The White House is a poignant place. I spent more years working there than any President but Franklin D. Roosevelt. And it seems to me that for those who live and work there, if they are completely honest with themselves, with rare exception the most vivid memories are not of victory but of crisis and defeat — and, for a fortunate few, of one or two occasions of historical importance. This is why character counts for so much in a President. In the White House, the elation of victory is fleeting and the burden of responsibility is enduring.
Not quite a conspiracy – but Joshua Micah Marshall just reported on the final piece of the puzzle I seem to have been missing that helps explain:
- the endorsement of Obama by Colin Powell;
- the constant chatter about keeping Bob Gates on as Defense Secretary since at least September; and
- the tacit support of Obama by Chuck Hagel – from his criticisms of McCain during the election to his accompanying Obama on his European tour during the campaign.
The final piece being – Brent Scowcroft (h/t Andrew Sullivan), the former National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush and a former Lieutenant General in the Air Force, and a guy so personally close to George H. W. Bush that he co-wrote Bush’s memoirs with him.
Hagel, Powell, and Gates all have been close allies of Scowcroft, especially in fighting against neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush administration. And he has apparently been working behind-the-scenes with Obama and his foreign policy team since the summer at latest.
Indeed, the roots of this defection of foreign policy realist Republicans to the Obama camp can probably be seen in this April 2008 article in the New York Times in which Lawrence Eagleburger, of the realist camp himself, describes a battle going on for McCain’s “soul” between the realist and neoconservative Republican foreign policy camps. By the summer, it became pretty clear which side had won that battle – as McCain embraced one neoconservative position after another and surrogates claimed he wanted to “kill the United Nations.”
By the summer, Scowcroft had begun to unofficially advise the Obama campaign; there was talk of Bob Gates staying on at Defense; Senator Hagel began to criticize McCain while praising Obama; and Powell decided to endorse Obama publicly.