Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

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10 Things I Love Post-Debate

October 17, 2012

1. I love my President. I especially love him when he’s confident and on his game:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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In Which I <3 Joe Biden

October 16, 2012

Again under the wire, and again my two cents are that everything you’ve heard about the most recent debate is missing the point. In this case, ever since the Veep debate ended, the dueling narratives have been Joe Biden Spanked Paul Ryan Like a Red-Headed Stepchild versus Joe Biden was Incredibly Rude, Disrespectful, and Possibly Insane. The first is much closer to the truth, but it’s not an analysis so much as it’s a gut reaction. Did I cheer Biden during the debate? YES. Did I do goofy fist-pumps when Biden explained that Afghan troops would be defending the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan? INDUBITABLY. Did I clap like Brendan Fraser at the Golden Globes when Biden looked straight in the camera to address senior citizens about Medicare?

HELL YES

But that was my initial reaction, as a Democrat and a Biden fangirl – and it probably wasn’t the way undecided voters saw things. No, what’s been missing from the analysis is analysis. No one is talking about what was actually said, and that’s a damn shame. The Vice President is well-regarded for his ability to speak the language of the middle class, of the average American – but what he says in that language shows that his brain is anything but average.

Joe Biden has been in politics almost my entire life, but it’s only been in the past few years that I recognized what an amazing gift he is to this country. Way back in December 2007, when I was already heavily involved in the Obama campaign despite being weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, I gathered with the other Obama faithful to watch one of the endless pre-season debates. One question asked about toxic paint found on children’s toys manufactured in China. One by one, the candidates – including my candidate – spoke powerfully about the need to amend our trade policy and our laws to ensure that this Never Happened Again. But when it was Biden’s turn, he exasperatedly pointed out that those provisions were already part of our trade agreements with China, and had been for decades. The laws were on the books; we just weren’t willing to fully fund the agencies that would inspect those goods and enforce those laws. I fell a little in love with him. Question after question, he knew everything about everything. He knew exactly what the applicable laws were. He knew exactly where the problems lay. He understood every foreign conflict they threw his way. And he was passionate and articulate and profoundly knowledgeable in precisely that way that doesn’t necessarily give the soundbites our news and our brains expect. I could easily imagine a news story about that debate which would frame his answer on the Chinese toys question as simply, “Obama, Clinton advocate tougher sanctions for Chinese Poison Toys; Biden says current laws are enough.” And you know what? Biden would still answer exactly the same.

I was thrilled when Obama chose him as his running mate, because what better counter to Obama’s cool detachment than Biden’s infectious warmth? And what better counterweight to Obama’s then-slim resume, than the man who knows everything about everything?

And yet, the man who knows everything about everything is strangely pilloried for gaffes, as if he were too dumb to know better. Biden’s “gaffes” are almost always full of unvarnished truth, profound understanding of the realities on the ground, and a whole, emotional engagement with the fate of this country. They  reflect just how passionate he is about making this country a better place. We aren’t used to our politicians emoting quite that much, because we aren’t used to our politicians genuinely caring that much. Earlier in the president’s term, Biden famously congratulated Obama on signing the Affordable Care Act by saying, “This is a big fucking deal!” You know what? IT WAS A BIG FUCKING DEAL. In a town of phonies and hyper-cautious calculators, Biden stands out simply because he still has human reactions.

Joe Biden was apparently rude and “disrespectful” to Eddie Haskell Paul Ryan because he actually, y’know, reacted to the words coming out of Ryan’s mouth. He smiled. He did double-takes. He shook his head. And he laughed when he heard the ridiculous lies that fall so easily from Ryan’s lips. Apparently, THIS look, this frozen smirk that shows the wearer has completely checked out mentally, is the “polite” way to listen in Washington:

But Biden can’t do that. Won’t do that. Shouldn’t do that. It’s a stupid thing to do, first of all, this “I know I’m on tv so I will betray no emotion other than polite (dis)interest.” But beyond that, what’s wrong with laughing at laughable lies?

We’re so bad at history in this country that no one seems to remember that Biden ran for President decades ago, and had a very good chance of winning the nomination. In 1987, he was raising money hand-over-fist. His speeches were fiery and well-received. And then, at the Iowa State Fair, he gave a speech, parts of which were modeled on a speech by an Irish leader. He’d given the speech many times, always citing Kinnock as his inspiration – but in the Iowa State Fair speech, he forgot to give Kinnock credit… and his campaign was effectively over. He had plaguerized, they said, he could not be trusted. It seems quaint, now, the idea that not citing your sources might besmirch your reputation for honesty, that this might be enough to make you unelectable. The GOP ticket has been running a post-truth campaign for months, lying again and again about the President’s record, about Obamacare and Medicare, and even about their own positions. And yet they are within reach of the White House. No one is suggesting Paul Ryan is unfit to serve because he lies, or that Romney, once caught in a falsehood, should’ve left the race. It hardly seems fair that Biden was once forced out of a race for a simple mistake that undermined his credibility, while Romney/Ryan may coast to the White House on wave of bullshit and the audacity of hype. Of course Biden laughed. This is ridiculous.

The Veep came out blazing on Thursday. His beautiful, nuanced answers put Paul Ryan’s facile platitudes to shame. Biden was asked why we don’t intervene in Syria’s revolution as we did in Libya’s. We don’t, he said, because they are very different countries – and then Biden told us exactly how they differ, and how that impacts our course. Ryan only spoke vaguely of not appearing “weak,” and tossed in the word “Iran” a couple of times. On Afghanistan, Ryan tried to argue that we were pulling troops out of the most dangerous regions – and Biden pounded home the reality that those troops are being replaced by Afghan troops, and point-blank demanded to know whether Ryan was saying we should place American troops in greater danger than their Afghan replacements. He explained and championed the Democratic policies on Medicare and Social Security, and held Ryan’s feet to the fire on the way his budget would effect the middle class and the poor. Every answer Biden gave was nuanced and detailed, while Ryan’s were nothing but empty platitudes. And that’s what analysts should have been talking about this week… but they weren’t.

Since the debate, Fox and the right have been going hard after Biden for his lack of “respect.” Fox News even showcased an “expert” to suggest that Biden’s behavior – which was exactly like all of Biden’s public behavior for the past 40 years – indicates that he either suffers from dementia or was drunk. It’s not just the guests, either – Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity also claimed that Biden was an “obnoxious drunk” during the debate. Because of a family history with alcoholism, Joe Biden is a well-known teetotaler, but that is how sick these people are. They will defame a good man, a faithful public servant, and a brilliant mind, just to deflect attention from the truth of what he said. He beat them, and so they are trying to destroy his reputation. It shouldn’t be surprising – these are the same asshats who have slandered the President as an illegitimate, communist, socialist, fascist dictator out to destroy America, a radical Muslim extremist collaborating with our most violent enemies to destroy our country. If they can pin all of that on the POTUS, surely they can comfortably smear the elected Vice President of the United States as a demented old drunk.

But it does beg the question: how can they keep a straight face as they suggest that Biden’s the one who’s being “disrespectful”?

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“Sad and Pathetic.” Yeah, that about sums it up…

September 12, 2012

Mitt Romney is a shit-stirring asshat. Of this, there can no longer be any doubt. Today, he saw fit to insert politics into an international crisis, using the murder of four American diplomats to attack President Obama’s foreign policy. He is rightly being criticized for his attempt to undermine the President in a moment when all Americans should join together; rather than backing down, though, Romney’s congratulating himself on subverting Obama’s position.

In case you somehow missed it, here’s the quick backstory on what Romney did that has every reputable news organization up and in arms. A reckless and incendiary filmmaker made a movie attacking Islam and Mohammed, clips of which were shown on television in the Middle East. Reckless and enflamed mobs rioted in the streets of Egypt and Libya. The Cairo Embassy was besieged, the Libyan Embassy was breached, and four diplomats in Libya were murdered, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Yesterday, as events began to unfold in Cairo, a the U.S. embassy in Egypt put out the following statement, in an attempt to calm the situation:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

That’s it. A rational response calculated to defuse tensions, and maybe – just maybe – to keep the people in the Cairo embassy safe. President Obama did not issue a statement while events were still unfolding, but Mitt Romney did. Last night, he issued a statement, saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Go back, reread that statement issued by our embassy in Cairo. Find anything disgraceful in it. Still, the GOP chimed in, with Reince Priebus also ascribing the Cairo statement to the President:


Something’s sad and pathetic, Reince, but I don’t think it’s the President….

Speaking of Obama, first thing this morning, after all the facts were known, the President of the United States – the only President at the moment – issued a statement “strongly condemning the outrageous attacks,” and highlighting the “extraordinary service and sacrifice” of those who were murdered.

While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

This was still not good enough for would-be Commander-in-Chief Romney. In a bizarre press conference, Romney weighed in, as if during a campaign we have two Presidents offering equally valid responses to international crises. At this presser, Romney said the following:

I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions….

I think it’s a — a — a terrible course to — for America to — to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.

An apology for America’s values is never the right course….

Simply put, having an embassy which is — has been breached and has protesters on its grounds, having violated the sovereignty of the United States, having that embassy reiterate [SIC] a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration….

I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake.

“An apology for America’s values,” or for “free speech”? Where is that in the embassy statement – which, AGAIN, was not issued by the White House, but by our diplomats in Cairo (before the Embassy itself was besieged)? It isn’t there, of course. But the GOP is in love with the fiction that our UnAmerican (black) President keeps apologizing for America to the rest of the world, and they seized upon the Cairo Embassy’s statement as proof. So what is the “American value” that the diplomats in Cairo failed to adequately defend?  The Cairo statement condemns the film which so upset the mob.  The movie is being promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida “pastor” who brought us last year’s threatened massive Koran burning. It apparently suggests that Mohammed was a pedophile, compares him to a donkey, and claims many of Islam’s most revered figures were child-molesters. The film is a blatant attempt to derail U.S. relations with the Islamic world, and was designed to be as profoundly offensive to devout Muslims as it could possibly be. The right to free speech is, as as the Embassy statement affirms, universal, but abusing that right in this way is worthy of condemnation. This movie – this crude attempt to destabilize a region, to mock and deride a faith and culture – is the “free speech” Romney feels the administration should never “apologize” for.

Even as Cairo was rocked by riots, our embassy staff there upheld the best American values. They reaffirmed the fundamental importance of religious tolerance, assuring the mob that the United States does not share the outrageous views of the filmmakers; that the United States upholds free speech, but condemns hate speech. In short, they were using diplomacy to defuse the situation. Romney would do well to look that one up – and to learn from their example, instead of ridiculing them to win cheap political points.

DI·PLO·MA·CY  [dih-ploh-muh-see] noun

1.  The conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations.

2.  The art or science of conducting such negotiations.

3.  Skill in managing negotiations, handling people, etc., so that there is little or no ill will; tact.