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12:06AM

Obama's Machiavelli? Does "guard dog" McDonough qualify?

David Ignatius worries in WAPO that Obama has no Machiavelli on par with Kissinger or Brzezinski:

But if ever there were a moment when a battle-fatigued United States needs a wily strategist to explore options, this is it.

Just who could play this role among the administration's current cast of characters isn't obvious, and that's a problem President Obama should address.

 The closest thing offered so far is Denis McDonough, chief of staff at NSC, but the WAPO profile makes him sound more like a classic, make-the-trains-run-on-time XO than serious thinker:

Mr. McDonough is intensively protective of the president, and is well known for picking up the phone — or his BlackBerry — to take people to task, from reporters to Washington talking heads to other Obama officials who go off message. He spent the entirety of his bike ride home to Takoma Park, Md., from the White House late one recent night arguing on the cellphone with a reporter who he believed had mischaracterized an internal administration debate over Iraq policy.

He has berated some of the Democratic Party’s most distinguished foreign policy dignitaries when they have dared to critique Mr. Obama publicly, leaving a miffed Washington establishment in his wake muttering — off the record, of course — about just who this guy thinks he is.

His e-mail messages are legendary across Washington, and usually appear right after a critique hits the Web. When David Rothkopf, a national security expert and Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration, wrote a column for The Washington Post last August that praised Mrs. Clinton — and notably, not Mr. Obama — as overseeing “profound changes” to American foreign policy, the first e-mail message Mr. Rothkopf received came from you-know-who.

“Interesting choice for a profile,” Mr. McDonough wrote.

“Political figures like to have people who are watching their back,” Mr. Rothkopf said in an interview. “I understand why people are bugged by McDonough; they’re jealous of his access to the president. But the president deserves to have someone like him.”

We're told he's the real go-to, trusted mind on foreign policy, but the profile offers nothing on his thinking and concentrates totally on his pit-bull role of protecting the president.  Can anybody provide any evidence of this guy's vision--anywhere?  I'm not being accusatory; I'm just curious if this guy has ever projected any agenda other than protecting his principal, which is laudatory but not exactly comforting given his perceived gatekeeper role.

The piece is not comforting in this regard, proclaiming that one can forget about Clinton or Gates or anybody else making similar "closeness to the president" claims, because McDonough is the be-all and end-all in this regard--the first and last to be consulted, the one brain hard-wired to Obama's blackberry.

In the end, we are still left with the suspicion that Obama is such the control freak on the subject that he remains his own foreign policy guru--a brain trust of one, protected by Rahm Emannuel's foreign policy double.

And that disturbs me somewhat.  I mean, shouldn't this guy have more to him than "legendary" crack-the-whip emails?

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Reader Comments (1)

In other words, a Jesuit. Well, I don't know of any. Except maybe you Tom.

This White House crowd is a provincial bunch. Chicago, Chicago, Chicago. That's it. They remind me of, God forbid, Jimmy Cater's Georgia boys. I honestly don't know if any of them understand why the French hate the Germans, much less why the Syrians hate the Saudis.

You knew something was wrong when the Chief of Staff said he would like to run for mayor of Chicago. Good grief! That's where his head is? Appointing Police Captains? Opening day care centers?

Hillary is a good soldier. I respect her for that. She is not Henry K. Clearly this administration needs someone who can think "above" the domestic fray. Hillary is better than Condi, but that is not saying much.

July 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTed O'Connor

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