Barack Obama Foreign Policy Iran National Security Politics Videos

Biden Says Talks With Iran To Go Forward


On this morning’s Meet the Press, Joe Biden said that the Obama administration has made the decision to go forward with talks – despite the administration’s clear doubts about the fairness of the election.

I thought Biden made this point particularly well:

[T]alks with Iran are not a reward for good behavior. They’re only a consequence if the president makes the judgment it’s in the best interest of the United States of America, our national security interests, to talk with the Iranian regime. Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is we want them to cease and desist from seeking a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession, and secondly to stop supporting terror.

The Obama administration’s approach to these elections has been – in my opinion as an informed amateur – nearly flawless. They have made clear that they are prepared to talk with Iran – regardless of how the elections went, rather than giving the Iranian people or leadership an ultimatum; they have declined to endorse a side in the election, letting the Iranian people decide themselves; they have been clear about their principles, but circumspect in their goals; and they have extended a clear hand in friendship – which most reports suggest the Iranian people desperately want to grasp. By refusing to give our rhetorical support to the opposition, the Obama administration is frustrating the Iranian regime’s desire to paint this uprising as an American creation – as Ayotollah Khamenei  preemptively sought to blame unrest after the election on “the enemies [of Iran who] may want to spoil the sweetness of this event … with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations.”

The Obama administration’s approach has been praised by Iranian human rights groups, as one was quoted in the Huffington Post:

The Obama administration’s approach to the election — keeping its comments low-key and not signaling support for any candidate — was exactly the right approach. While tempting, empty and self-serving rhetorical support for Iranians struggling for more freedoms serves only to aid their opponents. History has made Iran wary of foreign meddling, and American policymakers in particular must be sensitive to giving hardliners any pretense to call reform-minded Iranians foreign agents. That’s why Iran’s most prominent reformers, including Nobel-laureate Shirin Ebadi, have said the best thing the U.S. can do is step back and let Iran’s indigenous human rights movement progress on its own, without overt involvement from the U.S-however well intentioned.

As Andrew Sullivan explained:

This is not about us. It’s about them. And any interference would only backfire to the regime’s advantage.

The Obama administration realizes what Bush never did – that democracy cannot be imposed by force or ultimatum; that it must be taken by the people; that fine words extolling democracy are not enough – but a hand extended in friendship can destabilize a regime propped up by its demonization of us.

And so, the outreach to Iran and its people goes on.

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On this morning’s <em>Meet the Press</em>, Joe Biden said that the Obama administration has made the decision to go forward with talks – despite <a href=”″>the administration’s clear doubts about the fairness of the election</a>.

I thought Biden made this point particularly well:
<blockquote>[T]alks with Iran are not a reward for good behavior. They’re only a consequence if the president makes the judgment it’s in the best interest of the United States of America, our national security interests, to talk with the Iranian regime.  Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is we want them to cease and desist from seeking a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession, and secondly to stop supporting terror.</blockquote>

Domestic issues Economics Election 2008 Obama Politics The Opinionsphere

Barack Obama Is Not a Socialist!

[digg-reddit-me]Data Points

  • My dad emailed me an editorial from Investor’s Business Daily – whose editorial page was described by the snarky, center-left online magazine Slate as veering “to the outer reaches of the right, making even the Journal‘s trademark business-friendly editorial line seem moderate.” The article my dad sent me stated that Obama is a “stealth socialist,” a kind of sleeper-agent for socialism, ready to unleash the forces of Marxism when he reaches the White House. (The same accusations flew around Bill Clinton in 1992.) The editorial alleges that Obama speaks in code to like-minded audiences, specifically citing the scary term, “economic justice.”
  • A friend of mine writes in his Facebook feed, “WAKE UP EVERYONE! HE IS A SOCIALIST!” including this picture of Stalin (a Communist.)

    I think he would have done better to include something like this picture. I thought of responding to this silly idea by pointing out that Palin and Stalin have most of the same letters in much the same order.
  • I’ve been having a long-running conversation with another friend – an “independent” voter who has been a supporter of McCain since 2000 – but who is very suspicious of the “far left” and “creeping socialism.” He believes that while Obama is not a socialist, he will allow those “far lefties” to gain influence and take away America’s freedom.
  • Sarah Palin, in her debate with Joe Biden, brought up the specter of socialist health care and then quoted Ronald Reagan saying that “freedom is always just one generation away from extinction” – a phrase he used to attack the very popular Medicare program as socialist (as Paul Krugman pointed out in a recent column).
  • The bailout and the various other proposals and actions by the Bush administration have been described in the pages of the financial journals as “socialism for the rich,” and there is a great deal of justifiable concern about the amount of leverage and power the government will have in the marketplace after this crisis has passed.
Election 2008 Libertarianism McCain Obama Politics The Opinionsphere

The Vice Presidential Debate

For the most part, I’m agreeing with what I’ve read and heard about this debate. Palin regained her confidence and was able to bluster her way through some tough spots without the long awkward silences that were evident in the Couric interview. Neither candidate made any significant gaffes. Palin got the name wrong of the commander in Afghanistan – and Biden, clearly knew she did, but chose not to correct her. Palin started early in the debate with a warning to the moderator, Gwen Ifill – saying she didn’t care if Ifill thought she hadn’t answered the question, because she was talking to the American people.

All that I think was evident.

There is one thing though that bothered me. Palin very clearly wanted to call into question Barack Obama’s whether Barack Obama was truly American enough. She said – on seperate occasions – that he wanted to “waive wave the white flag of surrender,” that he was planning on socializing health care, and that he voted against funding for the troops. She kept hammering that last point home despite Biden’s two very strong attempts to correct her. But she kept coming back to it:

I have great respect for your family also and the honor that you show our military. Barack Obama though, another story there.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive – but my distinct impression was that Palin was attempting to plant  seeds of doubts about Obama’s Americanism in these voters. What came across in this debate was that Biden respected McCain, but thought he was incredibly wrong and dangerous. Palin respected Biden, but thought Obama was foreign-ish, un-American, and untrustworthy.

I think someone listening and taking logical stock of the debate would have to come down on the side of Biden. Someone who is not discomfited by Obama – to question whether or not he is American enough – wouldn’t be swayed by Palin’s charges. But for those voters who have an innate distrust of Obama – whether for reasons of race or class or whatever else – Palin was deliberately trying to play into those fears.

I hope I’m wrong – but my fear is that this debate is a prelude. If I’m right, after John McCain’s last debate with Obama (and to some under-the-radar extent before), a deliberate campaign will be launched to aggravate questions of race and of foreign-ness and of American-ness. I’d like to think John McCain is a man who wouldn’t stoop to that to win the presidency. I hope that that’s true. But I’m not sure it is – and it seems clear that this is McCain’s only path to victory.

The problem is that when making a charge like Obama wants to waive a white flag of surrender to the terrorists, the accusation itself sullies him. Biden didn’t defend adequately against these charges – but I’m not sure how he should have. I don’t know.

This debate left me much more concerned about how this campaign will end, although no one else seems to have picked up on this, so maybe, hopefully, I’m concerned for no reason.

Election 2008 McCain Politics

Fun Fact About McCain #4: Smears

[digg-reddit-me]McCain has “hired to run this campaign” “the very people” who smeared McCain in the infamous 2000 primary in South Carolina against Bush (as Joe Biden has claimed.)

Actually True. Or at least McCain has hired some of them. ABC News reported that McCain hired Tucker Eskew and the firm that made the Swift Boat ads he criticized in 2004. From denouncing to hiring smear artists – that’s change you can believe in.
Election 2008 Foreign Policy Iraq McCain National Security Obama Politics The War on Terrorism

Bush-McCain Refuses to Make Tough Foreign Policy Choices

Last night, Barack Obama said:

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq.

Joe Biden, in a 2004 interview with Joshua Marshall of the Talking Points Memo, made a similar point, but in a more roundabout way that encapsulates some portion of the difference between the two men and their approach to speaking:

No, I really mean it, ask Norm [communication director Norm Kurz]. I mean Norm’s had to sit through, listening to me in all these things. This is the point that I was trying desperately to make to my colleagues and I tried to articulate it on Stephanopoulos’ show. The fundamental flaw in the neo – forget flaw, the fundamental difference between Joe Biden, John Kerry on the one hand, and the neoconservatives on the other is that they genuinely believe – I’ll put it in the negative sense – they do not believe it is possible for a sophisticated international criminal network that will rain terror upon a country, that has the potential to kill 3,000 or more people in a country, can exist without the sponsorship of a nation state. They really truly believe – and this was the Axis of Evil speech – if you were able to decapitate the regimes in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, you would in fact dry up the tentacles of terror. I think that is fundamentally flawed reasoning. If every one of those regimes became a liberal democracy tomorrow, does anybody think we wouldn’t have Code Orange tomorrow in the United States? Rhetorical question. Does anybody think we don’t have to worry about the next major event like Madrid occurring in Paris or Washington or Sao Paulo? Gimme a break. But they really believe this is the way to do it. [My emphasis.]

Richard Haas, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, has been making the point in broader terms – explaining that we have moved from a unipolar world in which America’s power in every sphere was unrivaled to a nonpolar world in which power is decentralized – and many large corporations have more power than states and local power often trumps world power. Haas sees America as the single greatest power on earth – but rather than understanding the entire world as a system of countries, he sees a vastly more complicated power structure – where a loosely organized band of a few hundred can change the course of the world, and corporations operate according to their own interest rather than national interest; and large countries can exert influence in their backyard without American retaliation (as China and Russia proved recently).

McCain and Bush just don’t get these two realities of the world we live in today – a world in which power is decentralized and not exclusively held in nation-states and a world in which America cannot impose it’s will everywhere all of the time. They act as if we have the power to force our will upon every nation and organization. They do not believe we need to choose between Russia’s cooperation on terrorism-related issues and expanding NATO to Georgia and the Ukraine. They believe we can do both. They do not believe invading Iraq took away resources from Afghanistan – because we can do both. Their is an unreality in these positions, a determined insistence that refuses to make the tough strategic choices that foreign policy is about. That cowardice is at the heart of the Bush-McCain foreign policy. They do not acknowledge the central truth that drove America’s greatest foreign policy successes – in World War II and in the first years of the Cold War:

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized.

They insist instead on our absolute power and on our moral purity. Coupling this with a mistaken view of the nation-state as all-powerful, a view substantially at odds with the titular Republican position of focusing on the power of individuals and corporations over that of government, they led us into Iraq, and now they are playing games of brinkmanship with Iran and Russia, in the vain hope that neither sees how weak our hand has become since we invaded Iraq.

Election 2008 Obama Politics

It’s Joe Biden

[Image by SEIU International licensed with Creative Commons.]

In an email sent out at 3:30 am, the Barack Obama campaign announced that it had picked Joe Biden to run as Barack Obama’s Vice PResident.



  • He’s been involved in American foreign policy for twenty years.
  • He captured Rudy Guiliani’s essence better than anyone when he said, “Rudy Giuliani — there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
  • He will attack McCain relentlessly.
  • He’s a Catholic (and Catholics are a key swing group.)
  • He’s old, with all the wisdom of being old.