Showing posts with label negotiations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label negotiations. Show all posts

Monday, August 18, 2014


President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion.

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the "failure" that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.
While there's much to admire about Hillary Clinton, she made several statements in her recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic that worry me.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.
I remember my doubts about the suggestion to arm "vetted rebels" in Syria. What could possibly go wrong?

As I see it, Clinton is not wise to so quickly distance herself from President Obama. As you may recall, Al Gore hardly, if ever, mentioned President Clinton during his campaign to succeed him, nor did he allow Bill Clinton to campaign on his behalf, even in carefully chosen locations where Clinton was quite popular. Still, the president was always the ghost on the stage of every campaign event. I've always believed that Al Gore would have won by a large and indisputable margin, had he not run such a poor campaign and had he not so obviously run away from Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton ought perhaps to take a lesson.
Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.
How's that for damning with faint praise?  Au contraire, Madame Secretary, the president is wise to step away from the fantasy of American exceptionalism in which we bear the burden of setting the world to rights, as we see the right.  Also, for a Democratic would-be candidate to criticize the Democratic president in these difficult and tumultuous times seems disloyal.  I realize that she will inevitably differentiate her policies from those of the president, but she seems to be making serious mistakes in her statements in the interview.

If Clinton is the candidate, I believe she could lose the election by taking the anti-Obama track.  She cannot win without an enthusiastic turnout by African-American voters, and Obama still retains a fair amount of support among Democrats of all colors. She appears opportunistic, and, even worse, ruthless in her ambition.

Clinton takes a harder line against Iran than Obama, but negotiations require some wiggle room unless one's position is, "My way or the highway."
HRC: I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out. So, little or no enrichment has always been my position. 
Not much wiggle room there.

Clinton's seemingly unreserved support for the policies of the present Israeli government is worrisome, too.
Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration's behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”
While it's true there is wrong on both sides, Israel's response seems disproportionate, as is indicated by a comparison of the numbers of Palestinians and Israelis killed and wounded.  Also, if the Israeli government truly wants peace, perhaps the leaders might consider a bold, unilateral, admittedly risky move to lift the blockade of Gaza, remove the checkpoints which make travel so difficult for the Palestinians, and stop the spread of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  So long as Israel's neighbors in Gaza live in miserable conditions, Israel will not have peace.

Note: To disagree with the present policies of the Israeli leadership does not make me antisemitic any more than disagreement with the policies of my own government makes me un-American.

If the interview is Clinton's pre-season launch of her candidacy for the presidency, and I think it is, then she's made several missteps, and, I hope she sets herself aright.  I don't think any candidate, except in certain circumstances, a sitting president, is entitled to anointment as the chosen candidate for a political party, but I fear the stage is being set for anointing Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate.  I hope other prominent Democrats in the party rise to challenge Clinton, so we have a real contest and open discussions of various policies for moving the country forward and winning the election in 2016.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Why did 16 Democratic senators sign on to legislation-in-waiting that would increase sanctions on Iran for non-compliance in the deal to cease their nuclear weapons programs? Why now, at this time of delicate negotiations with the leadership in Iran about the programs, are the senators not willing to wait and see how the agreement plays out? Doesn't the bill send a message to Iran and the world that they have no confidence that the agreement will have a positive outcome?

The time is long past for the leaders in the US to seriously consider negotiations, rather than a rush to war, as the better way to solve international problems. Are we back to "Bomb Iran" if increased sanctions don't work? What's wrong with these people? What good is a Democratic majority in the Senate if a sufficient number, less one, of Democratic senators are willing to undermine the Democratic president's policies and possibly join with Republicans to override a presidential veto?

Many questions, no real answers.  A number of the senators in the list are up for reelection next year, and
may have made the decision to support the bill for - Gasp! - political purposes.  Since the Supreme Court ruled in "Citizens United" that corporations, organizations, and unions are people and entitled to spend unlimited funds on political campaigns, the senators keep in mind fund-raising for the next election.

Throwing down the gauntlet:
"If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so," Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed."

The list of renegade Democratic senators with check marks by those whose present terms end in January 1915:

Mark Begich - Alaska
Michael Bennet  - Colorado
Richard Blumenthal - Connecticut
Cory Booker - New Jersey
Ben Cardin - Maryland
Bob Casey, Jr. - Pennsylvania
Chris Coons - Delaware
Joe Donnelly - Indiana
Kirsten Gillibrand - New York 
Kay Hagan - North Carolina
Mary Landrieu - Louisiana ✓
Joe Manchin - West Virginia
Bob Menendez - New Jersey
Mark Pryor - Arkansas
Chuck Schumer - New York
Mark Warner - Virginia

Friday, December 21, 2012


Yes, I do feel a bit sorry for Boehner, who now has something else to cry about. He thought he was the leader of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, but, though he should have known before now, he is not the leader of the GOP, because there is no longer a Republican Party to speak of, but only a group of individuals, each with his own agenda, who are responsible only to those who gave them money to get elected and feel no responsibility whatsoever to govern the country.  Charles Pierce says it best: 
There is no possible definition by which the Republicans can be considered an actual political party any more. They can be defined as a loose universe of inchoate hatreds, or a sprawling confederation of collected resentments, or an unwieldy conglomeration of self-negating orthodoxies, or an atonal choir of rabid complaint, or a cargo cult of quasi-religious politics and quasi-political religion, or simply the deafening abandoned YAWP of our bitter national Id. But they are not a political party because they have rendered themselves incapable of politics.
With whom does President Obama negotiate if and when talks about avoiding the fiscal cliff resume?  Obviously, Boehner cannot call the troops to order.  Is another Republican in the House capable of doing the job?  Anyway, Obama was giving away far too much in the deal, but the Republican members of the House did not have the good sense to appreciate their Christmas gift and and ended up saving the president and certain Democrats from themselves.  So it's probably off the cliff or the gentle incline - take your choice.  The Republicans really need to stop scaring investors, banksters, and financiers with their brinkmanship in this fragile economy.

Oh, and to change the subject, Obama nominated John Kerry as Secretary of State.  Kerry is an excellent choice, but he is likely to be swiftboated all over again (yawn), just as Susan Rice was swiftboated out of contention for the cabinet post, through no fault of her own.  

Friday, November 30, 2012



Excellent column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times.
The important thing to understand now is that while the election is over, the class war isn’t. The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth — in the name of fiscal responsibility — the ground they failed to gain in an open election. 

Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.
President Obama and congressional Democrats hold the cards since the election.  Let's hope they play the game to the advantage of the great majority of the citizens of the country.  Keep in mind that the fiscal cliff is not that at all, but is rather a fiscal incline, and, if it comes to that, the slide down the incline will play a lot worse for Republicans than for Democrats.

Note to Mr President and Congressional Democrats: Hold the line!  (You don't need to tell me; I know I'm mixing metaphors.)

As for Thelma and Louise, they landed safely and moved to Mexico.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


You gave away the store in your "negotiations" with Republicans. Why bother with the circus mockery of "negotiations"? Just give the Republicans what they want up front.

Sadly, it seems we have truly come to the end of two-party governance. We now have the Republican Party and the Republican-lite Party (aka the Democratic Party). Where do we go from here?