The Sanders Campaign Goes Drumpf

“Remember, one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counter-puncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first.” —Donald Drumpf

Let’s get something straight about what has been happening. Bernie Sanders, in a Drumpfed-up way, went after Hillary Clinton in a speech in Philadelphia—suggesting she wasn’t qualified to be president—for two reasons (which he stated in a press conference
tbernie in philadelphiahe next day in Philadelphia and which you can see on YouTube starting at around 9:45).

The first reason he gave was because he was pissed off after The Washington Post published a story with the headline, “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president,” a headline that the Post’s own fact-checker (“Sanders’s incorrect claim that Clinton called him ‘not qualified’ for the presidency”) called into question, while giving Bernie three Pinocchios for his false claim that Hillary actually said, in quotes, that he was “not qualified.”

The second reason Bernie got all Drumpfed up was because of a report by CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, who began his article (“Clinton plan: Defeat Sanders, then unify Democratic party“) this way:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders in the eyes of Democratic voters, hoping to extinguish the argument that he is an electable alternative for the party’s presidential nomination.

Zeleny  also wrote this in the article:

A Clinton campaign fundraising appeal after the Wisconsin primary offered a glimpse into the new approach. The campaign’s deputy communications director, Christina Reynolds, argued that Sanders is unqualified, sending a full transcript of a New York Daily News editorial board interview of Sanders.

You should note that Zeleny’s lede—“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders”—wasn’t something the reporter directly attributed to anyone in Clinton’s campaign, except Christina Reynolds. And you should note that he did not quote Reynolds as saying “Sanders is unqualified.” Much like The Washington Post’s story, this appears to be the case of a reporter interpreting, or misinterpreting, something that was said or distributed by the campaign.

The point, therefore, is that without any hard facts, with only a headline in a newspaper and a report by CNN that did not directly quote anyone in Clinton’s campaign or Hillary herself, Bernie did what Donald Drumpf has done when he has seen something in the news that he thought slighted him: attack without thinking.

In fact, like Drumpf, Bernie didn’t back away, even after it was clear he was wrong. The next day in that press conference in Philadelphia, he continued pushing the notion that the Clinton campaign had actually said it was trying to disqualify him. Then he dropped this Drumpf on us:

If Secretary Clinton thinks that just because I’m from a small state in Vermont and we’re gonna come here to New York and go to Pennsylvania and they’re gonna beat us up and they’re gonna go after us in some kind of really uncalled for way, that we’re not gonna fight back, well we got another — you know, they can guess again because that’s not the case. This campaign will fight back. So, when you have headlines in The Washington Post, quote, Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president, my response is, well, if you want to question my qualifications, let me suggest this: that maybe the American people might wonder about your qualifications, Madame Secretary…

Again, all that was based not on something that was directly attributed to anyone in the Clinton campaign, but only on press reports. If that doesn’t remind you of Drumpf, what does? Oh, I know, this:

weaver on cnn and isisI think if you look at her record and campaign, her campaign is funded by millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. She’s made a deal with the devil, and we all know the devil wants his money in the end. So that’s the kind of campaign she’s running. She supported the terrible trade deals which have devastated American manufacturing in the country. She supported the war in Iraq. She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS in the Middle East.

That Republican tripe wasn’t uttered by a Republican. It wasn’t uttered by Rudy Giuliani who said, “She helped create ISIS. I mean, Hillary Clinton could be considered a founding member of ISIS.” No, all that “deal with the devil” stuff was uttered by Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager. This morning Weaver doubled down on those disgusting remarks. After having that ridiculous ISIS claim read back to him, he was asked, “Is this a bridge too far?” He responded:

WEAVER: No, I don’t think so. I think a number of experts have pointed out that the vacuum that was created in Iraq after the Iraq War, with the deposing of Saddam Hussein, and the deposing of Qaddafi in Libya, you know, allowed ISIS to rise in Iraq and Syria and then allowed for its expansion into Libya. So, no I don’t think that’s the case. It’s not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many people who have studied this issue.

CNN: But Hillary Clinton is responsible for the vacuum that arose in Iraq?

WEAVER: Well, look, Hillary Clinton supported the war in Iraq, there’s no doubt about that. And it’s clear from a lot of reporting that she was a key voice in the administration pushing for the war in Libya. I think at one point there was talking about being a 50-50 split almost in the administration and her sort of tipping it over, so, yes, I do think you have to bear responsibility for things like that.

Is it fair to criticize Hillary for her Iraq vote? Absolutely. She has admitted it was a big mistake. Is it fair to blame her, and by extension President Obama, for the rise of ISIS? Absolutely not. And it should be scandalous that Weaver, like so many Republicans have done, did so. But not a peep from the “positive” campaigner, Bernie Sanders, who has every right to brag about his anti-war vote and his predictions about the consequences, but who is wrong to allow his top guy to say such outrageous things about Hillary Clinton.

Jeff Weaver kept mentioning Libya. Why? Because by now people have forgotten just why it was that a reluctant Obama, with Clinton’s urging, intervened there as part of an international coalition, initially led by France and Britain with our vital support. It was a tough decision at the time. Qaddafi had slaughtered many and was about to slaughter more anti-government protesters and rebels, who were asking for the West’s help. So were other Arab countries. Western nations were accused of moving too slowly to stop the bloodshed and violence. Eventually, the West did act. Qaddafi is gone. Conflict still remains. ISIS has a presence there and we are taking action against them. The new head of a UN-backed government is trying to bring enough stability to the country so that other nations can come in and help attack ISIS bases there. It’s all very messy.

But what would have happened if we would have allowed Qaddafi to slaughter so many of his own people? We have no idea. Nobody does. But we do know that people would be criticizing Obama and Clinton for inaction, just like in Syria, where we didn’t get involved in that civil war. This stuff ain’t easy, even if it is easy to criticize after the fact. But I want to note that in all those words he uttered, given all those chances, Jeff Weaver—again, Bernie’s campaign manager—couldn’t bring himself to mention George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or the warmongering neoconservatives who actually made the phony case for the Iraq war and who actually managed its aftermath so poorly that we find ourselves where we are today. All Weaver could do was blame Hillary Clinton, which was mighty Drumpf of him, since Drumpf said sometime back“Hillary Clinton created ISIS with Obama.” 

My, oh, my.

 

Conservatives Are Dangerous, And People Need To Know It

Democrats should go on the offensive and tell Americans just how dangerous conservatives are, in terms of the foreign policy of the United States.

As Ezra Klein pointed out last night, Mitt Romney’s intemperate attack on President Obama occurred about 16 hours after that now famous statement by an embassy staffer in Cairo was released. That was plenty of time to mull over the ramifications of his actions. The bottom line is that after all that time to think, he did not think wisely.

And that says something vitally important about him.

The New York Times reported that Romney’s “senior staff” all helped to craft Romney’s damning attack on the Commander-in-Chief. Assembling such a bumbling set of staffers also says something important about Romney.

But I want to focus on what unfortunately is the general conservative posture in moments like what happened on Tuesday—and what continues to happen today—as fanatical Muslims express ridiculously excessive outrage over insults to their religion.

This conservative posture—which infects Romney as much as any other conservative in the country—is dangerous because it is so, well, so unrestrained, so absent of sober judgment. Romney and his brain trust, conservatives all, displayed such a lack of sober judgement on Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning—and it continues.

But I have another example of such unrestrained posturing, this one important because it comes from someone who is supposed to be a thoughtful conservative, an intellectual of high regard, Charles Krauthammer.

However, before I get to that, I want to review the Cairo statement that started all of this nonsense, a statement we all need to remember that was released hours before Egyptians climbed the walls of our embassy:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

Now, make sure you read that statement carefully. You will notice very clearly that it is not an apology for American values, as Romney and conservatives insist to this day. Indeed, it could have been released during, say, the George W. Bush presidency.* No, wait. It could have been uttered by Mr. Bush himself, who said similar things throughout his two terms, like the following from November of 2002:

Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.

Bush made that statement in response to statements made by evangelicals Jerry Falwell (“I think Muhammad was a terrorist“) and Pat Robertson—now a valued Romney supporter—who said of Muhammad,

This man was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic. He was a robber and a brigand. And to say that these terrorists distort Islam? They’re carrying out Islam!

Personally, I don’t care what Jerry Falwell, who has now met or not met Allah in the hereafter, or Pat Robertson said about Muhammad. Or what either said about Jesus, for that matter. But George W. Bush did care what those two and others said about Islam’s most important prophet because he knew that such things coming from high-profile evangelicals could be used against Americans both here and abroad. He acted responsibly by saying that such views,

do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans.

That part at least George Bush got right as he fought his so-called War on Terror.

But I want to quote what Charles Krauthammer, the brains of conservatism on Fox “News,”  said on Tuesday evening in response to the Cairo embassy statement:

That statement is an embarrassment. That’s a hostage statement. That’s a mob of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Egypt forcing the United States into making a statement that essentially is an apology, on 9/11 of all days! For something for which we are not responsible.

I would issue a statement saying to the mob, “Go to hell.  The way America works, the way democracy works, is that everybody has a right to express themselves, we don’t police our speech, and you are to apologize to the United States for storming an embassy and the violation of the ultimate sacred principle of democracy which is protecting embassies and missions abroad.”

For the U.S. to essentially issue a veiled apology I think is disgraceful.

Now we know where Romney got the idea of attacking Mr. Obama, saying it was,

disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

Like Krauthammer, sitting comfortably in a Fox “News” studio, what American didn’t get outraged over the attacks on our embassy? Who wasn’t profoundly pissed that in Libya four Americans, including our ambassador, were murdered? And who didn’t want to tell the mobs to go to hell?

But don’t we expect more than misinformed bluster from the commentariat? From our political leaders?

The problem is not just that when Krauthammer uttered that feel-good stupidity, he didn’t have all the facts. And the problem isn’t just that he and his colleagues put the facts they did have in the wrong order and mistakenly believed the statement came after the embassy in Cairo was breached.

The larger problem is that since he made that half-baked, testosterone-laden statement, and by now knows the proper chronology of events, he hasn’t changed his cowboy posture. You can Google “Krauthammer apologizes for ‘Go to Hell’ remark” and you won’t find any evidence that he regrets shooting from the hip, jumping to conclusions.

In fact, you will find hits like this:

AWESOME! Krauthammer says he’d tell the Egyptian mob “GO TO HELL”

AWESOME! indeed.

I doubt if Krauthammer ever retracts his remarks, which were based on a falsehood. The record now will be forever muddled in muddled minds because the right-wing propaganda machine will keep it that way for exploitation. These folks make a living off the muddle.

The important thing to know about Krauthammering conservatives, who like to talk all big and tall and tough with outrage, is that few of them actually went overseas and acted on their outrage, acted out their foreign policy fantasies,  when they had the chance. They were, and remain, perfectly content to express their ballsy patriotism within the safety of our shores.

But American voters have to know that if they put these people back in power, if voters opt for knee-jerk diplomacy of the kind Krauthammer and other conservatives—including other conservative intellectuals— have advocated, then they should not only expect that the world will be an even more dangerous place for Americans, they should expect to send their sons and daughters to die in the wars that will follow such stupidity.

_____________________________

*Speaking of apologies, how about this from May of 2008:

BAGHDAD — President Bush has apologized to Iraq’s prime minister for an American sniper’s shooting of a Quran, and the Iraqi government called on U.S. military commanders to educate their soldiers to respect local religious beliefs.

Bush’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the president apologized during a videoconference Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told the president that the shooting of Islam’s holy book had disappointed and angered both the Iraqi people and their leaders.

“He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.”

_______________________________

One Fine Day

Well, I said yesterday that Romney’s attack on President Obama for “sympathizing” with those who attacked and killed American diplomats on Tuesday—I still can’t believe Romney made it necessary to write that—would require a “multitude of relatively sober Republican leaders in Congress” to step forth and “call this for what it is” or else “the Republican Party is truly beyond redemption.”

Okay, so let’s look at what happened.

Joe Scarborough, who has his hear tuned to the weird frequency congressional Republicans use to broadcast their bullshit, tweeted:

He was “inundated,” he said. Some inundation. Quiet as could be.

No Republican that I could find openly condemned Romney for suggesting not once but twice that President Obama essentially sided with those attacking American embassies in that he felt the need to “apologize” to them. Not one Republican.

Oh, to be sure, there weren’t that many Republicans willing to go all-in with Mittens, but neither were they rushing to call him out for his recklessness or his questionable patriotism.

Of course, I didn’t expect they would. But I did expect people like Richard Lugar, a veteran Republican who gets credit for being sensible on foreign policy matters, to strongly criticize Romney’s irresponsibility, especially since Ambassador Chris Stevens worked as a staffer for Lugar on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But no criticism of Romney came from Lugar. Only rightful praise for Chris Stevens, whose priceless service and sad death Romney stomped all over with his viscous and opportunistic attack on the Commander-in-Chief.

What about John McCain, who fancies himself, depending on what day it is, the de facto Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, and sometimes even the de facto President of the United States. What did he have to say?

Well, I saw McCain twice on Thursday morning defending Romney. And I mean defending him. Here’s how NBC wrote up his appearance on the Today show:

A day after he and many fellow Republicans showed restrained reaction to the White House’s response to the deadly attacks against American diplomats in Libya, Sen. John McCain on Thursday ripped into President Obama for “feckless foreign policy” he said is harming Middle East relations.

See? Romney lies about and attacks the Commander-in-Chief before McCain’s dead “friend” Chris Stevens is cold, and McCain, statesman that he is, rips Obama—the man who ordered bin Laden to the bottom of the sea—as “feckless.”  Thank Allah that guy never actually became president.

What about Rob Portman, who was a Paul Ryan cowlick away from being Romney’s VP pick? What did he have to say about Romney’s unpatriotic overreaction to a statement from our embassy in Cairo? On CBS This Morning, he said this:

I think for Governor Romney, having seen that statement, to react as he did is the reaction that most Americans would have…which is that at a time when we have this kind of violence against American territory, the thing to do is to condemn it and not to begin by issuing an apology…

Are you bleeping kidding me? Huh? First, Governor Romney is not just one of a breed we call “most Americans.” We don’t want a man in the White House who will react like Most Americans. We want one who actually gets all the facts right before he runs his mouth, a running mouth that will run all over the world.

Second, Portman, as interviewer Norah O’Donnell tried to point out to him, is simply spouting off without knowing the chronology of events. For the millionth time, the statement—not cleared by the White House but completely acceptable given the circumstances—issued by a staffer in the embassy in Cairo occurred about six hours before the breach of American territory happened, and Secretary Hillary Clinton was quick to condemn the violence after it became clear what was going on.

Dammit, get it right. You’re a bleeping U.S. Senator for God’s sake.

I saw Allen West, congressman from a place in Florida where facts are apparently manufactured for convenience, repeat to the Three Stooges on Fox and Friends this morning the same lie Portman and Romney are still pushing:

We should not have made some type of conciliatory, apologetic stance in the middle of our embassies being attacked…

The fact that there was no apologetic stance at any time, let alone “in the middle” of an attack on our embassies, didn’t bother the Three Stooges, as they nodded in agreement with that lying fool from Florida, in all but pigmentation a perfect representation of today’s GOP.

I saw Jim Inhofe, the loopy senator from Oklahoma, aggressively defending Romney on Fox this morning, embarassing himself, and if it is possible to further embarass that God-forsaken and embarrassing state, Oklahoma.

I read a statement released by Senator Jim DeMint, the real father of the Obama-loathing, reactionary Tea Party, not only defending Romney, but also picking up Romney’s lie about the President, whom he hates with a Christianly, Waterlooish passion:

Governor Romney is absolutely right, there is no justification for these deadly attacks and we should never apologize for American freedom. Islamic radicals will use any pretext to justify their hatred of America and our freedom.

It was disheartening to hear the administration condemn Americans engaging in free speech that hurt the feelings of Muslims, while real atrocities have been repeatedly committed by Islamic radicals against women, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East.

How do you begin to describe a party whose leaders say stupid and dishonest shit like that?

And speaking of stupid and dishonest shit.

Rush Limbaugh, who just a day earlier said Romney “may as well be Elmer Fudd,” since conservatives weren’t voting for him but “against Obama,” was on Wednesday all gooey-eyed and Viagra-hard over Mittens:

And after all this happens, guess who the bad guy is?  Mitt Romney, who is the only guy that looked presidential in all of this, who had the guts to go out and characterize this statement from the embassy accurately.  And the media is now saying that Romney jumped the gun, launched a political attack before the facts of the embassy violence were known…

Stupid and dishonest shit is what that is. But there is plenty more, which I won’t go into, except for what was revealed about Romney’s motives by none other than Laura Ingraham, the nasally, hysterical talk show host and Fox “News” regular, who hates Obama almost as much as she loves her converted-Catholic Jesus.

On Tuesday, before the events in Libya and Egypt, Ingraham said this about Mittens:

This is a gimme election, or at least it should be. If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down. Start new, with new people.

Ingraham was expressing the frustrations conservatives were feeling over Romney’s declining poll numbers. But on Wednesday, things had changed. After playing a clip of Romney’s presser in which he doubled-down on the initial lie about Obama and the embassy statement, Ingraham said:

Excellent. Mitt Romney is gettin’ his groove on…He did not back down one iota. That’s exactly how he should conduct this campaign. Keep these people back on their heels…Maybe this will just spur Obama to get a pair as well…

Her first caller after that stellar commentary was a spectacularly ignorant gentleman from New Albany, Indiana, who confessed that, “Obama makes my skin crawl,” after he chimed in with this:

This is what I’ve been waiting for. This-is-what-I-have-been-waiting-for. In one press conference, Governor Romney looked more presidential than any press conference I’ve seen Barack Obama conduct in four years…

Now, one would have had to see that pathetic Romney press conference to know just how disturbed is this gentlemen’s perception, but his comment does reveal the real reason why Mitt Romney behaved on Tuesday like Glenn Beck instead of a candidate for high office. He was trying to get people like Limbaugh and Ingraham and that low-information, bigoted American from Indiana to love him.

Because nothing makes palefaced folks say “I love you” like a factless attack on our feckless, Muslim-loving, hyper-apologetic, terrorist-sympathizing, Kenyan Commander-in-Chief.

And if Republicans want a party that only right-wing know-nothings on the radio and TV can love, then that is what they will have.

And one fine day they will have it all to themselves.

Is The Romney-led GOP Beyond Redemption?

Now that Mitt Romney has doubled-down on his stupidity of Tuesday night, it simply won’t do to refer to his actions as kids’ stuff, as I did earlier.

What we have now is a man who will, through reckless, cynically opportunistic maneuvering,  do absolutely anything—including criticizing and thereby undermining attempts to keep our diplomats safe—to become president of the United States.

I am so disgusted by what has happened that it is difficult to write about it.

If there aren’t a multitude of relatively sober Republican leaders in Congress who will call this for what it is, then the Republican Party is truly beyond redemption.

Obama’s Presser: Here’s What He Said, Sort Of

In case you missed it, here’s what President Obama said today to various folks (more or less, in my stunningly accurate interpretation) during his press conference, the theme of which was, “Congress, get off your ass and go to work, the middle class is hurting“:

To those worried about jobs: There are plenty of job-creating bills in the congressional hopper right now that I would sign, if only Congress would act.  But speaking of acting, what the hell have you guys been doing?  While I’ve been dealing with Libya and handing over bin Laden to the bottom feeders, the Congress is here one week and gone the next.  Sheesh.  Good work, if you can get it.

To those who don’t want to raise revenues to help alleviate the deficit: Are you nuts? I’ve spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary folks, but the millionaires and billionaires and the oil companies and those who flitter about on corporate jets need to cough it up.  Come on, people.

To those who wonder whether Republican leadership will stop the nonsense and make a deal on the debt ceiling: My hope—and I confess at this point it is only a hope—is that despite all the teaparty talk, that eventually “leaders will lead” and do the right thing.  This debt ceiling business is not an abstraction.  It could kill the economy. The August 2 date is real and we won’t have any more “tools” to put off paying our bills.  Get busy.

To those who wonder what Obama’s stand on gay marriage is: Look, obviously I’m changing my mind about that issue but I’m not dumb enough to tell you that today because that’s all that would make news.  I came here to point out that Republicans have to get their act together on the debt ceiling negotiations and stop playing games.

To those worried about the National Labor Relations Board’s decision on Boeing:  Union folks, close your ears for a minute while I toss you under the bus:  The main thing is that as long as Boeing is keeping jobs here in America, nothing else much matters.  Okay, union folks, you can listen in again.

To those worried about over-regulating businesses: Don’t worry.  Businesses always complain about that stuff and we are working on eliminating a lot of previous regulations that we think are unnecessarily hindering business.  Give us a chance to get that done and you will be very, very happy.

To those making a fuss about his Libya policy: Are you kidding me?  Do you want to side with the American-killer, Kaddafi?  There’s no constitutional issue involved because I’m doing exactly what I said I’d do and this is nothing like Vietnam.  Do I look like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon?

To those who note that Obama didn’t use the word “victory” in his talk about Afghanistan:  Victory?  No way would I use that word, but I will use the word “success.”  And by success I mean giving the Afghanis a chance to defend themselves, whether they ultimately can or not.  I don’t mean turning their country into some kind of Jeffersonian paradise.

To those worried about how we will prosecute future terrorist suspects who are apprehended:  We will deal with those individuals on an individual basis, but the American people should rest assured that our top priority is killing the bastards who want to kill us.

To those concerned about our immigration policy: Nothing has changed.  We need comprehensive reform and we need to pass the DREAM Act. I’m shipping back more undocumented folks than any president in recent memory, so what more do you want from me?  Congress must act. 

To those worried about whether Sasha and Malia are getting their homework done: Look, my kids are more responsible than Republicans in Congress. They don’t wait ’till the last minute, when they know they gotta do something.

To those wondering whether the idea of cutting payroll taxes to stimulate the economy must be part of the debt ceiling agreement: Before I answer this one, I would like for all the Republicans to plug their ears: Hell no, it doesn’t.  I’m willing to wait on the stimulus as long as we get a deal on the debt ceiling. And I’m willing to say so right now, which means, of course, that I have lost my edge in negotiations.  Why the hell did I do that?

To those who want to know if Obama believes he can use the Fourteenth Amendment to get around the debt ceiling limitation statute:  I’m sort of not going to remember that Chuck Todd of NBC News ask me about that one.  Maybe I’ll just surprise you later.

Finally, to the middle class:  I think about you ever minute of every day because I know how desperate some of you are.  I came into this office pledging to fix the problems that plague you and most of the time the Republican leaders in Congress only want to play political games and look only to the near-term.  I’m a long-term sort of guy, and I am willing to make deals that aren’t that popular with the base of my party because I believe that in the long run fixing this economy and getting the deficit under control will serve you the best.

Obama’s Libya Policy Is Okay, Says The Congress

No matter what one thinks about it, for better or worse we live in a small world these days, especially in terms of how business works.

What is happening today in Greece matters to folks in Joplin, Mo., even if most folks in Joplin don’t know it.  The earthquake in Japan rattled economic windows here in the United States.  The so-called Arab Spring, a messy, frightening, encouraging, and confusing trend, definitely impacts not just American foreign policy, but because of the Western world’s heroin-like dependence on petroleum, it impacts our economy, too.

All of which leads us to what we are doing in Libya.

Unfortunately, much of the noise in the debate over President Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in military operations in Libya is generated by concerns over his constitutional authority to continue our involvement in the NATO mission—yet another fight over the War Powers Resolution, which the Congress has not had the institutional chutzpah to actually test in court.

Despite all of the Republican handwringing over whether the President is in technical violation of the resolution vis-à-vis his Libya policy, it wasn’t that long ago that conservatives in both parties were close to repealing the act, and none other than current Speaker John Boehner actually voted to do so in 1995.

So Boehner’s newfound love affair with the War Powers Resolution has more to do with—again!—the GOP’s disdain for Barack Hussein Obama than any principled stand on the separation of powers.

Don’t get me wrong.  Whether—or more to the point, how—Congress can limit the power of this or any president to commit our country to war is a fundamentally important question, but the truth is that Congress has the unquestionable power to stop any president from making war by simply cutting off the funds. 

If Congress believes President Obama’s actions are unwise, it can simply stop paying for them.

That brings us to the question of the wisdom of the Libya policy itself, which has sort of got lost in the battle over presidential authority.

Unlike other parts of the restless Middle East, our actions in Libya—which are supported by other Arab countries—can have maximum impact with minimum cost.  That isn’t often the case in matters like this and that fact should mean something.  As Sen. John Kerry said, American troops are not on the ground or in the line of fire, and, unquestionably, Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya has prevented thousands of civilian casualties.

The current  NATO mission, of which we are a part, is responsible for keeping the pressure on Gaddafi to voluntary retire from the dictator business, and whether he goes on his own or at the point of a rebel gun, it is likely that his time can be measured in weeks.

I know, I know. We have been waiting for Gaddafi to get the message for months now, but as his ability to make war is daily degraded, his options have narrowed to a simple binary choice: go out standing up or lying down.  His recent offer to hold internationally supervised elections and then go away if he lost was, in the words of the U.S. government, “a little late.”  The rebels, of course, smell the dictator’s blood at this point and will accept nothing short of a Gaddafi-free Libya.

Here at home, a schizophrenic House of Representatives last week voted both to deny Obama the authority to use U.S. forces in Libya and to continue funding the use of U.S. forces in Libya.  That’ll show our unruly President.

In the Senate, yesterday the Foreign Relations Committee voted to authorize Obama’s actions in Libya but some of the members couldn’t resist taking shots at the Commander-in-Chief.  Sen. Richard Lugar, who is running for reelection next year and therefore has to sound as anti-Obama as possible for the next several months, said:

In this case, President Obama made a deliberate decision not to seek a congressional authorization of his action, either before it commenced or during the last three months. This was a fundamental failure of leadership that placed expedience above constitutional responsibility.

Most of the time Republicans accuse Obama of failing to show “leadership” by “dithering” on such decisions. But even when he acted decisively and relatively quickly on the Libya mission, he is still accused of having a leadership flaw.  Hmm. I don’t think Republicans like the guy.

In any case, the mission in Libya is one case in which we, in conjunction with our NATO allies, can do something good for this small world we live in, and we can do it with relatively little cost, at least in terms of American resources.  It matters in the long run whether we are on the side of the dictators or the side of those who are fighting the dictators.

And even the United States Congress, notwithstanding its protests about presidential war powers, agrees.

Some of McCain’s Heroes Today Were Bush’s Terrorists Yesterday

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who pulled his head out of John McCain’s rectum long enough to talk to CNN, said of the U.S. involvement in Libya:

I like coalitions: It’s good to have them, it’s good to have the U.N. involved.  But the goal is to get rid of Gaddafi…So, I would not let the U.N. mandate stop what is the right thing to do.

In other words, to hell with the rest of the world, we’ve got bombs to drop!

For his part, John McCain, who seemed to be enjoying his Graham-free rectum, said on Sunday that a stalemate in Libya “would open the door for Al Qaeda to come in.”

Whoops!  It may be too late.  McCain, who on Friday called the Libyan rebels the “legitimate voice of the Libyan people,” and his “heroes,” also said,

I have met these brave fighters and they are not al Qaeda,” he said. “To the contrary, they are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation.

Except that the New York Times reported this weekend that a former Guantanamo detainee—he was released by the Bushies in 2007—who was “judged ‘a probable member of Al Qaeda’ by analysts there,” and deemed a “medium to high risk” as a threat to the United States, is now leading a “ragtag band of fighters” in Libya.  And the paper reported that,

American officials have nervously noted the presence of at least a few former militants in the rebels’ ranks. 

None of this gives Lindsey Graham or John McCain (or Israeli representative, Sen. Joe Lieberman) pause, however.  They want the U.S. to engage more aggressively in Libya, with Graham urging Obama to bomb Libya’s capital. He told CNN’s Candy Crowley:

My recommendation to NATO and to the administration is to cut the head of the snake off, go to Tripoli, start bombing Gaddafi’s inner circle, their compounds their military headquarters in Tripoli. The way to get Gaddafi to leave is to have his inner circle break and turn on him, and that’s going to take a sustained effort through an air campaign.

Apparently NATO was listening.  This morning comes word that NATO aircraft bombed Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, which renewed charges that the good guys are trying to assassinate Gaddafi. 

Whether we are, or whether we’re just trying to put the fear of Allah in him or his “inner circle,” as Graham suggested, it is clear that there will be no stalemate in Libya, even though a stalemate might be the best possible outcome, in terms of short-term regional stability.  Gaddafi’s days are numbered. 

What remains is the obvious question: What happens after Gaddafi is gone?  

Nobody, not Barack Obama or, Allah knows, not even John McCain, can give us a credible answer to that question.  Somehow, though, I suspect that whatever happens, President Obama—who is under pressure from the militaristic Right to step us his Libya game—will never get any credit for a good outcome, only blame for a bad one.

Gray-Blind

As I listened to Pat Buchanan and others talk this morning about Obama’s Libyan speech, I thought how comforting it must be to live in a Manichean world, a world in which all the decisions are easy ones, a world in which uncertainty and doubt are enemies, reservation and restraint weaknesses. 

That’s the world of conservatives like Buchanan.

He told us this morning that he was initially against intervention in Libya.  But now that we have gone in we have to go in all the way and get Qaddafi.  There’s no other possible solution. There’s no middle ground. Qaddafi’s a snake who will come back to bite us later, if we don’t get him now. He must go and we—America’s war-weary men and women—have to be the ones who take him out.

Pat Buchanan—whose combat experience is limited to punching a policeman over a traffic ticket while the young conservative was in college—confidently said it would take two weeks—two weeks—and it would be over.  Then we can get the Saudi’s to fund the aftermath—whatever that is—and get the Egyptians to supply troops and on and on. 

Just like that, Pat says. 

George W. Bush famously said, “I don’t do nuance.”  Indeed. You see, as with all those who are gray-blind, their eyes will not permit them to see the nuances involved in dealing with the different players in the world and the various events that challenge us both to act and to refrain from acting, all in America’s interests. 

In Libya, wisdom seemed to indicate that we act, in Obama’s words, “to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger,” but an Iraq-like invasion “is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”

In other words, Libya is a unique situation. We can and will do our part, but not the whole part. “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake,” said the President.

Why is that so hard to understand?

The Obama Anti-Doctrine

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.”

Barack Obama, Address to the Nation on Libya

Because I resent the often-superficial analyses that networks typically present after major presidential speeches, I here present a relatively lengthy review of President Obama’s outstanding speech on Libya, which couldn’t have been clearer on all of the outstanding issues, despite Republican criticisms to the contrary.  I hope interested and thoughtful readers will endure this analysis.

The first bit of clarity:

In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. 

That process took a mere 31 days, said the President, compared to the more than a year it took to protect civilians in Bosnia during the 1990s. And, he said,

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and—more profoundly—our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. 

The clarity, though, in Obama’s speech was not just in what the U.S. and its international partners have accomplished or in America’s embrace of people suffering under oppression, but in how future potential interventions will be managed in matters that involve limited U.S. interests intersecting with humanitarian concerns. 

It is in the expression of how Obama views these potential interventions which constitutes what I will call the Obama anti-Doctrine.

I call it anti-doctrine because typically one thinks of a doctrine as a dogmatic set of beliefs that apply in all reference frames. Obama’s willingness to project American power, however, is not so rigid that it applies in every conceivable situation, thus it can be fairly described as an anti-doctrine, which has the following three legs:

1. International cooperation

2. Limited engagement

3. Pragmatic use of American power

Obama expressed all three legs of this anti-doctrine in this one paragraph from tonight’s speech:

It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs.  And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action.  But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.  In this particular country —Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.  We had a unique ability to stop that violence:  an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.  We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

1. International cooperation: “an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves

2. Limited engagement:  “We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground. “

3. Pragmatic use of American power: “America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs.  And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action.”

There you have it.  As much as it may vex those who demand a one-size-fits-all foreign policy, Obama announced a set of principles that are flexible enough to both allow action in Libya and restraint in Yemen and other places. In short, a brilliant formulation of the practical rules that should govern the use of American power in gray situations that don’t directly involve our vital, black-and-white national interests, situations that materialize all too frequently these days.

Obama expressed in full his vision of the difference between our vital national interests and interests that don’t directly affect our national survival:

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe.  And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform.  I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests.  That’s why we’re going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold.  That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country. 

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are.  Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security — responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce.  These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us.  They’re problems worth solving.  And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act — but the burden of action should not be America’s alone.  As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action.  Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves.  Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all. 

As I listened to Republican criticisms of the speech (and some Democrats’), I was struck by the fact that many of them either didn’t pay attention to it or didn’t read it or only determined to hear what they wanted to hear. Many of them wonder what the end game is; they wonder about the fate of Qaddafi.  But Obama addressed that issue:

We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power.  It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power.  But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi’s side.  With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

The burden is on the Libyan people, not the American people.  What could be clearer than that?

Finally, President Obama—try for just one second to imagine Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin or most of the other GOP putative candidates for president giving this speech—tried to set this Libyan conflict in a regional context:

Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time.  Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries.  There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes.  And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed.  The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed. 

The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change.  Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. 

A difference, indeed.

Remarks And Asides

Dear God,

Please talk Donald Trump into running for president. I take back everything I’ve ever said about Your Party, about Michele Bachmann, about Sarah Palin, even about Anson Burlingame.  Just please let him run and let the GOP pick him as its nominee.  Pretty please?

Prayerfully,

Duane

________________________

Everybody’s making a big deal out of Newt Gingrich’s egregious flip-flop on what to do in Libya. First he can’t wait to go in, then when Obama goes in, he says he shouldn’t have gone in.  If a man can’t make up his mind about which woman with whom he wants to live happily ever after, why should anyone think he can make up his mind about which dictator we should bomb?

________________________

A new Pew poll shows that “nearly half (47%) of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 37% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win the 2012 election.”  The overview of the Pew survey, though, says,

In part, Obama is benefitting from the fact that the GOP has yet to coalesce behind a candidate.

All the more reason, God, to get Donald Trump to run.  Please?

________________________

Speaking of Republican candidates for president, Herman Cain, famous for broiling Whoppers for Burger King (actually, he’s somewhat famous for running Godfather’s Pizza), attended a rally of home-schoolers yesterday in Des Moines. 

Along with other candidates present, he, of course, trashed the public school system, obligatory behavior for anyone wanting to be the GOP nominee.  But Cain, an African-American Tea Party favorite from the South, said something I found interesting. He reportedly denounced all government involvement in education and then said this:

That’s all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way.

The “old-fashioned way“?  Hmm.  Was he talking about the real old-fashioned way, back when there were no schools, no books, and no teachers?  That far back?

Or was the 65-year-old Herman Cain, who admits to a working-class pedigree, talking about the old-fashioned days in the 1950s when he would have spent his formative years in Georgia public schools?  

The old-fashioned way in those days in the South was to segregate-then-educate kids like Herman Cain, and despite the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, some parts of Georgia did not even begin to integrate the schools until 1970.

According to Professor Michael Gagnon,

In defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, The Georgia School Board required public school teachers to sign a pledge that they would not teach in integrated schools in 1955 or they would lose their teaching license.

Is that the old-fashioned way the GOP candidate for president pines for?

________________________

Finally, James O’Keefe, the scoundrel whose creative video edits have killed ACORN and wounded NPR, while simultaneously giving Sean Hannity a Viagra-like boner, is in debt.  In fact, he claims he’s in debt up to $50,000.  Fifty G’s.  He has sent out a fund-raising email to supporters, saying he had to finance much of his wonderful work on the credit card:

We made a lot of sacrifices—personally and financially —because we fight for what we believe in.

It’s not clear to me how he can both claim he has sacrificed financially and yet beg others to pay his bills, but in any case, I am setting up the James O’Keefe Relief Fund here at The Erstwhile Conservative.  Just send in your donations and I will be sure he gets the money. No amount is too small.

Trust me at least as much as you trust him.

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