Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Obama Administration Refuses to Release Teenage Guantanamo Prisoner Forced to Confess by Torture

cross-posted at the Widdershins

One gets tired of repeatedly calling to account the “liberal” punditry trailing after the multitudes of rapidly defecting Obamaphiles across the land. But still it’s hard not to point out yet again to NY Times columnist Bob Herbert that he used his platform to help seduce the electorate into handing the presidency to one of the most inexperienced candidates to ever run for the office. For future reference, Americans need to be reminded that he of the thin resume was inaugurated during a worldwide financial meltdown, two wars, and a multitude of other global challenges.

To be fair, Herbert’s column in today’s NY Times is not the first he’s written in which he unveils his disillusionment with the One. In response to his most recent painful acknowledgement of reality titled, “How Long is Long Enough,” 193 astute readers with their humanity still intact recommended this comment by Solla Carrock of Portland, OR:

I knew there was a child at Guantanamo. I wondered whether he had been released. I didn't know that he was among those who had been tortured. How could anyone do that to a child. How can we continue. Is he one of the ones who are to be kept indefinitely because he cannot be tried in a court of law. President Obama, is this the change you promised, because I am beginning to lose my faith in it. If someone can't be tried then they need to be released. The dignity and rights of human beings, every human being, is the basis of our country, and if we cannot even protect children, what are we about.

Yes, Solla, this is the change President Obama promised.

In summary, Mr. Herbert points out: Mohammed Jawad was captured as a teenager in Kabul and tortured in American custody. Now administration lawyers are blocking efforts to secure his freedom.

Here’s the deal:

No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.

What is not in dispute is that he was no older than an adolescent, and that since his capture he has been tortured and otherwise put through hell. The evidence against him has been discredited. He has tried to commit suicide. But the U.S. won’t let him go.

Herbert reports:

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the U.S. Army Reserve, a recipient of the Bronze Star, among other commendations, was named the lead prosecutor on the case in 2007. By then, Jawad had already been held for nearly five years. Colonel Vandeveld assumed that the case would be uncomplicated and that a conviction could be easily secured.

Jawad had confessed to the attack and, according to the charges against him, had acted as a member of an insurgent group called Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.

As Colonel Vandeveld began a diligent effort to assemble what he assumed would be the evidence that would convict Jawad, he became increasingly distressed and ultimately dismayed. It turned out, as a military judge would later rule, that Jawad’s Afghan captors had obtained his confession by torturing him. Then the boy was taken by U.S. authorities to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, where he was held before eventually being transferred to Guant├ínamo Bay, Cuba.

Herbert concludes:

There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.

Colonel Vandeveld is no longer on active duty and has joined the effort by military defense lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union to secure Jawad’s freedom. Six years of virtual solitary confinement, he said, is enough for someone who was not much older than a child when he was taken into custody.

I’ve omitted the parts detailing the torture Jawad has endured (it’s no wonder our neophyte president won’t release the remaining photos); you can read the entire column here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And It Came to Pass in the Age of Obama

cross-posted at the Widdershins

In the months following 9/11, George W. Bush squandered soaring personal popularity as president both at home and abroad by pursuing policies in the name of national security that compromised the constitutional rights of Americans and alienated international allies.

Candidate Barack Obama accused John McCain of representing a third Bush term. Since Obama’s inauguration as president, however, his Bushian decisions have continually dismayed his devout supporters, while the rest of us can only shake our heads as we watch a rerun of a popular president leading the country down the same disastrous road.

The fact that Obama, a non-tenured track lecturer, padded his thin resume by claiming to have been a constitutional law professor ought to have alerted the electorate. But those were the days of Obama-luv when even the more staid types spoke in hallowed terms of “the age of Obama,” as if we were anointing a pharaoh or king instead of electing a president.

Martin Garbus, trial lawyer and author of six books on constitutional law, summarizes at Huffpo what has come to pass in the age of the faux professor:

Denying the public information, rejecting the public's free speech "right to know" has become a pattern of this administration. Obama has become radical in his commitment to secrecy, not totally unlike the Bush administration.

Late Friday, June 26, 2009:

1. Obama announced a plan to draft laws to detain terror suspects indefinitely.
2. Obama announced it would be done by exec order so as to bypass Congress. The Washington Post article which caught the events was entitled "Executive order of detainees would sidestep Congress."
3. Obama's Attorney General told a federal judge that the suit by the families of the four detainees who committed suicide at the Guantanamo Bay prison should be dismissed because the issue is "fraught with political and military concerns" and Cheney, the government lawyers and the others have immunity from prosecution.
4. Obama's Attorney General again delayed release of a 2004 CIA report which paved the way for detainee waterboarding, sleep deprivation and physical abuse. An extraordinary article by Luke Mitchell in this month's Harper's Magazine shows we are continuing that torture.
5. Obama's Attorney General delayed, again, turning over 35 Bush Era defense documents to Judge William K. Hellerstein, a New York federal judge on a suit filed by the ACLU.

Garbus concludes:

Hasn't he learned.

We see the similarities between the two administrations; similarities Obama promised us we would never see.

The First Amendment requires the government to be transparent. It requires the people be told exactly what the government is doing in their name. That is what democracy is about.

Obama's attempt at secrecy, continued torture and repression of speech must be stopped.

This reader’s comment following Garbus’ post would be funny it were not so pathetically tragic:


For the first few months, I thought Obama was playing third-dimensional chess, or stalling for time, or something....

Now I no longer believe he means what he says regarding transparency. His stated preference to "look forward, not back" regarding the constitutional abuses of the Cheney/Bush years was bad enough, but his administration's refusal to launch investigations (and criminal prosecutions where appropriate) has mutated into an actual protection of the previous admin... going so far as to, with a straight face, offer ridicule by late-night comics as a rationale for concealment. Obama has become an accomplice to the Bush years, not that that will buy him any "bipartisan" friends.

Even when I believe he's telling the truth about what he intends--preferring a public option for health care, for example, or wanting stronger regulation of the economy--it looks like he's too willing to roll over and trade it all away for the sake of compromising with people who prefer to destroy everything we elected Obama for.

I'm done with supporting this guy, unless and until he grows a backbone and gets serious about the promises he made. "Politics as usual" isn't going to cut it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

“All Americans” Includes the 51% Who are Women and the Members of the LGBT Community

A well-written article by Bill Clinton published in the June 26th issue of Time Magazine triggered flashbacks to the 2008 campaign. From the day Barack Obama announced his run for the presidency, he and his supporters joined the fringe on the right and their media allies in maligning Bill Clinton personally and the record set by his administration. Taking down both Clintons was the aim in order to clear Obama’s path to the Democratic Party’s nomination.

One had to be stunned by the hypocrisy of the Obama camp in its fawning adulation of the womanizing Kennedy brothers, Jack and Ted, while even Michelle Obama was heard to make self-righteous snide remarks about Hillary’s relationship to Bill. So-called feminists have long attacked Hillary for keeping her marriage and family together over the years while I’ve not once heard anyone criticize the Kennedy wives or for that matter, the long-suffering Coretta Scott King, wife of the philandering MLK, Jr., for choosing to do the same.

No, in 2008, it was time to tear the Clintons apart with every sleazy tactic in the book including desperately trying to smear both Bill and Hillary as racists.

Today the Clintons continue to serve their country well. Hillary’s job approval as secretary of state holds steady above 70% and the former president remains as popular as ever. Their trials and tribulations over the years have no doubt given each of the Clintons a solid core of inner security that can withstand the assaults from vicious detractors from either the left or the right. (Left wing detractors, including the Obama camp, have since tripped over John Edwards and righties are now stumbling over Mark Sanford.)

His hard won inner security is evident in Bill’s Time Magazine piece; his generosity toward Obama is a credit to the former president’s statesmanship. He begins:

My grandfather was a dirt farmer with only a sixth-grade education. During the Depression, he eked out a living selling blocks of ice. But in those days, even though he was poor, he knew someone special: from listening to the fireside chats on the radio, he knew Franklin Roosevelt. And he believed that Roosevelt knew what his life was like — and cared about it too.

I grew up listening to my grandfather’s tales of what it was like to live through the Depression and the war and what Roosevelt meant to him. When I was President, in another time of change and uncertainty, I often looked at the portrait of F.D.R. in the Roosevelt Room and remembered my grandfather’s stories.

Besides having a deep personal connection to ordinary citizens, Roosevelt got the big things right. When he came into office during the Depression, he saw that the ills of the country could not be addressed without more aggressive involvement by the government. He ran for President as a fiscal conservative, promising to balance the budget. But unlike his predecessor, he quickly realized that, with prices collapsing and unemployment exploding, only the Federal Government could step into the breach and restart the economy.
In conclusion, Clinton writes:

The Depression gave F.D.R. the chance to use the power of government to complete the work his cousin had begun: to build a great middle class, help the poor work their way into it and give Americans a modicum of security in old age. His leadership during World War II and the plans he made for the U.N. and a permanent leadership role for the U.S. on the world stage cemented his legacy as one of our greatest Presidents. I thought of both Roosevelts when I told Americans that we needed a new social contract for the 21st century, one that would keep us moving toward a “more perfect union” in a highly interdependent, complex, ever changing world.

That is the challenge President Obama has inherited. I believe he will succeed in his efforts at economic recovery, health-care reform and taking big steps on climate change. Along the way, I hope he will be inspired by F.D.R.’s concern for all Americans, his relentless optimism, his penchant for experimentation, his relish for spirited debate among brilliant advisers and his unshakable faith in the promise of America.
Let’s continue to remind our current president that “all Americans” includes the 51% who are women and the members of the LGBT community; equal rights for the majority of the country’s population cannot wait until Obama’s priorities are met and his re-election is assured.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wear Green for Iran Friday, June 26th

New Hampster encourages Widdershins readers to wear green tomorrow, Friday, June 26th, in solidarity with the people of Iran, and I’m inviting Katalusis readers to also answer the call:

Wear a ribbon, wear a scarf, wear a green ball cap. Wear green to show the freedom loving people of Iran that We The People of The United States stand in freedom loving support of their struggle against evil.

NH quotes CynthiaBoaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at Sonaoma State University:

“Since 2002, there have emerged a series of democracy movements in Iran, spearheaded primarily – though not exclusively – by university students and women. These people are for the most part technologically and strategically savvy, especially when compared to the hardliners and mullahs that make up the ancient regime in Iran. They have studied the nonviolent struggles in Chile, South Africa and Serbia. They understand the dynamics of civil resistance and the power of simply withdrawing individual complicity in oppression.”
- CynthisBoaz Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University.

And NH concludes:

Everyone should have a right to speak about their government freely and demonstrate peacefully.

Please show you're on board by commenting below.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not Obama, not Bush, not Twitter - It’s the Women Shaking the Regime in Iran

The denigration of all women by the abuse of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary will continue to echo around the world in years to come, aided by the occasional reminder such as the photo that went viral in Dec. 2008 featuring a very drunk Jon Favreau groping a life-size cardboard cutout of the newly designated secretary of state.

As Obama’s head speechwriter, the youthful Favreau continues to serve as the voice of the leader of the free world; further evidence – in case you needed it - of our president’s lack of concern for the rights of women, gays, and other minorities besides his own when his election is not at stake.

For some odd reason, Favreau came to mind this morning as I read Anne Applebaum’s op-ed in the Washington Post titled “An Overlooked Force in Iran.” Maybe I was mentally comparing the image of Favreau sexually molesting our secretary of state with Applebaum’s description below of photographs of courageous Iranian women:

Women in sunglasses and headscarves, speaking through megaphones, brandishing cameras, carrying signs: When they first appeared, the photographs of the 2005 Tehran University women's rights protests were a powerful reminder of the true potential of Iranian women. The images were uplifting; they featured women of many ages; and they went on circulating long after the protests themselves died down. Now they have been replaced by a far more brutal and already infamous set of images: The photographs and video taken this past weekend of a young Iranian woman, allegedly shot by a government sniper, dying on the streets of Tehran.

I don't know whether the girl in the photographs is destined to become this revolution's symbolic martyr, as some are already predicting. I do know, however, that there is a connection between the violence in Iran over the past week and the women's rights movement that has slowly gained strength in Iran over the past several years.
Rubbing salt into the wounds of those of us still inwardly seething about the disgraceful treatment of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and the subsequent sexist attacks on Sara Palin, Appelbaum points out that our still Obama-jaded media can’t even be expected to accurately report the revolution in Iran:

In the United States, the most America-centric commentators have somberly attributed the strength of recent demonstrations to the election of Barack Obama. Others want to give credit to the democracy rhetoric of the Bush administration. Still others want to call this a "Twitter revolution" or a "Facebook revolution," as if zippy new technology alone had inspired the protests. But the truth is that the high turnout has been the result of many years of organizational work, carried out by small groups of civil rights activists and above all women's groups, working largely unnoticed and without much outside help.

Since 2006, the One Million Signatures Campaign has been circulating a petition, online and in print, that calls for an end to laws that discriminate against women and the enactment of laws that provide equal rights for women in marriage, equal rights to divorce, equal inheritance rights and equal testimony rights for men and women in court. Though based outside the country, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, founded by a pair of sisters, translates and publishes online fundamental human rights documents; it maintains an online database of the names of thousands of victims of the Islamic Republic as well. In the past decade, Iranian women have participated in student strikes as well as teachers' strikes, and in organizations of Bahai, Christian and other religious groups whose members are deemed "heretics" by the regime.

Applebaum reiterates:

Not Obama, not Bush and not Twitter, in other words, but years of work and effort lie behind the public display of defiance and, in particular, the number of women on the streets -- and their presence matters. Their presence could strike the deepest blow against the regime. For at the heart of the ideology of the Islamic Republic is its claim to divine inspiration: Its leadership is legitimate, as is its harsh repression of women, because God has decreed that it is so. The outright rejection of this creed by tens of thousands of women, not just over the past weekend but over the past decade, has to weaken the Islamic Republic's claim to invincibility, in Iran and across the Middle East. The regime's political elite knows this well: It is no accident that the two main challengers to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian presidential campaign promised to repeal some of the laws that discriminate against women, and it is no accident that the leading challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, used his wife, a political scientist and former university chancellor, in his campaign appearances and posters.

The Islamic Republic is not alone in its claim to divine inspiration. We recall that Dubya claimed guidance from above for eight years followed by Obama who has often been referred to as “the messiah.”

Appelbaum concludes:

The regime may succeed. Violence usually succeeds, at least in the short term, in intimidating people. In the long term, however, the links, structures, organizations and groups set up by Iranian women, not to mention the photographs of the past week, will continue to gnaw away at the Iranian regime's legitimacy -- and we should take note. I cannot count how many times I've been told in recent years that "women's issues" in the Islamic world are a secondary subject: Whether the discussion is of the Afghan constitution or the Saudi government, the standard line among most commentators has always been that other things -- stability, security, oil -- matter more. But regimes that repress the civil and human rights of half their population are inherently unstable. Sooner or later, there has to be a backlash. In Iran, we're watching one unfold.

Sad to say, here in America, our president has only recently told us that “women’s issues” and the rights of the LGBT community are secondary to all of the other important matters he has on his plate.

Come to think of it, the Obama regime has begun to appear a bit wobbly.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

McClatchy: Barack Obama Morphs Into George W. Bush

In response to the assertion of McClatchy’s Michael Doyle today that Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, reader bpattontx wrote: “It's nice to see a Democrat validating the policies of the Bush administration. Maybe the rabid left will now find another theme to howl about?”

We assume by "rabid left" bpattontx is referring to the group in the Democratic primary that did its best to destroy Hillary Clinton and seize the party's nomination for Obama.

But how about it rabid left? Hopefully you all got the word from McClatchy Newspapers by now. If not, you can catch up here:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.

In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.

"It's putting up a veritable wall around the White House, and it's so at odds with Obama's campaign commitment to more open government," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group.

Doyle goes on to say:

A courtroom clash Thursday illustrated how Obama has come to emulate Bush.

Weismann's organization sued last year to obtain the notes from an interview that the FBI conducted with then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The interview was part of an investigation into leaks concerning undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, and the Bush administration vigorously fought the release of the notes.

"The records contain descriptions of confidential deliberations among top White House officials which are protected by the deliberative process and presidential communications privileges," Bush's Justice Department argued in an Oct. 10, 2008, legal brief.

Obama's Justice Department held the same line Thursday.

"The new leadership of the department supports those arguments," Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan during the oral argument. "The Department of Justice is an ongoing entity, and it is not normal for us to update cases simply because we have a new attorney general."

On another issue, the Obama Administration pushed the limits of the LGBT community by supporting Bush in its recent stance on the Defense of Marriage Act. Doyle reports:

Perspectives, of course, often change once candidates assume responsibility upon taking office. As a candidate, for instance, Obama opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

As president, however, he's following Bush's lead in defending in court the federal marriage law, which a California same-sex couple is challenging.

The law "reflects a cautiously limited response to society's still-evolving understanding of the institution of marriage," Assistant Attorney General Tony West declared in a legal filing June 11.

Read more:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hillary’s Elbow Surgery Successful

Here’s some good news from the AFP:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton early Friday underwent "successful surgery" to repair her broken right elbow and she is expected to make a full recovery, a top aide said.

Clinton, who is right handed, returned to her home in Washington after the two-hour surgery at a Washington hospital and will rest there with her family during the weekend, her chief of staff Cheryl D. Mills said in a statement.

Read more:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chessmaster Obama Morphs into the Polar Bear in “Don’t Break the Ice” Board Game

cross-posted at the Widdershins

The cool objectivity of Amy Walter’s political analysis is almost unnerving at times, especially to one accustomed to sorting out the spin of pseudo-liberal pundits from their mirror images on the right. In Walter’s On the Trail post yesterday at National Journal, she asks, “what if congressional candidates in 2010 have to defend economic results that aren’t there?”
In 2012, President Obama will have had four years to see if the gamble on big federal outlays into a stimulus package, auto and bank bailouts, and energy investments has paid off. For congressional Democrats up in 2010, however, the long view isn't politically feasible.
At a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer handed out a tightly spaced one-pager that listed 13 "major initiatives" that have been enacted into law since Obama took office. To be sure, it's an impressive list. But the next election will be a referendum on the economy. Period. If things are looking good, then Democrats can make the case for why it's important to keep their party in charge. If it's not, then all the bragging about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act or Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights won't mean much.

At this point, it's tough to argue that the stimulus has indeed stimulated the economy.

The bottom line is that right now, there's little tangible proof that all the outflows have made much of an impact. In a new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, about as many people think General Motors will be profitable in five years as think it will be out of business. Meanwhile, just 9 percent in a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll say the economy has turned the corner, with 37 percent expecting it to get worse. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that just four months ago, more than half of voters (54 percent) thought the economy would get worse.
Walter takes a jibe or two at Joe Biden, “Obama’s “cheerleader-in-chief for stimulus spending:”
Yet, watching Vice President Joe Biden's awkward attempts to promote the benefits of the stimulus package suggests that congressional Democrats will have their work cut out for them. A greater effort by the White House to get the money out the door could help matters. At this point, however, it's tough to argue that the stimulus has indeed stimulated the economy.

On "Meet the Press" this Sunday, when asked by moderator David Gregory about the rationale behind the administration's estimate of 150,000 jobs created or saved by the stimulus, Biden replied: "There's an econometric model that economists have been using for decades to correlate the economic circumstances of the nation with the creation of jobs.... It's a model the Council of Economic Advisers have used to come up with that 150,000 jobs."

Um, what? You lost me at "econometric model." Just imagine trying to put this into a compelling 30-second commercial.
Walter concludes:
For now, Obama still has a reservoir of good will built up with the public, and his high approval numbers may help insulate members of his party.
Ultimately, though, watching Democrats these days reminds me of the kids' board game "Don't Break the Ice." In that game, a plastic polar bear was placed on top of an elevated board made up of individual cubes of "ice." The goal of the game was to knock out as many pieces as possible without sending the polar bear crashing to the ground. Sometimes the polar bear came down after one piece was knocked out; sometimes he could still be standing even as his ice world crumbled all around him.
Obama won't necessarily be the polar bear on the floor in 2012. But a lagging economy could take out quite a bit of the Democrats' board.

In addition to the questions raised by Walter, the recent funding of the current Administration’s continuation of war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan reminds me of candidate Obama’s boast about how much money the government would save from defense spending once he took office and magically ended America’s dual military adventures abroad.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grading Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State: A Foreign Policy Superstar

In today’s post, Peter Keating at Daily Intel, NY Magazine, answers with tons of high praise the question: How is Hillary Clinton doing as secretary of state? But in order to get to the good stuff you first have to swallow the obligatory offensive comment in the opening paragraphs; I mean, no good ol’ boy media rep could simply report the facts regarding her outstanding performance as America’s top diplomat without first reminding readers of one of the worst attempted smears from the primary days.

That would be candidate Clinton’s RFK reference distorted by the Obama camp and shamelessly amplified by the likes of “liberal” pundits including E.J. Dionne, Bob Herbert, and Eugene Robinson, all of whom jumped at the chance to accuse Clinton of wanting Barack Obama dead.

Only John F. Harris, senior editor at Politico and former staff member of the Washington Post came clean by admitting that Clinton’s comment was a non-story hyped by the media for the sole purpose of increasing site traffic – ethical standards in journalism be damned. Harris failed to mention the reality that the media had already selected Obama as the Democratic Party’s nominee and would stoop to any level to make it happen.

Now that I’ve gotten his good ol’ boy swipe out of the way, take a look at Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments as compiled by Keating (subheads mine):

Hillary secures 10 percent increase in State’s budget while Geithner was still figuring out how to turn the lights on is in his office

On the inside, Clinton has steadily accumulated power while expending hardly any political capital. For one thing, she has stirred an effective mix of politicos and diplomats into the top tiers of the State Department. Hillary has Cheryl Mills, a lawyer best known for defending Bill Clinton during impeachment, running her staff. And she has divided the position of Deputy Secretary of State into two jobs: supersmart Jim Steinberg, who was deputy national security adviser under Bill Clinton but supported Obama in 2008, is her policy maven, while Jack Lew is her management chief. Lew helped Hillary secure a 10 percent increase in the State Department’s budget from Obama while Tim Geithner was still figuring out how to turn the lights on in his office.

Hillary has made no mistakes

Further, Clinton hasn’t made mistakes. There have been no Joe Biden–like gaffes, Tom Daschle–like embarrassments, or Judd Gregg–like turnarounds coming from Hillary. Or from her husband — these days, Bill Clinton would have us believe he spends his time shopping for trinkets, unable even to get Hillary on her cell phone.

Time’s Mark Halperin gives Hillary an A-; National Security Advisor Jim Jones gets an incomplete

Meanwhile, nobody else has developed an alternative foreign-policy power center within the administration. Obama likes Biden, but the vice-president is no match for Hillary in mano-a-mano bureaucratic combat. For example, Clinton favored sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, while Biden opposed the move. The result: “She crushed him,” according to Republican Mark Kirk of Ilinois. At the same time, National Security Adviser Jim Jones has been an utter cipher; when Time’s Mark Halperin graded the Obama administration, he gave Hillary an A- (“significant, powerful, worldly, respected”), but had to give Jones an “incomplete.” And Obama’s presidential envoys, such as Richard Holbrooke in Afghanistan and Dennis Ross in Iran, are mostly old Clinton hands who aren’t about to usurp any authority from Hillary.

Clinton realigns American foreign policy from reliance on military force to smart power

In public, Clinton has spent the last six months fundamentally realigning American foreign policy away from reliance on military force, toward what she calls (in a wise abandonment of the lefty academic phrase “soft power”) “smart power” — more diplomacy and international economic assistance. She has also been striving to ensure zero daylight between her and Obama on any issue, big or small, whatever positions she might have taken as a New York senator or presidential candidate. If Clinton minds toiling in Obama’s shadow, or representing her former rival as America’s best face to the world, she hasn’t shown it. With Hillary, it’s always hard to tell where duty stops and happiness begins, and her new job has brought out her cheerfulness and indefatigability at the same time; as she put it on her first trip to Asia, “Showing up is not all in life, but it counts for a lot.” And whether it’s laying down conditions for Cuba’s readmittance to the Organization of American States or appearing on the Indonesian teen variety show Awesome, Clinton has been showing up, albeit fairly quietly, all around the planet.

The Secretary demonstrates her power

On April 23, Hillary smacked down Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who had tried to scold Obama for “warmly greeting” Hugo Chavez. “We spent the last eight years trying to isolate Chavez, and what has been the result?” Hillary replied. “We want your feedback, but President Obama won the election. He beat me in a primary, in which he put forth a different approach, and he is now our president.” Something similar happened last weekend, when she told George Stephanopoulos that Obama had passed the “3 a.m.” test that she had posed in the primaries. Clinton has become a master of selling Obama simply by stating her support for him. And conversely, by expressing that support as an act of volition, she is demonstrating her power, if not her independence.

She’s bolstered her reputation for being smart, effective, and a team player

The overall effect of Hillary’s efforts has been to bolster her reputation for being smart, effective, and a team player without associating her too strongly with the wrenching policy changes, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Obama has thrust himself far into the spotlight. And the results have been fairly amazing. Clinton’s approval ratings have been consistently above 70 percent — higher than Obama’s — with majority support even among Republicans. And media coverage has been orgiastic, probably peaking so far with Andrea Mitchell calling Clinton a “foreign-policy superstar” on the Today show. Even Obama probably never imagined how much mileage he and Clinton would be able to get out of their "kiss, make up, and go off to work around the globe" routine.

A sane, sober alternative to the crazies running the GOP

Finally, nobody has enabled Hillary’s rehabilitation like congressional Republicans and their talk-radio allies. Since Obama’s election, the neocons have doubled down on full-throated Cheneyism, pushing torture and preventive if not endless war. And from William Kristol and Newt Gingrich calling for an attack on North Korea to John Bolton wanting Israel to bomb Iran to Daniel Pipes saying, “I would vote for Ahmadinejad,” the leading lights of today’s GOP are pushing George H. W. Bush–type Republicans, such as Powell, Brent Scowcroft, and a large chunk of the country straight out of the Republican Party. There’s nothing but upside in that dynamic for Clinton: Already established in the public mind as less multi-culti and quite possibly tougher than Obama, she now also appears to be a sane, sober alternative to the crazies running the GOP.

Financial donor: “I realized today that I’d be a happier person if Hillary Clinton were president”

And for the moment, the opposition doesn’t realize how much it should care. “I realized today that I’d be a happier person if Hillary Clinton were president,” a financial contributor to National Review Online wrote last week. “That scared me enough to make a donation.” Keep sending those $100 checks, pal, and your fantasy could still come true.

Interesting readers’ comments after Keating’s post; here’s a sample:

Hillary rocks! That RFK comment was completely distorted by the Obama campaign and the press. The point she was making was that primaries have continued well into June in the past. It was repellent to suggest that she meant anything more sinister than that--and you repeat it again here. People have very preconceived notions about Hillary without studying her history. These caricatures were deliberately created to undercut her (and her husband's) influence. Unfortunately, many on the Left have parroted the same right wing lies about her. If you research her work since law school, you will find a brilliant, incredibly hard-working public servant who has given almost 40 years of service to this country. She did great things right out of Yale for the Children's Defense Fund, has worked tirelessly in AK & DC (and then NY) for human & civil rights, health care, education, and economic development. She brought Muhammad Yunus to AK 30 years ago--long before he won his Nobel Prize in Economics--to create microfinancing for poor rural people. She's also as disciplined and strong as they come. I hope she does want to run again--I'll be first in line to volunteer.

By fran20 on 06/15/2009 at 10:43am

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Magic of Midsummer Awaits

Lake Josephine in St. Paul, Minn.

Note to Readers: The names of family members have been changed to protect the innocent.

Milder days with clearing skies have overtaken the free air conditioning we received earlier this week. Spinning on its axis, the earth tilts ever more toward the sun and in a week or so, we’ll pass the solstice marking the first day of summer.

Seasonal changes evoke nostalgia, and there’s no telling what memories will emerge unbidden from the unconscious. This morning, one of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies — set in Athens in midsummer — comes to mind.

I retrieve a heavy file box from the back closet and find the folder stuffed with mementos from my children’s college days.

I couldn’t possibly have kept it this long, I’m thinking, but there it is: the theatre program from the university’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The cover depicts Nick Bottom, the weaver, afflicted by Puck with the head of an ass, in the loving embrace of the spellbound Titania, queen of the fairies.

The faded blue program lists both my daughter and my son as members of the cast. Abby played Hermia, promised by her father to Demetrius, though she loves Lysander, and Ben played Robin Starveling, a local tailor.

I first learned of the casting when Ben called me at work. “Do you know what your daughter did?” he asked. Not waiting for an answer, he went on: “I’m majoring in the theatre. I rehearsed for hours for my audition. Abby’s not even a theatre major. She got an important role, and I got a bit part. They shouldn’t let students audition who aren’t theatre majors.”

Abby was a year ahead of Ben at the university, where she majored in history and political science. I got the call from her a few minutes after talking to Ben. “Mom,” she said, “You won’t believe this. I had a cold. I hadn’t even thought about auditioning. But my roommate insisted. And I landed the role of Hermia.”

Some twenty years later, I relive what it felt like to commiserate with my son one moment and celebrate with my daughter the next. Failing to put my nostalgia to rest, I’m compelled to read again “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

My mind resists the plunge into Elizabethan English, but the centuries dissolve under Shakespeare’s spell, and I laugh at times and marvel, too, as the magic of midsummer unfolds in the forest a few leagues from Athens.

Despite Puck’s carelessness and Cupid’s idiosyncrasies, the four young people escape from the woods well matched: Lysander with Hermia and Demetrius with Helena.

The happy couples follow Theseus, the duke of Athens, to his palace where a band of unlikely townsmen, including Starveling, offers to entertain the gathering. They describe their play within the play as both “merry and tragical.”

Those words, I note, also describe well the conflicting emotions I experienced that afternoon after the phone calls I received at work from my children.

The weeks passed and on opening night, friends and family packed the university theatre. To this day, I remember only that red-haired Abby was lovely as Hermia, and Ben brought the house down each time his Starveling appeared onstage.

Returning the file box to its niche in the back closet, I’m glad the season is still young; the Twin Cities may not be Athens, but the land of sky blue waters has its own attractions, and the magic of midsummer lies yet ahead.