The Blog

Too Many Chiefs

10:36 AM, Feb 6, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Ben Smith reports on the Zinni mess:

"They handled this in an extremely amateurish way and then they compound this by letting the world know that they don't really care who's ambassador to Saudi Arabia," said Flynt Leverett, a foreign policy official under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who said the transition had been characterized by such "stumbles."

"It is astounding to me," he said. "It does appear like there are some real struggles going on."

Smith also quotes Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and one of Obama's top national security advisers during the campaign, complaining bitterly about the manner in which the campaign team has been treated since the election. "I don't know who's doing what, who's in charge," Korb told Smith. Aaron David Miller's criticism of Obama's national security team: "There's a lot of chiefs and not a whole lot of Indians."

Obama had a team of 300 (!) foreign policy advisers during the campaign, so perhaps its only natural that Korb would be unable to take care of many of his own guys as the transition got underway. Still, to have Korb out there publicly criticizing the transition that his boss ran is a little bizarre. Also, it's a little funny to see a member of the CAP family criticize the administration for its sudden turn to incompetence. In the past two weeks, the CAP website, like the Huffington Post, has been turned into little more than unofficial government propaganda.

Smith also reports that "the climate of uncertainty has led prominent Obama advisors, including former Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, to return to private life." Kurtzer was close enough to the candidate to be invited along on Obama's trip to Israel during the campaign, but he also met with senior Syrian officials just weeks earlier as part of a trip "underwritten by a number of Syrian corporations and also by Petro-Canada, a Canadian oil concern." Maybe that would have been a problem in his confirmation hearings.