Oklahoma to Obama’s Rescue AGAIN….

Today, Oklahoma super delegate Reggie Whitten decided to endorse Obama in a flowery statment in which he cited Obama’s ability to UNIFY Americans and his record of standing up for the middle class.

I guess the Obama campaign is realizing it has a serious deficit with “lunch-bucket Democrats” and that maybe a lot of middle-class Democrats don’t like seeing a candidate embracing a Reverend like Jeremiah Wright or using street “code” to tell another candidate to “F*ck off.”

Whitten says he considered his own background in the decision:

I’m from the small town of Seminole, Oklahoma: a city that is predominantly hard-working middle class citizens. It is important that our next President keep small towns like Seminole in mind when he talks about our economy.

I guess the Obama folks also realize that you can’t insult small towns, either.

So, once again, after a poor showing, this time not in a debate, but in a real primary election, another of Oklahoma’s finest comes out for Obama to help stem the bleeding. Last week it was David L. Boren (along with Sam Nunn) who tried to deflect attention after Obama’s poor debate performance in PA by riding to the rescue on the subject of foreign policy. (Read my posts on Boren if you want to get an idea of how inspiring the Boren endorsement was…not!)

I wonder who they’ll dig up next from Oklahoma…perhaps ex-GOP rep. J.C. Watts? Really, you have to wonder about the savvy of any politician, current or retired, who decides to proclaim undying allegiance to a candidate IMMEDIATELY after they’ve taken a beating. It just seems the timing is off and the whole business seems so obvious and from a position of weakness, not strength.

Oh, by the way…Hillary picked up a super delegate from Tennessee today to cancel out Whitten.

Part III: Obama Adviser David L. Boren re: Foreign (inc. Energy) Policy

In Part I I provided extensive information courtesy of Sourcewatch.org, A Project of the Center for Media and Democacy, on former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee David L. Boren’s right wing ties, and his close relationship to Robert Gates, former CIA director and current Secretary of Defense.

In this post I will add a few more bits of information, including a rather surprising story about how Boren was involved in the outing of a CIA agent, and discuss some of Boren’s books and legislation involving foreign policy…and energy policy. Some of the information I’ve found includes:

–Boren’s rightwing leanings are illustrated in some of his actions as chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. For example, he once sharply criticized President George Bush, accusing him of neglecting to take advantage of a 1989 failed coup attempt against Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega of Panama. (see NY Times article here.)

–The incident involving the CIA agent occurred in 1991 when Boren identified a senior clandestine CIA agent while talking to reporters. He claimed it was an inadvertent mistake.

Senator’s Slip Costs Cloak-and-Dagger Agent the Rest of His Cloak

By MICHAEL WINES,
Published: July 18, 1991

With an apparently inadvertent remark to reporters on Tuesday, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee made very public the normally veiled identity of one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most senior clandestine agents.

The Senator, David L. Boren, Democrat of Oklahoma, issued an aggrieved defense of his action today, emphasizing that the agent’s name had already been disclosed in newspapers, a best-selling book and in a Congressional investigative record.

But intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it nonetheless seemed likely that Mr. Boren’s widely quoted remark would curtail, if not end, the overseas career of the officer, Jay K. Gruner, a former Latin America division chief who has been chief of the C.I.A. station in a European capital for about two years.

“He’ll be coming back, I assure you, by the end of the summer,” an associate of Mr. Gruner said. ‘Absolutely No Secret’

The intelligence agency, adhering to its policy of never discussing whom it employs in operations posts, declined to say whether Mr. Gruner is an agent or whether he would return to the United States.

Senator Boren made his remark on Tuesday at a news conference about the delay in the confirmation hearings for Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s nominee for Director of Central Intelligence. Mr. Boren said senators wanted to interview Mr. Gruner about his knowledge of the secret arms sales to Iran and the illegal diversion of profits to the Nicaraguan rebels.

In a statement issued today by his office, Mr. Boren called the suggestion that he had compromised Mr. Gruner’s identity “outrageous,” saying that his name already “had appeared in records related to the Iran-contra inquiry on several occasions.”

“It is absolutely no secret to anyone that he occupied a position at the C.I.A. headquarters during the period of time of the contra resupply operation,” the Senator said. “It also is clear that in order to do its job, our committee must ask questions of Mr. Gruner,” regardless of whether his name is officially classified.

No one at the agency instructed him that Mr. Gruner’s name was not public, his statement said.

Nevertheless, without confirming Mr. Gruner’s identity, C.I.A. officials have recently asked reporters to consider withholding Mr. Gruner’s name from publication for fear that the disclosure would subject him to harassment or terrorist attack.

–In 1991 Boren also authored legislation which created the National Security Education Program .

David L. Boren National Security Education Act of 1991 (NSEA, Title VIII of P.L. 102-183), provides aid for international education and foreign language studies by American undergraduate and graduate students, plus grants to institutions of higher education. The statement of purpose for the NSEA emphasizes the needs of federal government agencies, as well as the Nation’s postsecondary education institutions, for an increased supply of individuals knowledgeable about the languages and cultures of foreign nations, especially those which are of national security concern and have not traditionally been the focus of American interest and study.

The NSEP website is quite explicit in naming the areas of the world covered in this act:

The National Security Education Program (NSEP) provides a unique funding opportunity for U.S. students to study world regions critical to U.S. interests (including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America & the Caribbean, and the Middle East). The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are excluded.

Isn’t that interesting? Most of he NSEP countries seem to be places where energy politics is the prime focus…

–Since leaving the Senate in 1994 to become President of the University of Oklahoma and Professor in the Department of Political Science (since 1995), Boren has continued to write and speak on foreign policy issues, as well as “unity.” As recently as March 4, 2008 he appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal with a repeat on Book TV to discuss his latest book, “A Letter to America.” (For video, use the link which follows.) According to the C-Span blurb,

Former Senator David Boren talked about his book, A Letter to America. He questioned how long the United States, with only six percent of the world’s population, can remain a global superpower. He offered advice on how we can secure an influential role for America in the fast-changing world of the 21st century. He drew on his experiences as the longest-serving chair (1987-1995) of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Former Senator David Boren argued that America is at a crossroads and needs to foster bipartisanship to overcome important issues like healthcare and education.

–In recent years he has co-edited books published by the University of Oklahoma Press, including 2002’s DEMOCRACY, MORALITY, AND THE SEARCH FOR PEACE IN AMERICA’S FOREIGN POLICY featuring essays by Lawrence Eagleburger, Paul Kennedy, Phyllis Oakley, George Mitchell, Lady Margaret Thatcher, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

–In 1999 he co-edited PREPARING AMERICA’S FOREIGN POLICY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, the result of a gathering in ” 1997 and 1999 [of] a very select group of analysts, practitioners, and scholars assembled at the University of Oklahoma to lay the groundwork for a new United States foreign policy that will promote our nation’s ideals while protecting its vital interests in the post-cold war era.” The long list of contributors included the usual suspects, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Cullum, Robert M. Gates, David R. Gergen, Richard M. Helms, Jim L. Hoagland, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Henry A. Kissinger, Walter Mondale, Sam Nunn, George J. Tenet, William H. Webster, and R. James Woolsey

The Kirkus Reviews discussion of this book ends with this interesting comment:

While each piece stands alone, collectively the book reveals an overall elite consensus on what the US faces in the world and what it should do in the world. … . National bipartisan consensus should be reached on just what values and goals the US wishes to pursue, and domestic issues must not be allowed to interfere too deeply in the pursuit of this national interest….

What does that last sentence mean?? It gives me an awful uneasy feeling…

–What is very interesting is the fact that one of Boren’s earliest forays into writing about foreign policy was in 1976, when he edited a book with Melvin Laird which was based on a rountable held on October 2, 1975 at the American Enterprise Institute, which Sourcewatch.org describes as “an extremely influential, pro-business right-wing think tank.”

Melvin Laird was Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1973 and Counselor to the President for Domestic Affairs from 1973 to 1974. The title of the book he edited with David L. Boren was entitled “ENERGY POLICY ASSESSMENT – A New War Between the States?”

Clearly, Boren’s rightwing leanings have colored his foreign policy interests. The question is now how much influence Boren will have with Obama? How much “bipartisanship” will really be a set of policies that are dictated by a conservative, elite foreign policy cadre? In other words, will Obama really bring change to our foreign policy? I think not…


Part II: Obama’s Adviser David L. Boren–How He Screwed Us Long-term in 1993 re: Energy and More

In Part I of this series on Obama’s newest adviser, fmr. Senator David L. Boren, I provided an overview of some of Boren’s activities specific to his “unity” efforts and some of his foreign policy “expertise.” (Part III will delve deeper into his foreign policy activities.)

This post, Part II, will explore Boren’s activities on the domestic front, with a focus on his political background followed by a detailed examination of how he almost single-handedly derailed President Clinton’s 1993 economic plan. The long-term implications of his activities in 1993 haunt us today and it should raise concerns about Obama’s ties to him now…because although these were “domestic” issues, the key parts of the plan involving energy morph into foreign policy concerns as well.

BOREN’S POLITICAL BACKGROUND

Lyle Boren, David L. Boren’s father, served in Congress from 1937 to 1947. He often broke with his party, notably by being against much of FDR’s New Deal. His son also served in the House (1967-1974) and then became governor of Oklahoma in 1975. He was in the U.S. Senate from 1979 until he resigned in 1994 to become President of the University of Oklahoma.

Boren was a member of Skull and Bones at Yale. He has been a member in the National Legal for the Public Interest along with Dick Cheney, Ken Starr and Ted Olson. Other organizations he was involved with include the Forum for International Policy (with Ken Lay of Enron also a member) and the conservative Democratic think tank known as the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (surprise! Bill Richardson is also listed as a member). (See here for more information on these and other organizations.)

Then there are his board positions, which have included Phillips Petroleum and later Conoco-Phillips (1995-2005; Torchmark, a life and health insurance company; and Hiland Partners, L.P., described as “a midstream energy partnership engaged in gathering, compressing, dehydrating, treating, processing and marketing natural gas, and fractionating, or separating natural gas liquids.”

It was during the “gasoline crisis” of the mid-1970s that “Boren rose to prominence on the national scene when he spoke out in favor of deregulation of natural gas prices at the federal level. As a result, Pres. Jimmy Carter appointed him chair of a task force of representatives from thirty states to study the problem,” according to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.

Boren broke with his party by voting in favor of the Supreme Court nominations of Robert H. Bork and Clarence Thomas. (He has since said his vote for Judge Thomas was a mistake.)

Also in the mix is a reported “coming out” by Boren. According to W. Scott Thompson in his book “The Price of Achievement: Coming Out in Reagan Days” (1995), pp. 222-23, Boren “In August 1978, while a candidate for U.S. Senate, Oklahoma Governor Boren held a press conference to deny rumors of his homosexuality, taking an oath to that effect on a Holy Bible.” The bio in the Encyclopedia cited above makes no mention of this press conference, but does report on Boren’s first marriage and divorce and events surrounding his subsequent remarriage that sound a bit odd:

Shortly after graduating from law school, Boren married Janna Lou Little, the daughter of Oklahoma politician Reuel Little of Madill, who ran for governor as the candidate for the American Party in 1970. The couple had two children, Dan and Carrie, before the marriage ended in divorce in 1975. … Extraordinary security surrounded the marriage of Governor Boren to Pontotoc County Special District Judge Molly W. Shi on November 27, 1977. Only Boren’s family and immediate top-level staff members knew of the approaching wedding until hours before the event.

While there’s a distinctly “Republican air” to much of the above background, it’s his time in the Senate that should really raise the eyebrows of the “progressive” blogosphere which seems to be rather uninterested in where Obama’s advisers are coming from.

BOREN’S SENATE SHENANIGANS

A series of three stories in the New York Times from May and June of 1993 (and which are still available online) paints a clear picture of how Boren worked against President Clinton during that time. If you don’t have time to read this entire blog, at least read these three stories!

The first story by David E. Rosenbaum entitled “KEY FOE OF BUDGET SUGGESTS OPTIMISM OVER A COMPROMISE” was published on May 31, 1993 and illustrates how Boren worked with Republicans to force changes in the budget, notably on energy.

The second story by Clilfford Krauss entitled “SENATOR COMMANDS STAGE FAR BIGGER THAN OKLAHOMA BY DEFYING CLINTON” published on June 16, 1993 provides key insights into how Boren essentially broke his word to the President, chose Oklahoma interests over the interests of the country at large, and how he was criticized by many Democrats in the Senate for his teaming up with Republicans.

The third story also by David E. Rosenbaum entitled “SENATORS ON FINANCE PANEL REACH ACCORD ON A BUDGET WITH GAS TAX AND NEW CUTS” was published on June 17, 1993 reviews the final budget and the changes Clinton was forced to accept.

WHAT WERE THE ENERGY PROVISIONS THAT CLINTON/GORE INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL BUDGET?

In an article written for the Center for a New American Security by Josh Busby in January 2008 entitled “OVERCOMING POLITICAL BARRIERS to REFORM in ENERGY POLICY” the author writes:

In 1993, the Clinton administration came to power with ambitious goals to support core constituencies in the Democratic Party, including environmentalists. Vice President Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance had just come out. In the book, Gore declared that “it ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a twenty-five year period.”1 Still fresh with optimism about its capability to move legislation through a
Democratic-controlled Congress, the Clinton administration believed that taxes on the energy content of fuel seemed like an attractive way to provide revenue for deficit reduction but also support environmental goals.

In February 1993, the Clinton administration announced as part of its budget proposal that it would impose a Btu (British thermal unit) tax on the energy content of fuel. Designed to raise $71.4 billion over five years, the Btu tax soon became a lightning rod for criticism. In the first proposal of the Btu tax, coal and natural gas were taxed at the same rate, even though coal is more polluting. This was a way to avoid incurring the wrath of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. The Clinton administration made a tactical mistake by then modifying the plan in April 1993 to further appease coal interests. Once this move had been made, other interests piled on in an effort to seek exemptions from the tax while the oil and gas industry opposed it outright. Even though the House voted in favor of the remnant of the Btu tax, influential Democratic senators like David Boren of Oklahoma and John Breaux of Louisiana vigorously opposed it, and the Clinton administration withdrew it before a vote.

Ultimately, the Btu tax was replaced with a modest 4.9 cents per gallon gasoline tax. After all was said and done, the Btu tax effort proved to be a bruising legislative fight, and the gas tax was a largely inconsequential incentive for fuel efficiency or conservation. Indeed, one of the main outcomes of the Btu fight was the Republicans were handed a wedge issue in the 1994 midterm elections in which House members who had voted in favor of the Btu tax were targeted for defeat. The failure to pass the Btu tax had a lasting impact on the White House’s enthusiasm for domestic measures that would directly affect energy prices, especially gasoline. An energy tax, favored by environmentalists, became the proverbial political “third rail.”

The Btu tax episode is illustrative of how the nature of the U.S. system makes it very difficult to achieve more comprehensive and coherent reform in energy policy. It is but one of many examples this country has seen over the past 25 years where interest groups across the political spectrum have mobilized to defeat far-reaching energy policy measures.

Boren held the critical swing vote and according to Rosenbaum’s May 31 story:

Until today, Mr. Boren, one of 11 Democrats on the committee, had been threatening to block the budget by joining the panel’s nine Republicans who have vowed to vote against the package. The Clinton plan was approved by the House of Representatives in a cliffhanger last week and indications were that it would face an even rougher road in the Senate.

But in a television interview, Mr. Boren said signals in the last few days that the White House and Mr. Moynihan would accept deeper spending cuts and modifications in the proposed energy tax “improved the chances by about 100 percent that we’re going to be able to work out an agreement.”

Mr. Moynihan, reached by telephone at his farm in upstate New York after the broadcast of the interview, said: “It is clear that Senator Boren sees that we have to have a deficit-reduction bill. We are going to have a bill more of the kind he has hoped for.”

But, the story continues:

Despite the favorable signs, the plan is not out of the woods yet for two important reasons.

First, as Mr. Boren said today, “the devil is in the details,” and the particulars of a compromise will be difficult to work out.

Second, Mr. Boren has been maddeningly fickle about where he stands, and he could change his mind overnight.

To force the issue, Boren:

joined forces with two moderate Republican Senators, John C. Danforth of Missouri and William S. Cohen of Maine, to offer an alternative plan that contained no energy tax and had much deeper spending cuts for Medicare and Social Security. … The alternative plan itself stands no chance of enactment. The word in the Capitol is that 20 Senators at most would vote for it. But it did provide somewhat of a basis for negotiations.

Mr. Boren has said he is not wedded to this alternative, although like many other lawmakers from energy-producing states he opposes the President’s proposed fuel tax because it would make products like petrochemicals much more expensive.

The story goes on to describe how Boren played games with Clinton.

Mr. Boren’s fickleness is a more complicated matter.

As soon as President Clinton announced his budget plan last February, Mr. Boren began to take shots at it. But 10 days later, he said in an interview that he supported the plan “unconditionally,” and added: “This is the best, most promising budget I’ve seen since I’ve been in Congress.”

Early in the spring, he promised Mr. Clinton and Mr. Moynihan he would support the plan in the Finance Committee, but over the last few weeks, he has demanded concessions in return for his vote. Publicly, he has demanded deeper spending cuts. But privately, he has demanded fewer cuts in agriculture programs, which are important in Oklahoma.

In the June 16 article by Clifford Krauss, the reactions to Boren’s maneuverings are fully described:

At home in Oklahoma, Senator David L. Boren was once portrayed by newspaper cartoonists as the Pillsbury Doughboy. In the cloakrooms of the Senate, he was dismissed as a glad-hander who craved approval more than power.

That was before Mr. Boren went on a diet and reassessed his career after the death of his father, an irreverent Democratic Congressman who rebelled against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Then the Senator took on President Clinton’s economic package.

More than any other member of Congress, it was Mr. Boren who forced Mr. Clinton to abandon his broad tax on the energy content of fuels. First he threatened to withhold his swing vote on the Senate Finance Committee, and then, breaking an unspoken rule of Congressional conduct, he forcefully lobbied House Democrats to break with their leadership and President.

Further embarrassing the President and infuriating his Democratic colleagues, he is now threatening to withhold his vote unless they cut an additional $50 billion in spending in politically sensitive programs like Medicaid and Medicare. Like Paul Revere?

His critics — and there seem to be more every day — say he is a shill for big oil who is on an ego trip. Mr. Boren compares himself to Paul Revere, saying he is a man with a mission to save President Clinton from the Democratic Party’s liberal wing.

The 52-year-old Senator said in an interview on Monday that he expected to reach a compromise with the White House this week. But he added: “If we don’t, it wouldn’t be the end of the world because we would have to start over again, this time on a bipartisan basis. That could be better for the President and the country, though it would certainly mean an uncomfortable time for me.”

(Gee, it was all about him…sounds familiar)

By contrast, fellow Democrats accuse Mr. Boren of breaking his word to the President that he would stand by him. They note that he first enthusiastically backed Mr. Clinton’s budget, and even argued against farm-program spending cuts that would hurt his state. “People just wonder if a lot of the things he does is not for parochial interests,” said Representative Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of Brooklyn.

Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum, Democrat of Ohio, said: “There are many of us who are very upset with him. It’s obvious he would be more comfortable on the Republican side.”

Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who is the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is so angry with Mr. Boren that he has discussed with several subcommittee chairmen ways of withholding money for military, farming and Indian-affairs programs in Oklahoma.

Mr. Boren concedes that he favors the interests of Oklahoma, and that he was too quick to speak in favor of Mr. Clinton’s economic proposals before he read the fine print. But he says the criticism comes mostly from liberals who are overly committed to spending programs that must be cut if the country is to regain its financial footing and competitiveness.

But Mr. Boren started burning bridges last month, on the day President Clinton tried to quell an uprising by House Democrats by dramatically traveling down Pennsylvania Avenue to plead with the Democratic caucus to stand by his program. Just as it appeared that Mr. Clinton had nipped the revolt in the bud, Mr. Boren threw a new obstacle in his way by announcing that a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans had designed an alternative budget plan with more budget cuts and fewer taxes.

The next day, Mr. Boren walked over to the House side of the Capitol to buck up moderate and conservative Democrats who were wavering under the intense White House lobbying. His tactics stood in stark contrast with those of Senator John B. Breaux of Louisiana, the other oil-state Finance Committee swing vote, who lobbied House members in favor of Mr. Clinton’s package, promising that changes would come later in the legislative process.

In the final article by Rosenbaum published on June 17, Boren “called the bill the senators approved “a great improvement” and added, “It keeps faith with the Democratic Party being on a new course, a centrist course.”

But the long-term effects on the country? The fuel tax would raise only a third of the original $72 billion over five years, far short of what the proposed energy tax would raise. The was little gained in terms of energy conservation and new measures to improve efficiency. To make up for the lost revenue and to put deficit reduction on track, the $50 billion cut in Medicare originally proposed by Clinton was increased by $19 billion. In addition, tax breaks for low-income workers were reduced as were some breaks for business aimed at stimulating investment.

******************************

So here we are in 2008, with Boren an adviser to Obama. Still convinced that Obama will be an agent of change?? Really??

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