Neera Tanden, who President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday as his choice to lead the Office of Budget and Management, advocated forcing the Libyan government to give oil proceeds to the U.S. government in order to “partially pay us back” for military intervention there in 2011.
Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank, came under intense scrutiny in 2015 over the email, which she sent to colleagues on Oct. 21, 2011, a day after Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed.
According to the email, published by The Intercept, Tanden and other CAP officials were discussing a segment on CNN about whether Libya should compensate the U.S. for helping oust Gaddafi. (RELATED: Neera Tanden Suggested How To Get NYT To Cover Hillary More Favorably)
“We have a giant deficit. They have a lot of oil,” Tanden wrote to her colleagues on Oct. 21, 2011.
Gaddafi had been captured and killed a day earlier by Libyan opposition forces supported by the U.S. and a NATO-led coalition.
“Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit. If we want to continue to engage in the world, gestures like having oil rich countries partially pay us back doesn’t seem crazy to me,” Tanden continued. “Do we prefer cuts to Head Start? Or WIC? Or Medicaid?”
Faiz Shakir, who was editor of CAP’s website at the time and went on to serve as Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, disagreed with Tanden’s position.
“I don’t think it’s fair that we create our own domestic politics problems and then ask other nations to pay for it,” he replied to Tanden. “You see the adverse incentive problem here right? If we think we can make money off an incursion, we’ll do it? that’s a serious policy/messaging/moral problem for our foreign policy I think.”
Pro-Clinton Think Tank chief, Neera Tanden: Libya should “pay us back” w/ oil revenue (That war was so successful!) pic.twitter.com/zYznrNokmT
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) November 5, 2015
The email is one of many complaints progressives have lodged against Tanden over the years.
Her critics have accused her of using CAP to support establishment Democrats like Hillary Clinton, while dismissing progressives like Bernie Sanders.
Tanden is a longtime Clinton ally, having worked in the Bill Clinton White House and for Hillary Clinton when she served in the Senate. Tanden was an adviser on Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.
The New York Times reported last year that she confronted Shakir, who was editor of CAP’s website, Think Progress, in 2008 after he asked Clinton a tough question about her vote to support the Iraq war when she was in the Senate.
One person who witnessed the standoff reportedly told The Times that she punched Shakir in the chest. Tanden said that she only pushed him.
“I didn’t slug him, I pushed him,” she told The Times.
Tanden is also likely to face stiff Republican opposition to her nomination, which will require Senate confirmation.
A spokesman for Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Sunday that Tanden has “zero chance” of being confirmed due to an “endless stream of disparaging comments” she has made about Republican senators.
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