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February 10, 2008

Bush on Obama
Posted by Michael Cohen

Courtesy of Marc Ambinder, here's the President today talking about Obama's foreign policy:

WALLACE:  Do you think there's a rush to judgment about Barack Obama. Do you think voters know enough about him?

BUSH: I certainly don't know what he believes in. The only foreign policy thing I remember he said was he's going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad. I think I commented that in a press conference when I was asked about that.

WALLACE:  I hope not.  But so you don't think that we know enough about him or what he stands...

BUSH: It doesn't seem like it to me, but this campaign is plenty of time for candidates to get defined. He is yet his party's nominee.

WALLACE:  So why do you think he's gotten this far if people don't know what he stands for?

BUSH:  You're the pundit. I'm just a simple president.

This is sort of hilarious and sad at the same time. On the one hand, Bush is completely mischaracterizing Obama's message on Pakistan and Iran, but what's really amusing is that he claims to have only heard Obama talking about these issues and never say, his opposition to the Iraq war! But you really have to love it when George W Bush is complaining that an American political figure is recklessly threatening the use of force. That George Bush, he's so adorable!

I did, however enjoy the Obama campaign's response - a tricky combination back-handed swipe at Hillary and a full-frontal attack on Bush. The East German judge gives that a 9.5.

“Of course President Bush would attack the one candidate in this race who opposed his disastrous war in Iraq from the start. But Barack Obama doesn't need any foreign policy advice from the architect of the worst foreign policy decision in a generation."


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First, I am delighted to have Bush engaging directly with Obama. Bush's inept arguments make an easy target for one thing. But also, any time Obama is involved with a colloquy with Bush, Obama is elevated to presidential-level status and looks more and more like the presumed nominee. In this case, the policy differences between Bush and Obama provide an excellent opportunity for Obama to display his superior understanding of Middle East dynamics.

The US has faced a number of serious terrorist attacks in recent years against its people and interests. As far as I can tell, all of those attacks have been mounted by militant Sunni Islamists representing Salafist schools of thought.

Hizbollah and Iranian-backed groups not been a serious problem for the United States since the eighties, despite feverish ravings by the likes of Michael Ledeen about the Iranian "terror masters". The one possible exception was thought to be the Khobar Towers bombing, which the US long alleged to be the work of the Iranian government, based on alleged classified information. However, William Perry, who would have been in a position to see this information, now believes that Al Qaeda was responsible for Khobar, rather than Iran. And indeed, this makes more prima facie sense anyway.

At the same time as they have been attacking US interests, the Salafists have pursued a rabidly anti-Shia and anti-Iranian line, and Salafi cells have attacked Shia and Shia interests in a number of places in the region, including Azerbaijan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are teeming with elements of this Salafi jihadist movement. Yet Bush, perhaps overly impressed by the Musharraf government's supposed commitment to the war on terror, has neglected the threat in northern Pakistan. And his idiotic escapade in Iraq has weakened the US effort in Afghanistan, while at the same time creating a new Iraqi breeding ground for Salafist jihadism that wasn't there before.

Iran is strategically located right in the middle of the three Salafist hot spots of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The Iranian government has sought to counter Salafist influence in both Afghanistan and Iraq, tried to prop up the democratically elected Iraqi government economically and diplomatically, and sought to prevent a return of Sunni rule in Iraq. They have worked with the government of Pakistan to weaken Salafist influence in the northern Pakistan territories. Iran's government, while hardly a thing of democratic beauty, is nevertheless a genuine constitutional government with internal checks and balances, and the most real democratic institutions in the region. Yet rather than explore opportunities for a new strategic relationship with Iran based in part on cooperation against a common enemy, a relationship that would also help us extricate ourselves from the Iraqi quagmire, the Bush administration has followed a vigorous anti-Iranian policy, and has now even helped to empower elements of the Sunni insurgency that have been our true enemies in Iraq.

The Bush administration, and particularly Bush himself, just does not understand the nature of the forces and interests arrayed in the Middle East. Nor do they have a clear understanding of the evolving balance of power in the region, and what the US must do to protect its interests. They are far too solicitous of Israeli and Saudi interests, even where those interests run contrary to the interests of the US. Obama gives some signs of having a much clearer grasp on what is going on there.

My impression of Bush is that he is too intellectually lazy (not stupid) to understand much of anything that isn't useful to him personally, such as how to win elections.

But Cheney, I think, knows the difference between American and Israeli interests. He has chosen which ones to serve.

Seriously, who the beep wants to hear from Bush! It doesn't shock me that he's defending the Clinton's... people who follow the Bush's and Clinton's would know that they're friends.

Who in there right mind care about what Bush thinks about anyone, especially Obama? This man has turned this country upside down...and his ignorant ludicrous remarks should embarrass every Republican American who voted for him. I would hate to associate myself with a President like Bush.

My question to the Democratic Nominee would be, "what are they going to do about the rising gas prices." I want to see the prices rolled back to where it was before those Conservatives and Bush took over the Country. I can't afford to drive anywhere but work. Before Bush, people could get decent jobs; I could travel out of the United States and I had plenty money in the bank. I want to return to the 'good old days before Bush.'

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I would be in favor of renaming Bush street but not until after President Obama leaves office. No one really knows who the street is named after. As well as generations from now will think it was named after Prescott Bush, Bush 41's father.The cost to businesses and to the city will be considerable, and in keeping with current economic crisis, I think there are more pressing issues....

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