Sunday, January 21, 2018

Building new security team a bigger challenge for Obama

WASHINGTON — Barely a week after winning re-election, President Barack Obama suddenly confronts a deepening challenge in assembling a new national security team, his task complicated by a scandal that has cost him a CIA chief and raised doubts about his Afghanistan war commander.

Hard questions from Congress, potentially bitter confirmation hearings and a scandal of infidelity and inappropriate emails are suddenly shaping the fight ahead. The White House portrayed a president focused on the economy and confident in his military and intelligence leadership, but clearly not thrilled.

When asked if the personnel troubles were an unwelcome distraction, presidential spokesman Jay Carney said: "I certainly wouldn't call it welcome."

Obama was already expecting to have to replace his chief diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and perhaps his defense secretary, Leon Panetta. Those two alone — plus Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is also leaving — help shape Obama's thinking and represent him before the world.

Now Obama is without his CIA director, David Petraeus, the once acclaimed military general in Iraq and Afghanistan who resigned in disgrace last week over an extramarital affair.

"It's a hard moment for the administration," said Joshua Rovner, an associate professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. "It certainly wasn't expected, but if anything good comes out of it, they do have a chance to take a long, hard look at strategy."

Even beyond the surprise difficulties, Obama could have trouble with the rest of his high-stakes turnover.

When Clinton leaves, a favorite to replace her is Susan Rice, an Obama loyalist who is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She could face a bruising confirmation hearing given that she was the first face of the administration's maligned explanation of the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. "She's clearly going to have a little more difficult time than she would have if she hadn't gone out on all those talk shows," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the second-ranking Senate Republican.

Some of Rice's key advocates predict Republican lawmakers would not have the inclination or the votes to try to block Obama from appointing the State Department chief he wants.

The other top candidate for the State job is Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is expected to be confirmed easily by his chamber colleagues. His departure from the Senate, though, could potentially cost Obama's party a seat by creating an opening for the man who just lost the other Senate seat, Scott Brown.

Comments
The Latest: Turkey arrests protesters against Syria attack

The Latest: Turkey arrests protesters against Syria attack

Syria's President Bashar Assad says Turkey's "brutal aggression" against a Syrian Kurdish enclave is part and parcel of Ankara's support of "terrorists."
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Pope wraps Latin America trip haunted by Chile abuse scandal

Pope wraps Latin America trip haunted by Chile abuse scandal

Pope Francis is wrapping up his visit to Peru by meeting with bishops and nuns, but controversy over his accusations that Chilean sex abuse victims slandered a bishop cast a shadow over what has become the most contested and violent trip of his papacy
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Pope wraps Latin America trip haunted by Chile abuse scandal

Pope wraps Latin America trip haunted by Chile abuse scandal

Pope Francis is wrapping up his visit to Peru by meeting with bishops and nuns, but controversy over his accusations that Chilean sex abuse victims slandered a bishop cast a shadow over what has become the most contested and violent trip of his papacy
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Pence accuses Congress of playing politics with military pay

Pence accuses Congress of playing politics with military pay

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is blasting Congress for playing politics with military pay, telling U.S. soldiers stationed in the Middle East that the Trump administration would "demand that they reopen the government."
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Pence accuses Congress of playing politics with military pay

Pence accuses Congress of playing politics with military pay

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is blasting Congress for playing politics with military pay, telling U.S. soldiers stationed in the Middle East that the Trump administration would "demand that they reopen the government."
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Mertens ends goal drought as Napoli goes 4 clear in Serie A

Mertens ends goal drought as Napoli goes 4 clear in Serie A

Dries Mertens ended his goal drought to help Napoli to a slender 1-0 victory at Atalanta as Maurizio Sarri's team extended its lead at the top of the Serie A standings
Updated: 13 minutes ago

Trial set for man accused of making bomb parts for jihadists

A trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Phoenix for a Syrian man accused of making a key component of improvised explosive devices used by a jihadist group in attacks against American soldiers during the Iraq War.
Updated: 16 minutes ago
The St. Petersburg Women’s March: Here’s what you need to know

The St. Petersburg Women’s March: Here’s what you need to know

ST. PETERSBURG — On Sunday afternoon, people will take part in the Women’s March, part of a series of marches taking place this weekend. Here’s what you need to know:When is the Women’s March?The march begins at noon on Sunday, Jan. 21, and a rally w...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Turkish troops enter Kurdish enclave in northern Syria

Turkish troops enter Kurdish enclave in northern Syria

Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces have attacked a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria in their bid to drive a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia from the region
Updated: 18 minutes ago

White separatist town manager expects his firing, won't quit

The manager of a Maine town who espouses white segregationist views says he has no intention to quit his job even though he expects to be fired
Updated: 18 minutes ago