Tyranny On The Move
Spartacus sends this story, noting that
"while everyone is distracted over Obama's trip to Elkhart, Indiana, to press for his stimulus bill, back in DC his underlings are quietly making their opening moves on the chessboard. As Stalin said, it doesn't matter who casts the votes; it only matters who counts them":
GOP Sounds Alarm Over Obama Decision to Move Census to White House
A number of Republicans are joining the fight to put the census issue into the political spotlight "before it's too late."
Monday, February 09, 2009
Utah's congressional delegation is calling President Obama's decision to move the U.S. census into the White House a purely partisan move and potentially dangerous to congressional redistricting around the country.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told FOX News on Monday that he finds it hard to believe the Obama administration felt the need to place re-evaluation of the inner workings of the census so high on his to-do list, just three weeks into his presidency.
"This is nothing more than a political land grab," Chaffetz said.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the move "shouldn't happen." He and Chaffetz are trying to rally Republicans "before its too late."
"It takes something that is supposedly apolitical like the census, and gives it to a guy who is infamously political," Bishop said of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who would be tasked with overseeing the census at the White House.
The U.S. census -- a counting of the U.S. population -- is conducted every 10 years by the Commerce Department. Its results determine the decennial redrawing of congressional districts
As a matter of impact, the census has tremendous political significance. Political parties are always eager to have a hand in redrawing districts so that they can maximize their own party's clout while minimizing the opposition, often through gerrymandering.
The census also determines the composition of the Electoral College, which chooses the president. If one party were to control the census, it could arguably try to perpetuate its hold on political power.
The results of the census are also enormously important in another way -- the allocation of federal funds. Theoretically, a political party could disproportionately steer federal funding to areas dominated by its own members through a skewing of census numbers.
At this point the White House doesn't seem willing to say what Emanuel's role will be in overseeing the census, and White House officials say census managers will work closely with top-level White House staffers, but will technically remain part of the Commerce Department.
But critics say the White House chief of staff can't be expected to handle the census in a neutral manner. Emanuel ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2006 election, and he was instrumental in getting Democrats elected into the majority.
"The last thing the census needs is for any hard-bitten partisan (either a Karl Rove or a Rahm Emanuel) to manipulate these critical numbers. Many federal funding formulas depend on them, as well as the whole fabric of federal and state representation. Partisans have a natural impulse to tilt the playing field in their favor, and this has to be resisted," Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told FOX News in an e-mail.
Critics note that the method of counting can skew the census. Democrats have long advocated using mathematical estimates, a practice known as "sampling," to count urban residents and immigrants. Republicans say the Constitution requires a physical head count, which entails going door-to-door.
In 2000, Utah, which has three congressmen, was extremely close to landing a fourth House seat based on U.S. Census numbers, but the nation's most conservative state fell short by a few hundred votes because the Census Bureau wouldn't count Mormon missionaries from Utah serving temporarily overseas.
The GOP took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Utah leaders had hoped the 2010 census would rectify the problem, but now worry that they will lose again if the census is managed by partisans.
When Obama nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary -- he was later forced to withdraw -- he indicated that Richardson would be in charge of the census.
The decision to move the census into the White House was announced just days after Obama named New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican, to be his commerce secretary. Gregg has long opposed "sampling" by the census and has voted against funding increases for the bureau.
Sabato said moving the census "in-house" will likely set up a situation where neither the Commerce Department nor the White House will know exactly what is going on in the Census Bureau. He said the process is "too critical to politics for both parties not to pay close attention."
"I've always remembered what Joseph Stalin said: 'Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.' The same principle applies to the census. Since one or the other party will always be in power at the time of the census, it is vital that the out-of-power party at least be able to observe the process to make sure it isn't being stacked in favor of the party in power. This will be difficult for the GOP since I suspect Democrats will control both houses of Congress for the entire Obama first term," Sabato said.
Echoing the same consolidation-of-domestic-power theme, High Plains Lawyer forwards this WaPo story from Sunday's edition, with the following comment:
"This is not good, and it does not give me the warm fuzzies to have a former general orchestrating all that federal law enforcement as some kind of 'national security' effort":
Obama's NSC Will Get New Power
Directive Expands Makeup and Role Of Security Body
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 8, 2009; A01
President Obama plans to order a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Council, expanding its membership and increasing its authority to set strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues.
The result will be a "dramatically different" NSC from that of the Bush administration or any of its predecessors since the forum was established after World War II to advise the president on diplomatic and military matters, according to national security adviser James L. Jones, who described the changes in an interview. "The world that we live in has changed so dramatically in this decade that organizations that were created to meet a certain set of criteria no longer are terribly useful," he said.
Jones, a retired Marine general, made it clear that he will run the process and be the primary conduit of national security advice to Obama, eliminating the "back channels" that at times in the Bush administration allowed Cabinet secretaries and the vice president's office to unilaterally influence and make policy out of view of the others.
"We're not always going to agree on everything," Jones said, and "so it's my job to make sure that minority opinion is represented" to the president. "But if at the end of the day he turns to me and says, 'Well, what do you think, Jones?,' I'm going to tell him what I think."
The new structure, to be outlined in a presidential directive and a detailed implementation document by Jones, will expand the NSC's reach far beyond the range of traditional foreign policy issues and turn it into a much more elastic body, with Cabinet and departmental seats at the table -- historically occupied only by the secretaries of defense and state -- determined on an issue-by-issue basis. Jones said the directive will probably be completed this week.
"The whole concept of what constitutes the membership of the national security community -- which, historically has been, let's face it, the Defense Department, the NSC itself and a little bit of the State Department, to the exclusion perhaps of the Energy Department, Commerce Department and Treasury, all the law enforcement agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, all of those things -- especially in the moment we're currently in, has got to embrace a broader membership," he said.
New NSC directorates will deal with such department-spanning 21st-century issues as cybersecurity, energy, climate change, nation-building and infrastructure. Many of the functions of the Homeland Security Council, established as a separate White House entity by President Bush after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may be subsumed into the expanded NSC, although it is still undetermined whether elements of the HSC will remain as a separate body within the White House.
Over the next 50 days, John O. Brennan, a CIA veteran who serves as presidential adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security and is Jones's deputy, will review options for the homeland council, including its responsibility for preparing for and responding to natural and terrorism-related domestic disasters. In a separate interview, Brennan described his task as a "systems engineering challenge" to avoid overlap with the new NSC while ensuring that "homeland security matters, broadly defined, are going to get the attention they need from the White House."
Organizational maps within the government will be redrawn to ensure that all departments and agencies take the same regional approach to the world, Jones said. The State Department, for example, considers Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together as South Asia, while the Pentagon draws a line at the Pakistan-India border, with the former under the Central Command and the latter part of the Pacific Command. Israel is part of the military's European Command, but the rest of the Middle East falls under Central Command; the State Department combines Israel and the Arab countries surrounding it in its Near East Bureau.
"We are going to reflect in the NSC all the regions of the world along some map line we can all agree on," Jones said.
The national security process, he said, will also be "transparent to its clients" inside the administration, with meeting agendas and outcomes made available to "the whole community" in real time. Each department will appoint someone to monitor the NSC process, enabling senior officials across the government to be ready to jump into issues without steep learning curves.
Directorates inside Jones's NSC staff will oversee implementation of decisions. "It doesn't mean that we micromanage or supervise," he said. "But you have to make sure, . . . particularly if it's a presidential decision, that the president is kept abreast of how things are going. That it doesn't just fall off the end of the table and disappear into outer space."
Most modern chief executives have issued an early directive outlining a structure for making national security decisions. Although the 1947 National Security Act created the NSC and listed its membership -- including the president, the vice president, and the secretaries of state and defense -- each president has redefined it to fit his own needs and style. In recent administrations, the CIA director, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and at times the Treasury secretary have regularly attended principals meetings. At the same time, the role and power of the president's national security adviser, and the size of his staff, have grown larger or smaller depending on the president's wishes.
But initial presidential intentions have often been waylaid by personalities and events. George W. Bush criticized Bill Clinton's NSC style as rambling and indecisive. Over the next eight years, however -- as first-term Bush adviser Condoleezza Rice was outmaneuvered by Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and as Bush's second term became mired in an unpopular war and a failing economy -- decision-making quickly became more reactive than strategic, and deliberations were opaque to all but a small inner circle.
The Obama administration -- with powerful figures such as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates -- appears crowded at the top of the national security pyramid and heavy with military officials, including Jones himself and retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence. Special envoys to trouble spots -- former diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and former senator George J. Mitchell to the Middle East -- have been given broad presidential authority.
Although Jones said he strongly supports increased resources for the State Department, which is increasingly dwarfed by the size and expanding missions of the Defense Department, he has long been an outspoken proponent of a "pro-active military" in noncombat regions. He has advocated military collaboration with the oil and gas industry and with nongovernmental organizations abroad.
But Jones said he sees an administration filled with colleagues rather than competitors. Since Jan. 20, "I've had more meetings with the secretary of state and the secretary of defense than I've had in my entire lifetime," said Jones, who served as Marine Corps commandant, NATO military chief and, under Bush, a special Middle East envoy.
During a midafternoon interview last Thursday, Jones said he had already spoken face to face with Gates and had four telephone conversations with him that day. He has set up a standing Wednesday morning meeting with Gates and Clinton together in his office.
"I believe in collegiality . . . in sounding out people and getting them to participate," Jones said. "I notice the president is very good at that." But he made clear he plans to apply military-like discipline to the NSC. "The most important thing is that you are in fact the coordinator and you're the guy around which the meetings occur. When we chair a principals meeting, I'm the chairman." One of the first of many internal Bush administration clashes occurred when Cheney proposed that he, rather than Rice, chair NSC meetings.
In his initial conversations with Obama before taking the job, Jones confirmed, he insisted on being "in charge" and having open and final access to the president on all national security matters. "We engaged in about an hour-long discussion about what I was already thinking about the NSC; it happened, I think, to mesh pretty well with what his instincts were. He was clear about the role of the national security adviser," Jones said of Obama.
The NSC will take on all national security matters that are strategic in nature and "of such importance that the president of the United States would care" about them, he said. Action groups from various departments and agencies will be formed around specific issues for as long as it takes to resolve them. "Some of these things will be very short-term. When the problem goes away, the group goes away." Others will be ongoing. "An Afghan strategic review, that's going to take a while," Jones said. "The policy that is generated from that review, and the implementation, is going to take a while."
Some principals will be regulars at the NSC "just by force of issues," he said, and "you can't just designate the whole government as being there." But everyone should be kept aware of "what's going on" and given an opportunity to say, 'Wait a minute, I've got something to say here.' "
Does somebody want to suggest a rational and reality-based path for how conventional political action can be employed against these maneuvers?
Alea iacta est.