Tag Archives | Obama

Mubarak’s Ghost

Just a few weeks after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed approval of the Egyptian military delaying presidential elections until 2013, she shifted tone:

“If, over time, the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest, and Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity,” Mrs. Clinton warned.

“When unelected authorities say they want to be out of the business of governing,” the United States expects them “to lay out a clear road map” and “abide by it,” she added.

PLEASE!  The cozy Mubarak-US pattern is re-emerging full throttle in Egypt.  Not only has SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) delayed elections, it has refused to lift Mubarak’s emergency law and is currently drafting a constitution that would give it powers over a future civilian government.

And the most the US Secretary of State can say is: “…they will have planted the seeds for future unrest…”!  ‘Deja vu’ all over again! Picture 40 years worth of US Presidents who expressed identical sentiments to Mubarak but supported his autocracy anyway.  The betrayal of Egyptian democrats is now, not in some more convenient ‘future’ for Clinton .  Unless the US puts teeth into its pronouncements, they mean nothing, as surely as decades of calls for Mubarak to democratize meant nothing.

This is a sinister symbiotic relationship:  the US gives the Egyptian military $1.5 billion a year, and in return, Egypt maintains its peace treaty with Israel.  Everything else about Egypt – elections, a new constitution, the force of the Tahrir democratic movement – is secondary to the Egyptian military and its US enablers.

The Obama Administration has been working with SCAF since before Mubarak even left the scene. There is little chance a US president would call for Mubarak’s ouster without being assured of continuity in Egypt’s relationship with Israel.  The Egyptian people are being played like pawns in yet another ‘Great Game’ powered by the USA.

 

 

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Ornstein Rips Brooks (and a bit of Obama)

Norman Orstein, founder of the American Enterprise Institute and a Congressional scholar writes with Tomas Mann in The New Republic.  Ornstein is one of the clearest thinkers around:

In his continuing, illusive quest for the Grand Bargain, New York Times columnist David Brooks has now offered some free campaign advice to President Obama: Drop the angry and divisive populist talk; link your reelection to the Congressional supercommittee to tackle the deficit; lower the ideological temperature. Political independents now recoil from big government, Brooks argues, so Obama should be blurring, not highlighting, the differences between the two parties over the role of government.

Obama should say thanks, but no thanks for the advice. Based as it is on a series of tired and false assumptions, this strategy would doom whatever chance Obama has of winning reelection

Obama should likewise know by now that working with a supercommittee whose Republican members are under orders from their House and Senate leaders to oppose all revenue increases is a fool’s errand. And imagining that a substantial center in the American public will respond positively to such an approach is pure fantasy. What sense does it make for Obama embrace an agenda without any support on the other side of the aisle, and make nice to a party whose sole objective is to deny him reelection.

In other words, highlighting differences with Republicans is essential to a national consensus – or Obama winning reelection.

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Will Field Marshal Tantawi Run for Egyptian President?

Several blogs specializing in Africa and the Middle East report two ominous signs that the head of Egypt’s Military Council may seek the Egyptian presidency.  First, during Sec. of State Clinton’s visit last week, he was seen on Cairo streets shaking hands and greeting people, something rare for Tantawi.  Pictures also showed him in civilian clothes, a first.  Two days ago, two or three neighborhoods in Cairo and Alexandria were plastered with Tantawi posters suggesting he would be most capable to ensuring the ‘stability’ of the Egyptian state.   A previously unknown group “Egypt Above All” were said to be behind the posters.

Last March, I made a point of saying Egypt’s Tahrir Square movement was a reform movement, not revolution.  Although the old Mubarak party is dissolved, the SCAF are high level military lifers with close ties to the former president and to the US military.

Obama Pledges Support for Egyptian Military

Meanwhile, the White House released a read-out of President Obama’s October 24th call to Field Marshal Tantawi:

President Obama called Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi today to reaffirm the close partnership between the United States and Egypt and to underscore his full support for Egypt’s transition to democracy. The two leaders agreed that Egypt’s upcoming elections must be free and fair and be held in accordance with democratic standards. The President underscored that the United States supports a strong, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Egypt that responds to the aspirations of its people, and that the outcome of the election is for the Egyptian people to decide. He welcomed Egypt’s willingness to accept international election witnesses and urged that Egypt lift the emergency law and end military trials for civilians. The two leaders also discussed Egypt’s economic situation. The President emphasized his support for full funding by the Congress of the Administration’s request for assistance for Egypt, without conditions, and stressed his commitment to help Egypt secure international assistance to address its economic needs.

Just replace the Field Marshal’s name with Mubarak and this sounds like a run-of-the-mill statement such as the WH delivered to Mubarak under several presidents.  It is certainly a statement of support for “Egyptian stabiity”, not a warning against anti-democratic actions taken by the military council.  And how many times did American presidents’ ‘urge’ an Egyptian leader to lift the 40-year-old emergency law?  It meant nothing.

Egyptian Instability: Suspicious Origins

Much of the ‘instability’ faced by Egyptians over the past several months have suspicious origins:

1.  Soccer thugs attacked the Israeli embassy after splitting off from a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration near Tahrir Square.  No Egyptian police were to be found.  Major news organizations said the Israeli ambassador to Egypt called Netanyahu who called Sec. Clinton who called President Obama, who called the Supreme Military Council in Egypt to tell them the Israeli embassy was under attack in their own backyard.  Stranger that fiction?  Maybe not.

2.   After a Coptic Church was vandalized, the army attacked protests, killing two dozen people, some crushed by tanks rolling over them.  Many observers believe the SCAF is deliberately throwing fire on to sectarian biases.  So far no one has been brought to justice.

3.   The Emergency Law remains in effect.

4.   SCAF postponed presidential elections until 2013, against the wished of Democrats.  Clinton supported the postponement.

5.   Pro-democracy activists are still being thrown in jail at security services will under the emergency law and some are being tortured.

 

 

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Voter Dissatisfaction Widespread – Favors Obama

A new poll by The New York Times/CBS News shows just how disgusted the American public is with government, including politicians from both parties:

Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.

The public equally split their approval (46%) and disapproval (46%) of President Obama’s job.

With nearly all Americans remaining fearful that the economy is stagnating or deteriorating further, two-thirds of the public said that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country. Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich. Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.

Only about a quarter of the public said that lowering taxes on large corporations or repealing the entire national health care lawwas a good idea. But half of the public favors reducing or repealing regulations on businesses in the United States.The disapproval toward Congress has risen 22 percentage points since the beginning of the year when Republicans took control of the House.

Public’s Views on Issues Favor Democrats

With 2/3 of the public believing income should be more fairly distributed, and only a quarter said lower taxes on corporations or repealing the entire health care law was a good idea, combined with a 22% rise in disapproval of Congress since Republicans took control of the house.

Can They Turn it into Electoral Victory

Republicans are fond of saying nobody has won the WH with Mr. Obama’s current low approval ratings.  Beyond the fact that his ratings may increase before election day,  that 89% who distrust the government to do the right thing shows the public’s curse on both parties’ houses.

In this situation, more favorable policy numbers for Democrats can be invaluable.  They give the President room for a ‘showdown’ with House obstruction on his jobs bills and substantial issues for Democrats to push in re-election campaigns

 

 

 

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National Give it Back to Republicans Week

Should the bill ultimately fail, Democrats believe they at least have the better political argument, and they vow to exploit what they call the Republicans’ obstruction in the 2012 campaign.

Yet any political benefit would be small consolation for the White House, given the forecasts of nonpartisan economists that without such a stimulus plan, the economy is likely to relapse into recession next year just as the president faces re-election.   – New York Times

President Has Better Argument Now!

For heaven’s sake, the Democrats have the BETTER POLITICAL ARGUMENT now!  Do they really think that voters will forgive Obama for a double recession because he had a better argument?  They want results.  And results come from confrontation when the opposite party is using confrontational tactics to block consideration of a jobs bill during an economic crisis. The situation is insane.

First, the Democrats were beaten back by the Republicans’ threat of the filibuster, which would require 60 votes to close, when they didn’t control Congress.  Now that they do, Republican leaders are  employing an arsenal of procedural measures to keep legislation from even being discussed by the elected members of Congress and the Senate.  In other words, our Representatives are being stopped from representing us.

Obama can go around the country talking to voters as  much as he wants.  He already has the majority of people on his side for most of the jobs bill’s provisions.  But he’ll get nowhere as long as he refuses to give the American public the fight it’s waiting for.  Obama should be jamming the Republicans against the wall not only for opposing his jobs plan but for refusing to even debate it on the floor of the House and Senate.  Who is the Congress to do such a thing?  Congress has no inherent right to keep the President’s program for jobs in limbo.  It makes a mockery of the constitution, the separation of powers and the boundaries of power given to Congress, the President and the Judiciary to properly balance the public interest.

Obama should wipe his schedule clean and make next week’s WH theme: National Give it Back to Republicans Week.  Hold a press conference announcing some executive decisions that show forward movement on the economy but tell the American people his powers are limited unless Congress loosens its stranglehold on legislation that would keep the economy afloat.

Worse than War

This is worse than war.  The crisis in the American economy is far more of a threat to the “American way of life” than any external threat from Iran or North Korea.  So act like it, Obama Administration!  Make the sole how to get the President’s program unlocked by the Republicans and their cynical procedural games.  Call Republican leadership out for their Unamerican and anti-democratic tactics.  They’re vulnerable to their own ‘patriotic’ language being turned against them.  Voters hear about the obstruction every night on TV, but they want their President to confirm and fight against it.

The WH needs a face-off with Republicans now, not in 2012.  Why are they afraid of even discussing the President’s plan?  Are they willing to take the fall if the economy back-tracks into another recession?

The President has a duty not just to those who elected him, but to a country he knows is misled by foolhardy brinksmanship.  The WH sense of urgency has to match reality and that reality is grim.

 

 

 

 

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Politics Devolves into Correcting Lies

Correcting lies dominates a growing part of American political discourse.  Too much that is passed off as one politician’s ‘opinion’ of the policy of another is actually outright lying.  An article in the Jewish publication The Forward hit it home for me.  (Disclosure:  I think President Obama has been too easy on Israel in attempts to lure the Netanyahu government back into peace negotiations with the Palestinians.  I disagree with his decision to send Israel bunker busters while the Israeli government stiff-arms the President on peace negotiations and continues settlement expansion.)

The article discusses the heavy lifting Jewish supporters of Obama have had to do to combat a conservative narrative that Obama has ‘kicked Israel under the bus.’:

For the past three months, a group of President Obama’s Jewish supporters has been getting together for a weekly conference call to discuss strategy. The group, includes, among others, former White House adviser David Axelrod, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Congress members Robert Wexler and Mel Levine, Chicago Jewish activist and attorney Alan Solow, and mega-donor Penny Pritzker.Together, they have been trying to figure out how to overcome a relatively successful Republican attempt to plant doubts among Jewish voters regarding Obama’s relations with Israel.

The fruits of both their labor and the labor of other campaign and White House officials has become evident in recent weeks: A pro-Israel blitz, which has included conference calls, website updates and opinion articles, and which culminated in the president’s address to the United Nations, has Democrats feeling that they are taking back the initiative.

One example:

Dan Senor, a Republican strategist, took issue, in a recent article, with the Democratic notion that Obama’s problem with Jewish voters has to do solely with getting his message out. “Obama has made some meaningful exceptions, particularly having to do with security partnership, but overall he has built the most consistently one-sided diplomatic record against Israel of any American president in generations

The Obama problem with Jewish voters is not ‘solely with getting his message out.’  The problem is with misrepresentations and outright lies Dan Senor and other Republicans have spread about Mr. Obama’s commitment to or relationship with Israel.

Republicans have accused him of abandoning Israel, caving in to the Palestinians and, as Senor admits, spread the ridiculous claim that Obama ‘has built the most consistently one-sided diplomatic record against Israel of any American president in generations.’

I think most Israelis would give that award to George H.W. Bush who threatened to cut off Israeli loan guarantees to get Israel to sign the Oslo Accords with Yassar Arafat.  Mr. Obama vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.  He put the US reputation on the line by promising to veto any SC resolution on Palestinian statehood.   Shortly after he came into office, President Obama authorized and delivered the ‘iron dome’ missile defense system to Israel.  More recently he authorized delivery of bunker buster bombs.  Obama’s sanctions against Iran has throw rocks into the Iranian nuclear program.

Senor credits Obama with a good ‘security partnership’ with Israel, as if in an aside.  No part of the American relationship is as important to Israel that the security partnership between the two countries.  And only recently have neoconservatives like Senor and the Emergency Committee on Israel even given lip service to what Israeli commanders call the strongest military ties between the two country that grew under Mr. Obama.

This is a sensitive issue.  Neoconservative propaganda was initially effective in driving Jews away from the Administration. Oops!  Even now Netanyahu has to give credit to an American president he may hate but has proven to be a good friend.

But what a waste of time.  No President has ever had to spend so much time beating back lies about his background, his policies, his motives, he patriotism or his religion than Barak Obama.  It’s a disgrace.

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White House Breathes Again – Christie Won’t Run

The White House must be rejoicing this morning, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finalizes his decision not to run for President.  Christie would be President Obama’s most formidable GOP opponent.  I have not followed Mr. Christie but am impressed with his firm stand against anti-Muslim bigotry, calling it ‘crap’ and his decisive, blunt demeanor, 180% opposite Obama.

Christie is smart.  He’s young and has plenty of time to run for President.  This means Obama will most likely face-off against Romney, also a worthy opponent.  I think Democrats are dreaming if they believe Romney’s flip-flops  will do him in.  What some people see as a plastic demeanor others will see as a well-prepared, articulate candidate.  Of course, fundamentalist Christians may stay home because of Romney’s Mormon faith.  But it will be a right race.

It will be a nail-biter race.

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Show Down or Showmanship?

Governor Pawlenty, former GOP presidential contender, recently lamented to John Stewart that politicians today are expected to be entertaining as well as smart and well-versed in policy.  Pawlenty was vilified by the media for presenting a boring, low-key (if not slow) image to voters.  He was proclaimed, Not Presidential Material, his fate sealed.

If he’s right, then the House of Representatives is where the ambitious politician first learns to be a clown.  Nancy Pelosi acted out a caricature of ‘San Francisco liberal’ well enough.  Stunts such as holding out for the ‘public option’ in the 2009 health care bill debate and feasting the Dali Lama worked well enough.  And Representative Wiener provided ample fodder for late show comedians, comic strip writers and general debouches for over a month.  His art was letting silly things he did leak out slowly and retain public interest.  Republicans learned how to play barking dog and straying cat during Pelosi’s reign as Speaker of the House.

But nothing before comes  close to the master class in buffoonery that Republicans have generously shown us since taking charge of Congress last January.  The central shtick in the Republican repertoire is a twist on the Key Stone cops.  Obama articulates a policy and right away each Republican House member turns and dashes himself against the Obama wall they ask us all to imagine.   Sometimes the leadership, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor, trip over each other in their enthusiasm to lunge without thinking.

Magic tricks are a big hit in Congress.  Michele Bachman never misses a chance to change a good fact into nonsensical fiction.  The two Rands delight other Tea Party backers in storytelling and fantasy, although they can be a bit morbid and their calls for no government period shows them to be radical anarchists at heart.  (I think Lenin called Bukharin an ‘infantile leftist’.)  Newt, father progenitor, continues spitting out bombs to shock and awe his audience but most end up being duds, so no one pays him much mind these days. Not even the worst GOP anti-Muslim bigots really believe Islam is taking over America.

So far, President Obama, trying to be the President of all Americans, has humored, if not spoiled Republican House members into thinking their way is the only way.   Now, however, President Obama is brandishing a gauntlet, warning that he’ll veto any deficit package without tax increases on the wealthy.

When will the show-down come?  I can’t wait!  Will President Obama really jack Republicans to the wall?  Have all his compromises been bait leading up to this last Great Battle of Wills?  Will Boehner be eating dirt for dinner?  After all, Obama puts on a good show, too.

 

 

 

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