HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » bigtree » Journal
Page: 1


Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Maryland
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 77,467

Journal Archives

That Obama-Clinton Chemistry (Joint 60-Minutes Interview)

from Joan Walsh at Salon: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/28/that_obama_clinton_chemistry/

That Obama-Clinton Chemistry
It wasn't about 2016. It was about two hard-working "gluttons for punishment" enjoying their unlikely friendship

. . . Iím not entirely sure why the joint interview, which was hyped for so many days, whose hype I resisted, wound up being so affecting. But let me throw out a few thoughts about it.

Iím sure most of it was the bitter battle between the two of them. It was nice to see that Obama giving Clinton a tough and high-profile job wasnít merely placating or co-opting a rival. And maybe the glow was just what happens when two charismatic figures with adorable chemistry appear together. Weíve seen them together only briefly on stage. Weíve seen them, sadly, at the homecoming for dead heroes like Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans killed in Benghazi.

There may simply be a remarkable charge when these two amazing firsts Ė first African American president, first 18-million-cracks-in-the-glass-ceiling female candidate ó come together. And when they donít fight, like those firsts are supposed to do, and once did, but they glory in one anotherís radiance, and they support one another.

. . . So set aside 2016. Iím not sure why the president wanted to do the joint interview Ė Steve Kroft said it was his idea, which is interesting, but who really knows? But Iím glad they did. In this era of ugly near mortal political combat, itís reassuring when two formal rivals come together. Their obvious physical comfort and warmth was strangely moving.

Seeing two of the worldís most powerful people, who happen to be a black man and a white woman, leaning in against one another and laughing and sighing, sharing their enjoyment of one anotherís company and their relief at the hard times theyíve seen the country through ó well, now Iím not sure why I was acting like it was hard to explain its delight. It was delightful.

read: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/28/that_obama_clinton_chemistry/


part 2:

Resurrecting Predictions of a Renaissance in This Presidency

(originally) posted Fri Nov-20-09 by bigtree

I may be eternally cynical of our government, but I still expect a Renaissance in this presidency.

This isn't a jaded and weak old man we've elected, and he's no fool. I'm also not buying the arguments of some that he or his presidency is institutionally and intractably corrupted by industry or the establishment (not yet). So I have a good feeling about the future of this man, Barack Obama, in realizing the power of his office to effect lasting and meaningful good.

I've always understood that this President isn't an operating progressive. He's a pragmatic politician who's made a few proposals and actions contrary to our liberal creed; none of which should cause any Democrat to abandon their comity and start running around with their hair on fire. On balance, this President has held the line on our Democratic agenda; as much as Congress has accommodated his defense of those principles.

He's not going to be satisfied with just fighting and posturing, though; which is basically the heart of much of the earnest criticism from the left; as if the (often necessary) bluster and snark were all it took to manage the balance of power and motivation in the national legislature.

Despite the fact that all of the problems he inherited haven't been brought to some favorable conclusion, or that some seem to be getting worse (some by his own hand), he has made much meaningful progress and has had some historic accomplishments for his young presidency. I like the prospects for our party's agenda in this precarious majority that we've crafted together with our votes, and I'm optimistic about the prospects for the realization of our own (as expressed here at DU) as well.

Something significant is indeed happening here; a bit of a clusterfuck, but, it's definitely happening. Democrats are accustomed to operating against an entrenched opposition party, but it looks like our Democratic Senate leadership is ready to flex their partisan power in a way that no party has had the audacity to in decades.

I'm convinced that the cynicism and frustration often expressed here by war-weary progressives - ready to tear the whole thing down and start afresh - is ultimately going to be the wind underneath this presidency as Barack Obama exercises and demonstrates the historical efficacy of incremental change and dramatically moves our Democratic agenda steadily forward.

I don't see 'capitulations', as some critics have expressed in their opposition. I do see many compromises that have made sense, given the political limitations and the consequence of doing absolutely nothing (as republicans are determined to do in office). I have seen this President act independently when he's convinced there's no legislative remedy available. I've seen him stand firm and win the day. I think we'll see more of that backbone and sense of our Democratic majority..

I think that there were unrealistic expectations and demands that folks are now looking to hold the President accountable for. The only surprising thing to me about his conduct in the past term is how little he's strayed from what he told us he'd do. I do acknowledge that most of us here are fully invested in our views to the point where it feels like betrayal when these politicians do something contrary. Most of our disagreements have been on strategy and degree, rather than substance. Yet, I think we need to continue to accept this presidency for what we always assumed it was: a centrist presidency which has pledged to 'reach across the aisle'. We were never going to realize the entirety of our progressive agenda behind his leadership. I think most folks have accepted that. Stepping away from this presidency right now over these issues just seems a waste.

Our party has always been a coalition of liberal and moderately conservative views. We didn't elect a progressive president (or nominee), we didn't elect a progressive majority in our legislature, and yet, some are still hell-bent on making this pragmatic presidency the bane of that failure. Fair enough, I suppose, to hold him accountable, but he's just one element of any political strategy for advancing our initiatives or concerns into action or law. We shouldn't behave as if there's nothing left that republicans will be compelled to vote for. We shouldn't be whipped back and forth in our steadfastness by this White House by political posturing.

The President is fighting for most of the issues and concerns we care about, even though some may well disagree on his strategy for achieving the same. We want jobs, but we don't agree on how to spur employment. We need revenue, but we're fixated on tax cuts because of the faltering economy and the fragility of the incomes of millions of Americans that would be affected by the expiration of the breaks they have right now. We want to win elections, but we're not certain how to deal with the conservative states and districts. Those are just a few of the needles politicians have to thread.

The President's committed himself to finding a workable balance. He's no more naive about that prospect than anyone else, but he has adhered to that bipartisan rhetoric as part of his strategy. That's certainly a flaw for some, but it's not indefensible; and it's certainly not so far outside of Democratic politics to be characterized as 'capitulation' or betrayal. The President has made what he believes are reasonable compromises where he feels doing nothing isn't the responsible option. That's not always in line with our own expectations, but I don't think he's moved so far from a Democratic agenda to deserve the type of ire we used to reserve for the republican opposition -- the type of tone many critics took before we rallied behind Pres. Obama to defeat republicans in the last election.

There's a little thing called political momentum . . . and our Democratic party has it today!

Can't have watched the President and our Democrats at the Health bill signing and not feel the winds of change; both societal and political. It was gladdening to see our Democratic party on the right side of history (again).

Can't look at this new republican Congress' inability to pass their own bills; and their repeatedly giving up ground on their 'Hastert Rule' obstinacy; and not sense a burgeoning revival of our liberal majority.

Barack Obama is the first fellow to reach the presidency in my lifetime who is so thoroughly connected to the people - from his beginnings as a community organizer to local office and to the Senate. His life experiences and interests give him a unique perspective from the elite, connected pols of (my) past who made their way to the top. He's even more grounded in all of that than Bill Clinton was as a well-connected governor.

I do wonder about his conservative appointments . . . I conclude, however, that his choices reflect the great deal of confidence he has in the strength and character of his own idealism, yet regard enough for the rest of America to check those ideals of his against these establishment catalysts.

I too would like to see him make more progressive acts (as in military and finance matters) which are in line with those aspirations he so eloquently expressed and sold to those who voted for him. But I don't, for a minute, believe that the political balance of this narrow majority in the present legislature he's expected to parry his initiatives and ideas with has been (collectively) any more inclined to effect those bold changes than he's managed in the level and scope of his public support for them. If Congress actually enacted the bulk of his initiatives and proposals, we'd be looking at a national renaissance to match his very determined and pragmatic progressiveness.

I predict a transformation (in the not too distant future) of his presidency from the deference he's given to those in the establishment he's, so far, considered responsible enough serve his interests; to a desire to exercise his own impatience and earnest desire for change. He certainly has enough allies and friends out there who provided the support which enabled him to advance to the WH who represent the best of our citizenry. I fully expect him to advantage his presidency of those when he's finally lost faith in the establishment figures and their recalcitrance to provide the lift he desires for his stepping-stone administration.

I may be eternally cynical of our government, but I still expect a Renaissance in this presidency. I can only hope Mr. Obama's sense of time and place infects our Democratic legislators as well.

Retreating From Obama's Abject Failure In Afghanistan


Taking the first clear opportunity past his last campaign, President Obama used his White House meeting with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai to announce a 'speedier' withdrawal of the Afghanistan occupation. Accompanied by both sober and swaggering claims of success and accomplishment, the president's remarks herald the predictable and inevitable end-game of declaring victory and bringing our troops home. It's a mostly vain impulse to care why he says he's leaving Afghanistan -- at this and any point, bringing troops home is always welcome -- but it's also important to keep sight of the tragic reality behind all of the positive and declarative language.

To be fair, this Democratic president's declarations of 'success' and 'progress' are a far cry from Bush's flailing around of the unceasing propaganda from the fugitive 9-11 suspects that Bush regularly echoed in his campaign speeches. Over the Bush term, the NATO mission in Afghanistan was kept afloat by their unceasing fearmongering. This Democratic administration has rejected and abandoned much of the rhetoric of the last bunch's terra talk.

The nonsense crept back into this president's political posturing, though, right after the killing of the 9-11 nemesis. With a mere written statement on the 10th anniversary of the nation's longest military engagement, President Obama acknowledged the human cost of his escalated offensive and the 'challenges' remaining, yet he focused most of his statement on his success and 'progress' in 'defeating al-Qaeda'.

"In delivering justice to Osama bin Laden and many other al Qaeda leaders, we are closer than ever to defeating al Qaeda and its murderous network," Obama said in his written remarks.

In fact, any discussion from the President about Afghanistan these days is certain to include a line about the terror suspects the military has managed to kill and the 'progress' we're making along that line. That's fair enough. Few Americans question the shooting of bin Laden, and few Americans give a wit about the others assassinated in recent weeks other than to wonder how the government can execute American citizens like the cleric with impunity in the course of the ongoing terror offensive.

What anyone who is concerned with the unbridled militarism of the U.S. foreign policy abroad should question is the absence of any position from the President that would satisfy the vast majority of Americans' long-held opinion that his escalated U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan was clear folly. Contrary to public opinion, in which 70% polled say the war has lasted longer than they expected and nearly as many say the troop presence should be reduced, President Obama appeared to be more comfortable advertising his prowess in killing terror suspects than determined to committing to ending his 'pollyandish misadventure'.

Instead, we continued to be gratuitously graced by this administration with swaggering accounts of terra missions and hoo-rah assessments of the self-perpetuating battles there. "Peace through strength" That's a Cold War notion that is belied by the nuclear threats that mushroomed during the arms race as nations jockeyed for military domination. That's the ultimate effect of our military role in Afghanistan as tribes and sects vie for dominance over their rivals in a seemingly unending pattern of attacks and reprisals. The U.S. role in all of that is to keep our finger on the trigger and our foot on the throttle as one NATO shielded faction or the other benefits at the expense of the life and livelihood of their neighbor. Yet, we still pressed on.

As far back as November of 2011, senior officials in the Obama administration have been signaling that the President was exploring a speedier transition of our troops' combat role to the task of training Afghans to provide for their own defense of their dubious government. Even before the signals and the rest from the White House, there were key developments which made it clear that, in order to continue, either the President would need to undergo another ambitious campaign to rally allies away from their almost certain plans to turn away from their part in the U.S. folly, or the administration and Pentagon would have to devise a way to overcome the mounting problems with logistics, getting supplies to the troops, and the apparent outer limits of the President's belief in what the military forces can accomplish on the offensive against a scattered and determined insurgency.

As if to underscore the folly of their escalated military offensive, U.S. troops all but withdrew last year from Kandahar, the Pentagon's self-proclaimed 'center' of their terror war in Afghanistan, in a posture of retreat which began last October. Under the qualifying language of 'transition' and 'handover', the administration hoped to determinately pull the rug out from under whatever goals and ambitions the President had used early in his term to adopt Bush's dubious defense of the Karzai regime, double down on the occupation, and try to effect a knockout blow to the Taliban resistance.

There can be no more resounding admission of the failure of the NATO offensive against the Taliban than this speedier exit. Our closest ally in the mission, Britain, must have been thinking the same thing when they decided on an earlier exit for their own beleaguered forces.It's not very likely the U.S.-led NATO 'alliance' will ever be able to emphasize their political aims over the destructive and destabilizing impact on the communities of Afghanistan from the devastating, U.S.-led military offensive. Through the force of our weapons - many times outside the limits that our constitution proscribes for the use of our military defenses - we've been propping up a corrupt regime and imposing it on the Afghan population, especially in regions which were not engaged in elections that we've claimed gives the Afghan central government legitimacy.

Even our would-be puppet, Pres. Karzai, has bristled and balked at the prospect of more destructive NATO conquest in Afghanistan on his behalf. The once-willing accomplice has seen the political writing on the wall and appears to be looking to settle for the assumption of power wherever the Taliban would allow. His reported outburst at the beginning of the Kandahar campaign, threatening to 'join the Taliban', was a open-warning to the U.S. that he recognizes there is no 'political solution' that can be reasonably carved out of the devastating, withering military campaign.

The premise behind President Obama's initial 'surge' of U.S. troops into Bush's Afghanistan quagmire was to 'push back' resisting Afghans enough to allow some sort of political reconciliation. That effort is predictably bogged down by the difficulty in getting the disparate tribes and factions to accept the central authority NATO has set up in Kabul. There's even more difficulty in getting their installed government to accommodate the interests and demands of the resisting rest of the war-split nation.

The military is quietly hoping we don't notice that they didn't actually transform their Afghanistan misadventure from the leveling of homes, the taking of resistors lives, and the destruction of farmland and livestock into the nation-building success that they intended for the mission to highlight. In fact, the UN has reported the civilian death toll in Afghanistan was at its deadliest during this administration's tenure, despite the presence and activity of their would-be protectors. The planned drawdown is not born out of any political success or victory, but out of a certain realization that there will never be a defining end to the resistant violence there which will transform the country politically.

The U.S. military offensive against the Taliban was an abject failure in achieving the goals behind the offensive. What happened to the promised ability of the U.S.-led NATO forces to protect the residents of Afghanistan against Taliban blowback from their invasion? The ability to protect innocent civilians from NATO attacks, or insulate them from the negative consequences and effects of the NATO military advance? The ability of NATO to provide and deliver the services and amenities of the central government to the displaced residents? Nonexistent.

The only course left for a stalemated and faltering U.S. invasion force was to pull back to the capital from their offensive positions in the south of the country and stage a desperate, last-stand defense of their propped-up, yet insolent regime.

An October 2011 Pentagon report to Congress also indicated that Afghan civilians are dying in record numbers. "Civilian casualties -- most caused by the Taliban -- reached an all-time high this summer with approximately 450 civilians killed in July," it said. "Attacks using homemade bombs, or IEDs, also reached an all-time high this past summer, with about 750 IED detonations recorded in July."Predictably, resisting Afghans have avoided the areas where U.S. troops have masses and have scattered their violence around the capital and elsewhere, killing former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani that year.

Over 2000 U.S. troops have been sacrificed in Afghanistan for this offensive occupation, 630 of those deaths occurring in 8 years under George W. Bush. Illustratively, the top three deadliest years of the war -- 2010 (497 deaths), 2011 (362), 2009 (303) -- have occurred under President Obamaís tenure. August 2011 was the deadliest month of the war, by far, with 71 fatalities. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. fatalities in the war in Afghanistan have occurred during the Obama administration, in a quarter of the war's duration.

President Obama decided that, for better or worse (he said better) that his surge was over and he pulled out the 22,000 troops he had committed to carry out his dubious muscle-flexing. After all, his Pentagon and his intelligence agencies killed bin-Laden -- the original terror suspect who claimed responsibility for the 9-11 plane crashes -- and more than a few others they believed threatened their Afghan regime. Their violent spawns -- made witness to the worst of al-Qaeda's warnings about U.S. imperialism, have been more than satisfied to have the bulk of our nation's military forces bogged down and fighting for their lives in Kabul.

For an economically crippled superpower pushing up against the admitted limitations of our military, that's enough for the President to declare 'success' and 'progress' and leave when he says he will -- if not ahead of time. President Obama and his republican Pentagon holdovers led our nation to this retreat. They were prepared to tolerate the self-escalated sacrifices of our our soldiers as our troops eventually hunker down there, tolerating the thousands drastically wounded and waiting for some moment to declare 'victory' out of their desperate defense of their own lives against the Afghans that the President and the Pentagon claim we've been liberating.

We've been in Afghanistan longer than our country fought WWII. No matter to our leaders, though. 'Freedom's' cause for occupation supporters is nothing more than a repression of one group or another within the sovereign nation we invaded into accepting our military forces' false authority over them; and cynical manipulation and control of the Afghan government Karzai lords over by the intimidation of our military occupation.

It's probably too much to ask President Obama to give at least a nod to the anti-war faction of his party supporters and provide some sense that he understands we were correct throughout our years of activism and protest. There's a defensive tone to the administration's political patter that seems worried that any talk of withdrawal must be thoroughly couched in blather about 'defeating' their nebulous al-Qaeda nemesis. It's all too incredible for those of us who are convinced that our military mission in that region is self-perpetuating and counter-productive.

Our nation's possessive militarism in Afghanistan and elsewhere has divided our nation from within, and, from without against our restive allies. The escalated occupation has ignored whatever Afghans might regard as freedom in our insistence that their country be used as a barrier against the terror forces we've aggravated and enhanced in Pakistan. Yet, the soldiers the President insisted on continuing to commit to his inevitable retreat to Kabul mostly fought and died because they're not wanted there by the majority of the Afghan people. Our soldiers are fighting to control the Afghans, and Afghans are busy fighting to get the U.S. to release that control.

"Time is running out before the international community transfers control to Kabul by the end of 2014, and many key objectives are unlikely to be achieved by then," the October 2011 report warned.

"Our bottom line in Afghanistan is Ďin together, out together'." Defense Sec. Panetta told reporters. "As an alliance, we are fully committed to the Lisbon framework and transitioning to Afghan control by 2014 . . . We hope Afghan forces will be ready to take the combat lead in all of Afghanistan sometime in 2013. . . .

"This remains a very difficult mission," Pres. Obama said in his weekly address. "The work ahead will not be easy. Our forces are still in harmís way. But make no mistake Ė our path is clear, and we are moving forward. Because after more than a decade of war, the nation we need to rebuild is our own."

Ready or not, as difficult as it may be to extricate our forces, its becoming increasingly clear that President Obama can't leave Afghanistan fast enough to outrun the mission's abject failure.

read/watch President Obama's weekly address: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/01/12/weekly-address-ending-war-afghanistan-and-rebuilding-america

Hagel Opposed the Surge


Gawd, do I hate republicans in Democratic cabinets. If Chuck Hagel's appointment was supposed to be about 'bipartisanship,' it's a product of an out-of-touch WH political operation which completely missed the fact that republicans have long ago disowned the Nebraska moderate, or, worse; a clear portrait of a gag-worthy naivete of Barack Obama in expecting that republicans actually give a damn about the stuff they regularly rail against.

In many ways, the nomination of Hagel is a reflection of Barack Obama's impression of his own political moniker. In the lexicon of our nation's political class, Barack Obama is considered to be, at his heart, a liberal who aspires to the worst definitions of socialism. In practice and reality, though, he's a political pragmatist who regularly adopts positions and policies which reflect the more conservative limits of legislators he enlists to advance his Democratic agenda through the divided Congress than they do the aims of our party's sizable progressive membership.

The political and press establishment regularly portrays his compromises as liberal/conservative -- yet this president tends to bend toward the republican position more than often; assuming, as the establishment does, that he's already filled out the progressive card by the mere fact of that impression of him as some wild-eyed liberal.

Very rarely do his policies bend back to the progressive position, though; very often diluting initiatives, instead, to reflect the political landscape which is distorted by the republican obstinacy and opportunism.

In many ways, Barack Obama's selection of Chuck Hagel is consistent with the President's assumption that he already represents as much progressiveness on defense than the political establishment can bear, and still advance his policies and initiatives through the divided legislature. That may well be true. The republican party has shown little inclination to voluntarily abandon the remnants of the Bush doctrine of military interventionism and corporate-driven expansionism; and, Barack Obama has obliged them in retaining many of the architects and managers of that Bush policy to lead our military policy into the future.

Most of the results of the administration policy toward Afghanistan and Iran has been a weak sister of the last administration's approach. More of our troops were killed in Afghanistan on THIS president's watch than the last one; and, there's no evidence at all that this President's surge of force in Afghanistan made the killing of bin Laden a possibility. That killing of our nation's #1 nemesis is all they have to point to now there. It's a misguided policy in Afghanistan which assumes that our forces are more beneficial than they are disruptive, I'd like to see that reality faced up to and resolved with a massive pullback; immediately if they have the political will.

It is in that effort to reverse course and pull back from the counter-productive occupation that Chuck Hagel offers promise. He opposed Bush's 'surge' in Iraq; and, he also opposed President Obama's 'surge' of force in Afghanistan.

Hagel fleshed that out in an interview with Jacob Weisburg in 2011:

I've always thought, if you're a United States Senator, you have a -- you have a big job of thinking through these things and then ultimately making some decision on how you're going to vote. And there is not a more critical element of representative government for each of us who had the privilege of serving in those capacities than making a decision on war -- on whether you send your men and women to war and whether you get a country into war.

As I often used to say -- and we found out in Vietnam, we're finding out in Iraq, but every war -- easy to get into these wars, but pretty damn hard to get out of them, because you've got always the reasons why you can't leave: can't leave because all the dominos will fall in Southeast Asia or whatever it is.

Now, that said, go back -- steer back to your question. It wasn't just that. It was -- it was a lot of -- at least what I thought -- of unanswered questions. Where are we going here? What is the endgame here? On the surge, I remember asking -- I was opposed to the surge -- well, of course, if you flood any zone, any location in the world with superior American military -- and there's no, obviously, country in the world who can stand up to the superiority of our force. If you flood that zone with a superior American firepower, of course you're going to have your -- whatever your victory is, however you define that.

But I never thought Iraq, for example, was well thought-out. No one could ever take me through then what happens, then what happens, then what happens. I go back to the beginning of the first 12 months, and Jamie (sp) was at CIA, and there's some other people in the room who know something about this, were there at the time. I used to ask the questions of the witnesses that would come up about every dimension of this. And we had on record Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Natsios, who was USAID -- every one of the senior members. They would say things like -- and this is all on the record -- we'll have our troops out of Iraq by Christmas. This was the year we invaded. Certainly no more than 12 months.

These were generals -- four-star generals -- Tommy Franks, others. Natsios and Wolfowitz testified that the war would not cost the United States one penny. (Laughter.) So much oil.

They actually said this. This isn't my interpretation; this is all on the record. I never bought that. It was -- it was, to me, so much more complicated because I'd been in a war that was complicated. I'd seen the graft, I'd seen the corruption, I'd seen the death, I'd seen the misunderstandings, I'd seen the lack of clear policymaking that is just inherent in something like this. Have -- I used to say, have you thought this through? Is this going to be a classic 21st century nation building? Are we subject to nation -- and mission creep here? So it wasn't just my own emotional human pieces.

It's this type of critical thinking that can lead us out of the quagmire in Afghanistan. If President Obama can marshal all of the sentiment in the nation to break free from the politically-driven occupation, he can use Chuck Hagel as a consistent voice of reason as he redefines American's role and negotiated obligations there and in the region.

As they move to dismantle whatever remnants of Bush doctrine and policy that has kept us bogged down in Afghanistan, it should not be ignored that it has been the progressive position which has maintained the most credibility in recent matters of occupation and war. Even as Barack Obama reaches out to republicans with this nomination, he should be bending back to embrace his progressive following which has ultimately been proven correct in their protests and activism against continuing militarily in Afghanistan. We can't just assume that is already understood.

Two purples hearts, Chuck Hagel still has shrapnel in his chest ...
Go to Page: 1