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Intelligencer: 12 - 18 Nov 2008
November 12, 2008
Rooney for Ambassador?
IN the wake of Barack Obama’s presidential victory the new frontrunner for ambassador to Ireland is Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.
Rooney, co-founder of the American Ireland Fund, is 76 and a lifelong Republican. However, he was so impressed by Obama’s oratory back in January that he called his son Jim and told him he was going to work for Obama.
At the time Obama was an outsider, looking as if he was going to get crushed by the Clinton machine. Rooney, however, saw something he really liked.
In April he wrote a long letter to his friends and associates backing Obama, at a time when Hillary Clinton was vastly more popular in Pennsylvania. Then in late October, during Obama’s last trip to Pennsylvania, Rooney presented him with a Steelers jersey, a move that drew criticism from some lifelong conservative Steelers fans.
Shortly before Rooney wrote last April’s endorsement, he and Obama met at a union conference and spent over one hour together. Rooney came away deeply impressed. Despite the fact that he has strong anti-abortion views and is a dedicated Catholic Rooney decided that Obama was the one.
That was not entirely surprising. Rooney has long been a progressive voice in the National Football League. The rule that black candidates had to be considered for head coaching positions is known as the Rooney Rule.
His backing was very significant in a state Obama simply had to win to ensure the White House. Indeed, when Pennsylvania stayed blue on Election Night it was the clear signal that John McCain’s campaign had failed.
Now friends say that Rooney, who still flies his own plane, would very much like the Dublin job. He would seem to have a very strong shot at it, given his closeness to Obama and his lifelong work on behalf of Irish causes.
Indeed, as a founder of the American Ireland Fund, the pre-eminent Irish fundraising organization, Rooney has unbeatable credentials as a major player in Irish America. Many of his American Ireland Fund colleagues are also supporting the expected bid by Rooney for the position.
Another potential Irish ambassador to emerge this week is software millionaire John Cullinane from Boston, also a dedicated Obama supporter. Cullinane has made numerous trips to Ireland supporting investment opportunities there and formed an Irish for Obama group in Boston. However, he would hardly match up with Rooney’s connections.
Power in Inner Circle
SAMANTHA Power appears to be back in Obama’s inner circle, according to informed Irish sources.
Power, the Irish-born Harvard professor, was one of Obama’s closest foreign policy aides until she was quoted saying highly negative things about Hillary Clinton earlier this year, including calling her a monster.
Power resigned from the campaign but in recent weeks she has apparently come back into the fold. She and her new husband, law professor Cass Sunstein, who is talked of as a possible Obama appointment to the Supreme Court, were in Ireland last week delivering lectures.
Along the way it is believed she personally apologized to Clinton, and that the apology has been accepted. It will be interesting to see now if Power wins a senior position in the Obama administration.
Other names to keep an eye on are Tony Lake, another senior foreign policy advisor to Obama who has a long history on Irish issues. Last week Lake was tipped for the top CIA job.
Jim Steinberg is another former Clinton official who handled Ireland for the administration for a few years. He was tipped again this week for national security advisor. Denis McDonough, who handled the Irish issue on a regular basis during the campaign, is also tipped for a major job.
Obama to Intervene?
THE reason the new Irish advisors may turn out to be important is the stalled talks between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland on shared government.
That situation is rapidly growing into a crisis, and it may take American intervention to break it. A scenario is developing where Obama is sworn in on January 20 and soon after makes an intervention in the Irish process, such as getting the two principals to the White House for talks.
It is a low risk venture for him, given that it is no longer a controversial issue in domestic American politics.
If Obama or his surrogates were able to achieve a breakthrough then it would make for a very upbeat St. Patrick’s Day for the new president, as well as earning him undying gratitude from millions of Irish Americans.
It is also hard to see how the Northern Ireland party leaders could refuse his request to help out. After all, they will likely be dealing with him for a very long time indeed, and a good start is vital for both sides.
Crowley on The Move
THE recent decision of Congressman Rahm Emanuel to take over as White House chief of staff may well have a positive impact on Congressman Joe Crowley, who recently romped to reelection in Queens.
Emanuel was fourth in line for speaker and was widely seen as a future successor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Crowley is a few rungs lower down the ladder, but is in a good position to get a major promotion now that Emanuel is leaving the House.
Crowley is also among the youngest of the Democrats in senior positions in the House, and given a major advance now could well end up speaker some day.
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