Obama stiffs Zinni?

Weird:

Washington Times – EXCLUSIVE: Obama backs out on Iraq appointment
The Obama administration asked retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq but abruptly withdrew the appointment without explanation, Gen. Zinni said Tuesday.

Gen. Zinni, a former commander of Central Command, told The Washington Times that he had been offered the job by the White House national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, two weeks ago and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed the offer on Jan. 26.

“I started making arrangements,” Gen. Zinni said, but became concerned because he heard nothing further from the State Department or White House. He called Gen. Jones Monday night and was told that Christopher Hill, the outgoing assistant secretary of State for East Asia, was getting the job.

Chris Hill is an interesting choice (in the context of North Korea, at least), but I can’t think of a reason why Obama would offer, and then withdraw, the Iraqi Ambassadorship to Tony Zinni.

17 thoughts on “Obama stiffs Zinni?”

  1. Maybe Hill let it be known that was his asking price for staying on with the USG?

    Stiffing Zinni seems really foolish, but if they figured they HAD to have Hill, then perhaps they hoped Jones and others could smooth Zinni’s feathers for a position later on.

  2. Something stinks here. It’s one thing to reneg on an appointment and quite another to do so, appoint another person and never get around to telling the original person you had promised the job. Strange.

  3. Personally, I would feel more comfortable with O’s security team if he added many more retired Marines (maybe that is just my upbringing though)..

  4. More now…

    “A former senior official familiar with the case said the matter appears to have been handled disastrously. However, he thought it might have been problematic for the Obama administration to name Zinni, a retired general, as Iraq ambassador, since they have also reportedly decided to name another general, Karl Eikenberry, as ambassador to Afghanistan.

    “What if then the American government suddenly puts in both Afghanistan and Iraq both generals?” the former senior official said.

    Secondly, the former senior official said, it might also have been problematic that until the end of 2008, Zinni had been executive vice president of defense contractor Dyncorp, which has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business in Iraq. “If I was a responsible senator, I would scream about having the number two Dyncorp official” as ambassador to the country where it’s making so much money, the former official said.

    Asked about that, Zinni said that he had done an assessment in Iraq for outgoing U.S. Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno last fall, and no one had raised any issues about Dyncorp then. He said he left Dyncorp at the end of 2008 for unrelated reasons that did not have to do with a possible administration job, which he had not expected until he got the offer from Jones before the inauguration.”
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/02/04/zinni_unloads

  5. This keeps getting worse.

    Eddie points out the concern about Zinni is that he was a general (as if that’s a bad thing in a post-war situation!) and that he worked for a defense contractor (making him, I guess, less important than any of the lobbyists that Obama has nominated).

    From Foreign Policy [1]

    “Then two weeks ago, Jones called,” Zinni continued, “and said, ‘We talked to the secretary of state, and everybody would like to offer you the Iraq job.’ I said yes.

    “The president called and congratulated me,” Zinni said.

    Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for a meeting last Monday night, Zinni said. He said he went to the meeting in her office at the State Department, where Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Williams Burns were also in attendance.

    “She thanks me, asked me my views on Iraq,” Zinni recalled. “She said to Burns and Steinberg, ‘We’ve got to move quickly, Crocker is leaving, we’ve got to get someone in there and get the paperwork done and hearings… Lots to do to get ready to go.”

    Zinni said he expected a call from Burns the next day. Not hearing from him, he called him.

    From Weekly Standard [2]

    One former administration official writes in to note that it’s ironic Zinni was even considered for the post given how strenuously he opposed the liberation of Iraq, but of course Obama was the antiwar candidate. Still, the amateur hour quality to all this — to have the President of the United States call to congratulate you on your new appointment and then hear nothing for days only to learn that you’ve been passed over — shows a striking level of incompetence. And now they have Zinni popping off to anyone who will listen about how he told Jones to stuff the Saudi ambassadorship where the sun don’t shine. But relax, Obama ran a great campaign and a seamless transition, no doubt the government will run like a Swiss watch as soon as we get past these early hiccups.

    Obama’s had a few appointment problems, but this is the only one that indicates chaos over his handling of foreign policy. Very scary.

    [1] http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/02/04/zinni_unloads
    [2] http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/02/zinni_to_jones_stick_it.asp

  6. It is very worrisome how this was handled. The President does not call and say “you got the job” and then two weeks later just decide otherwise without nary a voicemail from anybody. Did somebody forget? I mean, WTF happened here?

    Abu Muquwama also pointed out Hill has zero experience in the Middle East. Iraq & East Asia are far different places.

  7. How much of it could be tensions between the different FP pillars in the administration? Obama’s people, Clinton’s people, Biden’s people, Jones’ people, Gates’ people, etc?

  8. Weekly Standard wonders if this was an attempt to stab Clinton. [1]

    Clinton certainly would be an adult capable of pulling the rug out from someone — but like Holbrooke (or whoever was behind this mess), would get something out of it. Obama got nothing. He is a victim of circumstances in his administration, not an actor getting what he wants.

    Phoning someone to congratulate him on a nomination, and then taking it back. It’s hard to believe that Obama is in the loop at all.

    [1] http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/02/zinni_postscript_holbrookes_in.asp

  9. Retired flag officers might take note of this behavior and be wary when Obama comes calling for help. It would be rather detrimental to one’s short-term existence to act quickly to get ready for an assignment abroad or in D.C. (i.e. resigning current posts, disentangling potentially ambiguous business relationships, getting family ready) and then be left out there hanging because of some internal administration friction.

  10. “What adults? Biden? Clinton?”

    Finding some adults to run this transition and intestigate his appointees so he is not repeatedly embarrassed Obama’s problem.

    If a new GOP President was having these problems, it would be the Apocalypse, as far as the media is concerned.

    I have worked on internal investigations. I have some idea of the process they should have used to check the background of all their appointees. There appears to have been no process at all.

    Repeat: There appears to have been zero process. Nothing.

    How long can Obama, who has never run anything but his mouth and Microsoft Word continue to get a pass?

    He better get someone with gray hair who can run his operation like a railroad or he is going to humiliate himself and the entire country. The former I don’t care about. The latter, I do very much.

    Recall Kennedy going in to meet Krushchev in Vienna. He was not prepped. There was NO process in place. He got his head handed to him. We had the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Wall as a result, because he projected incompetence and naivete to an enemy.

    No one has even taken a swing at this guy and he is stumbling.

  11. A correction from FP that says that VP Biden, and not President Obama, had called Zinni to congratulate him [1,2].

    Still, disturbing. Biden presumably is one of the “adults,” and he’s clearly out of the loop, too. And either Obama let Biden make a fool of himself, or was unable to provide guidance.

    [1] http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/02/04/zinni_unloads
    [2] http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/02/biden_not_obama_jumped_the_gun.asp

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