Unlike many of our readers, it is my view that President Obama has been a nearly flawless foreign policy President. And make no mistake, unlike some Presidents, President Obama appears firmly in control of his Administration's foreign policy. And one of his valuable assets in carrying out his foreign policy is his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Today's New York Times has a long piece on the relationship between the President and the Secretary of State:
Sixteen months after Mr. Obama surprised nearly everyone by picking her as secretary of state, the two have again surprised nearly everyone by forging a credible partnership. Mrs. Clinton has proved to be an eager team player, a tireless defender of the administration, ever deferential to Mr. Obama and careful to ensure that her husband, the former president, does not upstage her boss.
[. . .] Still, there is none of the deep familiarity or the tight bonds the round-the-clock, back-channel access of their predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush, or going further back, James A. Baker and the first President Bush or Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon. Hillary Clinton is the secretary of state, said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official who has written about the shaping of foreign policy. The question now is whether she becomes a real adviser, and whether he trusts her.
Rothkopf's comment seems a strange one to me and appears to buy into the idea that the Secretary of State should be the formulator of foreign policy. This accepts the view of Henry Kissinger, who viewed himself as a sort of foreign policy czar:
To make sure Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton talked to each other, White House officials scheduled a standing 45-minute meeting on Thursday afternoons. [. . .] The meetings are sacrosanct for the secretary: after her plane broke down in Saudi Arabia last month, a frantic Mrs. Clinton ditched her traveling press corps to flag down Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command who had been meeting with the Saudi king, for a ride home so that she would not miss her session with the president the next day.
But a weekly one-on-one in the Oval Office is a far cry from the access that some of her predecessors enjoyed. In a joint Newsweek interview with Mrs. Clinton in December, Mr. Kissinger said he made a point of seeing Mr. Nixon every day when they were both in town. I see the president when I need to see him; I talk to the president when I need to talk to him, Mrs. Clinton countered in her later interview with The New York Times.
I believe Secretary Clinton has it right. Kissinger, particularly during the Ford Administration (Nixon was not going to be rolled by anyone), was granted a sort of veto power by a weak President. That was bad for the nation. (Bush 41's relationships with Baker and Scowcroft were so close and longstanding that it would be impossible to recreate that type of scenario. Besides which, Bush 41 was very experienced and adept at foreign policy. Jim Baker was clearly carrying out the directives of Bush 41.)
The effectiveness of the Secretary of State might be an issue if there were some doubt that she was not carrying forward the President's directives on foreign policy and if there was some Kissinger-like figure in the NSC. Then the question of marginalization, a la William Rogers in the Nixon Administration and Colin Powell in the Bush 43 Administration, might become an issue. But neither scenario has emerged in the Obama Administration, given the President's tight leash on foreign policy.
There is one conceit in the Times article that always annoys me - the drive for "historic achievement" in foreign policy (which always seems to revolve around the Israel/Palestine situation.) From the article:
Mr. Obama has jealously guarded his prerogatives as the architect of American foreign policy, concentrating decision-making on crucial issues like Iran, Iraq and the Middle East in the White House. And Mrs. Clinton has yet to stake a claim to a core foreign-policy issue, the kind of signature role that would allow her nascent partnership with Mr. Obama to become a truly historic alliance.
Of course, they would have to make history first. So far, the administrations foreign-policy ambitions have been marked more by frustration than fulfillment, from a stubborn Russia and a defiant China to the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program and a deepening conflict with Israel, where Mrs. Clinton has loudly given voice to the presidents dissatisfaction. Mr. Obamas dominant foreign policy concern the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan is still a work in progress.
Foreign policy is ALWAYS a work in progress. Nothing is ever fully resolved. Indeed, the physicians' oath applies strongly here - first do no harm. Would that the Bush 43 Administration had not aimed for "historic achievements" - the world would be a much better place.
Thus, regarding the issues the Times ticks off - the Middle East (Israel/Palestine), Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia - it is the demand for "historic achievement" that leads to historic blunders. To the Obama administration's credit, they have tabled the "historic achievement" talk (in this sense, shunting the Israel/Palestine issue on to George Mitchell is brilliant, no reason for the President and the Secretary of state getting bogged down in a situation that is largely unmanageable -- Israel and Palestine have to work it out if they can) and have adopted practical, prudent and achievable objectives.
President Obama chose the very capable Secretary Clinton to carry out this new approach and he could not have made a better choice.
Speaking for me only
Amazingly, John Ensign is still in the Senate. But, the leading political columnist in Nevada, Jon Ralston, says it's time for him to go:
But the nagging, all-too-serious question is this: Is Ensign so self-absorbed and delusional that he is willing to bring down folks of varying innocence with him ? either people loyal to him now having to hire attorneys to defend themselves because of the senator?s scandal or those whose tangential roles in his life have them under federal scrutiny.I don't think Ensign is going anywhere. He thinks he can ride this out, just like David Vitter did. And, his GOP colleagues will never turn on him. They only turned on Larry Craig because of the gay angle.
Politicians are notoriously solipsistic, but Ensign?s behavior since his confess-and-run news conference June 16 has set a new nadir. It?s one thing to be exposed as a spectacular hypocrite, a moral crusader with feet of clay, and yet try to hang onto your Club of 100 membership as if it were more important than anything. But it?s quite different to become the focus of criminal and ethics probes and continue to clutch onto the senatorial ring despite the carnage ? real, quantifiable human carnage ? you are leaving in your wake.
Congressional Democrats seem extremely pleased with themselves over how they fiddled with the design of an excise tax on employer-provided insurance that will not kick in for eight years (and then grow faster after another two years) to make it look like[...]
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Burns Strider, of the American Values Network, makes a good point. Why is Fox funding research to discredit a minister for believing in social justice?
This past week, Glenn Beck publicly revealed that his staff is moving beyond simply twisting the news for ideological ends to now funding opposition research and internet attack campaigns with the stated purpose of destroying the personal credibility of pastors who dare to question statements made by FOX commentators.
By now, many people are probably familiar with Glenn Beck's statement from a couple of weeks ago that any church that talks about "social or economic justice" is not of Christ but is instead spreading Nazi or communist propaganda, and that Beck's listeners should leave those churches. (Funny, Beck's own Mormon faith uses those terms throughout its website.)There was an immediate response from pastors around the country citing the overwhelming call for economic and social justice in Scripture ... and Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches, provided a wonderful summary of the Scriptural case on theHuffington Post.
But the pastor who quickly rose to the lead of the Catholic, mainline, and evangelical rebuke of Glenn Beck was Rev. Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners.And so with no scriptural or theological arguments to fall back upon, Glenn Beck apparently decided that his only option is to try to destroy Rev. Wallis personally.
Personal attacks aren't uncommon from partisan commentators, but what is especially troubling about this most recent development is that Glenn Beck isn't just planning to throw insults; he said that he has been using his FOX staff to research everything that Rev. Wallis has ever said or done and to dig up dirt on the people who work with the pastor.
I know Rev. Wallis both professionally and as a friend. I've watched him coach my son in Little League baseball and prayed with him for the strength and success of our great nation. Beck's attacks are contextually fictitious to the point of being imaginary. It's quite sad, actually. He's about to overcook my grits.
But Rev. Wallis continues to take the high road, speaking out for the power and calling of social justice, refraining from personal attacks, and reminding us that Dr. King stood down injustice and promoted social justice by confronting, not attacking.But that is all for another time. Why is FOX funding research to discredit an American minister?
The stock market rally continues. The S&P 500 is now comfortably over the January high we’ve been watching. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, held back by its mega-cap members, is still trying to make the same breakthrough. Otherwise, most equity benchmarks are at new 52-week highs. Intermediate-term momentum is bullish across the board, so we suspect more gains are ahead.
As expected, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged at its policy meeting this week. Traders were anxious to see if the “extended period” language remained in the statement. It did. The committee did not sound terribly optimistic about the…
Las Vegas betting parlors will be changing the question from "When will John Ensign resign from the Senate?" to "How many years will John Ensign serve in federal prison?" Although the national media has been far more titillated with the circus Fox created out of Eric Massa's breakdown, regardless of the fact that Massa resigned and is getting (real) medical help, in Nevada Senator Ensign ='s scandalous saga is never far from the front page or the nightly news. The national media is being forced to deal with it again too.
This week Las Vegas' local CBS affiliate was all over the case and instead of listening to modern day Know Nothings with tricorner hats drooling on themselves and screaming "read the bill," people in Nevada are being urged to read the subpoena.
Nevada Senator John Ensign is in the crosshairs of a Department of Justice criminal investigation.
The criminal probe stems from a romantic affair Ensign had with the wife of his key staffer and close friend, Doug Hampton, and what Ensign has done to help Hampton financially.
Subpoenas have been issued to at least six Las Vegas businesses. The Justice Department came to Las Vegas to interview several prominent business and political figures in what appears to be a wide-ranging and deadly-serious criminal probe.
The parlor games are all great fun: Would Gov. Jim Gibbons appoint his opponent, Brian Sandoval, to Ensign?s seat if it came to a resignation and would Sandoval take it? Or: Can Rep. Shelley Berkley really compete for that seat she now covets as lustily as Ensign coveted his neighbor?s wife?
But the nagging, all-too-serious question is this: Is Ensign so self-absorbed and delusional that he is willing to bring down folks of varying innocence with him-- either people loyal to him now having to hire attorneys to defend themselves because of the senator?s scandal or those whose tangential roles in his life have them under federal scrutiny.
Politicians are notoriously solipsistic, but Ensign?s behavior since his confess-and-run news conference June 16 has set a new nadir. It?s one thing to be exposed as a spectacular hypocrite, a moral crusader with feet of clay, and yet try to hang onto your Club of 100 membership as if it were more important than anything. But it?s quite different to become the focus of criminal and ethics probes and continue to clutch onto the senatorial ring despite the carnage-- real, quantifiable human carnage-- you are leaving in your wake.
What about reputable businessmen and businesses who have had shadows cast over their reputations by Ensign?s behavior-- trying to get the cuckolded Doug Hampton a job-- essentially ensnaring them in his massive cover-up? Ensign couldn?t care less about the effect on them when feds show up at their doors with subpoenas, the existence of which is inevitably leaked to the media.
What about John Lopez, who had an impeccable reputation on the Hill, but who now must hire a lawyer and be placed in the ineffably awful position of having to implicate his former boss? And my guess is he can. Lopez, given a soft landing at R&R Partners, may be the key to the entire case against Ensign in the probe of whether he conspired to help Hampton violate a cooling-off law.
What about Mike Slanker, the veteran political consultant who Ensign tasked with finding Hampton clients without, it appears, fully disclosing why, and forcing Slanker and his wife, another ex-Ensign aide, to defend themselves? I know many Democrats who despise Slanker for his brutal campaigns are feeling a sense of schadenfreude, but no one-- no one-- deserves that kind of treatment from someone who received loyalty for so many years.
And most of all, what about Ensign?s family having to continually endure the Chinese water torture that the senator could easily end with a simple announcement? If he were in private life, his wife and children would not have to constantly read more about his all-too-public transgressions.
We also learned Thursday that the subpoena-spreading around Nevada and Washington included the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The multitasking Ensign headed the committee while he was pursuing Cynthia Hampton. Again, good, faceless people are at risk because of Ensign?s unyielding impulse for self-preservation.
And what of the contributors at the time? As one wag put it, ?Give to the NRSC and win a free trip to Washington to appear before a federal grand jury!?
That?s funny. But this story has little humor left, despite the rich lampooning vein for late-night comics and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
It?s clear from interviews conducted here and by national newspapers that Ensign abused his power as a senator to cover up his affair and to try to buy Hampton?s silence. But the senator may never admit to wrongdoing or be found technically guilty of anything. He is hardly innocent, though-- guilty at least of unethical conduct by normal barometers, and of selfishly using those close to him to help cover his tracks and then jeopardizing their livelihoods.
Hmm. Sounds almost exactly what President Bill Clinton did to cover up his indiscretion. And John Ensign called on him to resign.
Senator, heal thyself.
Yesterday, ret. Gen. John J. Sheehan, the former Supreme Allied Commander for NATO, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) could harm the competency of the U.S. military. To back up his claim, he argued that Netherlands’ allowance of gay men and women to serve openly played a role in the devastating Srebrenica genocide in 1995. From his exchange with committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI):
SHEEHAN: The case in point that I?m referring to was when the Dutch were required to defend Sbrenecia against the Serbs, the battalion was understrength, poorly led. And the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone polls, marched the Muslims off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II.
LEVIN: And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?
SHEEHAN: It was a combination ?
LEVIN: Did they tell you that?
Dutch officials, however, are forcefully rejecting Sheehan’s outrageous claim. “It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” said the Dutch defense ministry spokesman, pointing out that international investigations of the Srebrenica massacre found no evidence “that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.” The Dutch ambassador to the United States said she “couldn’t disagree more” with Sheehan’s statement, and Dutch caretaker Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop called the claim “‘damaging’ and not worthy of a soldier. ‘I don’t want to waste any more words on it,’ he said.” Gen. Henk van den Breemen, Dutch Chief of Staff at the time of the Srebrenica genocide, added that Sheehan was spouting “total nonsense.”
The State Bar of California is investigating Orly Taitz, a process that could ultimately result in the Birther attorney's disbarment, Taitz and her lawyer confirmed to TPMmuckraker.
The investigation was prompted at least in part by a sanction for professional misconduct against Taitz in a Birther case in federal court in Georgia. Taitz continues to fight the $20,000 fine, which was imposed on her for making frivolous filings.
The bar's options for disciplinary action range from private reproval to disbarment. The latter punishment usually comes in cases in which attorneys "have a history of misconduct" or in which they have "committed a very serious violation, such as perjury or stealing client funds," according to the bar's Web site.
When Clay Land, the judge in the Georgia case, imposed the fine on Taitz in October, he also directed that a copy of his scathing 43-page order be sent to the California bar "for whatever use it deems appropriate."
The bar has asked Taitz to respond to Land's sanction, Taitz told TPMmuckraker in an email.
"Mandela had to spend years in prison, fighting corruption in the government," she wrote. "Responding to an inquiry from the bar is not that bad in comparison, is not such a high price to pay fighting massive fraud in the government, which allowed illegitimate Obama to get in the White House without as much as a valid social security number and without as much as an original birth certificate with the name of the doctor and hospital."
Jonathan Levy, Taitz's lawyer in the appeal of the sanction, suggested in an interview that a third party -- not the government and not one of Taitz's clients -- had filed a complaint against Taitz. "It raises issues about whether there is a witch hunt going on here," he said.
We've previously reported at least one other bar complaint against Taitz, filed by a fellow member of the California bar after Taitz called for Judge Land to be tried for treason.
Reached on the phone yesterday, the bar investigator assigned to Taitz's case, Robin Littlefield, told TPMmuckraker she could not comment. "All our investigations are confidential until there's been a formal filing of disciplinary action," she said."
But Taitz has, on her blog, has called on supporters to write to Littlefield and tell her that the "CA Attorneys' bar needs to act not as a tool of the Democratic party, not as a political hack, but as an organization devoted to upholding the Constitution and rule of law and needs to stand up and support me, and provide me with legal and financial help."
Taitz was admitted to the bar in 2002.
Add another name to the list of people Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) approached in his desperate bid to find a job for Doug Hampton after sleeping with Hampton's wife.
Sig Rogich, a veteran Nevada GOP political consultant met with investigators, and told them that he had a meeting with Hampton after "Ensign had asked me to meet him," according to what Rogich told Politico. "I told [Hampton] at a 10-minute meeting I did not have" a job for him, Rogich, a former Reagan administration communications aide, added. "That was it basically."
Yesterday, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reported that Rogich, and several other people, received subpoenas from the Senate Ethics committee, which is probing the matter.
Ensign also reportedly met with several Nevada businesses to try to find a job for Hampton. Justice Department investigators, also probing the matter, have reportedly sent subpoenas to some of those businesses, and to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. KLAS reported that the Feds are looking into an episode in which credit card companies donated to the NRSC -- then chaired by Ensign -- after Ensign told them he would help fight off new regulations.
On That Weekend VVAW & VFP, and others, Veterans in DCWe had already started the planning and reserving the venue for the 'teach in', Saturday, and March of Wreaths on Sunday only weeks before, not knowing the 'shock and awe' would start only a[...]
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