Does Obama Have a Loyalty Problem?

While the problem with Bush is he prized loyalty too much and refused to toss overboard people clearly deserving of a pink slip, Obama seems to tilt dangerously the other way.
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The candidates for president are shedding advisers and aides faster than my Rottweiller is shedding her hair. And that should be greater cause for concern, especially if you are planning on voting for Obama. Ask yourself: Does he have a habit of dumping politically inconvenient loyalists?

To wit, Obama did not defend Samantha Power after her "off the record" remarks in which she relayed to a Scottish journalist that her boss's opponent was a "monster." He could have just given her a talking-to and apologized but instead, she was let go. Just like that.

More recently, adviser Robert Malley of International Crisis Group also got the Samantha Power treatment. His offense? He had, yes, met with Hamas leaders. TIME's Joseph Klein called Obama's move "a sad abandonment of principles," adding that "the next president will be negligent if he doesn't include someone like Malley in his circle of Middle East advisers."

Even Obama's first literary agent, Jane Dystel, was unceremoniously dumped after Obama made the leap from Chicago to Washington. Peter Osnos, former publisher of Times Books, called the move "disloyal but not unusual."

What explains Obama's habit of letting go those he no longer needs? Of course, any political figure's career is bound to be full of episodes where staffers come and go, sometimes of their free will, sometimes not. But with Obama, there seems to be a familiar and disturbing pattern. While the problem with President Bush is he prized loyalty too much and refused to toss overboard people (i.e. Donald Rumsfeld) clearly deserving of a pink slip, Obama seems to tilt dangerously the other way. He has no Karen Hughes or Karl Rove-types who have loyally stayed with him through thick and thin. The trouble with Obama, I fear, is that were he to become president, any of his future advisers would fear speaking their mind in public or taking an unpopular stance. The result will be nothing but four years of public statements with all the sizzle of a UN communique.

Of course, this is not a trait unique to Obama. I have heard anecdotally that Hillary also dumped a foreign policy adviser last year after said person visited Iraq and noted marginal progress there. And McCain has dumped more advisers in recent weeks than I can count.

But I expect better from Obama. The kind of change he wants to bring to U.S. foreign policy is helped by having outside-of-the-box thinkers like Power and Malley in his inner circle.

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