Thursday, October 09, 2008

Could Obama get a security clearance?

Obama's past proximity to William Ayers would cost him a low level security clearance, but we're ready to hand him the leadership of the free world.

Go figure.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just curious what your security level happens to be?

Art said...

Well, chances are that if McCain's daddy had been a normal person, without brass-plated connections, he'd have a heck of a time getting clearance to be, say, a Kroger's cashier.

Funny how fickle are the foibles of birth and circumstance, eh?

Lee said...

There seems to be some misunderstanding about what it takes to get a security clearance.

For one thing, there are different levels, and different clearing agencies. Some agencies (e.g., CIA, NSA) won't accept anyone else's. A DOD clearance is what I would consider a reasonable standard. CIA and NSA are sort of off the charts regarding how stringent they are.

But the deal in any agency is essentially this: It really isn't very difficult to get cleared if you've lived a life of reasonable lawfulness and visibility. There is some leeway regarding marijuana, but otherwise drugs are a no-no, and dealing them is a definite problem.

They prefer that you lead a life also of reasonable sexual morality, but that has changed some in recent years. E.g., Homosexuals used to be unclearable, but the problem wasn't their lifestyle per se, but the vulnerability to blackmail.

Bill Clinton probably would have had trouble getting cleared. He admitted to smoking dope. Also, the rumors surrounding his sex life even before he was president would have been enough to raise some red flags.

Another problem is associations. Being pals with an unrepentant terrorist would not help Obama.

I don't like McCain, but I don't know of anything in his past that suggests drugs, sexual immorality at a high level, or bad associations.

Having a high-ranking military dad couldn't hurt, as you suggest, but it is really stabbing in the dark to suggest the circumstance of his birth was the decisive element.

And Obama wasn't born into a situation that required him to become buddies with someone like Ayers. It seems to be a circumstance he sought out, or at least did not recoil from.

Art said...

Hi Lee,

McCain's life is a litany of alcohol and skirt-chasing, and he's proven to be prone to leaving the till open for thieves (to be very kind, perhaps even naive). And lord knows he likes to smash up expensive toys. None of these traits would endear him to your typical Kroger's manager.

So maybe our esteemed government hasn't the same high standards as our neighborhood grocer.

Yeah, I guess I can believe that.

Lee said...

Alcohol and skirt-chasing would definitely be investigated, but I know some dedicated drinkers who have had security clearances. I've had one, and I have, er, been known to tip a few in my time. (A Presbyterian is a Methodist who likes to drink but isn't rich enough to be an Episcopalian.)

Skirt-chasing might raise some eyebrows, but as I've said, that sort of thing isn't the big deal it used to be.

But having a friend who bombed the Pentagon would probably get your packaged nixed.

And I mean that sincerely.

I don't see it as much different than if McCain had a friend who bombed abortion clinics, or belonged to the American Nazi Party. Lord know, Katie Couric would have made sure that got plenty of air time. But the silence from the mainstream media on this issue is deafening.

Art said...

Um, lemmee see if I'm getting this.

Being on a board with a 60's radical would deny you security clearance. Being close friends with, and abetting the criminal activities of, a known and convicted felon gets you .... ?

Like I'm saying, if Daddy's top brass, you can get away with a whole lot.

The sad thing is that conservatives don't see anything wrong here.

Kycobb said...

Back when they hated McCain, the Right used to say he had been brain damaged, perhaps even brain washed, during his years as a POW-I wonder if that would have any impact on his ability to get security clearance. Palin's political mentors are anti-american separatists with links to white supremicists and the Islamic Republic of Iran, so I would hope that her associations would raise red flags as well.

sporcupine said...

Sure.

That's why Senator Obama serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee. He can do those without a security clearance.

That's why he's getting the security briefings regularly offered to candidates from both parties. Those don't include any secure information.

Senator Clinton obviously didn't try hard to find Senator Obama's weaknesses in the spring. She missed this issue. Senator McCain and his staff are obviously not trying musch either.

Only our esteemed blog host noticed.

He must be concerned about defeating Senator Obama than Steve Schmidt, Karl Rove, and Vice President Cheney combined.

Either that, or drinking coffee and serving on a non-profit board aren't credible ways to catch the cooties, become a leper, or turn from a patriot into a traitor.

Lee said...

art, if you're talking about Keating, I can see your point. I have no great enthusiasm for McCain. But someone who was a domestic terrorist and bombed the Pentagon is not your garden-variety felon. I hope you can see that. If not, we don't have enough in common to discuss anything with. There has to be some sort of distinction between someone who was a crook, and someone who tried to bomb people and is unrepentant about it, in fact has expressed sorrow that he didn't do more.

kycobb: I can't speak for the American "Right". All I can tell you is what this particular representative of the Right thinks. I don't think conservatives like McCain at all. They judge he is better than Obama. I think he is better than Obama, but I don't like the dynamic: a liberal Republican president sort of cuts the rug out from under other more conservative Republicans in Congress -- as we have seen with the Bush and the bailout. I don't think America needs two liberal parties, so I won't encourage the Republicans in their lurch to the left. I look forward once again to having a Republican party that supports more conservative principles, and to do that, McCain has to lose.

The only question is whether Obama can stifle dissent enough to keep conservatives from ever getting elected again. First thing on his agenda will be the so-called "Fairness" Doctrine -- as AM radio is the only enclave for conservatism in the broadcast media.

And wasn't it you that I asked in an earlier thread whether you would quit supporting Obama if he supported Hawaiian separatists? As I recall, I never got an answer to that question.

sporcupine: I'm not sure why it matter that Clinton didn't exploit this issue. If there is something to it, it's legitimate for the Republicans to exploit it. My first guess is that there is simply too much sympathy in leftist circles for purists who threw bombs in the 1960s. But don't question their patriotism.

sporcupine said...

Lee,

I think it would be perfectly delightful for Senator McCain and Governor Palin to make this exact security-clearance argument every day on the stump.

It has such a masterful mix of rigorous facts and sparkling analysis.

It could easily be the crowning glory of their campaign.

Let's all agree to make sure that Martin gets credit for it in the history books.

Martin Cothran said...

Well, if I had known that simply noting a curious irony would work my detractors up into a tizzy I would do it all the time.

Wait a minute. I do!

Cool.

My contention was that a person who has had a working relationship with a guy that bombed the Pentagon woul have a problem getting a security clearance. Is anyone actually contesting what I said, or are we just changing the subject?

Lee said...

Martin, so far I think tu quoque is all your critics have been able to muster, and it seems like a fairly weak tu quoque at that.

Art said...

Hi Martin,

I'm glad you're amused. I am as well, in seeing how perversely hypocritical are the McCain supporters on this issue. They're bent out of shape about being in the same room as a petulant 60's brat who was and is no threat at all to this country. Meanwhile, their candidate has a record of abetting financial practices that have brought the country to its knees. (That's right - McCain was a true maverick, way out ahead of the curve in instigating the financial ruination we're facing, at the socialization of our banking and investment industries.)

Then there are McCain's ties with the Rev. Moon and organized crime. Undoubtedly, McCain's supporters don't think that there are any problems with associations with organized crime, and I expect that lee will try to explain how these associations are paltry dalliances (and not the mortal threat to the country that was the weather underground). To which I say - give us all a break.

As for security clearances, I guess the bottom line is that these are not about the safety and security of our country, but rather about cronyism and graft. Color me shocked. SHOCKED!!

sporcupine said...

Actually, I was trying to assume that your post was a stab at humor, sort of like a conservative Bill Maher, and responding in kind.

You want me to take it seriously?

You've got it.

Ayers is appalling. The prosecutors couldn't convict, but he confessed. He shouldn't have been hired at Chicago, much less tenured. He shouldn't have a house in that lovely Hyde Park neighborhood, and he shouldn't be on Annenberg-funded boards.

But that's Professor Ayers, not Senator Obama.

If there was a real security argument about the Democratic nominee, Senator McCain would have made that argument every day of June, every day of July, every day of August and every day of September.

I know that.

Senator McCain knows that.

You know it, too.

You didn't really mean that Senator Obama would betray state secrets.

You meant that you'd thought of a wink-and-a-nod way to say Senator Obama's not quite one of us.

You think that's a cute little game.

I think it's sneaky, disgusting, and unworthy of our beloved, magnificent country.

Lee said...

> art: "They're bent out of shape about being in the same room as a petulant 60's brat who was and is no threat at all to this country."

How was a bomber no threat to the country? Or are you relying on the meaning of the word "is"? And why stick to present tense?

> Meanwhile, their candidate has a record of abetting financial practices that have brought the country to its knees.

McCain? Sorry, I thought for a minute you were talking about Barney Frank.

> Then there are McCain's ties with the Rev. Moon and organized crime. Undoubtedly, McCain's supporters don't think that there are any problems with associations with organized crime, and I expect that lee will try to explain how these associations are paltry dalliances

You must have missed all the times I have stated over and over again how much I don't like McCain and won't consider voting for him. Frankly, I was unaware of any ties to the Moonies and with organized crime. But if you have something to share, please. And be specific. And if you're right, that's just one more reason for me to dislike him. I just can't figure out why Obama deserves a free ride. If McCain was buddies with someone who bombed abortion clinics and got off on a technicality, would you be as willing to forgive him as you think we ought to be willing to forgive Obama?

> As for security clearances, I guess the bottom line is that these are not about the safety and security of our country, but rather about cronyism and graft.

So you're shocked that... what? Being pals with an erstwhile leftwing terrorist might have difficulty getting cleared if he weren't president?

You're very easily shocked.

> But that's Professor Ayers, not Senator Obama.

And there is absolutely no reason to be appalled at someone who hangs around Ayers? If McCain had launched his political career from the home of Robert Shelton, former head of the KKK, would you be saying that that's Shelton, not McCain?

Behind every apparent double standard is an unacknowledged single standard. I'm beginning to think that the unacknowledged single standard is whether the candidate is a liberal. Liberals can hang around whomever they choose.

> If there was a real security argument about the Democratic nominee, Senator McCain would have made that argument every day of June, every day of July, every day of August and every day of September.

Never underestimate the stupidity of Republicans. McCain thinks he's going to win this election by not being partisan and divisive and by picking up disaffected moderates and liberals. Making that argument against Obama would make him the kind of partisan Republican he has spent the last eight years distancing himself from.

Ask him how that strategy is working out.

> You didn't really mean that Senator Obama would betray state secrets.

I don't think that's the issue. I think the issue is he doesn't love America enough to look out for her interests.

> You think that's a cute little game.

Nothing cute about it.

Martin Cothran said...

sporcupine,

You're not angry are you? I thought only McCain's followers were angry.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

Did any of those people associated with McCain set of bombs at the Pentagon?

Art said...

Martin, did Obama enable Ayers materially? Was he ever a close friend? Does the Obama-Ayers association come even remotely close to the friendship of McCain with the thieves who wrote the book on turning our financial industry over to the state? Do you honestly think the Weather Underground was even remotely close to the threat that McCain's buddies and practices are to this country? If so, please contact me - I've got a real estate deal for you ....

As for McCain's links to the Rev. Moon, organized crime, and drug cartels, I recommend a perusal of recent entries on Ed Brayton's blog. (For starters, that is.)

One more thing, lee. Obama doesn't deserve a free ride. But the Ayers "connection" is a pathetic burst of hot air and empty rhetoric. There is nothing there. Nothing at all. It's all intended to distract voters from the fact that McCain is wrong on all of the important issues facing us.

Lee said...

> One more thing, lee. Obama doesn't deserve a free ride. But the Ayers "connection" is a pathetic burst of hot air and empty rhetoric. There is nothing there. Nothing at all.

After saying that, you're supposed to tap your shoes together three times and say, "There's no place like home."

Sorry, I beg to differ. The only acceptable reaction to someone like Ayers from someone who loves American and respects her laws and institutions is revulsion. It's telling that Obama apparently did not feel any such revulsion, or enough of such revulsion to refrain from launching his political career from the guy's living room.

And it's telling that Obama hasn't faced up and fessed up.

What it tells me is that in the intellectual circles Obama immersed himself in, what Ayers did is no considered no big deal.

It also tells me that enough of his supporters are sympathetic with Ayers that he does not want to throw him under the bus.

I don't consider it any different than if a Republican candidate were to have launched his career from the home of a buddy of his who was once a member of the KKK, another terrorist organization that didn't mind spilling blood to make a political point. The Republican wouldn't have to believe in the KKK's ideology; just hanging around with a KKK terrorist ought to be sufficient to question whether he is repulsed by the things that ought to repulse him.

One of the real issues in any political campaign happens to be the character of those campaigning. This issue is a question of Obama's character. It is one of the "important issues." Of course, it's not the only one, but it's fair game.

sporcupine said...

Lee,

Thank you for making the real argument about judgment. I count that as a valid question.

The evidence from the rest of Senator Obama's career, character, and positions convinces me that he's a patriot with moderate positions and good sense.

I suspect you wouldn't find the same evidence convincing, so the common ground I can offer is only that I agree the Ayers thing is not a plus in Obama's record.

Finally, I agree with your KKK comparison. May I note that Senator McCain repeatedly faced a serious test on stage last week about exactly that kind of association? I dearly wish he had stood up to it every time, instead of waiting until Friday afternoon.

Lee said...

I'm not going to defend McCain. He cast his lot against conservatives years ago, preferring instead to pal around with the news media and co-author Constitution-busting bills like McCain-Feingold, and tout his "bipartisanship" when the real test of a Republican is figuring out which principles you should be defending before you sell them out to the opposition.

Ask him how that strategy is working out. Aggravate and outrage the only people who might have been inclined to send money and votes, while sucking up to the people who aren't going to vote for him no matter what.

Obama's record shows he is the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate. That's what some liberals call a "moderate". Fine, I think Jesse Helms was a moderate too, then. A patriot? The guy who spent years going to a church where the pastor had regular anti-American and anti-white rants, and he never noticed? The guy who's wife said she finally had a reason to be proud of her country? The guy who said he wanted to restore America's moral standing in the rest of the world? Apparently, when Europe and the U.S. disagree on what's best for the U.S., Europe is right and we are wrong. He's no patriot, sorry. I think he's a liberal of the old International Socialist persuasion, and can't wait to start selling out our interests. I hope I'm wrong, and time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I had a Top Secret with a SCI and Obama could not get a clearance. There is a section on the SF-86 that asks you about your friends and associates. He would not qualify.

Lee said...

I agree completely. I used to have a clearance as well. The Ayers connection would absolutely kill it.

To be fair, if the allegations of drinking and womanizing against McCain are true, it would throw up a red flag or two. But as I've said, I've known plenty of boozers who had clearances. There's no free pass for boozers, but it's definitely something they look at. I think (but I'm intuiting here) they're fine with boozing as long as (otherwise) a person's life seems to be together.

Alcoholism is a strange thing. I've known alcoholics who were totally incapable of functioning, and I've met alcoholics who function just fine, other than the fact that they like to get blotto maybe a couple times a week. It puzzles me.

Art said...

So, would associations or even friendships with felons, mobsters, or drug cartel leaders likely torpedo a security clearance application?

I'm wondering what sort of nefarious person is acceptable to our security apparatus, and what sort is anathema.

(Although it's possible that Martin's readers don't really want to know the answers to this question. I'm not sure I want to know what sort of bad person the FBI or whomever considers to be harmless.)

Lee said...

Well, on the one hand, we have a Democratic candidate who is pals with an admitted former terrorist. I can understand that. I mean, he did it in the nicest possible way, and he did when Obama was a kid. And he's a liberal college professor now, what more proof do you want that he's really a decent guy?

On the other hand, John McCain hangs around moonies and felons and some guy I've never heard of writes bad things about him on a blog. And did I mention he is a Republican? What more proof do you need that his head swivels 180 degrees and yawns projectiles?