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Obama needs to take charge of his office

President Obama's proposed $400,000 gift to the family of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi capped off 10 days of brutal, thick-fingered moves that again prompt the question: Who's in charge here?

A month ago, Gadhafi staged a tumultuous welcome home from a Scotland prison of the man convicted of sending 243 people to their deaths in the terror bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

At least 41 New York college students -- from Syracuse, Colgate and SUNY Oswego -- died in the plot hatched by Gadhafi's government. On Thursday, it was learned that Hillary Clinton's State Department intends to release $400,000 of our borrowed federal money to foundations run by Gadhafi's children.

The State Department made this move about the same time the Obama administration was planning to suddenly reverse the Bush administration's missile defense strategy with faithful allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. Widely seen as a U.S. concession to Russia, of whom the Poles and Czechs are rightly afraid, Obama's decision was leaked on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland.

Then came the leak of a supposedly secret report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal to Obama warning that if the military establishment doesn't get its way and get a Vietnam-scale troop buildup in Afghanistan, then the war is "lost." McChrystal is the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The arrogance of the leak by the Pentagon's allies promises an ugly confrontation over uniformed versus civilian rule of the military, and poses historic constitutional questions.

This is what Obama and Congress get for allowing McChrystal; Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. David Petraeus, who heads Central Command, to parade around the country in sparkly uniforms making speeches and giving interviews intended to set foreign policy for our government.

Eighth-graders ought to know that's not the braided military's job. As commander-in-chief, Obama on Inauguration Day should have told the generals and admirals to shut up and let his civilian appointees do the talking and ordered these officers to wear civvies when they leave the office.

Obama could blame the clumsiness of the Gadhafi, McChrystal and missile defense moves on subordinates, but his inept meddling in New York politics is all his own.

Gov. David A. Paterson hasn't yet proven to be the patsy that Obama thinks he is, rejecting several pleas from Obama emissaries to step aside and let some other Democrat run in his place next year. Obama patronized Paterson, misjudging him, neglecting to account for the depth of character that would propel a blind man to get a law degree.

Which sets up a potential primary clash between Paterson and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whom Obama all but anointed as the chosen one at an event in Troy.

The race for governor could be a chance to ventilate Cuomo's turbulent career as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, which included serial clashes with HUD inspector general Susan Gaffney.

Cuomo's role in the sub-prime mortgage crisis and financial meltdown would not have come up during his 2006 state campaigns. They could next year.

According to a 2006 story by investigative reporter Lucy Komisar, Cuomo's HUD was allowing federally insured lenders to engage in fraud that left over-extended borrowers holding the bag. Komisar said Cuomo's HUD lost track of $59 billion in 1999. A Village Voice article last year accused Cuomo of turning the Federal Housing Authority "into a sweetheart lender with sky-high ceilings and no money down." The article said in 2000 Cuomo ordered "a quantum leap" in the number of home mortgages that could be backed by government-backed insurers.

Cuomo's office declined to respond to two e-mail requests from this column to discuss this.


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