Obama Understands Diplomacy

Obama and Clinton have started a great argument on diplomacy. Unfortunately for Hillary, Barack is absolutely right. William Arkin at the Washington Post doesn’t get it. Let’s take a look (emphasis mine):

My conclusion from this affair comes in two parts. First, maybe Obama really is different (if also naive). And second, maybe he needs some new advisers.

Obama dismissed Sen. Hillary Clinton’s national security approach as “Bush-Cheney Lite” yesterday and said his priority as president would be to “unite” the country and seek change. His remarks came a day after Clinton smacked him down as “irresponsible and naïve” for his remarks during Monday’s CNN-YouTube debate.

In other words, Obama seems to have misstepped according to Arkin. The supposedly problematic position is actually both wise and necessary (emphasis mine):

Obama also held a conference call with reporters, characterizing Clinton as no different from the Bush administration for foreswearing dialogue. “If that’s not what she means, then she should say so,” he said. “Nobody expects that you would just sit down with them for coffee,” he said, speaking of the preparations he would make for meetings with the leaders of North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and other nations. But he stuck with his answer and said he would not impose preconditions.

This is a very important position to take. It understands the primacy and the value of dialog. It also understands the danger and the cost of the alternatives. Hence Obama’s very apt comparison of Hillary’s outright rejection of dialog as following in Bush and Cheneys bloody footsteps.

So why frame this as naive?

Well, this is not necessarily bad, nor it is necessarily wrong, but it is naïve. The president of Iran doesn’t even recognize Israel’s right to exist. Sitting down to chat with him would be like sitting down with Osama bin Laden to explain that it’s all a big misunderstanding, that America shares his ideals for a better life. Sorry, Obama, but those aren’t everyone’s ideals, and that’s not bin Laden’s beef.

That first sentence is so flatly dishonest in such a small space it should make your brain do a backflip. He’s just trying to soften the blow with “not necessarily bad, nor it is necessarily wrong”. Or is naive foreign policy “good and right” in Arkin’s estimation?

The benefit of dialog is it invites people to the table. It creates options instead of shutting doors. If you sit down to talk with a despot, this does not commit you to agree and acquiesce!  At the very least, it creates a diplomatic space in between a workable solution and a violent last resort.

One thing this world does not need more of is war.  And we do not need a Presidential candidate who automatically ticks off an alternative to war on some misguided principle or mistaken notion of good foreign policy.  Not all experience is useful or good, and Hillary Clinton is unwittingly making that readily apparent by playing the experience card as a counter to Obama’s position.

Keep options on the table.  Keep a cool and level head.  That will result in sound foreign policy, and is the mark of a true stateswoman/statesman.

Obama should be aggressive on this and fight the “naive” label before it starts to stick.  His position on diplomacy shows quite he is quite the opposite.


Dear Reuters: Criticizing Opponent != Negative Tone

How utterly clueless is Steve Holland?  Candidates firing back at each other over the age old “experience vs new direction” battle is to be expected in a Presidential race.  We saw it when Cheney and Edwards debated (which was actually a very enjoyable debate to watch, much more evenly matched than Kerry vs Bush).  We are seeing it now with Hillary vs Barack.

Just calling your opponent naive or linking your opponent’s stance to an unpopular administration hardly counts as “negative” campaigning.  It is smart campaigning.  Hillary is doing the best she can without changing her position.  She is spinning her unpopular, more hawkish stance as derivitive from experience Obama lacks.  Its really the only card she can play here.  Obama is rightly firing back by comparing her to the current administration.  That’s just good campaigning.

None of this stops Steve from breathlessly relating the “nastiness” of the “flap”:

Neither side was backing down from a dispute that erupted at a debate on Monday and turned nastier as the week went on, wrapping up with bitter exchanges between top Clinton strategist Howard Wolfson and his Obama counterpart, David Axelrod.

Clinton considers the first-term senator from Illinois naive for saying he would be willing to meet leaders of hostile nations like Iran and Cuba, while Obama thinks Clinton is sticking to the foreign policy status quo of the much-criticized Bush administration.

Note to Reuters.  This is not a “feud”.  It is a policy difference, and two candidates are using the implications and the context of that difference to paint their opponents as less qualified.

“If you’re looking for what’s wrong in Washington, why the system is broken, one perfect example is what’s been happening over the last four days. We’ve had two good people, Democratic candidates for president, who’ve spent their time attacking each other instead of attacking the problems facing our country,” Edwards, the party’s 2004 vice presidential candidate, told an Urban League annual conference in St. Louis.

Actually, Edwards is wrong here.  This is an important debate to be having.  Given a candidate who seems to finally understand you need to fight to control the discourse, you’d think he’d grasp that this battle of identity and purpose over foreign policy is an example of what Washington needs more of:  Democrats who take a stand.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said both sides got out of it what they wanted.

But he said he believed Clinton came out the winner. Obama’s attack on Clinton as “Bush-Cheney lite” undermined his message that his campaign represents politics of hope over negativity — “the exact elements that made him interesting in the first place,” said Lehane.

You can’t utterly avoid the negative and run a campaign of sunshine and candy apples.  Pointing out a vital policy difference, and then explaining why that sets you apart from your opponent is an inescapable and necessary part of a political campaign.

Kudos to both the Clinton and Obama camps for ignoring the concern trolls and sticking to their guns.

You’ll Talk, But You Won’t Act

A Reuters article on bottled water touches on issues of corporate control, water sources, and truth in advertising.  At the very end is a very interesting quote from a portfolio manager (emphasis mine):

Dave Kolpak, a portfolio manager at Victory Capital Management, said the environmental objections will have little impact on the bottom line for either Pepsi or Coke, though he admitted it could slow the market’s growth rate.

“Pepsi and Coke do not make a lot of profit” on bottled water, said Kolpak, adding that people may talk about the issue, but will likely continue buying some bottled water. Victory Capital owns about 3 million shares of PepsiCo among its $62 billion under management.

There is a confidence there that comes from knowing without a doubt exactly how we react to the concerns of the day.  The environmental impact of bottled water could be huge, and investors and executives can reasonably assume most of us will do nothing about it.  Corporate monopolization of a natural resource like water is a huge concern, but it is the cocky assumption of interested inaction that bothers me.

What about you?  Do you act?

Is individual action even effective, or must it be collective action?

Southern Poverty Blog Center

SPLC has a blog! (hat tip David,Orcinus)

Blogroll ’em.  Digg ’em.  Bookmark, subscribe, heck, write a small python script to parse their rss feed for issues of interest.

The first post to hit you will likely be this one about a lawsuit against the Klan:

This morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center followed up an earlier lawsuit against two Klansmen by filing a complaint against their organization, the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), and three additional individuals (full story here). Both legal actions are based on the savage July 2006 beating by several IKA members of a 16-year-old boy at the Meade County Fairgrounds in Brandenburg, Ky. The attackers, one of whom weighed 300 pounds, called their 150-pound victim a “spic” and left him with broken bones and other serious injuries.

Hate like this festers where ignorance and fear grow unchecked.  Good intelligence is essential to providing that check.  Now bloggers of conscience everywhere have a great new source for info, and a powerful, experienced ally.