Israel, Georgia, Russia, Iran, and the US

Israel shut off arms sales to Georgia to curry favor with Russia because it wants Russian help against Iran. They know you can’t pick quarrels with Russia and Iran at the same time. No doubt the Bush Administration is now figuring out the same thing. So an attack on Iran — thank God! — is now off the table.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Israel, which has long been a major supplier of weapons to Georgia, cut off shipments before the current crisis, hoping for reciprocity from Russia on sales to Iran. That has got to make neocon heads explode. Israel, naturally, puts Israeli interests first, ahead of U.S. interests. But of course that’s flatly contrary to the idea that Israeli interests and American interests are always identical.

More to the point, it shows the box the neocons are in. They cut their political teeth on baiting the Russian bear, but they’ve been slavering for war with Iran. The Israelis know that you can’t have both, and they’ve made their choice. The neocons will probably just pretend they can have both, and call for both, and keep right on collecting their wingnut welfare.

My view is that our true policy toward Iran is to cultivate our popularity there and hope that the peaceful regime change that is surely coming to Iran will come sooner rather than later. From that perspective, an attack on Iran is sheer madness.

Any sort of pressure we put on Iran &#8212 diplomatic, economic, or military &#8212 requires Russian support, or at least Russian acquiescence. Our chances of getting that just went from slim to none. So the Bush Administration may be forced by events into adopting what I think is the more sensible softer line toward Iran.

That’s the one good result I see so far from the mess in Georgia; an attack on Iran, which always seemed like a far-fetched idea but which might not have been too far-fetched for the Bush cabal in its dying days, is now definitely off the table.

Obama Fantasy Speech #5

Armed Liberal shows how Obama should deal with the “celebrity” trope.

Borrowed intact from Anonymous Liberal at Crooks & Liars. Below is the speech; follow the link for the argument


My opponent has taken to calling me a “celebrity” in all of his commercials. The suggestion, I can only assume, is that all of you (gesturing to the crowd) show up at events like this and donate your time and your money to this campaign because you’re all adoring groupies who are obsessed with me. Now, that would certainly be flattering if it were true, but I’m not going to delude myself. The reality is I can’t act, I can’t sing, and my personal life is incredibly boring.

The truth is that no one would be paying any attention to me at all if I wasn’t talking about things that really matter to a lot of people. You’re not here tonight—and you’re not watching at home—because you want to be entertained. Lord knows there are plenty of things that you could be doing with your time right now that would be far more entertaining than listening to me. No, you’re here tonight because you love your country and you’re concerned about the direction it’s been heading over the last eight years.

You’re not here tonight to see what kind of outfit I’m wearing or to hear my latest hit single—and if you are, I think you’re probably going to be disappointed. No, you’re here because you want change, you want a government that fights for people like you and not on behalf of powerful special interests; you want a government that keeps you safe by pursuing a rationale foreign policy abroad and keeps your family secure by creating jobs, ensuring access to affordable health care, and fighting for energy independence.

That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re volunteering your time at record levels. That’s why you’re contributing your hard-earned money in record amounts.

So remember, when John McCain and his surrogates call me a “celebrity,” they’re not insulting me; they’re insulting you. They’re insinuating that you are a mindless groupie rather than a concerned citizen, a fan rather than a voter.

But it’s not going to work. You know why you’re here, you know why you’re watching, and you’re much smarter than they give you credit for.

Obama about to annouce his VP pick?

A blast e-mail from David Plouffe offers Obama supporters and others the chance to sign up to get an email when the decision is announced.

David Plouffe just sent this very private note to a couple of million of his closest friends:

Dear Mark —

Barack Obama is about to make one of the most important decisions of this campaign — choosing a running mate.

You have helped build this movement from the bottom up, and Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice.

Sign up today to be the first to know:

You will receive an email the moment Barack makes his decision, or you can text VP to 62262 to receive a text message on your mobile phone.

Once you’ve signed up, please forward this email to your friends, family, and coworkers to let them know about this special opportunity.

No other campaign has done this before. You can be part of this important moment.

Be the first to know who Barack selects as his running mate.



David Plouffe

Campaign Manager

Obama for America

Color me confused.

1. Why announce now? [I assume “soon” has to mean something like “this week”; otherwise it’s too big a tease, and not really consistent with the campaign’s operating style.] Conventional wisdom has been that the Olympics are going to take the country’s mind off politics for a while. Or is it that a VP announcement would make a big enough splash to break through, and the teaser campaign gets some ink and electrons even while Obama is “on vacation” [which I suspect translates in part “trying to persuade Grandma to come to Denver”].

2. Why ask people who are already signed up to sign up again to get the VP announcement?

3. Is anyone going to invite friends who aren’t already signed up on the Obama website to sign up for this?

All of which is a distraction from the fact that no one seems to have a clue who it’s going to be.

Update Several readers think this is a matter of database management. The campaign wants to see how many people are reading the emails, and if possible capture their cell-phone numbers and get them used to getting text messages from Obama HQ.

Laura from Seattle writes:

I would guess that they want to get people, especially young people, to provide their cell phone numbers to the campaign. During the primaries, I know from experience that the campaign used text messages very effectively in Washington State to remind younger votes to go out for the caucuses and this is probably true of other states as well. Secondarily, it is a way of getting young people engaged again after the long summer break. If people do sign up again, that confirms to the campaign that they are still active supporters, and can be targeted further. But the main purpose in my opinion is to get those cell phone numbers for later GOTV use.

Sounds right to me.

Obama 47, McCain 41

That’s the latest from the AP-Ipsos Poll, conducted over five days from 7/31-8/4. Obama’s bouncing back a little as well on the Gallup tracker, now at Obama +4.


And keep doing more of this. And this.

UPDATE: The AP poll may have oversampled Democrats. As always, however, Alan Abramowitz is around to give some more reality to things. Bottom line: the poll numbers are and have been very stable over several weeks, with Obama holding a small but steady 3-to-4 point lead over Senator Buffalo Chip.

Obama Fantasy Speech #3: The Barons of Wal-Mart

What’s good for the many is good for the few.

The bosses at Wal-Mart are afraid that if I’m elected Wal-Mart employees are going to have a real chance to organize, without fear of the illegal intimidation tactics Wal-Mart has used to keep unions out.

And they’re right.

And they’re afraid that Wal-Mart won’t be able to continue to dump its costs on the rest of us by leaving its employees with little or no health coverage.

And they’re right.

And they’re afraid that they, personally, are going to have to start paying their fair share of the costs of defending and governing this country, rather than having their taxes keep going down while their underpaid employees’ taxes keep going up.

And they’re right.

But what the Wal-Mart bosses don’t understand is that we are one nation, and that what’s good for the many is also good for the few.

During the 1930s the industrial barons thought that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was their greatest enemy. They thought that Social Security and the Wagner Labor Act were going to lead the country down the road to socialism. They spread every nasty rumor they could about FDR; they even said he was really Jewish &#8212 “Franlin Delano Rosenfeld” &#8212 instead of Dutch. (I guess it didn’t occur to them to claim he was a Muslim.)

But at the end of the day, those rich men found themselves richer than ever in a country more powerful and united than ever. They weren’t able to grab such a huge piece of the pie for themselves, but the pie was so much larger that their smaller piece of it was still more than they’d ever had before, under Presidents like Calvin Coolige and Herbert Hoover, who remained beloved by the rich even as they wrecked the economy and led the country into the Depression.

So once again, I say to the Barons of Wal-Mart: be not afraid. The medicine of having to treat your employees decently may be bitter, but drink it down and your company will be healthier in the long run. My policies will benefit not just a part of the country, but the entire United States of America. Everyone. Even you.


WSJ story on Wal-Mart’s terror of Obama.

Obama’s record: what Ambinder missed

Marc Ambinder, who has my respect for what I take to be his good-faith effort to maintain his objectivity in the race for President, and who has hit John McCain some pretty good licks recently, repeats what seems to me an egregious error he made way back in May: Ambinder quotes an attack on Obama premised on the claim that Obama has no record, and treats that as a legitimate claim.

In this case, Ambinder simply asks his readership to name Obama’s accomplishments, against the background of a story reported (or invented) by that blue-ribbon fool Richard Cohen in which an unnamed Democrat, asked to mention one of Obama’s accomplishments, lists his speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention, the implication being that Obama didn’t do anything noteworthy before and hasn’t done anything noteworthy since.

That strongly implies that Ambinder, who after all is attentive to public affairs, can’t himself name any of Obama’s accomplishments. Maybe that’s true, but if so all it means is that Ambinder hasn’t bothered to do some basic Googling.

A short list of Obama’s deeds, counting only his time in elected office, would include, in Illinois:

* Children’s health care.

* The earned income tax credit.

* Ethics reform.

* Videotaping of police interrogations (an anti-torture measure, since imitated elsewhere, which required Obama to win the support of law enforcement groups who started out hostile to it).

In Washington:

* More ethics reform.

* Work on “loose nukes” with Richard Lugar.

Of course no legislator ever does anything alone, but that’s not a bad record; year-for-year, it’s much stronger than McCain’s, even counting the parts of McCain’s legacy he has already trashed, such as campaign finance reform and opposition to torture.

Details on Illinois are in this Charles Peters article; details on DC are in two long posts by Hilzoy, one on Obama’s legislative record and one on Obama’s style of bipartisanship. Really, this stuff isn’t hard to find, though those of Ambinder’s readers he chooses to quote don’t seem to have found any of it. To ask “What’s Obama’s record?” without looking it up, like asking “What are Obama’s specific proposals?” without checking his website, is journalistic malpractice, because asking those questions that way reinforces the impression carefully created by Obama’s opponents that he doesn’t have a record or detailed positions. And that is simply false, just like the claim that he didn’t want to visit wounded soldiers if he couldn’t bring cameras.

It’s already clear that McCain is working from the Rove playbook: tell lots of lies about your opponent, gambling that some of them will stick and that the press won’t have the gumption to call “bullsh*t.” I bet it won’t work this year; with Ambinder, Joe Klein, and Andrea Mitchell all off the reservation this early, it looks to me as if McCain is going to lose his gamble on the supinity of the press. Still, it’s sad to see a good reporter contribute to a bad line of argument.

Standing tall

Obama stays vague on chlorinated chickens.

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times, scrabbling for an On The Other Hand graf on Obama’s triumphal European tour (my italics):

Obama was vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign policy that currently divide Washington from Europe and are likely to continue to do so even if Obama becomes president. The issues include Russia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, as well as new refueling tankers and chlorinated chickens, the focus of an 11-year European ban on U.S. poultry imports.

So American electors have to choose between two candidates: one doesn’t know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but it doesn’t matter because he plans to pick fights with both. The other doesn’t stand tall in defence of chlorinated chickens.

Nailbiting stuff.

Obamaphobia in action

With sufficiently distorted lenses, it’s possible to blame McCain’s latest disgusting lie about Obama on … Obama.

An Obamaphobic reader blames McCain’s false charge that Obama didn’t want to visit wounded soldiers unless the cameras were present on …. Obama, of course.

If his campaign had been honest about why he wasn’t going from the outset, it wouldn’t have become an issue.

Entirely true. If the campaign had decided to get the Defense Department in the middle of a political squabble, McCain wouldn’t have had a chance to tell his disgusting lie. Instead, the campaign invented a diplomatic excuse that didn’t help Obama but did avoid damage to the Defense Department, and McCain jumped on it, not bothering to find out that (1) No cameras have been present at Obama’s previous visits to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed; or (2) The press was not invited along for the visit in Germany before it was cancelled by DoD.

Note how close the original Obama campaign excuse (“didn’t want the visit perceived as a campaign event”) was to the truth (“DoD decided to call it a campaign event &#8212 after it was too late to change the arrangements &#8212 and canceled it”) with the difference entirely to the advantage of DoD and the disadvantage of the campaign.

Note also that my reader isn’t a winger, but a frustrated Hillaryite who may yet wind up voting sensibly. That should give you a sense of the depth of the rage still left over from the primary campaign.

Update My correspondent denies being a Hillaryite; she suppotred Clinton, she says, only as a way of preventing Obama’s nomination.

Mutterschaft und Apfelkuchen

Obama’s Berlin speech without concrete proposals

“Motherhood and apple pie” was my reaction to Obama’s fine Berlin speech. He said the right things, in the right way, wowed the young Berliners, and gave Americans like Quincy here back some of their self-esteem. That will do fine for now.

Like most people in the world, Europeans will be hugely relieved when Obama takes office. An actual intelligent adult in the White House! And half-African as well! But there really wasn’t much beef. There didn’t have to be. Obama is under no pressure at all from the fumbling and ignorant McCain to articulate his broad foreign policy vision, and every reason not to give hostages to fortune. So no five-point plans on climate change, Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation, trade, Africa, or any other issue he mentioned. I’m sure Obama’s policy staff is beavering away on these (I trust they’ve not lost Samantha Powers’ e-mail address), but we are unlikely to learn more before the election.

Does the world actually need five-point plans from Obama?

Continue reading “Mutterschaft und Apfelkuchen”

We are the world — Patriotism and Globalism

Obama’s peroration squares the circle, combining patriotism and globalism, justifying American leadership on the basis of America’s status as the inclusive, global, nation, as well as its universal ideals

“But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived — at great cost and great sacrifice — to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom — indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us — what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores — is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.”

For anyone who questions Barack Obama’s patriotism, or wants to see how to combine patriotism with globalism, read the peroration of his Berlin speech, quoted above.

America’s claim to leadership is not based on perfection, but on working towards universal aspirations, and on our status as the world’s first globally inclusive population.