Category Archives: Barack Obama

Sarah Palin Disgusts Me

So she disagrees with Obama’s health care plans eh? So she tells the press to lay off her children eh? Try this on:

Obama yesterday lashed out at critics of his ailing push to provide coverage for America’s 46 million uninsured people by saying that his critics were resorting to “outlandish rumours” and “misleading information” to scupper his plans.

But Sarah Palin, the Republican’s former vice-presidential candidate, raised the temperature in the debate by declaring Obama’s plans “downright evil” and accusing him of introducing a care rationing system that could threaten her own mentally handicapped child.

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down’s syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide… whether they are worthy of healthcare,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

I think this vapid, uninteresting woman, who didn’t even have the honour to finish out her term as Alaskan governor, shouldn’t be determining the political climate. And any American who agrees with her position disgusts me as much as she does. Obama got himself elected by rising above the Republican smears and lies, but with the right wing now operating formally as a near-terrorist organisation, can he afford to keep doing so? Given that he has a mandate for healthcare reform, I’m going to suggest he stops looking for compromise, stops even trying to be post-red/blue, and merely represents his constituents as president.

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Obama Must Ignore Ahmadinejad

According to Cohen:

Khamenei and Ahmadinejad may begin to unclench their fist, as isolation and sullen defiance grow, in a bid to deliver what they would not allow the reformists to initiate: détente with America.

Obama must leave them dangling for the foreseeable future. He should refrain indefinitely from talk of engagement.

To do otherwise would be to betray millions of Iranians who have been defrauded and have risked their lives to have their votes count. To do otherwise would be to allow Khamenei to gloat that, in the end, what the United States respects is force. To do otherwise would be to embrace the usurpers.

The slow arc of moral justice is fine but Iran is gripped by the fierce urgency of now. Obama, the realist on whom idealism is projected, is obliged to make a course correction.

It’s an interesting analysis. The internal battle within the regime is actually a race to deliver engagement with Obama – just look at how Ahmadinejad is sniping at him, yet outright threatening Britain; it’s a diversion. A government delivering relations with Obama, legitimised by people’s votes, rather than ‘by God’, would (Khamenei & Ahmadinejad believe) bring down the theocratic revolution. Yet the irony of the stolen election continues – Mousavi never campaigned on a secular platform – the ‘green revolution”s semi-secular platform has arisen in defiance of the regime’s brutality and fraud. Obama must indeed continue not dealing with the fraudsters, and let moderate Iranians at all levels of that regime and society correct what has become an historic mistake, by removing Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. A true Islamic republic, were it to happen, would change everything. It’s not out of reach.

North Korea: World War III?

It’s easy to look at what’s happening currently in North Korea with an air of panic. A nuclear test here, resumption of nuclear reprocessing there, with treaty abandoning and missile lobbing to add to a worryingly volatile mix, and you have a cornerstone of the ‘Axis of Evil’ frighteningly playing up to the caricature painted of it by Dubbya. Sanctions haven’t worked, diplomacy hasn’t worked, and now North Korea is aggressive and nuclear – what’s Obama to do, particularly because this is also clearly the first big foreign policy test his enemies have chosen to level at him? Attack in some fashion (or encourage Pyongyang to do so through the slightest recklessness) and he risks World War – the Japanese, Chinese, Russians and NATO would intervene in moments and we all lose – terminally. Do nothing whilst South Korea sweats, and he looks weak; Obama clearly doesn’t relish the prospect of being seen as a neo-Jimmy Carter. Simon Tisdall offers Kagan & Blumenthal’s argument that Obama has now to risk a game changing strategy with China in order to make this change decisively:

The idea that Washington and Beijing shared a common strategic interest in “solving” North Korea was false, Kagan and Blumenthal said. “In theory, China could pressure Kim to give up his weapons … But the fact is, China doesn’t want to. Beijing is content to live with a nuclear and anti-western North Korea. While China fears a collapsed North that would flood its struggling north-east with refugees, it also fears a unified, democratic, prosperous Korea allied with the US. China wants a puppet state in North Korea.”

Taking on China over North Korea is the option entailing the most strategic risk. It is the sort of game-changing, Nixon-like demarche that distinguishes great foreign policy presidents from great talkers. Given the current balance of political, diplomatic and economic forces, Obama could probably do it. But it would take great courage.

Now’s the big test – he’s all mouth on some domestic issues, and he still hasn’t played his hand fully on some foreign issues (notably Israel/Palestine). What’s he prepared to risk to get the outcome he wants (and unlike his idiotic predecessor I hope he actually has a concrete idea of what he wants)?

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Disaster!

We live in an age where the United States is rapidly embracing gay marriage (take note California State Supreme Court), yet despite Obama’s campaign pledge to abandon the divisive ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy, nothing seems to be happening:

This really is intolerable. If the Obama administration is supposed to be about the rule of law, then it’s an outrage that service people can still be dismissed merely for the fact of their sexual orientation; it’s bigotry.  How can a Commander-in-Chief who is black accept such discrimination under his watch for even a moment? As the report points out on a practical, business side it’s an unthinkable waste of training costs, it’s a waste of precious and vital resources, and is a ludicrous slap in the face to people who have chosen to serve their country, often with distinction. Other countries have had no problems when (in the UK’s case being forced to by the European Court of Human Rights) they have repealed their bans, so why is there still no change in the US?

The Wall Street Journal hints at an Obama long game, suggesting that current DADT legal battles are being waged in the knowledge they’ll be lost, thus eventually providing an overriding legal case with which to then justify the repeal of the gay ban. Others believe Obama could end the ban with a single executive order which he could issue with the stroke of a pen. What’s interesting is the way in which journalist Ana Marie Cox has this week drawn out the difference between what the Pentagon is saying and what the White House is saying, and force the latter into a concrete position. This administration has to stop hedging its bets on gay rights – when opinion polls show the public favours a repeal of the ban and straight service people themselves no longer advocate the ban on the grounds of morale, it has to go and should go now.

(via Towleroad)

Bibi vs Barack

Israeli leaks suggested that at his first meeting with President Obama in Washington DC today, Netanyahu hoped, and maybe even expected, that if he just kept talking about Iran he could ignore recent Obama administration strictures. No one can say that he was not warned. Incremental signals from Washington have been building the case for the fly-whisk to come into operation.

Instead he was told firmly that there would be talks with Iran, rather than bombs, with “no artificial deadline,” and that the Palestine issue is crucial, with a two state solution, and: “That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to,” which is diplomatic-speak for Washington’s expectation that Netanyahu will abide by the agreements that Israel has undertaken – for example on settlements, opening the Gaza crossings, and so on.

Netanyahu’s studied refusal to mention a Palestinian state, and his anodyne prescription of two peoples living side by side, was an overtly meaningless evasion.

(source)

But how far will Obama go in pursuit of his objectives? His foreign policy long-games, long since put together by the Phoenix Initiative, involve taking short term losses in favour of long-term gains, as well as tying resolving intractable conflicts to other regional issues and geopolitical problems – see how he’s tied Russia, Iran and Israel together so far? Every time his predecessors have been pushed regarding or by Israel they’ve jumped; will he? Or if he jumps in the short term, will it mean something different? georgeindia, a Guardian commentator points out:

US and Israel will get along just fine. With or Without Obama. With or without Livni. Get back to the real world. Obama, the savior of the world, morally perfect and infinitely-intelligent-than-Bush while having the advantage of a multiracial heritage is with Israel like any other US president (let’s forget that he is bombing Pakistan at the moment).

A point well worth remembering. It’s time to look past the whole Obama-is-not-Bush schtick and look at what he’s doing rather than his rhetoric. He’s restoring military tribunals, persecuting a war in Afghanistan with spurious goals, threatening not quite to pull out of Iraq and has changed his entire position on disclosing the Bush administration’s use of torture in the ‘war’ on terror. He is indeed regularly causing the deaths of dozens of people in Pakistan with unmanned bombing drones, and barely anyone bats an eyelid. Why should he be concerned with actually solving the Israel/Palestine conflict?

The One Line America Will Not Cross is The Chorus Line!

Jon Stewart mercilessly attacks the Obama administration for its indifference in repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and continuing to fire gay service people without hesitation, just at the time it needs them most:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“So it was okay to waterboard a guy over 80 times, but God forbid the guy who could understand what that prick was saying….has a boyfriend.”

Fucking awesome, and spot on.

Obama: A Nicer Bush?

Is Barack Obama just a nicer version of Bush? Commentators are starting to express alarm at the speed in which the administration is pulling back from its anti-Bush campaign positions:

Freedland on Israel/Palestine:

“The attention we’re giving Middle East peace is a change,” one senior administration official told me yesterday, recalling Bush’s 2001 decision to put the entire issue on ice. “Holding both sides equally to account is a change,” he adds. Above all, Obama rightly believes that true backing for Israel does not consist in repeated ­declarations of support. “Part of helping Israel is solving this goddamn problem,” says that official, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

All that is encouragingly un-Bush. But some in Israel suggest these actions are mere variations in the mood music, confident that the underlying US position will not shift. They draw comfort from that. The rest of us should be alarmed.

This conflict will not be solved by simply implementing the old Bush approach with more skill. Obama mustn’t be Obama on the outside and Bush on the inside. The approach itself has to change and change radically.

Sullivan on HIV/gay issues:

I think of how the US is the only developed country – and one of only a handful of undeveloped countries – that still tells the world that people with HIV are dangerous pariahs, who need policing at borders and deporting if discovered. And yet this is the current policy of the Obama administration on global HIV and AIDS.

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level.

Wheeler on the torture photos u-turn:

Granted, a bunch of Generals and Colonels would undoubtedly be embarrassed by the disclosure of abuse that happened on their watch (above all–as Nell suggests–Stanley McChrystal, newly tapped to take over in Afghanistan). Granted, some of those Generals and Colonels (the aforementioned McChrystal) would probably lose their next promotion if these pictures became public. Granted, pundits speculate, abstractly, that the release of another round of torture pictures will inflame the already volatile Iraq and Afghanistan.

But those are all invald excuses, according to President Obama’s own FOIA guidelines. If you’re going to set a rule, follow it yourself.

We were told in 1996/7 that Blair’s promises would amount to nothing, and despite some impressive constitutional reform (albeit unfinished) and gay rights successes (almost all imposed by the European Court of Human Rights), most of them did amount to nothing. Is Obama the new Blair rather than the new Bush? We know he has form for playing some very long games, which both Wheeler and Sullivan allude to, and choosing to lose short-term battles in order to win progressive, long-term gains. But the HIV travel ban and DODT policy could be ended overnight, particularly by a president with so much political capital, and the question of the torture photos is a vexing one. Sullivan suggests another long game is in play there, however Obama’s now reviving military tribunals to deal with Guantanamo inmates:

Barack Obama will revive the heavily criticised George Bush-era military tribunals for detainees at Guantánamo Bay but will make them fairer, according to US officials.

Obama suspended the tribunals within hours of taking office in January, ordering a review of the military commission system. But he stopped short of abandoning the process altogether.

The military trials will remain frozen for another four months as the administration adjusts the legal system – expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

Officials say the amended system would limit the use of hearsay and ban evidence gained from cruel treatment, including the use of “waterboarding”, a form of simulated drowning.

Defendants will be given the opportunity to pick their own lawyers and be provided with more protection if they do not testify. The decision to persist with the tribunals was immediately attacked by critics.

I don’t like this at all, and it suggests his response to the torture memos wasn’t a first step in a long game.