The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 20, 2012 – Romnesia

Campaigning at George Mason University on Friday, President Barack Obama took a new approach to Governor Mitt Romney’s constant changes of position. He announced that we have to name this condition, and he suggested “Romnesia, a condition that causes one to forget their past statements and beliefs.”

[Transcript and video from Think Progress]

OBAMA: Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it.
If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work – you might have Romnesia. If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care – you might have a case of Romnesia. If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you’ve definitely got Romnesia. [...]

And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for President, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.

We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease.

Of course, the president was just being polite. Mitt Romney is, without question, a habitual liar. People often say that every politician tells lies to get elected, but not like this guy, and not so often and about so many things. There isn’t an issue out there on which Mitt Romney hasn’t taken two or more positions, often contradictory.

On Monday night, the two candidates will meet in one last debate, this one centered on Foreign Policy. Now, Mitt Romney has no foreign policy credentials whatsoever. His money has spent more time in foreign countries than he has. His foreign policy advisers consist primarily of Bush Administration war hawks who think the second best cure to whatever ails America, after tax cuts, is War, especially if it’s based on the pretense of “defending Israel.” In fact, Republicans believe that every American president is constitutionally responsible for defending Israel, no matter what that nation’s government does. And they believe in the idea of pre-emptive warfare to “eliminate existential threats.” What are those, exactly? Well, technically, nobody can truly say because they exist only in people’s minds. They’re based on the loose idea that anything that might conceivably be used as a weapon against Israel is a threat whose existence justifies the use of military force to eliminate it. Thus, if Iran is enriching uranium for a modern electricity program, the idea that five or six years from now (or even two or three) they might be able to build a nuclear weapon becomes a morally justified use of military force. This makes total sense in the right-wing mind. By that rationale, because anyone who buys both a gun and the ammunition for it might one day kill an innocent person, Society would be justified in sentencing that person to death before they even got home. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

This is our Open Thread. You can discuss Romnesia or any other topic that tickles your fancy, though we prefer you not post any videos of your fancy being tickled.

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]

UPDATE: I found this on Twitter, a perfect example of Romnesia in action:

https://twitter.com/KawaiiMagpie/status/256536982417723392/photo/1

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 18th, 2012: Romney’s Foreign to Foreign Policy

While we’re all still on a bit of a contact high from President Obama’s excellent performance in Tuesday night’s debate, the final Presidential Debate, supposedly covering U.S. foreign policy, looms just around the corner. As a follow-up to my post on Monday, I’m offering two pertinent articles from Foreign Policy magazine.

The first is a piece of rather hawkish advice offered to President Obama by David Rothkopf, which, in part, points out the frightening fact that:

“To get to buried Iranian facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordow, would require bunker-busting munitions on a scale that no Israeli plane is capable of delivering. The mission, therefore, must involve the United States, whether acting alone or in concert with the Israelis and others.”

Oy!

The second, as I mentioned on Monday, is a return to Mitt Romney’s recent foreign-policy speech at VMI (Virginia Military Institute.) While I find it disturbing for a Presidential candidate to be obviously undermining his audience’s Commander-in-Chief, even more disturbing were Romney’s comments about the recent tragic attack on our embassy in Benghazi. This line in particular jumped out at me: “These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of 9/11.” I’m still looking, but I have not found ANY independent corroboration of this little tidbit.

The following are a few more excepts. Of course, it figures that Romney is a proponent of an Obama Administration policy with which many of us liberals take great issue.

“Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.”

Anyway, Romney continues…

“It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.”

Based on this attitude, Romney wants to pour an unnecessary and unasked-for $2 trillion-with-a-T into the Department of Defense.

“I’ll work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
I’ll reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security. The world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

Why? The United States of America is NOT the same country, we don’t share the same culture or the same history as Israel; we are not geographical neighbors experiencing common challenges. The Constitution says nothing about our country’s ability to create a new country, nor about then being responsible for that new country forever. The President of the United States swears an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, and that oath does not mention protecting and defending Israel as well. Israel is fully capable of defending itself, having been greatly helped by our military and financial assistance. Isn’t it time to cut the cord and let the allegedly adult sovereign state of Israel be responsible for its own actions? But I digress…

“Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Now, that’s the ultimate lying hypocrisy from Romney, who, in the infamous, supposedly-private “47% speech” to big-money donors, said:

“And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem. I mean, we look at that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it.

In other words, Romney has no plan for the Middle East. Does this mean that Romney’s believes in “hopey-changey”?

I also ran across this interesting and helpful analysis on Romney’s VMI speech, by Andrew Quinn.

This is our daily open thread–what do YOU have to say?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 15th, 2012: Who Said What?

You never know what you’re going to find at Foreign Policy magazine online. Recent issues contained two items which I decided to use for today’s offering: one somewhat humorous, one not so much.

The ‘somewhat humorous’ one is a fairly new feature at FP, entitled “Who Said It?” This particular version is “Grand Ayatollah or Grand Old Party?”, by Reza Aslan, who opens the article with:

“One is a religious fanatic railing against secularism, the role of women in the workplace, and the evils of higher education, as he seeks to impose his draconian moral values upon the state. The other is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Rick Santorum

Grand Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran

Aslan’s quiz lists nine quotes, asking “Who Said It?”, Santorum or Khamenei. The answer is given on the next page within the article, where the subsequent quote is then listed. See how you do in this quiz!

The second article, the ‘not so humorous’ one, is by Stephen M. Walt, and lists the “Top Ten Media Failures in the Iran War Debate.” A few key observations by Mr. Walt, although by no means the most important or insightful ones in his article, include:

“…when prominent media organizations keep publishing alarmist pieces about how war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc., this may convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives.”

and

“A recurring feature of Iran war coverage has been tendency to refer to Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” as if its existence were an established fact. U.S. intelligence services still believe that Iran does not have an active program, and the IAEA has also declined to render that judgment either.”

Mr. Walt’s article is yet another illustration of the deficiencies of today’s ‘mainstream media’, which has, for quite some time, deplorably failed to serve or inform the public. :(

This is our daily open thread — so, what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 1st, 2012: And Your Advice is Worth???

I like to check out Foreign Policy Magazine online now and again for different stories and viewpoints. You can imagine my surprise today when I saw an article titled “How to Beat Obama”, written by…wait for it…Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. Yes, Karl Rove, despite being wrong nearly as often as William Kristol, still thinks that his advice would be helpful to the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. Check out some of the pearls of wisdom Karl and Ed are offering:

“In an American election focused on a lousy economy and high unemployment, conventional wisdom holds that foreign policy is one of Barack Obama’s few strong suits. But the president is strikingly vulnerable in this area. The Republican who leads the GOP ticket can attack him on what Obama mistakenly thinks is his major strength by translating the center-right critique of his foreign policy into campaign themes and action. Here’s how to beat him.

First, the Republican nominee should adopt a confident, nationalist tone emphasizing American exceptionalism, expressing pride in the United States as a force for good in the world, and advocating for an America that is once again respected (and, in some quarters, feared) as the preeminent global power. Obama acts as if he sees the United States as a flawed giant, a mistake that voters already perceive. After all, this is the president who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Voters also sense he is content to manage America’s decline to a status where the United States is just one country among many.”

Ah, yes, the “American Exceptionalism” cliche – Americans are somehow inherently better than the rest of the world, and we damn well don’t need to pay attention to any of those lesser people in all of those other crappy countries. America is a flawless giant, dammit, and just look at how perceptive American voters are, too!

“The Republican nominee should use the president’s own words and actions to portray him as naive and weak on foreign affairs. Obama’s failed promises, missed opportunities, and erratic shifts suggest he is out of touch and in over his head.”

Karl, do you remember anything of the presidency of George W. Bush, or have you simply blocked it all out?

“The Republican candidate must address at least four vital areas. The most important is the struggle that will define this century’s arc: radical Islamic terrorism. He should make the case that victory must be America’s national goal, not merely seeking to “delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out,” as Obama’s May 2010 National Security Strategy put it. As in the Cold War, victory will require sustained U.S. involvement and a willingness to deploy all tools of influence — from diplomacy to economic ties, from intelligence efforts to military action.”

I thought that this 2012 election was all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS – oh, wait, that was the 2010 mid-terms, or…well some election was/is supposed to be about JOBS…I think.

“Second, the Republican candidate must condemn the president’s precipitous drawdown in Afghanistan and his deep, dangerous defense-budget cuts. Both are viewed skeptically by the military: The former emboldens America’s adversaries and discourages its allies; the latter is of deep concern to veterans and other Americans who doubt Obama’s commitment to the military.”

Jeebus knows that we don’t want to “precipitously” leave Afghanistan after, what, only eleven years or so? And didn’t I hear that President Obama has actually increased the defense budget?

“During the 2008 campaign, he also argued that Iran was a “tiny” country that didn’t “pose a serious threat.” How foolish that now seems.”

“In part because of how he has mishandled the Iranian threat, Obama has lost much political and financial support in the American Jewish community. His approach to Israel must be presented as similarly weak and untrustworthy. The Republican candidate must make clear the existential threat to Israel from a nuclear-armed Iran…”

We certainly wouldn’t want Israel to defend itself all alone, with only a few hundred nuclear weapons, against a possible/future/maybe-nuclear-armed Iran, now would we?

Obama recognizes that he’s seen as “cold and aloof,” and the Republican nominee should hammer this point home. The president has few real friends abroad (excepting, of course, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he told Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria). The Republican nominee should criticize Obama for not understanding that the U.S. president’s personal engagement is essential for effective global leadership. Obama’s lack of regular close contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which has destroyed relationships with America’s erstwhile allies, is simply the most jarring, inexplicable example of this president’s hands-off approach.

If the Republican candidate turns out to be Mitt Romney, our allies (and enemies, too!) will be SO overwhelmed by the “warm and fuzzies.” So, President Obama hasn’t been calling al-Maliki and Karzai as much as Rove and Gillespie think he should? What are they, Obama’s mother?

“Because the fall campaign must be devoted to promoting the Republican message on jobs and the economy, the GOP nominee must share his big foreign-policy vision no later than early summer.”

“The fourth line of attack must be about America’s fragile economy and how to restore it. Many voters think Obama’s stewardship of the economy has been inconsistent and even counterproductive.”

Of course, talking about jobs and the economy can wait until the fall – it gives the Republican nominee that much more time to think of something other than “cut taxes and regulations for corporations” and “make the Bush tax cuts permanent.”

“Undoubtedly, Obama will attempt to preempt criticism of his foreign policy by repeating endlessly that Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. By campaign’s end, some voters will wonder whether the president personally delivered the kill shot.”

Yes, undoubtedly, ’cause that’s what Rove and Gillespie would do – it would definitely convince “some voters”, i.e., FuxNews-watchers.

“Absent a major international crisis, this election will be largely about jobs, spending, health care, and energy. Voters do, however, want a president who leads on the world stage and a commander in chief who projects strength, not weakness.”

What the…”absent a major international crisis”? Such as, Karl?

“A November 2011 survey conducted by Resurgent Republic showed that 50 percent of voters (as well as 54 percent of self-identified independents) think America’s standing in the world is worse under Obama, while only 21 percent believe it is better. This represents a sharp drop from April 2010, when 50 percent of voters (and 49 percent of independents) believed Obama had improved America’s standing.

That’s because Obama has failed to become a strong international leader, and the Republican nominee must reinforce this message — one most Americans already believe. Foreign policy is a weakness for this president, not a strength.”

Hey, guess who’s a Board Member at Resurgent Republic? Why, good old Ed Gillespie!

Hmmm, I don’t think that your advice is so hot, Karl (and Ed.) Maybe they should read another article at Foreign Policy magazine that refutes their arguments.

Regardless of whether or not Rove and Gillespie’s advice is useful, I don’t think that either of the current ‘leaders’ for the Republican nomination would be capable of following it.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to opine on this or any other topic.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 27th: …and in other news…

After mulling over topics for today’s post, I decided to just present a mixed bag of ‘things that caught my eye on the internets during the past few days.’ The articles range from serious to tongue-in-cheek to outright ridiculous. The following are from Foreign Policy Magazine online and from Newsmax.

From FP: The title of Ryan Caldwell’s article, “An Islamist, a Liberal, and a Former Regime Loyalist Walk into a Cafe”, snagged my attention. The article gave an interesting presentation of the post-Gaddafi views of three Libyans of different stripes working together. Also, for some reason I found it just wondrous that the interview was done via Skype, from Caldwell’s home in California to a cafe in Benghazi. Plus I learned that ‘celebratory gunfire’ is called rasaas al-farah, which means, literally, “bullets of joy.”

From FP: In “Dumb Power: Republicans Introduce the “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” Foreign Policy”, David Rothkopf gives his reaction to the Republican debate on foreign policy.

From Newsmax: In the Newsmax “Breaking News” email, this article was billed as “Thomas Sowell: Herman Cain Is Real Black, Obama Not Typical“. The article includes such tidbits as:

“His prescription for fixing the economy: “I would love to have a constitutional amendment that says politicians are not allowed to intervene in the economy under any circumstances. I think there would be a boom following that.””

From Newsmax: The title of “Hensarling: Supercommittee Need Not Cut Entitlements” sounds hopeful, doesn’t it? Sure…read the whole article: Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of this “Supercommittee”, has some strange ideas. Here’s one:

“I would like to pick up the Internal Revenue Code by its roots and throw it into the nearest trash can. Having said that, realistically, that’s probably a bridge too far for this committee,”


From Newsmax
: And finally, Frank Gaffney being Frank Gaffney:

“Frank Gaffney warned in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview: “I’m afraid there’s a war coming, a very serious, perhaps cataclysmic regional war,” he said. “It will be presumably over, at least in part, the future existence of the state of Israel. It may involve all of its neighbors, as they have in the past, attacking Israel to try, as they say, to drive the Jews into the sea.””

Enjoy!

This is our Open Thread. I’m sure you can find something to say about any one of the above, so Speak Up!

Sarah Palin speaks in Hong Kong – Here’s the transcript, wink, wink..

This is far too precious to hide away in a comment on an open thread.

In her first trip to the region, the former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin addressed an annual conference of investors in Hong Kong in what was billed as a wide-ranging talk about governance, economics and U.S. and Asian affairs.

The Zoo’s regular contributor and guest-blogger 5thstate has issued a transcript of the speech as it could have been. As no journalists were allowed in at that event, we will have to take 5thstate at his word, you betcha!

Hi-ya (wink).

It’s really great to be here in this great nation of Hong Kong with all you patriotic Kongans to tell ya about governance, economics and U.S. and the Asian affairs also.
Ya kno Todd is part Eskimo so he’s just like ya, except he’s a much better driver.

I’m going to call it like I see it and I will share with you candidly a view right from Main Street, Main Street U.S.A., from where you can see those pesky Russians from and how perhaps my view of Main Street , how that affects you and your business, because as Governor of Alaska government interference got us into this mess in the first place in the respect that proud Alaskans like me aren’t interested in government fixes, we’re interested in freedom and the Reaganomics also and those things that Margaret Thatcher did in the Kingdom of Britain as well so now 10 months later, though, a lot of Americans are asking: more government? Is that the change we want?

Because that fella said some nebulous utopian sounding things with his health care reforms and death panels that infringe on private enterprise that real Americans aren’t comfortable with and it’s also like the Uighurs and the Han goin’ at-it but ya know ya just don’t seem to have any mechanisms to deal with regional ethnic issues and maybe you should get some of those ethnic mechanics also, too, don’tcha think? So that’s a business opportunity that can affect you in this great state of Asia without government interference interfering with your governance and freedom like I’ve been fighting for in the great state of Alaska also in that respect because it is in the interest of our safety for China to work out its contradictions and ya know we hope for china to rise responsibly because that fella in the White House over there is cutting the defense budget whilst I’ve seen Russia beef up when I go jogging and I bet you’ve seen China doing the same thing because its got to be about jobs also and if it weren’t for America’s commitment to security in this region your economic prosperity wouldn’t be on account of those missiles pointed at Taiwan and we don’t want a one-nation Asia do we?

But I’m glad the press isn’t here makin’ things-up, like I’m trying to burnish my foreign policy credentials, because I’m just here to benefit my knowledge base and defray some legal bills, you betcha.

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Now, this is not acceptable Mr President!

The Guardian reports:

US threats mean evidence of British resident’s Guantánamo torture must stay secret, judges rule

The US government obviously has blackmailed the UK into not releasing details about Guantanamo torture and threatened the country with such dire consequences that UK judges ruled evidence of torture must remain secret due to the severity of the consequences for Britain’s safety,

Here’s the same story from The Times The Telegraph The Independent

The Independent has the most extensive quotes from the ruling:

“Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials … relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.

“We had no reason … to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports.”

In another part of the ruling, the judges said they had been informed by lawyers for Foreign Secretary David Miliband that the threat to withdraw co-operation remained even under President Barack Obama’s new administration.

I was wondering how long it took until I got mad at President Obama. It didn’t take long. I still give him the it’s-the-first-100-days-and-you-can’t-do-everything-at-once benefit of the doubt, but only just. This is not the kind of foreign policy I expect and President Obama promised. This gag order must go.

Chaos & Abroad: Israel vs. Gaza

Now let me take a moment to address the current crisis in Israel, which just sent ground troops into Gaza during the last twenty-four hours. I’m I the only one that thinks three days of air bombing and a ground invasion is no way to reduce the terrorist threat coming from the region? That’s the problem with militaristic thinking. It demands aggressive responses that are often times disproportional to the original offense, and serve to inflate the ranks of the very militant organizations Israel is attempting to subdue. I don’t disagree that Israel must respond to rocket launches which injure and kill dozens if not hundreds of Israelis a year, but to so in such a way as to engender further hostility from the very population they’re attempting to forge a stable, respectful relationship with seems counter productive.

But then, how exactly do you deal with faceless attackers who can easily disappear among the Palestinian population? I suppose the simple truth of the matter is that Israel needs to pursue negotiations and solutions for the low-level problems. I remember when Hamas came to power through open elections, many observers believed they won not due to their hostile rhetoric against Israel, but due to their ability to provide basic municipal services to the Palestinian people — trash pick-up, water service, medical care, etc. Thankfully, this ties in to our president-elect’s philosophy regarding foreign policy. A policy known as “dignity promotion,” which in layman’s terms means that when a population feels satisfied with their lives, they are less likely to join militant groups. My favorite political magazine, The American Prospect, did a feature on Obama’s foreign policy team last spring, and if you haven’t read it yet already, now is the time to take a look. Here’s a brief excerpt…

Obama is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades. It cuts to the heart of traditional Democratic timidity. “It’s time to reject the counsel that says the American people would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right,” Obama said in a January speech. “It’s time to say that we are the party that is going to be strong and right.” (The Democrat who counseled that Americans wanted someone strong and wrong, not weak and right? That was Bill Clinton in 2002.)

Most of the members of Obama’s foreign-policy team expressed frustration that they had taken a well-considered and seemingly anodyne position on Iraq and suffered for it. Obama had something similar happen to him in the spring and summer of 2007. He was attacked from the left and the right for saying three things that should not have been controversial: that if he had actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan but no cooperation from the Pakistani government, he would take out the jihadists; that he wouldn’t use nuclear weapons on terrorist training camps; and that he would be willing to meet with leaders of rogue states in his first year as president. “No one [of Obama's critics] had thought through the policy because that was the quote-unquote naïve and weak position, so they said it was a bad position to take,” recalls Ben Rhodes, the adviser who writes Obama’s foreign-policy speeches. “And it was a seminal moment, because Obama himself said, ‘No, I’m right about this!’”

This is why, Obama’s advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise — because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. “It’s about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe,” Gration says. “Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I’m concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years.”

To summarize: if given a choice between chaos and stability, human beings will choose stability almost every time, regardless of who brings it. That’s why humans will live under the thumb of brutish sorts such as Saddam Hussein (and many others). This is an idea as old as Hobbes and Locke (see their work on the “state of nature”), and frankly is the seed from which all civilization springs. Further, in times of especially dangerous crisis, when faced with chaos and destruction — and when Israel is bombing residential areas in the Gaza strip (justified or not), a chaotic, uncertain world is certainly where the Palestinians find themselves — humans will turn to militant, authoritarian regimes, especially if that regime can point to an ethnic or economic class as a scapegoat. I hate to pick such an obvious example, but think of Hitler’s rise to power much of which he obtained by vilifying the German Jewish population. This same idea plays out in the Republicans’ “Southern Strategy” as began under Nixon which is literally little more than race-baiting in nice clothes.

But back to Iran, while Iran may never possess Germany’s power (economically or militaristic), simply finding a villain to rage against can, in-and-of itself, unite a nation. It can even incite a nation to do terrible things in a vain attempt. Things which have little if any chance of helping a nation achieve its long term goals. A government willing to strike back, enforce strict laws, vilify its enemies and create scapegoats puts itself in a position that largely limits their ability to negotiate agreements with that party of which they’ve spent months if not years creating a monstrous caricature. It may win points in the short-term, but it does nothing to secure future stability. If anything, it serves to only heighten the tension between two nations.

So, if I had to sum up this series of events in one phrase, it word would be “cluster fuck.”

UPDATE: For those who wish to take action, you can sign J Street’s petition calling for a ceasefire here. Or you can download one of their flyers to post around your town or campus. In the meantime, I strongly recommend you make J Street one of your daily blogs. Smart, insightful, and at odds with U.S. and Israeli foreign policy thus far. These guys are true thinkers for the 21st century.

McCain Gets Foreign Policy Advice From Sarah Palin – OMG

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I swear this is exactly what McCain said this morning to NPR. I had to read it twice to make sure something wasn’t wrong with my contacts. This is starting to sound like a satire piece already. I realize McCain is trying desperately to pump up Sarah Palin to the general public, but please, I can only stomach so much BS in one day. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry when I read that statement. Here is what McCain had to say to NPR today


Given what you’ve said, senator, is there an occasion where you could imagine turning to Gov. Palin for advice in a foreign policy crisis?

I’ve turned to her advice many times in the past. I can’t imagine turning to Sen. Obama or Sen. Biden, because they’ve been wrong. They were wrong about Iraq, they were wrong about Russia. Sen. Biden wanted to divide Iraq into three different countries. He voted against the first Gulf War. Sen. Obama has no experience whatsoever and has been wrong in the issues that he’s been involved in.

But would you turn to Gov. Palin?

I certainly wouldn’t turn to them, and I already have turned to Gov. Palin, particularly on energy issues, and I’ve appreciated her background and knowledge on that and many other issues.

Here is the part of the interview where the Senator is asked about the VP debate and Joe Biden. I love the snarky question about Alaska’s proximity to Russia. Also, Steve asks a very important question about her knowledge of the International Energy Market. Now don’t laugh Steve was being very serious.

Senator, as you know, the vice presidential debate comes on Thursday – your running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, against Joe Biden. Gov. Palin has been asked about her foreign policy qualifications and cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as one reason she’s qualified. I’d like to ask you, senator, what specifically do you believe that Alaska’s proximity to Russia adds to Palin’s foreign policy qualifications?
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Clinton on Obama: Soft vs. Hard Power (The Future of Foreign Policy)

UPDATE: This post is getting close to being on the Rec List at Daily Kos.  If you like what you read, you could help spread the message by going here and recommending it.

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Here’s something that stands out to me as being remarkably telling and fantastically uplifting about what we can expect to see from an Obama administration. Bill Clinton gave Barack Obama a moving introduction today at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. In particular, he told of a meeting he and Sen. Obama had just a few weeks ago — on September 11th, in fact — at his offices in Harlem. The key quote:

He recalled Obama’s first question: “What is the matter with the way America is organized to exercise our soft power?”—by which he meant the capacity to deal with disease, poverty and conflict via nonmilitary and aid-oriented means. To Clinton, this was a sign of Obama’s extraordinary intelligence and preparedness for the presidency, which he compared favorably with his own readiness as a candidate in 1992.

Now, there are two types of power considered in diplomacy and foreign relations: soft power and hard power. As you might imagine, hard power describes militaristic and coercive means to achieve national goals. Soft power is country’s ability to affect change through non-military means by those listed in the quoted passage above, as well as through a nation’s cultural influence on the world at large, and a its ability to lead by positive moral example.

After eight years of an administration which has relied almost entirely on hard power to achieve its ends, a policy which has largely failed the American public at a time when foreign threats are rightly a key concern, and the destabilization of governments in the Middle East and Eurasia threaten to allow extremist groups to gain further influence among largely impoverished and oppressed populations, it is time that we re-evaluated our reliance on these types of tactics.

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Palin Plays Presidential

Sarah Palin, who has never been out of the country until last year, whose foreign experience has been touted by John McCain, Cindy McCain, Steve Doocy and others, as being so close to Russia she can see it, met with foreign leaders yesterday.  In a rare move, when the McCain camp barred reporters from the meeting, they rose up against the kind of politics played more in the areas of Syria and Pakistan than the United States of America.

Palin met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and upon entering the room where President Zardari was, was met by Pakastan’s Information Ministor and had the following exchange with Ms. Palin:

“And how does one keep looking that good when one is that busy?,” Rehman asked, drawing friendly laughter from the room when she complimented Palin.

“Oh, thank you,” Palin said.

Palin then met with the Pakistani President. They shook hands and Palin said that she was honored to meet him. Their exchange consisted of:

Zardari then called her “gorgeous” and said: “Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you.”

“You are so nice,” Palin said, smiling. “Thank you.”

A handler from Zardari’s entourage then told the two politicians to keep shaking hands for the cameras.

“If he’s insisting, I might hug,” Zardari said. Palin smiled politely.

As she was leaving, a reporter asked how the conversation went, Palin answered:

“It’s going great. These meetings are very informative and helpful, and a lot of good people sharing appreciation for America.”

Later, Palin and McCain met with Georgian President President Mikheil Saakashvilli and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Reporters were allowed in the room briefly, and one reporter managed to ask:

Governor, what have you learned from your meetings?

McCain aide Brooke Buchanan intervened and shepherded everybody out of the room.

Palin looked surprised, leaned over to McCain and asked him a question, to which your pooler thinks he shook his head as if to say “No.”

Steve Benen adds:

Look, “What have you learned from your meetings?” is an easy one. It’s not a trick question, or a “gotcha” question, or even a question intended to do test Palin’s limited understand of international affairs. She could have easily said something like, “I’ve been encouraged by how much support the United States continues to enjoy around the world.” No muss, no fuss. It’s not rocket science.

But, no. The McCain campaign apparently believes the Republican vice presidential nominee is some kind of child, under strict instructions not to speak. Palin has no doubt been receiving extensive briefings on a variety of subjects, and could probably handle a random question or two, but the McCain gang is so convinced of her incompetence, they’re just not willing to take the risk — even after a genuine media backlash has begun in earnest in response to the campaign’s heavy-handed approach.

How is that foreign policy experience working so far?  Do YOU feel confident in her ability to deal with a major crisis, one possibly involving the massive nuclear arsenal the US is in possession of? Along with her beliefs in the End Times and that her state, Alaska, will play a big part when the world ends, should make any thinking person wary of there ever being the possibilitiy of a President Palin.

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First Presidential Debate Showdown-Friday!

In this corner, Barack Obama at 47–on a surge of momentum-looking confident and poised. In the other corner, John McCain at 72–under intense pressure not to show any hesitation-looks tired and confused.

Barack Obama and John McCain clash on Friday in the first of three crucial one-on-one debates, which have the potential to make or wreck their rival challenges for the White House.

The foes will clash at a rare moment of national peril, with the staggering US financial system spawning a global crisis, the stock market reeling and the life savings of millions of Americans in the balance. Tens of millions of television viewers are expected to tune into the contest, in Oxford, Mississippi at 9 pm on Friday, five weeks before election day.

Who will be assisting Obama in getting ready for the big debate? The Washington Times has the answer:

Preparing Sen. Obama is Ron Klain, who assisted Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore in the debates. Also, Obama will hole up in Tampa, Fla., where veteran lawyer Greg Craig will play the role of Mr. McCain in practice sessions.

Both campaigns have made an agreement for the topics of this debate.

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McCain’s Supposed Strength

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John McCain has repeatedly said that he knows more about Foreign Policy than he does about the economy.  Well, when it’s politically expedient.  Here’s a reminder:

Yet this morning, McCain again showed not just his inability to know or understand who the friends of America are, but, even when guided by the interviewer, still couldn’t manage to make a coherent statement; he simply repeated his Talking Points du Jour ™; and more belligerence towards everyone, including American allies, in this case, Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, a NATO ally.

Is McCain confused on who our allies are or is he just refusing to respond to the question of whether he would meet with Zapatero; rejecting Spain AS an American ally?

McCain continually touts his knowledge and understanding of all things foreign, yet consistently makes mistakes on those very policies where he is the supposed expert.

Steve Benen says it best:

McCain thinks the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia was “the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War.” He thinks Iraq and Pakistan share a border. He believes Czechoslovakia is still a country. He’s been confused about the difference between Sudan and Somalia. He’s been confused about whether he wants more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, more NATO troops in Afghanistan, or both. He’s been confused about how many U.S. troops are in Iraq. He’s been confused about whether the U.S. can maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. He’s been confused about Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda. He’s been confused about the difference between Sunni and Shi’ia. McCain, following a recent trip to Germany, even referred to “President Putin of Germany.” All of this incoherence on his signature issue.

I will venture to guess that compared to his running mate, McCain is an expert – in just about everything.  Sarah Palin has problems getting the American landscape right, let alone anything in the foreign arena. It’s a big world out there, Sarah.  Simply being able to see the Russian front from somewhere in your state is far from sufficient to become first in line to the presidency.  FWIW, Iowa doesn’t seem to be impressed.

Palin Gets Crash Course in Foreign Policy 101

The McCain team has hastily assembled a team of former Bush White House aides to tutor the vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on foreign-policy issues, to write her speeches and to begin preparing her for her all-important Oct. 2 debate against Sen. Joe Biden.

Steve Biegun, who once served as the No. 3 National Security Council official under Condoleezza Rice at the White House, has been hired as chief foreign-policy adviser to the Alaska governor.  After taking leave from his job as vice president for international affairs at Ford Motor Co. last Friday, Biegun flew to St. Paul and, together with McCain’s foreign-policy guru Randy Schuenemann, began briefings for Palin on national-security issues—an area where her resume is conspicuously thin.  (That is just their nice way of stating that she has absolutely no experience in foreign policy or national-security issues.)

Biegun is hardly the only Bushie to be tapped for Palin duty. Among others:

Matt Scully, a former Bush White House speechwriter, is working on Palin’s acceptance speech to the convention Wednesday night.

Mark Wallace, a former lawyer for the Bush 2000 campaign who served in a variety of administration jobs including chief counsel, has been put in charge of “prep” for the debate against Biden.

Wallace’s wife, Nicolle Wallace, the former White House communications director, has taken over the same job for Palin.

Tucker Eskew, another senior Bush White House communications aide, is serving as senior counselor to Palin’s operation.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former chief economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who has been serving as top economics guru for the McCain campaign, has moved over to serve as Palin’s chief domestic-policy adviser.

The proliferation of former Bush White House aides in the Palin team may strike some as ironic-and could even provide some fodder for the Democrats-given the McCain camp’s efforts to distance itself from the unpopular president. (It has been widely noted, for example, that while the president is addressing the convention tonight by satellite, neither the president nor Vice President Cheney will be coming anywhere near St. Paul. And when Palin’s selection was announced last week, McCain aides touted it as an example of the senator returning to his “reformer roots” and rebelling against the GOP establishment.)

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Barack Obama, Willy Brandt and Foreign Policy

Picture: German Chancellor Willy Brandt at the Warsaw memorial for the Ghetto Uprising

“The American people don’t have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I will need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis or rely on advisers to advise me on foreign affairs,” (Hillary Clinton)

“We need to rediscover the power of diplomacy. So I said very early on in this campaign that I will meet not just with our friends but with our enemies, not just the leaders I like, but leaders I don’t,” (Barack Obama

Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy platform was harshly criticized by Senator Clinton yesterday. In answer to that, let me tell you about another man in another time in another country in a no less difficult situation and his audacity to talk to what you would call rogue states today:

World War II has left Germany a divided nation and the tensions among the former allies and Russia developed into a cold war which left the country with the iron curtain right through the middle of the nation. Two inimical ideological systems met in the very city, that used to be the nation’s capital and made Germany into the frontier of this cold war. Having the threat of the opposing regime right on your doorstep made Western Germany into a staunch ally in the American “War on Communism”. To Germans the Soviet Union was the ultimate evil empire, long before Ronald Reagan coined the phrase. Diplomatic relations with the second German State were out of the question.

In 1969 the ruling Christian Democrats lost their majority to a coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals under chancellor Willy Brandt. A year later only, Willy Brandt was visiting Warsaw and had started his Ostpolitik which led to a very decidedly improved situation at the frontier of the cold war and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971. Political prisoners had a chance to be extradited from communist Germany to the Federal Republic, there was suddenly a restricted but still existant possibility to travel to and fro.

The political system of the Federal Republic of Germany was a democracy, but could German citizens be trusted with a really liberal society? Willy Brandt’s idea was “to chance democracy”, giving Germans civil liberties they have not experienced in a long time, if ever before.

It goes without saying that there were many who decried Willy Brandt as a traitor for dealing with communists and for his humble gesture of apology and respect to the victims of the German atrocities in the Warsaw ghetto (see picture above). The civil liberties given to the Germans left the right wingers foaming at the mouth. But Willy Brandt had the audacity to do something to relieve the strain on a torn nation. He gave hope to the citzens of the other Germany and the feeling that they still belonged. He changed the society and the foreign policies of Germany to a degree that ultimately earned us the respect and the status of a mature democracy that was unthinkable only 25 years before.

For bold policies like these, there is no instruction manual, Senator Clinton, there is only the good judgment necessary of what is right and needs to be done!

“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” (Eric Hoffer)

“Europeanview” wishes you all a happy and healthy Tuesday, take care.