Video: Cashing in on White House resumes, or bolstering alliances?

posted at 11:31 am on June 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Here’s a poser from Jake Tapper on CNN’s The Lead. Former Obama White House aides David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, and Obama campaign chief Jim Messina all took five-figure paychecks and luxury travel accommodations to speak at a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan — a country noted for its poor human-rights records and authoritarian government. They weren’t there alone, either; former Republican Senator Dick Lugar and Bush-era adviser Paul Wolfowitz joined them. Is this a case of egregious selling out by the political class, or an effort to bolster American national security? Or … is it both?

Yet this week, former government officials were treated to luxury travel and accommodations in a city where the Azerbaijani government’s “beautification” campaign has meant the forcible eviction of thousands of families and illegal demolition of their homes, according to Human Rights Watch.

Former top Obama White House advisers David Plouffe, Jim Messina, and Robert Gibbs spoke at the conference.

When such high-profile former government officials speak, they are handsomely compensated, usually tens of thousands of dollars.

Others in attendance, according to the program online, included former top officials such Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense under former President George W. Bush, and former Republican Sen. Dick Lugar.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it?  However, there’s more context to this than first blush.  Azerbaijan is one of the Caucasus nations that split from the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.  It borders Iran and has open access to the Caspian Sea, which makes it an important part of our security in the region.  Azerbaijan also plays a big role in keeping our lines of communication open to Afghanistan:

In an e-mail, a former government official who attended, but asked not to be named, tells CNN that there is another angle here.

“One thing all these stories fail to mention is the alliance we have with Azerbaijan on energy, counterterrorism, and most importantly Afghanistan. Without their logistical and supply routes we couldn’t do what we do. Especially when we’ve had Pakistan shut things down,” wrote the official.

The question is, of course, whether the well-paid participation of current and former members of the political class at these conferences actually does anything to bolster relations between the US and Azerbaijan.  Those efforts should route through the State Department (and Congress, which did have a few members at this conference).  The rush to grab Azerbaijani money by unofficial members of the American political elite — especially in a country with human-rights issues like Azerbaijan — is at least unseemly, even if everyone does it, and it’s absolutely true that this kind of cashing in has been going on for a long time across administrations of both parties.  That doesn’t mean it should continue, although it would be better to have this curtailed by scorn and ridicule rather than government force.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

So, I don’t see The Problem here…. Is it that they are going abroad and getting paid? Or is it that they are going abroad and getting paid by a country with a history of crushing dissent, stifling free speech and locking their countrymen out of the political process? If it is the second, then are they in trouble when they come to the US and speak as well? Free speech is crushed here, people are locked out of the political process, unfairly targeted, audited, discriminated against…… I mean, within the context of the IRS, how is the US much different that Azerbaijan except for a few cracked skulls????

ted c on June 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM

One of the major influencers in the region is the BTC pipeline.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baku%E2%80%93Tbilisi%E2%80%93Ceyhan_pipeline

ted c on June 1, 2013 at 11:55 AM

ted c on June 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM

THIS-Has my vote for the Hot Air Hall of Fame.

docflash on June 1, 2013 at 12:08 PM

We don’t have the manpower to build helicopters in the USoA?:

The Pentagon has decided it’s in the “national interest” to keep buying MI-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan military from a Russian company.

http://noisyroom.net/blog/

davidk on June 1, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Interesting. Everybody is concentrating on the White House-Shulman connection. Maybe they’d better pay attention to a couple of others on the list.

http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2013/05/interesting-everybody-is-concentrating.html

davidk on June 1, 2013 at 12:35 PM

We don’t have the manpower to build helicopters in the USoA?:

The Pentagon has decided it’s in the “national interest” to keep buying MI-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan military from a Russian company.

http://noisyroom.net/blog/

davidk on June 1, 2013 at 12:24 PM

While this seems counter-intuitive, this is probably the best thing to do. When (not if) Afghanistan is re-conquered by the Taliban, there is no reason to give them US military equipment.

The only counter-argument I can see to this is that if we sold them US military equipment, then we would control spares and repair parts.

From noisyroom:

If the U.S. does pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban does take the country, as expected, no doubt they will find these helicopters a very useful means of hunting down opponents.

… and we’d feel better if they were using US built helicopters?

AZfederalist on June 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM

davidk on June 1, 2013 at 12:24 PM

The main reason that we gave the Afghans Russian choppers in the first place, is that the Russian choppers are not as advanced as American choppers (they are cruder); and it is simpler to try to teach the Afghans to fly and maintain the less-sophisticated systems.
The Afghans have shown that they are unable to maintain American systems – but are able to cope with the less-advanced (and somewhat more forgiving of shoddy maintenance) Russian.
In fairness,too, the Russian Hips have proven to be very reliable at the altitudes found in A-stan’s mountains.

Solaratov on June 1, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Former top Obama White House advisers David Plouffe, Jim Messina, and Robert Gibbs spoke at the conference.

If ever there was a need in a “let fly” list to know when certain folks leave the country so that they can be transferred to the no fly list before their return.

If Azerbaijan wants Robert Gibbs, they can have him.

Happy Nomad on June 1, 2013 at 2:15 PM

…I like the fact that Nancy Pelosi’s husbands real estate company will be the relator for selling all the US Postal properties that are being shut down…more millions in commissions… for the Pelosi family!

KOOLAID2 on June 1, 2013 at 4:42 PM