There is a brouhaha in Leftblogistan regarding the President-Elect’s recent personnel decisions. A blogger I read frequently, Godless Liberal Homo, expressed it in comments here at KIAV. On a post in which I praised the Clinton pick, he wrote: “The idea of a bloodthirsty war monger like Clinton as Secretary of State is really frightening.”
Believe me, I’m ecstatic when a colleague leaves a comment. (Hell, I’m ecstatic when a spambot leaves a comment.) However, from where I sit, the language seems strong. Didn’t we just wrest the gears of government from the warmonger? Didn’t we just give civilian command of our armed forces back to an adult? And now, that adult’s pick for State is “frightening?” Hillary Clinton is a warmonger? What’s Condi Rice, then? A vampire who can grow to 60 feet tall and has laser beams in her eyes and is evil and OMG she’s right behind you?
To quote the eminently quotable Chris Hayes of The Nation—and, to be fair, the lad has a point:
Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don’t just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There’s tons of things the left is right about that aren’t even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we’re moving there.
Yes, the correct ideas always do come from us. This is true. But I don’t think it’s a clear perspective to see this in a vacuum. We have, for goodness’ sake, just ended a political campaign where a candidate actually gained traction by suggesting that our progressive income tax system is socialism. They have rearranged the furniture and turned out the lights, and Americans are so politically disoriented that a mainstream candidate actually kicked up dirt over progressive taxation, normally a political eunich in all but the most deepest darkest corners of the fringes. For where they’ve taken us, now makes the ’50s look like 1968. This deliberate skewing of our political landscape makes the argument over whether or not Barack Obama is a centrist or a leftist or if he’s Pinochet seem to me rather moot and tired. Because there’s a much more basic rescue required here.
There is much to be said for opposing the manical philosophies of the current regime; I have often said and do maintain that Atlas Shrugged should be kept wrapped in brown paper and behind the counter and not sold to anyone younger than 35. But the American electorate achieved something even more basic and greater than that when it elected Barack Obama. After nearly a decade, it finally found itself able to assert that government, good, competent government, is necessary. I do not think this election was simply a rejection of the Bizarro-Utopian Anarchists who have become the Republigoat Party, though that was certainly part of it. It was more broadly, I think, a rejection of stupid assholes. The people have spoken—we shall use water on the crops intead of Brawndo. They want good government and I don’t think they much care that, in our darkened, rearranged parlor room, good government and progressive government seem to be exactly the same. So. Bully for us.
There is, though, one progressive program I’d like to see happen, preferably during year one. I think this program could mollify the progressive wing and would actually be some mighty juicy policy to boot. Obama should delve directly into Dennis Kucinich’s plan to create a Department of Peace, and he should name our Dennis its first secretary.
A Department of Peace would be a logical department to tackle the largest global security issue of our time, that of loose nukes—an issue that seems to be a slippery pig under the auspices of the State Department. It would monitor human rights and would work to create a culture of conflict resolution in our government. The Department would also take on domestic issues, such as prison rehabilitation and gangs. The point being that this idea doesn’t just wear Birkenstocks. It would be a serious policy effort.
More to the point, though: I do not understand how the Untied States expects to approach other nations claiming to be a seeker of peace when it does not have a cabinet level position dedicated to that ideal but does have one that used to be known in grittier days as the Department of War. Establishing this department is a matter of credibility on the global stage, especially considering the horrible warmongering malfeasance to which we’ve just subjected the world. The establishment of a Department of Peace would explicitly signal that, while we still intend to carry the big stick, we are once again finally willing and able to speak softly.
So, rather than piling on President-Elect Obama for naming this person or that to that already existing post, perhaps it is time to pile on him for an entirely new department altogether. Let’s tell him: You said “change,” man. Pony up. We want a Department of Peace.