early and often

The ‘S.S. Obama’ Springs Leaks, Takes on Drama

The big news today is that the appointment of Hillary Clinton to secretary of State is basically a done deal. Obama is ready to offer, Hillary is ready to accept, Bill’s vetting apparently hasn’t revealed any associations with anyone disqualifyingly shady, and the offer should be finalized just after Thanksgiving. So is the un-Obama-like drama of the past week — the leaks, the political maneuvering, the anonymous sniping — over? Actually, no — if Clinton really is to join the administration, many believe it’s just beginning. But the collapse of Obama’s formerly tight-lipped operation isn’t all on her shoulders, either.

• Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza write that Obama’s famously disciplined campaign “had hoped to take a methodical approach to selecting and unveiling their new team, starting with the announcements of top national security and economic players shortly after Thanksgiving.” Clearly, that has not been the case. The control in which they used to take so much pride “has all but dissolved in the leak-centric world of Washington.” However, despite the leaks, Obama’s “choices are for the most part neither risky nor unexpected.” [WP]

• Jennifer Rubin is amused that “reporters are amazed that running a campaign isn’t much like running the country.” After being mesmerized by Obama, “the MSM cheering section may be stunned to learn that leaks, incompetence, poor personnel decisions, bureaucratic logjams, and conflicts with Congress are not exclusively Republican faults.” Maybe instead of “kvelling about his masterful transition management,” the media should ask “why we still lack the name of his Treasury Secretary pick.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• David Brooks, for one, is “tremendously impressed” by the Obama transition so far, pointing to the “fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day” as evidence of “an awful lot of expert staff work.” But it’s who they’re leaking that’s truly impressive: “a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators,” and “the best of the Washington insiders.” [NYT]

• Tim Reid and Tom Baldwin write that the Obama team is blaming the Clintons “for tarnishing the presidential transition with the type of psychological drama and leaks that marked their years in the White House.” [Times UK]

• David Corn recalls how “smoothly the Obama campaign ran” before Clinton showed up. “It was a disciplined shop,” with no leaks or internal disputes. But in the past week we’ve seen “a flood of leaks about Hillary Clinton and the State Department post. Where are they coming from? The best guess is, the Clinton side.” Just imagine when there’s a dispute between State and Defense or the NSA, and “the Clinton ops go into their usual take-no-prisoners-and-leak-away mode.” [CQ Politics]

• Gerard Baker agrees that the danger for Obama is that this will continue for the next four years, as his foreign policy “becomes the gaudy stage on which the latest act in the engrossing saga of Clinton Agonistes is played out.” [Times UK]

• Peggy Noonan says Obama has let his “smooth” transition get “disrupted by the great disrupter.” To invite the Clintons into his administration is to invite “drama that will never end,” which “would seem to be at odds with the atmospherics of Obamaland.” Obama can look forward to “people screaming through the halls, being hired and fired, attacking the press, leaking, then too tightly controlling information, then leaking,” etc. This is what in business they refer to as a “dirty deal,” which is characterized by “deep complications, broad variables, proliferating unknowns.” At least “it will be interesting to watch.” [WSJ]

• Tim Fernholz actually finds the entire transition fairly boring. The only reason we think there’s so much drama is that “standards have dropped: In the past, good insider information told who was stabbing whom in the back to become Treasury secretary. Now the press just wants to know who got the job.” Notice that “we’ve seen no policy gaffes from Obama and no public fights over specific appointments.” No-drama Obama is still in charge. [American Prospect]

The ‘S.S. Obama’ Springs Leaks, Takes on Drama