Fixing Obama’s Crooked Cabinet
Author: Pandora Hopkins
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 08/15/2009
I am a true-blue American citizen, I am a passionate believer in the two-party system, I am a proud Democrat, a member of the reach-across-the-aisle party that is showing the world how the two-party system can naturally evolve into the highest political form of all: Lockstep Democracy.
Unbelievably, however, there continue to be unsettling voices of heterodoxy. While I used to find this distressing, I believe I have actually discovered a practical use for a few of the dissenters. But first, let’s listen to some of the static we hear around us.
“Here’s a new kind of hope and change,” sneered blogger JD last January upon the news that Timothy Geithner was about to be nominated Secretary of the Treasury. In a post called Obama and His Crooked Cabinet, JD claimed that the prospective nominee “is a crook” (JD 2009). More recently, with Geithner comfortably ensconced in the catbird’s money seat, Professor William K. Black, interviewed by Bill Moyers this past April, made a similar point in slightly more formal lingo. Black, the senior regulator who once cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis, used the word fraud.
Moyers: What’s your definition of fraud?:
Black: Fraud is deceit.
Moyers: Is that what you’re saying here — That it was in the boardrooms and the CEO offices where this fraud began?
Black: Absolutely… Geithner… is covering up… Just like Paulson did before him… These are all people who have failed. Paulson failed. Geithner failed. They were all promoted because they failed…
Moyers: Are you saying that Timothy Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, and others in the administrartion, with the banks, are engaged in a coverup to keep us from knowing what went wrong?
Black: Absolutely, because they are scared to death…
Moyers: That’s a serious charge.
Black: Of course. (Moyers 2009)
The President’s cabinet plays a vital role in achieving Lockstep Democracy, and support for Obama’s appointments (by the people that count) has been gratifying. Even Dick Cheney expressed pleasure after the first two appointments were announced: Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates. All in all, praise from former rivals (from Karl Rove to James Baker, from John McCain and Joe Lieberman to Condeleeza Rice) has been music to our ears. “I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain,” said Max Boot, a former member of McCain’s staff (Scahill 2009). “How do you oppose such a popular president, especially when he has a style that seems so inviting and sensible?” said Ed Rogers, a Reagan administration official whose lobbying firm, the bipartisan BGR Group, reported a 13 percent decline in first-quarter fees, to about $4.1 million (Kirkpatrick 2009).
Indeed so much in accord were Republican and Democratic senators that bipartisan support was there to confirm Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary despite some unkind media carping about an honest mistake: neglecting to pay some past federal taxes until shortly before Obama’s nomination of him (Klein 2009; Calmes 2009). Anyone who has tried to use tax software should sympathize with the difficulties the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had in understanding it. Most Republican senators were compassionate, but an astonishing number of members of the public – making a great deal of the fact that it was his second underpayment over the last few years — continued their attack on Geithner as well as Obana’s cabinet in general. Clearly, something must be done to refurbish that cabinet until the brilliance of its occupants’ steady climb toward Lockstep Democracy can be comprehended and appreciated properly by all true Americans.
Having once moved into an old house with rotting cabinetry, I experienced a surge of sympathy for the new White House tenant whose hopeful messages were being stained by mundane domestic details. Furthermore, I was pained by the tone of some critics, including the above-quoted William Black.
Clearly these persons do not understand the sacrifices that must be made in order to evolve to that pinnacle of cultural development: Lockstep Democracy. Now any attempt to create a think-alike Cabinet must involve willingness to shed old notions for up-to-date ideas; indeed, it involves the deconstruction of words to reveal the fluidity of their meaning. Take the significance of the word crooked, for example – it is commonly thought to be in direct opposition to the word straight. However, if one looks into the etymology of crooked, one finds it associated, in many European languages, with a complex of ideas, including the left side and the feminine gender. Now, as Democrats, we cannot possible think of the left in a negative way, and certainly in America, at a time when a woman can be nominated for President, the same is true of the other association. Let’s turn to its supposed antonym, straight: while generally accepted by linguists as having a more uniform significance, this word is actually no longer a term of praise. What young person today would want to be called straight? For these reasons, I suggest we introduce the new interpretations of crooked and straight to the public–but gradually. In the interim, it may be useful to sometimes resort to the use of an euphemism—i.e., super-straight for the word crooked.
The word fraud does not pose this kind of complexity; historically, one of its meanings has always been positive. Thus, it should not be a difficult task for the public to understand that we are engaging in what has been termed– from Aristotle through Leo Strauss–pious fraud. Clearly, any patriotic American would normally define this word as loyalty, not deceit—i.e. loyalty to the American free market system whose very foundation, after all, depends on it.
Anyone who criticizes this nomenclature can, and should, be branded poetically-correct—i.e, manifesting effete pretense, effeminacy instead of down-to-earth, he-man realism.
With these goals in mind, I figured I was ready to begin to find a remedy for Obama’s cabinet problems. So I turned to Google for help. Sure enough, FIXING CROOKED CABINETS elicited immediate responses.
“Can you say catty-wompus? ” sprang from the first click, to be followed by “That means crooked beyond belief in Midwest-speak.” I realized that the President, coming from the heartland of the country, would be able to cope. I read on:
I’m a can-do girl, so I’d never think trice about a project without good reason. But installing kitchen cabinets is one of those home improvements that looks deceptively easy though it’s not. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of room for error unless you create a kitchen cabinet plan and follow it to the letter (Face 2009).
Ah, the letter of the law (within the free-market legal system, of course): that’s what is needed to deal with this stain of fraud, –ahem, loyalty. A plan; I needed a plan:
Most notable were recommended lists of tools and supplies; here is a typical example from Handy Man Fix Home Repair (Handy 2009):
¨ a level
¨ a hacksaw (just in case)
¨ screwdrivers of various sizes
¨ plenty of screws
¨ wood glue (in some cases)
¨ a sander of rough grade sandpaper
¨ vise grips
¨ a crowbar
¨ measuring tape
¨ a sledgehammer
¨ a power drill
I was encouraged. This list of tools should help Obama get rid of any signs of mold or mildew or whatever else might be obscuring the brilliance of the road to Lockstep Democracy, especially the vice grips (seemingly misspelled in the above source) that would hopefully help the general public get a handle on the situation. If that proves difficult, Ruby 1459 gives online information on cabinet doors without handles or even knobs (Face 2009). And, of course, there always is the hacksaw (just in case).
There is little doubt that the first item on the list – the level – is of prime importance in checking Cabinet correctness, as highlighted in the following:
First, using a straight edge and a good level, mark a line in the wall where the lower edge of the cabinet will be. Make sure that you check this line at least trice to ensure it is level, at the current height from the floor, and the right length. This is where you will mount your 1×2 or 1×3 brace for your cabinets.
The following sentence is crucial: I cannot emphasize enough its importance in today’s nexus between the still-active remnants of the 1960s narcissistic sexual liberation and the present search for the purity of obedience to a unitary way of thinking – an ideal that banishes the sex drive completely from our elites who must present a model image of unflappable correctness: “Once you have made your line, use a stud locator to find the wall studs…” So far this problem – a Congressional embarrassment – has not emerged publicly from Obama’s Cabinet. But mold spreads. It would be wise to be vigilant and perhaps pre-emptively consider the author’s recommendation to :”mark your wall studs.” Possibly anticipating a naive public’s misunderstanding, she recommends caution: “…before you hang those cabinets, know that you have choices” (FIX 2009).
Meanwhile, to return to less potentially hazardous issues (e.g., war and economic destitution) a level, along with a plane (not listed), seems the most important tool for all general purposes. Together, they can adequately manipulate all discrepancies, thus moving us rapidly towards our goal of equal super-straightness.
For example, in the economic sphere, after the Bush administration essentially did away with regulation, a type of lending service developed that operated strictly on faith—clearly a screw job for which drivers have been in abundance (ask any member of the public). Of course, I am referring to the celebrated “liars’ loans,” so called by both lenders and borrowers. (The inner circle also call them “Ninja loans”—no income verification, no job verification, no asset verification.) As the above-quoted William K. Black points out, not only is there no checking but also “…you get a better deal if you inflate your income and your job history and your assets” (Moyers 2009). Never has the loyalty essence of fraud been more in evidence! Indeed it was another giant step on the steep upward climb to Lockstep Democracy.
There is nothing more laudable than the acknowledgement of an honest mistake. Just as we respect the Secretary of the Treasury for owning up to his befuddlement with tax software, we give credit to Attorney General Eric Holder for confessing at his senate confirmation hearing (in reference to the pardon of Mark Rich) that he should not have obeyed his president or the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak (Senate 2009; also see Israel 2001).
The Israeli connection went without comment: it simply did not fit into the working scenario. Clinton, on the other hand, is not one of us. Holder, whose career had begun with a judicial appointment by Ronald Reagan, endured extensive scolding for not opposing him on the Rich pardon. But he also received praise for having demonstrated his independence from partisanship by having insisted upon the expansion of Clinton’s impeachment investigation. The president’s transgression was a very early acknowledgement of the unique peril presented by unregulated stud activity. Of course Holder, was lauded by both sides of the aisle for the bipartisan support he was receiving for the present nomination. This, plus his declaration that: “We are at war with terrorismo,” won the hearts of Republicans completely, including arch-conservative Lindsay Graham, who expressed his particular pleasure with the candidate. In the end, not one Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Holder even after he departed sharply from Bush administration policy by blurting out: “Waterboarding is torture” (Holder 2009).
That may seem curious at a hearing in which bipartisanship (sometimes called post-partisanship) was a constant constant litany. Perhaps the Republicans were moved to forgiveness because they realized that wood damage caused by board rot is a common problem in old houses. It seems that the fungi that cause it are around us all the time. To activate them the moisture content of the wood needs to be above 29% and the temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wood must be exposed to oxygen (HammerZone 2009; Prestemon and Sternweis 2009). There is little doubt that the President’s Cabinet is commonly afflicted by hot air, and adding water to its boards might well prove dangerous. Of course, Holder has since made it quite plain that he is drawn to veneer as a solution to the problem; even some woodworking experts recommend veneer over solid wood as a more environmentally conscious alternative (Loria 2009). And clearly, rendition solves the Nimby (not in my backyard) problem. Some of the more invasive tools might be necessary to deal with a potential emergency, but Holder is quite right to be cautious.
One subject did not get mentioned at Holder’s confirmation hearing. Of course, I am referring to the unfair criticism he received some years ago for his handling of border issues in a widely-publicized case. He was legal counsel for the defense, and was able to get his client off with only a tap on the wrist (Brodzisky). Now. anyone who has done fine cabinetry knows that border techniques are intricate and require extremely sharp (some even dangerously so) sets of differently-shaped chisels and gauges. The chislers and gougers who were hired by Chiquita Brands International to do this delicate and perilous finishing work in the banana border region of Colombia had actually been blacklisted by the U.S. government. Clearly this kind of situation could only have occurred in the days before bipartisanship had begun to establish itself. Naturally, the senators realized that the issue needed to be shelved. As Holder and all other super-loyalists know, we had to move on.
There is no better way to assess progress toward Lockstep Democracy than to compare the sorry Chiquita affair with a contemporary case of border artistry – that of former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, presently Secretary of Homeland Security. Aerospace maquiladoras decorate the border as they chisel their way to the Mexican state of Sonora while gouging tools in the hands of National Guardsmen finish edging the job in the reverse direction. In her opening statement Napolitano singled out her predecessor, Michael Chertoff, for praise while MC Joe Lieberman returned the compliment for so doing. (Leiberman is a good old lockstepper.) Napolitano made it quite clear that she would continue and expand George W. Bush’s policies, adopting the same hard line that has been so unjustly criticized by the non-Locksteppers – both in respect to immigration and in respect to anti-terrorismo initiatives (Barry 2009; Simpson 2009).
Arizona’s Republican senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, jointly introduced their Democratic governor at her recent confirmation hearing and gave her a glowing endorsement. In addition to immigration policy, Janet Napolitano shares the two Republican senators’ views on other hot-button topics: pro-death penalty, anti- same-sex marriage, and anti-restrictions on gun ownership. Meanwhile, the bipartisan march to lockstep has profited from opposing nativistic rhetoric so extreme that even conservative politicians clamour for a “third way.”
“A Republican lovefest” is what one journalist called Arne Duncan’s confirmation hearing as Secretary of Education. “The atmosphere was positively milk and honey. With Republicans heaping so much praise on the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, they sounded like Democrats.” He followed up with a metaphor about the “peaceable kingdom” – the lion lying with the lamb. But, of course, bipartisan praise for Duncan is not for creating a peace program for Chicago’s students; quite the reverse: Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the country, including 6 military senior high schools and several dozen Junior ROTC programs in middle schools (Duncan 2009; Giroux 2008).
It is easy to see how woodworking equipment is needed to create the top-down militarized and privatized public school system Chief Artisan Arne Duncan has already begun to expand to the country at large. High power drills are necessary for obedience training. Measuring tape allows him an indisputable, quantifiable way to eliminate the unfit –students, teachers, and schools—to lift the crowbar, so to speak; and the sander of rough grade sandpaper (not to speak of the sledgehammer and hacksaw) will be able to easily quell undemocratic (as well as democratic) dissent.
My eye fell on a website promising tips on Straightening warped cabinet doors, then moved on to Straighten Sagging Gates. Of course, sagging Gates. While the site didn’t actually say so, it suggested that the extended presence of Secretary of Defence Robert Gates into Obama’s cabinet – historically, the first Secretary of Defense to survive a party change – contributes to the cabinet’s perceived disfunction. Of course, the reality is quite the reverse. It serves nicely, however, to expose the outdated thinking of a public incorrectly interpreting the thinking of this 36-year CIA veteran, protegé of Ronald Reagan and William Casey.
It is true that, upon occasion, Gates’s fertile imagination has sometimes led to embarrassment, as most famously was the case with the unexpected implosion of the Soviet Union. However, from his craftsmanship in politicized intelligence through his deft ability to avoid responsibility for Iran-Contra entanglement, up to his creative role in justifying the Bush administration’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates has been a pioneer in the superstraight movement. His close association with both Daddy and Baby Bush, his articulated opposition to Obama’s Iraq withdrawal plan, his promotion of a new generation of nuclear weaponry: these are all positions that, at one time, would have been controversial – apparently still against the grain with some…
Perpetual war. According to Secretary of Defence Gates, that is the key to the glories of Lockstep Democracy. He has been carrying that important message to various audiences, including military students on his swing through the four war collages in April and, more recently, members of the Economic Club of Chicago (Gates 2009 1, 2, 3). To each audience, Gates described the normalcy of perpetual wartime as being able to prepare the next wars while concentrating on the details of the one at hand. Delivering the same message on a 60 Minute interview, Gates added a folksy metaphor:
I wanted a department that frankly could walk and chew gum at the same time… (CBS 2009).
The chewing-gum factor has so captivated some journalists that we have found it sometimes inserted into his other speeches.
Now, I really don’t know, but I have been assuming all along that Obama’s problem cabinet is wooden. If so, the solution may be right at hand. Because of its atomic configuration, wood is only strong insofar as the load that is brought to bear on it runs counter (i.e., at right angles) to its fibers – as anyone who has tried to split fireplace logs knows.
While Lockstep Democracy should be our ultimate goal, it may be impossible to attain it in the near future – at least in pure form. Ironically, the very successful nature of the cabinet may be causing a basic problem in physics. With all that wood running in the same direction, perhaps the cabinet is indeed overly super-straight! Remember: wood is strong so long as a load runs at right angles to the wood fiber; otherwise, it can split on you. Difficult as it is for me to write this, it may be necessary to add a few (hopefully, a very few) divergent opinions to the cabinet mix.
The best of us may shrink from the very idea of adulterating our highest ideals, especially at a time when they are within reach. However, we must bravely look at the alternatives. They are not attractive. If all repair strategies fail, some woodworking websites recommend that the old cabinet be ripped out altogether; one writer tries to put a happy face on it: “This can certainly be quite fun, and it’s a great way to get out some frustrations,” Sadly, I thought of Obama’s sense of pride at “reaching across the aisles” to make peace with the opposition party. Fun? Hardly. But the taking-out-frustrations part seems valid enough. Of course, as the experts warn, woodworking is not easy. The Gorilla Glue Company offers free membership in their “Tough Team” (Gorilla 2008). Another authority comments even more insistently: “It may take a few tries. If worse comes to worse, grab a sledgehammer and start pounding” (Face 2009).
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Bio: Pandora Hopkins taught at Yale University, Rutgers University and CUNY (the City University of New York) before moving to Mexico where she is writing a book, tentatively called House of Cards and the Subliminal Truths That Are Holding It Together. She also co-directs (with Victoria Fontan) an oral history project, “Voting With Their Feet.” A particular research focus on the political consequences of cross-cultural perception was also manifested by her book, Aural Thinking in Norway (Plenum, 1986); it is a study of the cognitive nature of aural transmission through an analysis of the Hardanger fiddle tradition of Norway.