It's ironic that PJ Crowley went to MIT to talk about the power of new media on foreign policy issues only to find that a blog posting of his remarks ended his career as America's top foreign policy spokesman. It's also ironic that although Crowley's comments were immediately reported via twitter, Facebook and several foreign policy blogs, his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't immediately mind. It was only when the new White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley learned about Crowley's comments that the trouble began.
State Department insiders say Crowley's MIT comments about Bradley Manning and his tweets comparing the "Middle East tsunami" over the last several weeks with Japan's earthquake and tsunami were emailed around Foggy Bottom and the subject of many water-cooler conversations. "Nobody thought he would be fired over this," one State Department official told me.
But when ABC News' Jake Tapper asked President Obama about Crowley's comments during the president's press availability on Friday, Obama said, "(I) asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards...(they) assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well." President Obama was being asked about inconsistent messages coming from his team and Daley was not happy about it. Daley was upset that while the Pentagon was saying that Manning was being treated fairly in response to claims from the liberal left, State's chief spokesman was questioning DoD's truthfulness.
The conflicting and ambiguous messaging from the White House and its' agency heads has up until now been part of the Obama administration's playbook. The president has time after time used contradictory statements to at once please his Democratic base and the far-left progressives that are growing increasingly disenchanted with his rhetoric.
Just last week, Hollywood actor Matt Damon spoke out about his frustration with Obama's hope and change message saying, "I'm disappointed in the health care plan and in the troop build-up in Afghanistan." And Damon is certainly not alone in his irritation with the president's action-deficit. The left is filled with frustration for the president because he has turned out to be nothing like they hoped. Barbara Streisand, Jane Lynch, Jon Stewart and MoveOn.org are all let down. Obama has consistently been inconsistent on healthc are reform, taxes, the budget and most recently on the military's Don't Ask-Don't Tell policy, the Egyptian President's future, support for the opposition in Libya, a Libyan no fly zone, off-shore oil drilling, Israel, jobs, the UN and even on being president of the United States (see "it would be easier to be president of China").
But now comes new White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley who is in charge of making progress. And getting anything done in Washington means getting comfortable with disappointing someone. Daley wants to stop the Obama administration's conflicting messages, empty rhetoric and personal opinion giving from staff members. Crowley, a career foreign service officer who served President Bill Clinton at the NSC, has been allowed to give his own opinions without repercussions from his boss, Secretary Hillary Clinton, since he started as State Department spokesman at the beginning of the Obama administration. He was shocked to learn that there were new rules this week. Crowley serves as an example of the new kind of White House we are getting with Daley in charge.
At the same MIT discussion where Crowley's "stupid" comment got him fired, he also said, "But the most important thing I do every day is read the New York Times -- it's the national paper of record." It's no wonder Crowley thinks punishing the WikiLeaker was "stupid". The most important part of his day has been spent reading New York Times stories on leaked cables and where Julian Assange is considered a hero. But thanks to Bill Daley, Crowley will now have lots of important things to do.