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Tuesday, March 9

Obama and The Fifth Man: “Was man tut, sagt man nicht”

"We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama -- $60.7 million to be exact -- and we’re proud of it."
-- Andy Stern, president, 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union, May 2009

"obama reminds me of a magician i saw as a little girl. he put a bunny in a hat and then pulled out a quarter. i was 7 years old and i was not fooled i stood up and screamed where is the bunny, where is the bunny, what did you do with the bunny."
-- Comment by member of the public Sonia Trevino at ABC News blog, April 12, 2008

On February 3 veteran British journalist Edward Luce reported for the Financial Times that President Barack Obama's inner circle of just four people had eclipsed the function of the Cabinet. Mr Luce's revelations made a splash in the mainstream media but they were old news to American political junkies and Washington insiders. For many months the wags had referred to the four in question -- Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisers; and Robert Gibbs, communications chief -- as "The Politburo."

However, given that the Fearsome Foursome, as the Financial Times dubbed them, were complete idiots about anything other than electioneering, their inordinate influence on policy matters was having an increasingly detrimental effect on Obama's presidency. That led to speculation Mr Obama would start throwing members of his inner circle under the bus. By the beginning of this year bets were placed on the potty-mouthed Rahm Emanuel as the first to go under the wheels.

On February 10 law professor and political scientist Stephen F. Diamond looked at the growing controversy surrounding the Politburo. Then, as he's consistently done since he began tracking the political fortunes of Barack Obama, he looked beyond the obvious. He recommended Luce's report to readers at his King Harvest blog then went on to observe:
[...] There is quite likely a fifth man at work in the Obama inner circle, SEIU President Andy Stern. As is widely known, Stern has visited the White House more than any other single non Administration official. But no one has explained why Stern is so crucial to the Administration. Health care is a big issue to Obama and so are jobs, and of course any union leader would be concerned about those two issues. But do either of them require some two dozen visits to the White House, at least, over the last year? Not likely.

Here is a possible explanation: Stern is busy plotting the political future of the Democratic party and of Obama as well. What leads me to this suggestion? Consider the following:

SEIU’s California State Council, with some 700,000 members, recently lost its very popular Executive Director, Courtni Sunjoo Pugh. Pugh, who is of Asian/Pacific Islander descent, is an up and coming political operative and labor movement staffer, who began her career in Chicago working for Rep. Danni Davis, of Chicago’s west side and later Sen. Dick Durbin. She then joined the labor movement and became political director first for the LA County Federation of Labor and then for SEIU in California before being elevated a little over a year ago to the top job in SEIU California.

But then Pugh was suddenly yanked back to D.C. by Stern to head up a national campaign on Congressional redistricting. That suggests, of course, that redistricting -- which happens every ten years after the national Census is taken -- is seen as critical to Stern. Stern has built SEIU, in large part, on patronizing racialist appeals to low wage immigrant workers, many of them Hispanic and Asian. This demographic group is seen by SEIU as critical to swinging a majority in numerous Congressional races.

One of Stern’s top henchmen, Eliseo Medina, spoke recently of the possibility of 8 million new voters for the Democrats by placing illegal workers in the US on a “path to citizenship.” He argued to a progressive DC conference last summer that this new immigrant voter bloc could help create a “governing coalition” for the long term. Another key SEIU official, Tom Balanoff, was an early close ally of Obama from his perch as head of Illinois SEIU. Balanoff is an offspring of the “Fighting Balanoffs,” a legendary Communist Party labor movement family from the south side of Chicago.

One of the staffers Stern has met with at the White House is Jim Messina, who works under Rahm Emanuel, and is, in part, tasked with oversight of political races. Messina is from the west, and has worked on political campaigns in Montana and South Dakota. He would likely be very interested in strategies where the Democrats could increase their leverage relying on the new voters that Stern and SEIU can help recruit.

A race-based strategy to win control of a restructured Democratic party could be the glue that holds together Obama’s inner circle. It would be consistent with the race- based politics of Obama from his days of mentoring by the likes of Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, both of whom view “white supremacy,” as a critical feature of modern American life, to the recruitment by Jarrett of Van Jones, who argues that America’s prisons are “slave ships on dry land.” It would also be consistent with the idea of a “metro not retro” strategy that some think influenced the way that Obama engineered his victory over Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Thus, what others may see as “dysfunction” the Obama team may see as a “long march” to restructure the Democratic party and American politics itself. That the team does not discuss this openly should not be a surprise.

There is an old German saying, which came from the leader of the fin de siecle German labor movement who felt that party intellectuals celebrating the conservative turn in the German working class were inviting too much attention: “Was man tut, sagt man nicht,” loosely translated, don’t talk about what you are doing, just do it.

Painting a target on the back of Rahm Emanuel may be a very good way to draw attention away from the role of Obama’s Fifth Man. [...]
Twelve days after Steve published his analysis rumors began flying in Washington that President Obama wanted to appoint Andy Stern to a newly-created "deficit reduction" commission. On February 26 the appointment was made official.

Steve has a habit of suspending his blogs without notice (and reopening them with just as little fanfare) so I don't know what he has to say about the appointment. I do know that since his first published essay about Barack Obama (Who "sent" Obama? April 22, 2008) Steve has never once been fooled by Obama's gift for misdirection.

Whenever Steve reopens his blog I'll be able to provide the reference links he included in his February 10 post; until then readers can make do with search engines to follow the clues he provided.

You might also want to snap up a copy of Steve's latest book, From 'Che' to China: Labor and Authoritarianism in the New Global Economy. Anyone who seriously wants to understand Obama's true political views and the greatest threat represented by Andy Stern's leadership of SEIU, which is his romancing of China's Communist Party, would do well to study the book.
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