Cancer on the Presidency
Little noticed, what with oil spills, unemployment almost to 10 percent, and the volatile stock market, was the mid-May Obama nomination of Harold Varmus, MD, a Nobel laureate in the field of medicine, to head the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Varmus, while well qualified for the job, is also well qualified to serve in the Obama administration, given his leftist ties to such entities as the Tides Foundation and a little-noticed Tides-funded organization called the "Campaign to Defend the Constitution."
Known as "Def Con," it was shut down in 2007 and remained dormant, except for a brief period when, via funding from Tides and other leftist backers, it was highly vocal in opposing limits on stem cell research, focusing its attacks on social conservatives and religious groups that on ethical grounds opposed some forms of stem cell research. Def Con's board of advisers, on which Varmus served, reads like a who's who of the left, including former NARAL head Kate Michelman; Matt Foreman, the head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Ira Glasser, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union; and propagandist Max Blumenthal.
White House sources say that the Obama administration hopes that Varmus, with his Nobel pedigree and low-key approach, will be able to impose extensive changes in the types of research and research methods undertaken at the cancer institute, and will be one of the administration's point men on expanding greater uses of stem cell research with federal funding.
Don't Sign Off
The commission performing a study on the impact of homosexuals in the U.S. military was booed off a stage at Fort Bragg in early June, according to a senior U.S. Marine in attendance. The commission, led by Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson and U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, is developing a plan to integrate openly gay military personnel into the armed forces ranks.
According to Pentagon sources, the scene at Fort Bragg, while a bit more vocal, has been similar to the reception the commission has received at other military facilities. "There is a deep divide over repealing the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' rules," says a U.S. Army source based in the Pentagon. "You have the head of the Joint Chiefs [Adm. Mike Mullen] pushing for repeal, and several other members of the Joint Chiefs on the other side. But most Americans don't realize that there is a great deal of opposition to this inside the military, it's just not being discussed or reported."
Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, is on record as opposing repeal of the rule until the U.S. is fully withdrawn from Iraq. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway is said by military sources to believe that repeal of the homosexual rules would harm military readiness.
Mullen, who was the highest-ranking military official to endorse repeal of "DADT," is seen as the driving force behind the move to repeal. He has, however, suggested that congressional attempts to "front-load" repeal legislation before the Pentagon completes its study are premature.
But Mullen's position served as a bit of a shock to the Pentagon's system. His immediate predecessor, for example, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, described homosexuality as immoral.
At press time, ShoreBank, the "community bank" that helped finance the operations of ACORN in Chicago and elsewhere, and was one of a number of financial institutions in Chicago with ties to Barack Obama and his cronies, was awaiting word on whether it would qualify for federal bailout funding. The Obama administration has claimed it had nothing to do with ShoreBank's bailout.
While it was waiting to hear about its bailout that the Obama White House had absolutely nothing to do with, ShoreBank put in place a new management team. Leading the group: David Vitale, a former vice chairman of First Chicago Corp., a former president of the Chicago Board of Trade, and an unpaid chief administrative officer for the Chicago public schools. He also has served on the board of Ariel Capital Management, a firm founded by John W. Rogers, who has the distinction of serving as one of President Obama's biggest fundraisers, as well as one of his basketball buddies.
At least three separate Republican House members have requested documents from the White House to back up its claims of noninvolvement.
Biden His Time
Quietly, Vice President Joe Biden has sought to separate himself from his boss, at least via his press and political operations. Over the past several weeks, Biden has strategically placed himself on opposite sides of the playing field from President Obama, from rooting for his Philadelphia Flyers against Obama's Chicago Blackhawks (President Obama was probably a fan of a Canadian team when he was living in Hawaii, before he was a fan of the 'Hawks) to his very public support for Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza dustup.
"[Biden] isn't discouraging his media team from drawing some distinctions between him and the president, let's put it that way," says a former senior Biden adviser from his Senate days. "It's certainly not comparable at this stage of the game, but Al Gore was doing similar things in the aftermath of impeachment, when he had his own political future to worry about."
Certainly no one in the Obama administration is worried about that kind of situation, but the attempts by Biden's staff to set him apart have not gone unnoticed. "He's certainly got the easier job. Gee, what's his gig this week, visiting the World Cup? And he has the good fortune to have a reputation that allows half of what he says to just get eye-rolls and, ‘Oh, that's just Joe flapping his gums,'" says an Obama loyalist. "The Israel stuff made the White House pay attention a bit more, but my guess is that it's a non-issue."
Could the Obama White House be losing its intellectual base? According to White House sources, the media team gives the president a number of different clips to review on major news stories, particularly ones where he may be asked questions or have to speak on, but they of late have been vetting and selectively editing out commentary and news stories that highlight criticism from think tanks and organizations that typically have carried water or been supportive of the administration.
Obama has a reputation for being thin-skinned with reporters asking tough questions, and inside the White House, some staff say that reputation is trickling down in the way they package information he will see. "It's not that he's not seeing bad news," says a current White House staffer. "He's just not necessarily seeing some of the voices out there that might be piling on."
The White House ceremony and concert to honor surviving Beatle Sir Paul McCartney had been on the schedule for several months, but given that the event took place at the height of the Louisiana gulf oil spill, White House staff suggested that the event also highlight the Delta blues and regional music that helped shape the rock music McCartney became famous for, and which he himself has touted in the past.
But senior Obama advisers nixed the idea, saying that an attempt to highlight the music of the South would only draw more attention to the administration's failings.