There have been a number of indications of this, but this video NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen posted on his blog seems like the clearest instance yet of the former Danish Prime Minister publicly pressuring Barack Obama to accede to General McChrystal’s troop request:
It’s not clear that this really matters; Rasmussen doesn’t have any relevant formal authority and I’d be surprised if U.S. public opinion turned out to hinge on the views of a Danish politician nobody’s heard of but me. That said, as Spencer Ackerman says it’s a interesting development anyway simply because there doesn’t seem to be any real precedent for this. The way NATO works is that the General or Admiral in charge of U.S. European Command also serves as Supreme Allied Commander, and then a European politician gets the top civilian post. His job is primarily to do cat-herding on the continent and serve as a spokesman for NATO policy, not to weigh-in on live political controversies.
Lebanese chefs prepared a massive plate of hummus weighing over two tons Saturday that broke a world record organizers said was previously held by Israel — a bid to reaffirm proprietorship over the popular Middle Eastern dip.
“Come and fight for your bite, you know you’re right!” was the slogan for the event — part of a simmering war over regional cuisine between Lebanon and Israel, which have had tense political relations for decades.
In the interests of bolstering my pro-Israel credentials in advance of the J Street conference, let me observe that Sabra hummus is my preferred brand. That said, from a diaspora perspective I continue to be distressed by the declining availability of traditional Ashkenazi cuisine—properly made bagels, proper kosher deli, etc. There’s more to Jewish cooking than fighting with Arabs over chickpeas.
Today on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace made sure to devote plenty of time to covering President Obama’s “war on Fox News”; he even played a clip of Sean Connery as Jim Malone “The Untouchables” talking about “the Chicago way” of getting things done. Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino sharply criticized the Obama administration’s tactics and expressed absolute shock at the example the United States was setting for “the free press in emerging democracies,” comparing the criticisms of Fox News to when “Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations”:
PERINO: That was a coordinated, calculated attack. It was unbecoming. And if you look at some of the coverage of what mainstream media covers when, for example, somebody like a Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations, he calls them illegitimate.
Now, I’m not suggesting that this White House believes that they are going to come over here and shut down Fox News. But they are defining a narrative in their first year, and it’s going to be very hard to recover from it. [...]
Through our State Department, we are trying to help emerging democracies get journalists and government officials to talk to one another, because freedom of the press is essential to any democracy. Believe me, they are watching this, and they have — surely are raising questions.
The Obama administration, according to Reporters Without Borders, is actually setting quite a strong example of press freedom for the world. In 2008, the organization found that in terms of press freedom, the U.S. ranked 36th out of 173 countries. Its report singled out “wars carried out in the name of the fight against terrorism” as a cause for the steep decline in press freedoms around the world. Just one year later, the United States has jumped from 36th to 20th. “Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this,” concluded Reporters Without Borders.
So what type of example did the Bush administration set? A few lowlights:
– The Pentagon had a secret program to use retired military analysts to “generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Most of these analysts had “ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.” When the “message machine” became public, Perino defended the program as “absolutely appropriate.”
Ever since they launched it, I’ve been pretty baffled by Foreign Policy magazine’s “shadow government” blog. The idea of a website dedicated to criticizing the Obama administration’s foreign policy from the right makes a fair amount of editorial sense. But why on earth would you staff such a blog so heavily with discredited members of the discredited Bush administration’s discredited national security team? It’s almost as if FP is taking orders directly from Anita Dunn—”make sure the critical perspectives your audience is exposed to are all presented by the most laughably easy-to-dismiss people you can find.”
That, I suppose, would be a good reason to hire former Dick Cheney national security aide John Hannah as one of your writers.
That said, buried amidst this extremely longwinded Hannah post is a germ of a post I’d like to read. First, the discredited aide to the discredited vice president offers 1,100 words of criticism of the Obama administration. Then there’s an interesting sentence, “None of this, of course, should obfuscate the fact that the Afghan war effort was in dire shape by the close of the Bush administration” followed by 288 more words of material that can—and should!—be dismissed out of hand since they were, after all, written by former Dick Cheney national security aide John Hannah.
That said, since it seems Hannah is prepared to admit that the administration he was part of completely and utterly botched the military response to 9/11—creating a situation in which over seven (!) years after the attacks the situation “was in dire shape”—wouldn’t it be interesting to hear something about why and how that happened? Maybe they should have listened and not invaded Iraq in 2003? Maybe they should have listened and not doubled-down on Iraq in 2007? Maybe better, smarter people wouldn’t have bungled this whole thing?
The great environmental writer and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, is the guest blogger.
We’re sitting here in our temporary offices in lower Manhattan hunched over laptops drowning in images””15,000 photos and thousands of minutes of video have arrived from what turned out to be 5,200 rallies, protests, and demonstrations in 181 countries around the world.
It was, according to any number of journalistic accounts, “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” But here’s the thing that impresses us. There wasn’t a rock star or a movie star or a charismatic politician in sight. It was ordinary citizens and scientists coming together around a scientific data point.
The coverage, except for a somewhat sour piece by Andy Revkin in the NYT, was incredible. And it was also massive. We owned the top of Google News for 18 hours, and were all over the front pages of newspapers across the globe. Here’s a link that will give you the tiniest taste.
Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources segment, Washington Post reporter Howie Kurtz hosted Jane Hall, associate professor in the School of Communication at American University, to discuss the Obama administration’s criticisms of Fox News. Hall was a contributor to the network for 11 years and a frequent guest on The O’Reilly Factor and Fox News Watch. Kurtz asked Hall why she left Fox and whether she felt like she was “being used to give Fox a certain degree of legitimacy.” Hall replied that part of the reason she left was because of how “scary” Glenn Beck is:
HALL: No, I didn’t. The reason I left was in part because they’ve had less debates than they used to. It is a fair point to say how much debate is there on MSNBC? How many Republican strategists? We have a bifurcation of the media.
KURTZ: Wait a second. The reason you left is because you feel they have less debate than they used to. In other words, it used to be Hannity and Colmes, now it’s just Hannity. It used to be Bernie and Jane. Now it’s just Bernie.
HALL: I think there’s less debate than there was. And I’m also, frankly, uncomfortable with Beck, who I think should be called out as somebody whose language is way over the top. And it’s scary.
KURTZ: Was that a factor in your decision to leave Fox?
There’s a pretty strong consensus in the West that what’s needed in Afghanistan is not just a reasonably fair runoff election, but a post-election national unity government in which Hamid Karzai shares power with as wide a swathe of non-Taliban opposition as possible. After all, a big part of the counterinsurgency concept is that the theory that elements of the Taliban itself can be persuaded to switch sides and engage in some kind of power-sharing. But here’s Hamid Karzai ruling out a power-sharing deal with Abdullah Abdullah. And here’s Abdullah Abdullah saying he doesn’t want to join a Karzai government:
To some extent I think the problems with the election itself have been overstated as an obstacle to US strategy in Afghanistan. Inability to forge a broader coalition, however, would in my view be a very serious obstacle. One of the main reasons the Taliban was able to rise to power in the mid-nineties was that the non-Taliban forces weren’t able to unite into an effective anti-Taliban coalition.
One good way to tell the difference between a member of congress who’s genuinely concerned about the long-term budget deficit and a hypocritical jackass is to ask them where they stand on the Kyl-Lincoln $250 billion budget-busting giveaway to the children of extremely rich people. The bill now has a House counterpart. Key sponsors include Rep Artur Davis (D-AL) and Rep Shelley Berkley (D-NV).
For weeks, former Bush administration officials have been attacking President Obama for “dithering” on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, with Vice President Cheney saying that “signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries.” But these Bush officials are also facing criticisms for largely neglecting Afghanistan in order to invade Iraq. In response, they have been citing an Afghanistan strategy report they handed off to the Obama administration that clearly laid out recommendations for moving forward. From Cheney’s recent remarks to the Center for Security Policy:
In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt.
Today on ABC’s This Week, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta revealed that the Bush administration spent just one hour on that report:
PODESTA: [T]hey did present him with a report at the very end of the Bush administration, but I have it from reliable sources that the principals in the Bush administration spent one hour on that report before they handed it off to Obama.
Recently, Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE) — a former top aide to Biden and co-chair of the Vice President’s transition team — said that the Bush administration basically just “threw” the report “to the transition team as they were going out the door”:
KAUFMAN: So for him [Cheney] to come in at the end and say, “Well, we did it wrong for eight years. But then, in the end, we gave them a plan which really is what they should have used.” Let me tell you something: This administration came in. Rahm Emanuel was there. I was on the transition team on this. They started from scratch on Afghanistan. They took a blank piece of paper out and said, “What are we going to do to get this thing done?” … It was absolutely the perfect time to take a hard look at what we’re doing.
Also on This Week, conservative pundit George Will praised Obama’s process on Afghanistan, stating, “Well, also, a bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So for a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point.”
Liberals will probably find a fair amount to disagree with in these remarks from Ben Bernanke, especially the lead elements that involve vague assertions about the “economic benefit of multi-function, international (financial) firms.” That said, there’s no reason whatsoever to disagree with this:
Both in answering the question and in his prepared text, Mr. Bernanke again beseeched Congress to act soon to give regulators “resolution authority” to cope with the imminent collapse of a big financial firm other than a bank, and to address other vulnerabilities in the regulatory regime exposed during the crisis.
There’s plenty of room for disagreement as to whether an approach to “too big to fail” that’s centered on this resolution authority point is sufficient. But I think everyone can agree that it’s necessary. And unlike other elements of regulatory reform, this is something that at least might come into play during the current crisis if things get worse. I see no reason why congress couldn’t or shouldn’t move quickly on this point irrespective of controversy over the rest.