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September 26, 2008

Putin Rising
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg



The Palin Effect, or Confusion at the Corner
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I was just reading the Corner, because, well, I kind of like it. It allows me to briefly inhabit a parallel universe. But today was even more bizarre than usual. Peter Robinson linked to his latest article at Forbes. I had to read this a couple times to let it sink in:

Throughout the campaign, Sarah Palin has remained poised and articulate. As far as I am aware, she has committed not a single gaffe. In just under a week, she had mastered the interview format.

But then I got a different vibe from Kathleen Parker (you gotta admire her guts in this column):

I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted. Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there... If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

Then there's Kathryn Jean Lopez:

I absolutely refuse to watch another Sarah Palin interview.

I wonder who I agree with...

10 Claims John McCain will make in tonight's debate
Posted by Max Bergmann

Here are ten claims to watch for from John McCain tonight:

Claim 1:  McCain will say his foreign policy is different from that of George W. Bush.
On the critical issues, ranging from advocating the invasion of Iraq only days after 9/11 to declaring premature victory in Afghanistan, to saber rattling on Iran and refusing to use tough diplomacy, John McCain's policies are in lock step with those of George W. Bush. 

Claim 2:  John McCain will tout his judgment, saying he hates war. Reality:
John McCain has taken a dangerously aggressive approach to foreign policy advocating attacking six different countries in the last eight years.  Moreover, McCain retains many of the same Neocon advisors who pushed for the war in Iraq in the first place.

Claim 3:  McCain will say he has long been a critic of the war in Iraq. Reality:  McCain was an early supporter of the Iraq War, linking Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction.  He supported the Rumsfeld strategy of going with a minimal number of troops and said the war would be "easy."  He continued to argue for staying the course until 2006.

Claim 4:   McCain will take credit for the "surge" and argue that the troop increase is responsible for the entire decline in violence and that as a result we have succeeded.  Reality:  Military leaders have acknowledged that there were numerous reasons for the reduction in violence including the Anbar Awakening and political engagement with Muqtada al-Sadr.  In fact, McCain confused the sequence of events in Iraq arguing that the troop increase caused the Anbar Awakening, even though the Anbar Awakening came first.  Moreover, General Petraeus has warned that it is too early to declare victory as John McCain and his allies are doing.

Claim 5: McCain will say he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reality:
McCain has continued to make Iraq the number one priority and has not explained how he will keep large troop levels in Iraq while meeting the requirements in Afghanistan and elsewhere laid out by military commander and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  He has shown little interest in Afghanistan saying we can just "muddle through" in 2003 and declaring victory in 2005.  In fact, McCain had no policy on Afghanistan until July 15, 2008 and Afghanistan did not come up once in all of the major speeches during the Republican National Convention.  Meanwhile, Barack Obama and progressives have been sounding the alarm for years.

Claim 6: McCain will say he will get Osama Bin Laden and go after Al Qaeda. Reality:
  John McCain was a strong early supporter of the Iraq war - a war that resulted in assets and focus being pulled away from the hunt for Bin Laden and Afghanistan.  While Obama has supported going after high-value targets in al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan, McCain has criticized Obama for a position that has now become official U.S. policy.

Claim 7:  McCain will cite his response to the crisis in Georgia as evidence of good judgment. Reality: 
McCain recklessly issued bellicose statements without waiting for all the facts, while Barack Obama, other world leaders, and even President Bush took a more measured approach.  McCain then went on to claim that "we are all Georgians."  In fact, McCain has had a dangerous policy towards Russia for some time, proposing to kick them out of the G8 - a policy that would preclude any cooperation on critical issues such as nonproliferation.   

Claim 8:  McCain will say that talking to Iran is weak and naive. Reality:
There is a bipartisan consensus on the need to talk to Iran.  Five secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker all agreed recently that we have to talk to them directly.  Obama's plan calls for tough direct diplomacy in combination with sanctions and other pressures.  McCain's plan of refusing to talk is the same policy that George Bush pursued until very recently - a policy that has failed and that if continued will one day force the U.S. to make a no-win decision between attacking Iran or allowing it to attain a nuclear weapons capability.

Claim 9: McCain will say he can work effectively with our allies. Reality: John McCain has a long history of belligerence and heated rhetoric towards our allies.  In the run up to the Iraq War he called France and Germany "vacuous and posturing" and referred to them as our "adversaries."  Recently he said he might not meet with Spain's Prime Minister and on top of that he is quite unpopular internationally.

Claim 10:  McCain will say he will cut wasteful defense spending. Reality:
 McCain has been all over the map on defense spending.  His plan to add about 200,000 ground troops to the military would cost $25 billion a year.  Meanwhile, in his budget plan released in July he promised to cut $160 billion from the budget by opposing the Future Combat System, yet he now criticizes Obama's promise to cut spending on that same program. See the data after the jump.

Continue reading "10 Claims John McCain will make in tonight's debate" »

Scoring the Foreign Policy Debate
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I have a piece up with the American Prospect on what we should expect to see tonight from the foreign policy debate.  Here is the basic jgist:

John McCain's candidacy is premised on his experience and national-security prowess. In poll after poll he holds a substantial point lead on the question of who is better prepared to be commander in chief -- leading by 21 points in the NY Times/CBS News poll released just yesterday. Ironically, this means there is more pressure on McCain tonight. He cannot simply hold his own with Obama. He must show his mastery of the issues justifies the advantage the American public attributes to him.

Obama's task is easier, but no less crucial. National security has become a threshold question for Obama. He doesn't necessarily have to outperform McCain. Instead, Obama's task is to reassure Americans that he is in fact ready to lead on the critical issue of security.

Where's Karl Rove when Republicans need him?
Posted by The Editors

From NSN Press Assistant Hanna Lundqvist:

The latest Pew research poll has some interesting figures on Barack Obama.  30% of registered American voters agree that the chance of another terrorist attack would increase if Barack Obama were elected, while 61% disagree.  Although 30% is a disappointingly large number, the comparison to John Kerry is promising: in the corresponding September 2004 poll, 36% agreed that John Kerry were elected the chance of another terrorist attack would increase, with 56% disagreeing. 

So while Republicans have spent far more time pushing the threat of Barack Obama’s inexperience than they ever did for John Kerry, voters perceive that Barack Obama would be better than John Kerry at keeping America safe. 

Looks like having a Karl Rove protégé run your campaign isn’t quite as good as the real thing.

Dewey Defeats...
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

So apparently the McCain campaign released ads this morning proclaiming McCain's victory in tonight's debate -- which he, of course, hadn't even committed to attending at the time.

Some might shake their heads.  Some, with long memories, might think of Messrs. Dewey and Truman.  But I have another theory -- the McCain campaign is secretly in league with tired young campaign operatives everywhere, who want their Friday night free to watch bad movies, high school football, and the continuing collapse of the Mets.

Sorry, guys.  The Mets will have to lose it without you.

Good for Mike O'Hanlon
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Politico has a bunch of commentators writing possible questions for the debate and I happen to totally agree with Mike O'Hanlon

Do we really want to bring Georgia into NATO and risk sending American sons and daughters to remote mountainous inland Asia in coming years to fight nuclear-armed Russia over a territorial dispute involving at most tens of thousands of people?

Liveblogging Tonight's Debate
Posted by Max Bergmann

NSN staff will be liveblogging tonight's Presidential debate - whether John McCain is there or not. Check Democracy Arsenal throughout the debate for instant analysis and fact checking and look for our wrap-up at the end of the night.

Also check out the folks at Think Progress who will also be liveblogging.

September 25, 2008

Palin on Pakistan
Posted by Michael Cohen

There are so many gobsmacking moments in Sarah Palin's interview today with Katie Couric it's hard to know where to begin in critiquing it. But, this answer on Pakistan has gotten precious little attention:

Couric: The United States is deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Do you think the Pakistani government is protecting al Qaeda within its borders?

Palin: I don't believe that new President Zardari has that mission at all. But no, the Pakistani people also, they want freedom. They want democratic values to be allowed in their country, also. They understand the dangers of terrorists having a stronghold in regions of their country, also. And I believe that they, too, want to rid not only their country, but the world, of violent Islamic terrorists.

The mind reels.

Let's ignore for a moment the fact that she doesn't address the fact that the Pakistani government is quite clearly protecting Al Qaeda within its borders - or at the very least allowing them to operate. (Do we know for sure that she is even aware of this fact?) But this answer is almost stunning in its shallowness and yes, stupidity. (I won't even bother explaining why this is the case as any regular reader for DA can figure out for themselves.) These are nothing more than talking points completely divorced from any understanding of Pakistani politics or the general nuances of international affairs.

Most observers of US foreign policy would agree that the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship is perhaps the most important bilateral relationship for this country. And yet, the Vice Presidential pick for a 72-year old Republican nominee with a history of skin cancer appears to have virtually no understanding of the cross-cutting issues affecting that relationship.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Palin Iran and Kissinger
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

In her interview with Katie Couric Sarah Palin essentially called Henry Kissinger naive and also proved that she just hasn't done her homework

Couric: You met yesterday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is for direct diplomacy with both Iran and Syria. Do you believe the U.S. should negotiate with leaders like President Assad and Ahmadinejad?

Palin: I think, with Ahmadinejad, personally, he is not one to negotiate with. You can't just sit down with him with no preconditions being met. Barack Obama is so off-base in his proclamation that he would meet with some of these leaders around our world who would seek to destroy America and that, and without preconditions being met. That's beyond naïve. And it's beyond bad judgment.

Couric: Are you saying Henry Kissinger …

Palin: It's dangerous.

Couric: … is naïve for supporting that?

Palin: I've never heard Henry Kissinger say, "Yeah, I'll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met." Diplomacy is about doing a lot of background work first and shoring up allies and positions and figuring out what sanctions perhaps could be implemented if things weren't gonna go right. That's part of diplomacy.

Actually.  That's exactly Henry Kissinger's position.  And Couric even went ahead and confirmed it with Kissinger after the interview.  Here is what Kissinger said just last week at a forum of five secretaries of state.

“I’m in favor of negotiating with Iran.  And one – (unintelligible) – of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East – of a stable Middle East and our notion of nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it."

It's not only Kissinger's position.  It is James Baker and Colin Powell's position as well.   Here is what Powell said at the event.

Powell:  “we should start to talk to them. Don’t wait for a letter coming from them. Start discussion. We’ve been talking to them up through 2003.” Asked whether we should “take the initiative?” Powell responded, “Yeah. We shouldn’t we? What are we afraid of? We did."

But who cares what Kissinger, Powell and Baker think.  Sarah Palin is running the country now...

What did Sarah Palin talk to Kissinger about?
Posted by Max Bergmann

Clearly not Iran. In her meeting/photo op with Henry Kissinger Iran was clearly must not have been discussed. Henry Kissinger, along with Colin Powell and James Baker, all support talks without preconditions with Iran. Palin went on to call Senator Obama "beyond naive." Strong words from someone who has absolutely no idea what she is talking about. McCain's decision to put her a heartbeat away may be one of the most reckless decisions ever made by a presidential candidate.

Sarah Palin just said people who travel are elitists
Posted by Max Bergmann

Sarah Palin, while making an excuse for having just gotten a passport and for having never traveled abroad, basically just said that people who travel abroad are elitists and don't have to work for a living. Are you kidding me?

Financial Meltdown and Our National Security
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Obviously the economic component of the financial crisis gets top billing in the media, and rightly so. But the ramifications are wider than just lost wages and confidence on Wall Street and threatened livelihoods on Main Street. There is an international strategic component for America's national security.

Our strategic relations abroad, now and in the future, and how America can act on the world stage are greatly effected. It's not just that global markets have lost confidence in America, but also the fact that essential national security operations are expensive, and that doesn't even include the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq (money which would be more wisely spent elsewhere either at home or abroad) and Afghanistan. NSN today held a conference call to explore this under-examined nuance with Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Rudy deLeon, Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at Center for American Progress Action Fund. The audio is here, and some quotes from the experts are below:

Dean Baker
Part of the status of the U.S. financial markets, their high standing was based on the fact that they were really considered to be the gold standard. You had markets of questionable quality in countries like India or other developing countries that you weren’t always sure that you were dealing with trustworthy characters…The embarrassing part of this story is that it turns out the U.S. is very much in that category of not being a trustworthy financial market. That much of the story is that there was a real breakdown of trust, that the bond ratings turned out to be very questionable…This is a very serious problem going forward, that the credibility that takes a very very long time to build up has been torn down and going forward I suspect the U.S. financial markets are going to pay a very very big price for their conduct, the conduct of the U.S. financial firms over the past 6,7,8 years.
Rudy deLeon

One of that great challenges, particularly with our country engaged in two ongoing wars is to provide for the readiness of our troops and to provide for the future one of the great challenges is really the mountain of deficit the mountain of debt the next secretary of defense, the next administration will encounter. When Truman and his team put together the Marshall Plan half century ago, it was founded in this grand expectation in the strength of the American economy at home and overseas was going to be one of the stabilizing elements of the global economy in the future. So that, the stability of our financial institutions and then American leadership in the national security area. We’ve gone through a 20th century where indeed America was indispensible.  So the real challenge with both America really going it alone in the national security side and now the instability among our financial institutions, how we get back on track, let alone deal with ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the other tension points, that’s going to be a real challenge.


Guantanamo Smelling Fishy -- What's Happened To Our Country?
Posted by David Shorr

Something seemed familiar when I read this morning's New York Times piece on a reservist military prosecutor at Guantanamo who has asked the Army to terminate his assignment over his ethical qualms about the prosecution of suspected terrorists. It's been a while, but sure enough, I've written before about dissension in the military law ranks over another part of the detention system.

You know why this is a big deal? Because I believe the attorney who's quitting. The problem is that I believe Lt. Col Vandeveld rather than the Army's explanation about "personal differences." Truly I'd rather believe the Army. I really want to believe in the basic justice of the system, because at that level, we're talking about the bedrock of democracy and the rule of law. We should be able to count on the system to defend the principles of the presumption of innocence, the adversarial competition of attorneys on a level playing field, and the right to see the evidence against you. Whatever the political pressures and expedience of the moment, justice depends on the system resisting them on the grounds of principle. Except when it doesn't. And then what do we have? See if the following exchange from the Times' coverage sounds like America to you:

But that was a backdrop to what have become attacks by Mr. Mohammed himself that the system is rigged against him. He asserted Wednesday that the military judge was biased and would help the prosecutors get the death penalty.

“You could have simply killed us years ago, instead of simply holding us for years under torture and delaying the process,” Mr. Mohammed said at the first table in the cavernous courtroom.

The judge, Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann of the Marines turned aside Mr. Mohammed’s accusations, with a stiff declaration that he was “completely wrong.”

Again, I don't know the entire context and the facts, but I'd much rather imagine that the judge has grown impatient with the defendant's series of obstructionist tirades. It's a sad day when you can no longer give the benefit of doubt to the rule of law in your own country. America's basic credibility is on the line in these cases, and if nothing else, it's completely plausible that this judge is oblivious to what's at stake. If our system were truly healthy, I should have firm confidence in the independence of the military justice system and its ability to resist any political pressures and any wishes of high officials to rack up guilty verdicts for the War on Terror. Sad to say, I don't.

[In case some of the foregoing irony is obscure, and before anyone rips into me for naivete, let me say that this problem is not a new and belated revelation for me. It's just that when I stepped back, I realized how truly depressing it is.]

McCain Snubs Global Concerns at the Clinton Global Initiative
Posted by The Editors

This post is from NSN Intern Eric Auner:

“Common Humanity” and ” Common Security” - two phrases used by one of the presidential candidates in his speech to the Clinton Global Initiative today.  That candidate was not John McCain.  In fact, it seemed as if the candidates were speaking at two different events.  Obama was addressing the Clinton Global Initiative, and focused on international issues, while McCain spoke to the McCain American Initiative, and acted like he was speaking at a campaign stop.  Obama, though he did spend a quarter of his speech talking about the American financial crisis, communicated a message that I think is best summed up in the following quote.

“Climate change. Poverty. Extremism. Disease. These problems offend our common humanity. They also threaten our common security. You know this. The question is what we do about it.”

In general, Obama stuck to this message of global interconnectedness and interdependence, spending just as much time on the scourge of Malaria as on the financial crisis.  McCain, on the other hand, spent approximately three quarters of his time talking about specific American problems.   Here he is on security:

“As we deal with this challenge (energy), we must also address the others that imperil our global security”

In the context of the speech, the “we” was clearly Senator McCain and other Americans.  No 'Common Humanity,' no 'Common Security.'  He even indulged in a little campaign rhetoric by pretending to do the opposite. 

“I’m an old Navy pilot, and I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck. That’s the situation in Washington at this very hour, when the whole future of the American economy is in danger. I cannot carry on a campaign as though this dangerous situation had not occurred, or as though a solution were at hand, which it clearly is not. As of this morning I suspended my political campaign. With so much on the line, for America and the world, the debate that matters most right now is taking place in the United States Capitol — and I intend to join it”

By no means do I mean to say that the problems with the economy, with our energy policy, or with security do not deserve center stage. Rather, McCain had an opportunity to really address global interconnectedness and to communicate a message that could help to heal the rift between the United States and the rest of the world.  Instead, he treated the rest of the world like a footnote.  Indeed, this is another example of a McCain worldview that is characterized by its myopic focus on one issue at a time.  Whether the issue is Iraq or the economy, McCain tends to analyze in isolation issues that deserve a broader approach. 
In general, a disappointing turn from McCain.

This Just In: President Doing Two Things At Once
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I know John McCain is having trouble doing more than one thing at once.  Maybe he should take his cues from George Bush, who found time out of his busy economic crisis schedule to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the peace process.  Of course, according to McCain's neoconservative advisors this would probably not happen during a McCain administration because the peace process just isn't that important

Card1816 Graphic via inedexed

Non Sequiter Alert
Posted by Michael Cohen

Sarah Palin at Ground Zero today taking actual reporter questions. Check out her nuanced, thoughtful and cogent response that in no way appears to be cribbed from Bush Administration talking points.

CNN:Do you agree with the way the Bush administration has handled the war on terrorism, is there anything you would do differently?

A: I agree with the Bush administration that we take the fight to them. We never again let them come onto our soil and try to destroy not only our democracy, but communities like the community of New York. Never again. So yes, I do agree with taking the fight to the terrorists and stopping them over there.

POLITICO: Do you think our presence in Iraq and Afghan and our continued presence there is inflaming Islamic extremists?

A: I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction. Terrible destruction on that day. but since September 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again

I'm still trying to confirm this, but I think that just before Sarah Palin said these words Randy Scheunemann pulled a string attached to the Alaska Governor.

This is Fishy...
Posted by Moira Whelan

Building upon Adam’s post about Palin’s knowledge of the world…I did some quick research regarding the “trade” issues with Russia. It seems that in 2006, Russia and Alaska enjoyed about $7million in exports, of which 64% was seafood.

This doesn’t even put Russia in the top 20 of countries that trade with Alaska. Interestingly, Spain—a country McCain may or may not speak to—is #6. Regardless, I look forward to commentary from Palin on Japan, Korea, and China—her top three trading partners as governor of Alaska.

In the meantime, Governor Palin has defined her foreign policy experience in terms of proximity...and now, fish.

That Wacky, Wacky Sarah Palin
Posted by Michael Cohen

Take a look at Sarah Palin's explanation as to why Alaska's proximity to Russia makes her qualified to be Commander in Chief. Truly the mind swirls.

COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters--


PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

Can we all agree that the term "jumped the shark" should be replaced with "picked the Palin."

Baked Alaska
Posted by Adam Blickstein

So tonight on CBS, Sarah Palin expands on her foreign policy experience vis-a-vis geographical proximity to Russia nonsense. And now, she drags Canada into the rhetorical mud-pit. Boiling it down: she basically says that because Alaska is the moose meat in some abstract Russia/Canada sandwich, this makes her a tangentially seasoned national security expert:

Don't think that's the kind of intellectual food you'd find at even a marginally decent deli...

Sarah Palin Interview=Opposite Day
Posted by Patrick Barry

When it comes to foreign policy, Sarah Palin's 'blizzard of words' is fast becoming a torrent of massively contradictory or just plain-wrong assertions.  Here's the latest from tonight's interview with Katie Couric:

"And as I say, Katie, that we cannot withdraw in Iraq.  That's not gonna get us any better off in Afghanistan either. And as our leaders are telling us in our military, we do need to ramp it up in Afghanistan,"

This is, of course, wrong. Our military leaders have actually said just the opposite, stating repeatedly that our troop commitments in Iraq constrain our options in Afghanistan, preventing us from answering the pleas from NATO-ISAF Commander General David McKiernan for more forces, and contributing to a climate of worsening violence and instability.  Take a look:

“I don’t have troops I can reach for...I don’t have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq.” - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen

“[W]ithout changing deployment patterns, without changing length of tours we do not have the forces to send three additional brigade combat teams to Afghanistan at this point. My view is that those forces will become available probably during the spring and summer of 2009.” - Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

"My predecessor asked for a minimum of three brigade combat teams (about 10,000 soldiers). I have said that was a valid requirement. But since I got here I have asked for some additional forces in the east." - ISAF-NATO commander, General David McKiernan

(Note: This request is on top of the troop deployments promised by President Bush two weeks ago.)

It gets worse.  According to General James Cartwright, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, even if we were to re-deploy more quickly from Iraq, we still might not be able to meet the troop demands in Afghanistan:

“If we reduced our troop presence in Iraq more quickly, would we be able to meet our U.S. commander in Afghanistan’s request more quickly?” Cartwright responded, “We would not be able to meet the entirety of that request.” He followed with, “We could meet part of it.” - General James Cartwright

So I guess the M.O. from now on has to be that whenever Sarah Palin says something about foreign policy, it's pretty safe to assume the opposite.

Two Sides to Every Story
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There has been a viral video going around of a disabled Iraq War veteran slamming Obama for opposing the surge.  It's a powerful piece from a powerful messenger.  But it's important to remember that there are two sides to this story.  I have met many Iraq veterans, who are proud to have served this country but who genuinely disagree with the Iraq War and believe it was a strategic mistake.  Questioning the decisions of our leaders and holding them accountable for their mistakes is just as patriotic.  So, I'm glad that someone has responded so forcefully.

The President of Pakistan is A Horndog
Posted by Michael Cohen

This is the kind of behavior I would really have expected from Henry Kissinger but the new  President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari seems to be engaging in some serious ... ahem ... "shuttle diplomacy." Check out this exchange between Zardari and Sarah Palin.

“I am honored to meet you,” Ms. Palin said.

“You are even more gorgeous than you are on the (inaudible),” Mr. Zardari said.

“You are so nice,” Ms. Palin replied. “Thank you.”

“Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you,” Mr. Zardari continued. At which point an aide told the two to shake hands.

“I’m supposed to pose again,” Ms. Palin said.

“If he’s insisting,” Mr. Zardari said, “I might hug.”

This is pretty gross. You have the leader of a nuclear power basically trying to cop a feel in front of the international media. I'm no fan of Ms. Palin but she doesn't deserve this.

Then again, if ever there was a moment to push Mr. Zardari to crack down on those Al Qaeda training camps in Waziristan this might have been it . . .

That Wacky, Wacky John McCain Campaign
Posted by Michael Cohen

Truly, is there a wackier campaign than John McCain's? Seriously, if you've wondered what it would be like for a couple of 16-year olds to run a presidential campaign I present you the 2008 McCain campaign.

First, we have Rick Davis, who really has to be the worst campaign manager in modern history - and the crazy part is that he isn't even a Democrat. I mean, Rick did you think no one was going to find out that you were still a corporate director for Davis Manafort and STILL working for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Here's the thing, Rick your job as campaign manager is to HELP your candidate.

Second, we have Sarah Palin.  Has there ever been a wackier candidate than her?  This is like Stacy's Mom running for President; that is of course if Stacy's Mom was a right-wing conservative who doesn't believe climate change is man made, thinks we should be teaching creationism in schools and likes to shoot caribou out of a helicopter. But wait a minute . . . she can see Russia.

Check out this interview with Katie Couric last night. Watching this will prove that Sarah Palin truly has a lot in common with a Saturday Night Live cast member – neither are ready for prime time.

Did I mention she can see Russia from her front yard?

Finally, we have John McCain. Oh John, where do I even begin? You used to be the model of Republican probity (and those aren’t words you see in a sentence every day). No you’re running a presidential campaign like you’re crack junkie looking for your latest fix. Let me just say if I go to Vegas and see John McCain sitting at my poker table . . . I’m taking out a second mortgage.

Now you’ve suspended your presidential campaign to go back to Washington and negotiate a bill that you know next to nothing about and an issue in which you have little to no expertise. Cha-ching!

The best part about this is that last night when you announced that you were heading to Washington and blowing off David Letterman . . .. but still going to the Clinton Global Initiative today. This led to this almost mind-blowing quote from McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace who said their dissing of Letterman was necessary because the campaign “felt this wasn’t a night for comedy.”

Nicole, every day with the McCain campaign is a day for comedy.

September 24, 2008

While We're Suspending Stuff
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Can we suspend the rest of the baseball season?  Or even better can the Mets just suspend all games after 7 innings before handing them over to the bullpen?  I can't believe I've had to post this graphic two years in a row.


Flipping Out in Times of Crisis
Posted by Max Bergmann

So facing a sharp drop in his poll numbers and after struggling on the economy for the past week, John McCain has decided to suspend his campaign and return to Washington - despite him not having voted for a bill in Washington since April. One thing is clear from McCain's latest campaign stunt, when confronted with bad news McCain's first instinct is to react hysterically.

His leadership of his campaign has been anything but stable. From his choice of a first term Alaskan governor who he didn't even vet, to the total collapse of his campaign in 2007, and to his complete stonewalling of the press, McCain has demonstrated that he is completely unsteady. But it his reaction to international events which really scares me. Pat Barry presciently wrote yesterday:

John McCain sees crises just about everywhere.  He's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, in the sense that he is constantly shooting his mouth off without regard for the severity or the sensitivity of a given issue...McCain's tendency for hysterics is not just an issue of exaggeration.  It's also about prioritization...  Based on how many times expressions like "biggest crisis since" and "a greater crisis than"  pass through McCain's lips, it's far from clear which, of the crises he identifies, will be at the top of his list.

This all fits a pattern. After 9-11 McCain advocated attacking Iraq, Syria and Iran. In the run-up to the Iraq war McCain said Saddam was a "threat to civilization"

itself [Washington Times, 2/14/03]. On Russia, on North Korea, on Iran, each one has been elevated to level of a clock-stopping crisis. This is not to say that these are not serious challenges. But McCain's tendency to reach for the dramatic, combined with his knee-jerk willingness for confrontational action should make us all very very worried. As I wrote last month,

The big concern with a McCain that the U.S. will lurch from crisis to crisis, confrontation to confrontation, whether it be with Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. The danger is that McCain’s pundit-like rhetoric will entrap the U.S. in descending spiral of foreign policy brinksmanship. Just think about the very likely scenario of McCain giving Iran/Russia a rhetorical ultimatum and Iran/Russia ignoring it. Now we are stuck - either we lose face by not following through on our threats or we follow through and go to war.  We can’t afford such a reckless approach after the last eight years. For the next eight we need a president not a pundit.   

If McCain's elected, hold on to your hats because things could get wild.

No Time Outs
Posted by Patrick Barry

So wait a minute.  Should Sunni and Shi'a drop shooting at each other in Iraq because John McCain is behind in the polls?  Should Vladimir Putin go to his dacha for a few weeks, all because John McCain needs some time to catch up?  Part of being President is to be able to manage a crisis, and more often than not its several at once.  Americans do not take time outs, and neither should he.

HT to Eric for the Sunni/Shi'a point.

The Absurdity of the Bush-McCain Middle East Policy
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So, as many have already reported Max Boot seems to have gone on a bit of a neoconservative bender at a retreat hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Throwing Bush under the bus; Saying the peace process just isn't a serious priority; And essentially saying that the McCain administration would discourage the Israelis from continuing negotiations with the Syrians.  Boot has written about some of his comments being taken out of context, but I think it's still worth making two substantive points.

First, the idea that we should be discouraging the Israelis from talking to the Syrians when they are making progress on a peace agreement is a reversal of fifty years of American policy.  We have never discouraged Israel from talking to one of its Arab neighbors.  We've always had a policy of not dictating to the Israelis what they should on matters of their own security (Although some American administrations have taken a more proactive approach than others).  But until Bush we've never actually campaigned against moving ahead on any kind of talks that might make progress on peace.

Second, it's true that ultimately the U.S. can't solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  And the issue is a frustrating mess.  But what Boot's mentality of not engaging does.  The Bush administration neglected the peace process from 2000-2006 and what happened?  Violence spiraled out of control.  Gaza completely fell apart.  Things got much much worse.  So, it's not that an Obama administration can change things overnight.  The situation is not a good one.  But we do know that American inaction tends to make the situation worse not better and that the smart and sensible policy is to engage.

Four Tough Questions on Russia
Posted by The Editors

Our guest blogger is Rose Gottemoeller, the Moscow Center Director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former deputy undersecretary for defense nuclear nonproliferation in the U.S. Department of Energy.

After Georgia, why can’t we get our act together to punish the Russians?
The Russians have done it to themselves.  After their attack on Georgia, their economy has taken a serious beating.  The Wall Street Journal reports that Russia’s market is the worst performer in the world in 2008.  From its all-time high in May 2008, the Russian market had lost $680 billion in value by September, when the stock exchanges in Moscow had to halt trading for two days to try to control the crisis.  With the entire gross domestic product of the country standing at $1.29 trillion in 2007, this drop was a serious blow to Russian economic performance.

What about the Russian cooperation with Venezuela, the flights of the TU-160 bombers, the naval ships heading to Venezuela to participate in “joint exercises”?
Russian military spending, which is slated to reach $50 billion next year, is only a fraction of the $700 billion per year that the United States spends on its armed forces.  If the Russians want to expend their scarce resources on sending naval ships and bombers to Venezuela, so be it—but it is truly a waste of time and money.  Threats to Russia are not in Latin America, but on Russia’s periphery, where extremism and terrorism are the enemies.  We need to work together with Russia to defeat those threats, especially when they involve weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Why are we wasting our time trying to negotiate arms control deals with the Russians?  The Georgian conflict shows they cannot be trusted.  We can reduce nuclear weapons unilaterally and not worry about the Russians.  We don’t want to be locked into any treaties with them.
There is no way we should let the Russians off the hook on nuclear arms control.  If they can’t be trusted, then we need to sign them up to legally binding arms control deals, which was the watchword of the Reagan administration—“Trust but verify” was Ronald Reagan’s favorite comment on the Russians and nuclear arms control.  That is why we need to ensure that the START treaty does not disappear at the end of 2009, but is transformed into a more modern agreement that will allow us to cut the nuclear threat deeper than ever before.

What would you do with the Russians?
The Russians showed their absolute worst in Georgia—they haven’t altered their military doctrine since they took the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945, and Georgia bore the brunt of a Russian military onslaught that was inexcusable.  So the question is, now what?  Should the Russians be shut out of Europe?  Should they have no part in building the security system in Europe?  It seems to me the Russians have a choice, and we need to present it to them: do they want to be in the game or not?  Are they going to be part of the security system in Europe, or shut out?  We tried to make a good start in the NATO-Russian Council engaging the Russians, but they weren’t ready in the end for the engagement.  So let’s turn the question back on them—do they want to work with NATO or not?

More Press than Palin
Posted by Adam Blickstein

A major speech in front of the international community. A freewheeling press conference lasting more than an hour. An hour-long, prime time appearance with CNN's venerable Larry King. All in all, a busy busy press day. So, who allowed themselves to be exposed to the scrupulous press at such an unfettered level? Sarah Palin, a GOP candidate running to hold the second highest office in the United States of America? No, try Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yes, in total, one of the most vile leaders in the world today yesterday arguably faced more direct media scrutiny with domestic and international press then a person who could theoretically become the most powerful person in America and the world.  It's not only a slap to the face of the American people, but also an indictment of the McCain campaign's controlling insecurities that they have allowed the press perhaps less access to Palin over an entire month than the direct media scrutiny the detestable President of Iran received in one day.

So, what access to Palin did the McCain campaign allow the media have yesterday? Perhaps a press conference following her meetings with major world leaders to discuss what was said, giving her the opportunity to brag about her international tour de force and introduction to the world community? No, the answer is 29 unintelligible seconds talking about Karzai's kid. 29 seconds:

As the pool entered, the Afghan president appeared to be telling Palin about his young son, who was born in January 2007.

Palin, her legs crossed and at one point patting her heart, was leaning in eagerly and smiling. Karzai, wearing his traditional clothes but without his trademark karakul hat, was also grinning while discussing the child. His remarks were unintelligible as the noise from the clicking cameras drowned them out.

This was the only exchange that was heard:

“What is his name?,” Palin asked.

“Mirwais,” Karzai responded. “Mirwais, which means, ‘The Light of the House.’”

“Oh nice,” Palin responded.

“He is the only one we have,” remarked Karzai.

At this point, the pool was hustled out the room and down to the hotel lobby. Pool was in the room for a grand total of 29 seconds.

September 23, 2008

The McCain Who Cried Wolf
Posted by Patrick Barry

John McCain sees crises just about everywhere.  He's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, in the sense that he is constantly shooting his mouth off without regard for the severity or the sensitivity of a given issue.

As Matts Yglesias and Welch have both pointed out, his dizzying leaps from headline to headline definitely have unquestionable implications for how he would conduct foreign policy as President.   But where I want to diverge slightly is to say that McCain's tendency for hysterics is not just an issue of exxageration.  It's also about prioritization.   

Take his most recent statement about our economic meltdown:

"We are in the most serious crisis since World War II."

Though the comparison between the threat of an economic collapse and a war which killed millions of people seems stretched, I agree with the thrust of Senator McCain's observation. The next President should absolutely elevate addressing economic instability to the top of his agenda.  But there's still a greater problem here.  Based on how many times expressions like "biggest crisis since" and "a greater crisis than"  pass through McCain's lips, it's far from clear which, of the crises he identifies, will be at the top of his list.  Just look at these examples:

McCain on North Korea in 2003:

"I disagree with my friend Secretary Powell who says it's not a crisis. I think it's a crisis of great magnitude, a greater threat than Iraq poses in the short term."[John McCain, Hardball, 2/10/03]

McCain on Iran in 2006:

"the most serious crisis we have faced - outside of the entire war on terror - since the end of the Cold War." [John McCain, 1/22/06]

McCain on Terrorism in 2007:

"My friends, this is a transcendent struggle between good and evil. Everything we stand for and believe in is at stake here." [John McCain, 6/05/07]

McCain on Russia-Georgia:

"My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War." [John McCain, 8/14/08]

Leaving aside the fact that McCain's taxonomy leaves out the pretty obvious crises of 9-11 and the Iraq War, and that his propensity for exxageration is quite obviously on display, there is another point to be made.  Every crisis in the long list that McCain has cataologued hasn't gone away.  Some have grown worse, and every one is likely to be a challenge for the next administration. Addressing each challenge entails a process of seperating and prioritizing, not lumping them all together using hyperbolic language and one or two points of historical reference.  The alternatives would be either paralysis, or worse, error, like ramping up military assistance to Georgia when you need Russia's cooperation on Iran or staying mired in Iraq when you should be focused on Afghanistan.  So it may ring true when McCain says that our economic crisis is the worst since WW II, but whether he actually makes it a priority remains in consiberable doubt. 

The Hypocrisy of (some) Arab Liberals
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Yes, it is a harsh title for a post. But I'm a bit perturbed. Jordan's most popular bar/cafe - Books@Cafe - was shut down last week, essentially because it continued to serve alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan. Books@Cafe has a liquor license from the relevant government ministries, so it appears that the government's move to close it down isn't exactly legal. Moreover, I will readily agree it is an attack on freedom of expression (people should be allowed to drink alcohol if they want to) and the government should reverse its decision immediately. I just got back from Jordan two weeks ago. I was there for about 5 months. I went to Books quite a few times. I like the place a lot, in part because it boasts an amazing view of East Amman. Many of my friends were Books regulars. This is a direct attack on them.

But I'd like to bring up a caveat. I find it ironic that the co-owner of Books@Cafe wrote this blistering post criticizing the government for an attack of freedom and individual rights. Many others, including bloggers and online activists, are incensed. It appears that there may be an effort to organize a response, protesting the government's measures, which apparently include the closing down of more than 60 other establishments throughout Jordan. This outrage among Jordanian liberals is - what is the right word? - interesting. We hear them speaking the weightly language of rights and freedoms and democracy. The ownder of Books writes: "Do we just close up and leave the country and lose all our love and loyalty to Jordan? I prefer to fight for a better Jordan and I think everyone should do the same."

It's strange that they have waited this long to fight for "a better Jordan." While nonviolent Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, were being repressed by the government, we did not hear from them this talk of rights and freedoms. When Jordan witnessed the most blatantly rigged elections in its history (in 2007), we did not hear this outrage. We heard mostly a silent acquiescence, in part because Arab liberals have long feared that if there were, in fact, free and fair elections in Jordan and elsewhere, Islamists would win. Their attachment to freedom and democracy is obviously contextual, and is only raised when it is their rights - rather than the rights of others - that are being trampled. For too long, too many Arab liberals have stood by silently, and have cast their lot with Arab autocrats because the devil they knew was better than the devil they didn't.

And so, time and time again, democracy has been sacrificed in the name of democracy. This is a tragic hypocrisy. Arab liberals have a vital role to play in futhering demoracy in the Middle East. Some have played this role courageously - people, for instance, like Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Ayman Nour, who have spoken out against the repression moderate Islamists. But, unfortunately, many have not.

Hiatt Misses the Point on Iran - Again
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

The Washington Post has a terrible editorial today on Iran claiming that somehow both Barack Obama and John McCain have the same policy on Iran and that both are following the same path as the President.  I know it's fashionable during election season for high minded types to paper over clear differences and claim that all the candidates have the same policy, but in the case of Iran nothing could be further from the truth.  The Post writes:

The next major initiative to stop an Iranian bomb will probably be a new effort by the next U.S. president to launch negotiations; Barack Obama has made it a centerpiece of his policy, and John McCain has said he's willing to support talks as well. Both also say they will work to stiffen sanctions. That, of course, is the strategy the United States and European governments have already been pursuing for several years -- without success. Why do the candidates believe they will succeed where the Bush administration has failed? That would be a good topic for Friday's foreign policy debate.

First of all, McCain has specifically criticized Obama for willing to have diplomatic talks.  So how can the Post simply say that McCain and Obama would both hold talks with the Iranians and dismiss them as having the same position.  McCain has run ads against Obama on this point. 

Second, McCain has continued the intensive saber rattling towards Iran that has been a hallmark of the Bush administration and gets in the way of any real talks. 

Third, while both Obama and McCain have argued for tougher sanctions only Obama's plan has a chance of succeeding.  McCain has pushed for tougher sanctions but refuses any diplomatic engagement.  So, the rest of the world continues to perceive that the U.S. is not engaging in genuine diplomacy and will refuse to take the next step on sanctions.  If on the other hand we engage it might work, which would be great.  If engagement fails and the Iranians continue to be seen as playing games and being obstinate then we are much more likely to gain the support of at least our European allies, if not the UNSC, for tougher sanctions to put greater pressure on the Iranian regime.  Even the Bush administration has started to recognize the need for more direct talks, which is why it sent Ambassador Bill Burns to Vienna in July as part of delegation with our allies to present the Iranians with a proposal to move discussions along the nuclear issue. 

In the end McCain's policy is basically a continuation of the old Bush policy.  No talks and futile attempts to gain support for tougher sanctions.  Obama's policy offers a genuine break and new opportunities. 

September 22, 2008

Arguing on Georgia ≠ Nuclear Cooperation
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

The LA Times has an excellent breakdown of how the Georgia conflict has hurt our ability to work with the Russians on critical non-proliferation issues.

Most officials at the level of deputy assistant secretary and above have been told to avoid engagement with Russian counterparts except in multilateral settings like the United Nations, according to White House and State Department officials. That has effectively paralyzed the many political appointees assigned to foster existing bilateral relationships and develop new ones.

Some high-level meetings have been postponed indefinitely, including a trip to Russia by John Rood, the acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, to discuss various security issues and to negotiate a new pact to replace the existing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START.

And the congressionally appointed Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has been asked to not go on its upcoming fact-finding visit to Moscow.

Many U.S. officials said the freeze couldn't come at a worse time. They cite intelligence showing that the Caucasus region increasingly is becoming a crossroads for Islamic extremists, criminal mafias, black market traffickers and corrupt government officials.

What we have here is an issue of strategic priorities.  A major commission that is specifically tasked with focusing on preventing WMD terrorism can't do its job properly because of the Russia-Georgia conflict.  Keep in mind that WMD terrorism is the issue that both candidates in the 2004 Presidential debate argued was the greatest threat to the U.S.   I just can't see how the conflict with Georgia rises to the same level of national concern.  Especially considering that unsecured nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union are probably  the most likely way that a terrorist group might acquire WMD materials for some kind of attack.  This isn't to say that we shouldn't concern ourselves with Russian action in Georgia and shouldn't send some clear messages to the Russians about our displeasure (The Russian markets seem to be sending a pretty strong signal about their displeasure).  But does anyone really think that Tbilisi is worth junking our entire strategic dialogue with the Russians over nuclear non-proliferation? 

By the way.  This in a nutshell is why John McCain's proposed Russia policy makes very little sense.  You can't on the one hand can pick fights with the Russians: taking hardline positions on Georgia or trying to kick them out of the G8.  And then on the other hand claim that you will cooperate with the Russians on a broad swath of proliferation issues.   It just doesn't comport with reality.  But that is exactly what John McCain has claimed he will do.  Either he doesn't get it, or just like the Bush administration he is torn between Gates and the realists and Cheney and the hardliners.  It looks like Bush has gone with Cheney on this issue and judging from McCain's reaction to the conflict he has chosen the Cheney approach as well.

Palin's Busy Day
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Sarah Palin has a very busy schedule set up for herself for tomorrow meeting with:  Henry Kissinger, Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), Jalal Talabani (Iraq), Asif Ali Zardari (Pakistan), Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgia).  Now that is quite a list, but a couple of points worth nothing. 

First of all, I'd appreciate it if the McCain campaign would stop with the playing down expectations and trying to protect Sarah Palin from Joe Biden in the debate.  You can't on the one hand be talking about how tough Joe Biden is going to be on her, and the next moment be sending her out on this schedule of meetings.  These aren't the leaders of Lesotho and Swaziland (Nothing against those countries and I've actually been to Lesotho.  Very nice).  But this is pretty much every single major crisis area we face right now (outside of Iran and North Korea since according to McCain we shouldn't talk to them at all).  What Palin says to some of these leaders will matter.  So, if she's not really ready to debate Biden she is surely not ready for these types of meetings. You can't have it both ways.

Second.  Palin has a pretty fiery op-ed in the NY Sun today going after Iran.  I wonder what Henry Kissinger will think of it and what he will tell her when he meets with her.  Considering he along with five other secretaries of state all agree that we should be directly engaging with Iran without conditions at the highest levels of government.

Les Gelb: McCain's Approach "Doesn’t fit reality anymore"
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Today, the National Security Network held a conference call previewing Friday's Presidential debate on foreign policy. Experts Les Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and Chairman of NSN's Advisory Board, and NSN President Rand Beers discussed what to expect from the debate and other facets of foreign policy in the political forum. Audio can be found here, and below are some quotes from the call:

“Foreign policy, in my judgment, has not been more important in a presidential election than it is this time around. You look at the agenda out there. The trade talks have stalled, we gotta start doing something about global warming cause Kyoto was a failure. We have to do something about energy conservation and energy alternative at an international level. We are in two wars. We are threatening to be in some more wars. The international agenda has never been more important, more complex, more worrisome. ..I’ve known McCain for almost 3 decades. The McCain in this election is very different from the John McCain before. John McCain before was a traditional, pragmatic conservative. A guy who’s politics and views I found very appealing. This John McCain has dropped almost all pretense of diplomatic power, economic power and talks almost exclusively in terms of military threats and going to war. And that just doesn’t fit reality anymore. It just doesn’t.”

“The symbol of how far we have deteriorated on this is McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate. I don’t say this as elitism, I say it as Americanism because you need both a president and vice president with some demonstrated knowledge and experience of the world you can’t just step out of the blue with it. And even though I find Palin very interesting politicians and a very appealing politician her complete lack of knowledge about the world at this critical moment really disturbs me. And again, that’s not elitism, that’s Americanism.
-Les Gelb

“Sen. McCain oddly enough may be under more pressure than Sen. Obama in that he as the quote more experienced person has to perform at an exceptionally high level with really a flawless performance in order to demonstrate his clear superiority whereas Sen. Obama has to prove that he is knowledgeable, that has good judgment, and that he can express himself clearly to the America people about his plans and intentions, but by no means by the standard that I think Sen. McCain will have to be judged by.”

“There have been a number of suggestions and characterizations that Sen. McCain is basically a continuation of the Bush administration in the national security area. I think that has some merit in terms of the way to think about Sen. McCain. But it is also interesting to remember that in two important cases: with respect to Iran and the Administration’s response to the Georgia crisis…In both of these instances I think McCain comes across as being more hawkish, as talking tough in those situations.”
-Rand Beers

McCain was against US involvement in Northern Ireland peace process
Posted by Max Bergmann

John McCain was in Scranton today (apparently Scranton is the epicenter of the political universe these days) claiming to have been a long supporter of U.S. involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process - which just happens to be completely untrue.

I am not sure if John McCain just can't remember his positions in the 90s or if he is deliberately misleading people. He also took a swipe at Barack O'bama. Here is what John McCain said today:


If I am elected President, I will continue America’s leadership role. I am committed, as I know the American people are committed, to furthering the bonds of cooperation that have been forged in Northern Ireland’s peace process. As a demonstration of that commitment, I will continue the practice, begun by President Clinton, of appointing a U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. I know Senator Obama has questioned whether that appointment is needed. I would urge him to reconsider. If I am elected president, I assure you that there will be no weakening in America’s commitment to peace in Northern Ireland. I’ll maintain the special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland, and I will welcome peacemakers to the White House.

First of all McCain widely criticized Clinton's involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s. McCain called Clinton a "romantic" and called U.S. involvement "mistaken" and driven by the Irish-American lobby. In 1996, McCain wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine:

"Motivated by romantic, anachronistic notions of Irish republicanism, some prominent Irish-Americans persuaded the president (over the objection of the State Department) to jump headfirst into the Northern Ireland problem, severely straining our relations with London...[through our] mistaken involvement in the Northern Ireland problem, President Clinton has deepened the risk to his credibility and further damaged relations with our British allies." [Foreign Policy, Summer 1996]

Not exactly a shinning endorsement of the peace process is it. It also once again shows McCain's poor judgment and complete lack of understanding of how peace is made. McCain was also opposed to giving Gerry Adams a visa to come to the United States. But establishing trust with both Catholics and Protestants was crucial to asserting our neutrality and enhanced our ability to arbitrate the dispute and eventually help lay the ground work for peace. McCain was against that.

Secondly, McCain's attack on Obama is ridiculous. It is probably unnecessary to maintain a special envoy after the peace process has finalized and a joint power-sharing Protestant-Catholic government has now taken hold. I am not sure if Barack Obama has taken a position on this - this position seems like something that should just gradually shrink away. But the fact that McCain would attack Obama on the peace process after oppossing it throughout the 90s is completely hypocritical. If McCain is going to pander he should at least do it on areas where he has a leg to stand on.

Congressman Richard Neal sums it up best:

“By contrast, John McCain has spent years ridiculing and minimizing U.S. efforts to help resolve the Troubles. In an article in Foreign Affairs, he said President Bill Clinton’s efforts were “romantic” and accused him of undertaking his tireless work for peace in order to curry favor with Irish Americans. He criticized the decision to grant Gerry Adams a visa, a development now considered crucial to the success of the peace process. He claimed our role in Northern Ireland was severely damaging our relationship with Great Britain. Yet in a speech before Congress in 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly thanked America for its support of the peace process. Quite simply, in the long march towards peace and stability in Northern Ireland, John McCain has been on the wrong side of history every step of the way.”

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