Appointment disappointments

June 2, 2009

The Obama administration's choices for important positions are turning into big disappointments, say Aaron Moore and Jacqueline Moore.

READING THE news of former President Clinton's recent appointment as special envoy to Haiti makes one question whether or not a sick joke is being played (“Return to the scene of a crime”).

After all, during his presidency, Bill Clinton was responsible for enacting policies that completely decimated Haiti's economy. President Clinton's administration also backed the 1991 coup that ousted democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and plunged the small Caribbean country into an era of unprecedented state violence, terror and repression.

This is enough to make one wonder why the Obama administration has decided that Clinton was an appropriate appointee for this post. At the very least it is insulting to the people of Haiti. In the worst-case scenario this appointment will severely strain the already tenuous relationship that the United States and Haiti share. This recent appointment, however, is just one more piece in the tessellation pattern of Obama appointments.

Another obvious example of the administration's tendency towards disappointing appointments is Timothy Geithner for the position of secretary of the Treasury. His resumé is a litany of finance debacles. During the course of his early career, he worked as the under-secretary of the Treasury for international affairs from 1998-2001 under Robert Rubin and the neoliberal Lawrence Summers. During this time, he helped "manage" (exacerbate) the financial crises facing several developing countries including Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Thailand.

From 2001-2003, Geithner was director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the notorious International Monetary Fund, and developed ways to carry George W. Bush's neoliberal agenda even further. Most recently, he played a pivotal role in both the decision to bail out AIG (at taxpayer expense) as well as the decision not to save Lehman Brothers from bankruptcy, though claims were made by the administration after Geithner's nomination that distanced him from both AIG and Lehman Brothers.

He has recently made statements indicating that he holds a position that is nearly identical to that of his predecessor Henry Paulson. Geithner believes, along with Paulson, that the Department of the Treasury needs new authority to experiment with responses to the global financial crisis.

What he means, of course, is that the United States needs to further privatize its social services and put more control of public resources in the hands of private firms. His appointment to the position of secretary of the Treasury is a good indicator that, in the area of economic development, President Obama (all rhetoric regarding "change" aside) is fully committed to the neoliberal economic model.

THE OBAMA appointment of Lt. Gen. McChrystal to be the commander of the theater of operation in Afghanistan is another example of the president's aptitude for appointing exactly the wrong man for the job. Aside from being the officer most associated with the deceitful investigation and cover up of the events surrounding the death of Pat Tillman, McChrystal has had a colorful military career.

Along with falsifying the Tillman death report, McChrystal is known to have operated in that world of shadows known to army interrogators and, if an investigation into detainee torture and abuse was allowed to move forward, would likely be a candidate for indictment. In a 2006 article in Esquire magazine he was linked to the torture at Camp Nama in Baghdad, when named by an anonymous army interrogator as an overseer of the camp's notorious interrogations (which included ice water "baths" to induce hypothermia).

It is difficult to believe that such a person, once appointed to a position of higher command, would do much if anything to change the level of violence and repression used against the people in the Afghan theaer of war. In a civilized country, McChrystal would be indicted, not promoted.

One final example (though this list is not in any sense exhaustive) is the president's approval of the leadership position of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on the Senate Finance Committee in relation to health care reform. So far, Sen. Baucus has refused to allow any of the advocates of single-payer health care to speak before the Senate Finance Committee, even though most recent polls show that a majority of American citizens, doctors and nurses feel that single-payer health care would be the best solution to the American health care crisis.

Baucus is known to have ties to the pharmaceutical industry and the managed health care industry through campaign contributions. When Senate hearings on health-care reform were interrupted by advocates for single-payer health care in protest, Sen. Baucus refused them a hearing. Instead, he simply asked for order to be restored and said, "We need more police."

These three examples are more emblematic than exceptional. They illustrate how out-of-touch status quo politicians are from the real needs of the people. Political pressure must be brought to bear on the Obama administration if real change is to be seen.

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