Contrary to the opinion of Christopher Matthews, life is not a campaign. In democratically organized polities there are processes called elections in which candidates seek to persuade electors to vote for them. In the course of doing that, they also seek to persuade electors that they should not vote for their opponents. To accomplish that, they strike rhetorical poses on "the stump" that are often essentially meaningless. This campaign drivel should not be taken very seriously as indication of personal animus or policy intent. Perhaps the broad strokes have some meaning but certainly not the detail.
Translation: Obama’s intent to diplomatize the foreign policy of the United States should be taken seriously. His campaign debate with Secretary-designate Clinton over her vote concerning the Iraq War should not be taken as anything other than the trivia of the political process.
As Obama said today, the press is entitled to "have fun" by trying to treat seriously the things said in the campaigning. The rest of us should watch their antics with the amused boredom that they deserve. pl
PS. I think HC will be a great Secretary of State.
pl: The rest of us should watch their antics with the amused boredom that they deserve.
Any thoughts on what follows?
NBC and McCaffrey’s coordinated responses to the NYT story
Col. Lang, this is corporate “news”. They are more concerned with entertainment and drama. Has been this way since OJ and possibly before.
Attempting to foment faux battles between BO & HRC & endless speculation on same will likely occupy much of the 24-7 news channel chatter for some time (yawn). It helps Matthews & other talking heads avoid having to tax themselves discussing policy or other actually pertinent questions in any depth.
There’s no reason to believe she won’t be a “great” Sec. of State.
I’m not a fan of Sen. Clinton, however, I believe she gives her all to whatever endeavor she takes up, and she also learns from her mistakes. I believe she knows exactly why healthcare reform failed in ’94, why her Yes vote on the Iraq war was wrong, and why her presidential campaign failed in 2008.
All the hand wringing and chatter about “she’s too political” or “she’s a leader, not a follower” or “her ego” is poppycock.
She’s a chameleon – in a good way. She adapts to whatever the circumstances warrant, and she rises to the occasion. Currently, I don’t think she has ambitions beyond being a “great” Sec. of State. She does the next indicated karmic assignment – and does it to the best of her ability. She’s on to the next chapter in her life. She’s in it for the journey, not the destination.
I also think you’ll see her “Israel, right or wrong” positions left behind with her New York constituency. Political expediency is something she does well.
i, too, think hrc will be a terrific sos — and i’m not a particular fan of hers. what’s endlessly irritating/fascinating is watching the entrenched wdc commentariat work themselves into a bubbling lather over the clintons — but esp the grotesqueries directed at hillary: ‘the shadow government’ accusations esp promoted by that drooling idiot, er, christopher matthews.
it’s amazing how much animosity these gossips (dinner party chatter that is passed off as astute political analysis) have held onto for these many years over a friggin blowjob. and that’s really what this is all about.
Thanks as always for your perspective. What I’ve been visiting your site to see since the election is your reaction to the direction and composition of Team Obama.
I, too, think HRC will make a great Sec. of State. It will be nice to have one again after eight years. I generally approve of Gen. Jones and Def. Sec. Gates as excellent tools for the problems we are trying to fix. Susan Rice and Janet Napolitano come highly recommended but we know little of them. Holder, Blair, etc.? Out here three thousand miles outside the Beltway we know little of these figures.
Could we hear from you a reasoned and expert analysis of these figures and the agencies they now control? We’re getting a lot of shallow pop analysis from journalists who maybe met some of these people once or not at all. I would be grateful to hear any and all of your thoughts regarding this team, especially where it may be improved.
Or, put differently, if President-Elect Patrick Lang was putting together his Cabinet, what names would we be likely to hear?
I agree with Ormolov:
if President-Elect Patrick Lang was putting together his Cabinet, what names would we be likely to hear?
Pat, give us ‘your cabinet picks’, and the reasons you pick them for their posts.
HRC finally gets to run something really big. Her competence is great. Anyone who could manage Bill Clinton even part of the time will have no problem with the STATE DEPARTMENT.
On the Jones selection as NSC Advisor this is a crucial link wherein sensitivity to the operational vis a vis policy will be a tempting field for even a Four Star to confuse. But based on his career nunaces are a Jones speciality. The charter of the NSC (Statutory) precludes operational activity in my opinion. Personally I would have liked to have seen a true civilian since I think the militarization of the NSC since Reagan has created huge long-term problems for the United States. With much of the NSC staff detaillees from DOD and the Military what is the liklihood they will oppose those who might be responsible for their promotions. Not really fair and balanced.
Obama needs to find somebody better suited to ODNI than Blair. Based on his past behavior, Blair will become a major headache, as he will politicize intel if he thinks it benefits him.
This is just for humor, but they actually established a school to teach aspiring pundits the art of being rude, shallow, and silly.
It appears to me that Blair and Jones may have been McCain suggestions. Any thoughts anyone? pl
Like a good HUMINT operator, the Colonel has put the bait out with, “I think HC will be a great Secretary of State”. This has caused me to come in from the cold, and at least say a little something about the horrid selections of president-elect Obama, although I have no opinion on General Jim Jones as National Security Advisor and Janet Napolitano as Secretary of the Stasi, I mean, the Department of Homeland Security, since I have heard little about them.
During the primary campaigns, I posted pessimistic comments on this weblog about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and my thoughts have not changed. Nor will we, I am afraid, see much “change”, although I hope I am wrong about that.
One of the sillier and more vociferous of the so-called neocons is one Max Boot. He is elevated to heights of ecstasy over Obama’s selections.
Let’s read what Mr. Boot has to say–
“As someone who was skeptical of Obama’s moderate posturing during the campaign, I have to admit that I am gobsmacked by these appointments , most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain. (Jim Jones is an old friend of McCain’s, and McCain almost certainly would have asked Gates to stay on as well.) This all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators, and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign. His appointments suggest that, if anything, his administration will have a Reapolitiker, rather than a liberal, bent, although Clinton and Steinberg at State should be powerful voices for ‘neo-liberalism’ which is not so different in many respects from ‘neo-conservativism’. Both, for instance, support humanitarian interventions in places like Darfur and Bosnia.”
“Combined with the moderation of the economic team that Obama has just named, I would say his administration already far exceeds expectations, and he hasn’t even taken office yet.”
The above article is on the website of Commentary Magazine. Enough said.
More disconcerting is that both Karl Rove and Joe “Trojan Horse” Lieberman seem utterly comfortable with the Obama picks.
What is that old saying … “the people in government are the policy?”
If we assume that president Bush jr. did not take office planning on doing what he did, it is not hard to see how certain people in certain key positions in the federal government were able to provide a push for the Iraq war in what retired General William Odom (God rest his soul) called “the greatest strategic disaster in United States history”.
If Barack Obama was nice enough to let us know that his campaign was a tissue of lies, that is, that the press can “have fun” trying to treat seriously what he said during the campaign, then that raises the question: on what do “the people” base their votes at election time in order to give some substance to a democratic republic?
Where is the true remorse, not feigned “concern”, by Hillary Clinton and the other appointees, for the over 4 million Iraqis who have been driven from their homes, about half refugees in their own country and the others refugees in other countries?
Has Ms. Clinton jetted over to Syria and neighboring countries to commiserate with the young Iraqi women, refugees of the “foreign policy” of the U.S., Britain, and Israel, which has led some of them into prostitution just to survive?
I should relate a true story. In January 2007, a rehabilitation center was opened here in San Antonio not far from the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) that was funded by private donations. That day I was driving near the airport and saw a small convoy come my way. After taking care of my business, I checked around, and Senator Hillary Clinton had been at the function formally opening the center, and she was in one of the SUV’s. So I went to the the facility where private planes go for service and to pick up passengers (FBO), and there were still a few Congressional or Secret Service security types around, as well as the workers and some others waiting for planes or with business there. I had a passing acquaintance with the staff, having been there a number of times before. The eyewitness report was that Hillary Clinton imperiously strode into the private terminal, did not look at anyone, did not smile at anyone, did not pause to greet and talk to anyone, but swept on through with an outlandish air of self-importance to the plane outside.
That’s Hillary Clinton.
I too will take the bait and register my skepticism about Hillary Clinton as SoS. Yes, she tried to “manage” her husband in a political sense and he ended up impeached and disgraced. With that snide remark aside, I’m left trying to think of any obvious instance where she mediated anything successfully. So why all the confidence in her negotiating powers? I suppose she did negotiate herself a SoS position, but that’s all I can come up with.
These flare-ups between unknowns in India/Pak will continue and will be stoked by the media. Will the U.S. enter the fray with Hillary first on the scene with an overly-hawkish “Joan of Arc” approach to the crisis? I’m thinking YES! I hope that she proves me wrong, but gleefulness of the neocons upon her selection fills me with dread.
I must also confess that my cautious optimism re Obama’s win is dissipating. It’s become clearer to me that he is a wolf–or rather a hawk — in sheep’s clothing. His pick of her was more revealing of that than I had ever anticipated.
Get Out Now,
or Get Out Later
Either way, we’ll be leaving. Thanksgiving week was remarkable because it may have witnessed the last nails being driven into the coffin of America’s ongoing colonial enterprise. On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai angrily denounced the creation of a parallel carpetbagger government to be run by the United States and NATO in his country. He demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign soldiers, noting that his countrymen no longer understand what the fighting is all about, particularly as they hear of wedding parties and school outings being blasted by the helicopters and warplanes of their ostensible allies. Karzai asked rhetorically how the insurgency can keep getting stronger when most of the world is united in an attempt to defeat it, and he reiterated his intention to negotiate with the Taliban leaders to bring peace.
On Thanksgiving Day itself, by a narrow margin, the Iraqi parliament voted for a new status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the United States that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. The neoconservatives have predictably declared that the SOFA represents victory, even though they have not read the document itself, which no one outside of the administration has seen in its English version. Leaks of the Arabic version and the horse-trading that preceded the ratification suggest that the final agreement was something less than a triumph for the Bush White House. Thousands of Iraqis demonstrated against a continued American presence, and there was virtually no interest in permitting either the open-ended U.S. military commitment or the immunity for American forces Washington demanded. U.S. forces reportedly can no longer detain Iraqi citizens, and both soldiers and contractors will be subject to Iraqi courts for serious crimes. American troops will be gone from Iraq’s cities by June 2009 and completely gone from the country by the end of 2011. The four major military bases envisioned to maintain a long-term American presence will never materialize, and the huge embassy on the banks of the Tigris will serve more as a mausoleum to American ambitions than as a seat of power for a U.S. viceroy.
Intelligence sources are also gloomy in their predictions, with some assessments indicating that deeply rooted antipathy toward the U.S. presence could drive American forces out of Iraq sooner rather than later, the SOFA notwithstanding. Iraq will eventually find its own way forward, though probably with much blood and suffering, but if there is one thing for sure it is that the United States will in all likelihood be neither a friend nor an ally to whatever type of government emerges. Dislike of Washington runs deep in all the political groups that make up the country, with the exception of the Kurds, who are seeking to leverage American support into their own independence, an objective strongly resisted by both Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs. Likewise in Afghanistan the United States will almost certainly be eventually viewed as just one more in a long series of invaders, all of whom were eventually defeated and left the country.
That the Afghans are demanding a timetable for Washington to leave and that the Iraqis have already set a deadline is remarkable, and it speaks to the declining role and possible irrelevance of the United States to what is going on in the Near East. If the United States has retained a shred of decency, then it will hopefully be willing to go when it is asked to do so. Apart from shoring up the unpopular regimes in place in both Afghanistan and Iraq to permit some sort of political settlement, Washington is no longer the essential nation in a region that it had set out to dominate by force of arms seven years ago. In a regional context, the removal of Saddam Hussein coupled with a blundering occupation and a failed reconstruction in both Iraq and Afghanistan has reinvigorated the terrorist threat and has empowered only Iran.
So what does the turn of events in Iraq and Afghanistan mean vis-à-vis Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Obama is only a “peace” candidate in relative terms, having committed himself to negotiating before he bombs. He has said that he will stay in Iraq as long as the generals recommend it, and he has not explicitly disowned the current U.S. policies of preemptive warfare and nation-building. He appears willing to consider regime change if it is applied selectively. Ever resolute in his AIPAC-fueled pledge to stop the Iranian nuclear program, he has also supported intervention in new regions like Darfur where the United States has no conceivable national interest. He has even out-Republicaned the Republicans in his pledge to use U.S. troops to aggressively pursue terrorists inside nuclear-armed Pakistan, an act of war that would further destabilize that unhappy land.
Wanting to draw down in Iraq and increase troop strength in Afghanistan, Obama is embracing taking one failed policy and transferring it somewhere else in hopes that it will succeed. He is also ignoring sage advice. The British and French have already indicated that the Afghan conflict cannot be won in any conventional sense, making the NATO commitment to the war questionable, to say the least. Even Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has stated that the United States cannot kill its way to victory in Afghanistan, indicating somewhat obliquely that he does not believe any surge in troop levels will provide a long-term solution.
The fact is that Barack Obama’s foreign policy is just Bush-lite: it embraces the principle that the judicious use of force is a good thing and that Washington should properly be the world’s policeman. Many Democratic stalwarts, including party leaders Steny Hoyer, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi, are at heart interventionists. Obama’s foreign policy team is troubling, most particularly in the choice of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff and of Hillary “Obliterate Iran” Clinton as his secretary of state. There has been some speculation that Obama is preempting criticism by AIPAC in naming two of the most pro-Israeli hawks in Congress to key positions, providing him with the political cover that he needs to pursue a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The analogy of Nixon going to China is sometimes cited, suggesting that only someone with a sustained record of criticism of an adversary would have the political credibility to take the bold steps necessary to shift the political playing field. But that analysis ignores a critical element, which is that changing China policy did not lead to confrontation with a major domestic constituency seeking to block any agreement. AIPAC would oppose giving anything to the Palestinians at the expense of Israel, and it has demonstrated that it has a de facto veto over Washington’s Middle East policy. Can anyone truly believe that Hillary Clinton will take a hard line with Israel, demanding that Tel Aviv stop and even roll back its settlement activity? Without such a bold step, no viable peace agreement is possible.
The other Obama foreign policy hypothesis, that Hillary Clinton will serve as a dutiful and obedient secretary of state carrying out the president’s policies reliably and without demur, is also little more than speculation. On the contrary, Clinton’s history and her thinly veiled ambitions would suggest the opposite, and her husband, a perpetual loose cannon on deck, also cannot be relied upon to be a team player. It is much more likely that Obama, recognizing that he is vulnerable on foreign policy and knowing that he will be watched closely, has decided to pursue a foreign policy that both AIPAC and Hillary will be comfortable with, which means that the Palestinians can kiss the next four years good-bye and Iran better look to its defenses.
Or maybe Obama, an intelligent man who appears to have a conscience, will quickly discover that Washington no longer has the resources to intervene by force when and where it chooses. The United States might find itself compelled to bring home the regiments and aircraft carriers as the burden of empire becomes insupportable, as in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Recessional” predicting the end of the British Empire: “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre.” Iraq and Afghanistan both want the United States to leave, but on their timetable. Perhaps it would be appropriate to move that timetable up in America’s own national interest and leave now before Washington truly becomes Nineveh on the Potomac.
I have my reservations about HRC as Secretary of State. They have mostly to do with her knee-jerk support of Israel, right or wrong.
But past that, I think she has both enormous energy and a powerful mind. Now that her run for the Presidency is over, she seems to be pulling out of her case of Potomac Fever quite nicely.
In fact, the photos taken of her these last few months seem to almost be of a different person. Maybe I’m seeing things that aren’t there. But she seems to be cleaner, less constrained. She seems happier.
I don’t think the last 8 years have been good for her. Her ambition has ridden her brutally, and I think it’s shown. Now that’s over. She seems to be recovering.
I’m not going to make a fuss about Obama choosing her as SecState. Given his own stated position on Israel, it’s going to be awhile before he wakes up and smells the stink from AIPAC and the Israel Lobby. That’s not a “Hillary” problem, it’s an “Obama” problem.
Interesting commentary on AIPAC ties, however not sure about there being “a wakeup and smell the stink” moment. I see no no indication of any Obama (now to include Hillary) changes to close AIPAC relationship. In fact, Joe Lieberman, Rahm Emanuel, are in place and ready to go for upcoming administration.
Re Hillary’s last 8 years,while they may not have been a political boon for her career, they’ve been massively benefical for the Clintons finances.
Oh, and I’m still waiting on that list of BClinton donors that everyone warned would be so detrimental to HClinton’s appointment. From potential dealbreaker to nary a press mention. I suppose we should move along, as that must mean there’s nothing to see here.
At this stage despite reservations we have to give Obama the benefit of doubt. As Obama and the Democrats roll out their legislative program and Obama’s performance to “unanticipated” events are known we can form better opinions.
A rule of thumb in investing is to buy when there’s blood in the streets and to sell when there’s euphoria. A friend that does business internationally constantly reminds me of the qualitative difference in infrastructure as well as the entrepreneurial spirit in East Asia relative to the US. The next few years will determine if we are up to the challenge. This can only take place with a colossal change in attitude towards savings rather than consumption, capital investments that lead to productivity gains and a return to bedrock principles. As the world recovers from this recession we will see the relative strengths of the next great powers. Where will the US stack up?