.

While for the most part I've made a serious effort to stay out of the Manning affair, as it seems to inflame the worst of the left and of the right, and has a tendency to turn the slightly left-leaning into hippies and the slightly right-leaning into Cheneys, do you think that the Obama administration was right to fire Crowley? I'm undecided: on one hand, Crowley did not say anything especially inflammatory, and could be said to have a point, but on the other Crowley could be quoted as overstepping his position by claiming publicly and in the implied name of the White House that pretrial confinement as a form of extracting intelligence was counterproductive and/or stupid.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Like you, I’ve tried to stay out of the whole subject because it is a difficult one.

With Crowley, however, I’m kind of old-fashioned.  In a way, it’s the same way I feel about Private Manning.  It’s honorable to be a whistleblower, especially on something you feel strongly about, but you have to face the consequences.  In Manning’s case, he (allegedly) broke a whole lot of laws.  In Crowley’s case, he criticized the government that he worked for, and there’s already a natural rivalry between the State Department and the Defense Department, so exacerbating those tensions is bad for the Administration.  It wasn’t his job to criticize the Defense Department’s handling of a problem; if he wanted to be a pundit, he could quit his job and do just that.  I don’t have a major problem with how the Obama Administration handled it.

I am doing a paper on if Obama's presidency has been a success/failure so far on my Poli Sci class. I want to go with success, but what do you think?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m not a huge fan of the “so far” rankings because it’s kind of unfair to judge someone’s job performance on a job that they aren’t finished doing.  However, I understand it is a part of politics and that a President’s performance is constantly judged — just as a President’s legacy is constantly evolving.

The problem with success/failure is that you have to choose one or the other when anyone who observes President Obama’s performance objectively would have to note that he’s had successes and failures during his nearly two-and-a-half years in office.  If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to decide, I’d say “success”.  (Actually, if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to decide, I’d say, “Why is it so important that you’d have to put a gun to my head?  I think you are taking this far too seriously, sir.”  But then I’d say, “success”.)  I think that there have been some major challenges and that Obama hasn’t performed as well as I had hoped he would when I voted for him in 2008.  However, I’m much happier with Obama in the White House than I would have been with John McCain and I feel like we’re in a better place right now than we were during the last years of President Bush’s term.