Counterpoint: Why All the Steam about Obama’s Team?

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rahm-obama-secret.jpgThis is a guest note by former John F. Kennedy Special Counsel and Adviser Theodore “Ted” Sorensen.
The piece in part responds to several critiques of the Obama White House management team, including essays by Edward Luce of the Financial Times, myself, and former Council on Foreign Relations President Leslie Gelb.
TWN wanted to share Sorensen’s thoughtful counterpoint to these perspectives with you.
This essay first ran at the great new blog, CenterLine, published by New York University’s Center on Law and Security.
— Steve Clemons

Why All the Steam about Obama’s Team?
Does the volley of slings and arrows aimed at the Obama White House staff, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel – with even wise man Les Gelb calling for “a sweeping staff shakeup” ousting most of the principal players “to save his presidency” – mean that our president selected the worst and dumbest; or is this simply an overreaction in the national press and Democratic Party to the aberrational Senate election in Massachusetts?
I remember all too clearly 48-49 years ago when my colleagues on the Kennedy presidential team, previously called “the best and the brightest,” were the target of similar attacks, as most White House staffs in their first two years have been. It is easy to criticize. Mr. Gelb even condemned Obama’s “flagrantly foolish rhetoric,” making one wonder how he could ever have been elected.
The underlying premise is the claim that Obama’s first 15 months were a failure. Failure? The man who stemmed the initial hemorrhage of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, who raised our international standing from near zero (due to repeated torture and other violations of international law, and unilateral military interventions as a substitute for multilateral diplomacy) to a renewed level of widespread international respect, who obtained passage by the House of his first dozen or more legislative proposals? A failure? Similar epithets were hurled by pundits and political detractors at Kennedy and his team during and after his first year or two in office, when they asked:
Why is there no ‘grand design’ for global policy? Why is the president taking on all the international crises inherited from his predecessor? Why are his poll ratings not as high as they were soon after his election? The president is occasionally inconsistent, changing his mind or position; the president has not achieved all of his formidable objectives in one year; the president should not have raised expectations so high; the president is all speeches, no accomplishments, yet calling on us self-appointed experts very rarely; the president is relying more on principle than politics by seeking lofty goals instead of small accomplishments; why can’t his staff work more than 24 hours a day to return our calls?
After Kennedy left behind the first step toward arms control in the nuclear age, new success in the conquest of space as he literally reached for the moon, new legislative protection for the minimally paid, the mentally ill and challenged, plus a comprehensive civil rights program reversing centuries of discrimination, plus the Peace Corps, expanded world trade and a host of measures reviving the eroding protective networks of the Roosevelt/Truman New Deal/Fair Deal, no one was asking those questions. I predict they will not be asked about the Obama administration at its close in 2016.
Every staff has its flaws. Kennedy took pride in keeping his professional White House staff unusually lean, too lean to leak, too lean to be mean to each other and too lean to be unclean. I hope Obama’s team is not too large. Certainly, it is better than most and it appears, like Kennedy’s, to have fewer of the distracting feuds and factions that disrupted so many other presidencies in both parties. Like JFK’s “Irish Mafia,” Obama’s “Chicago crowd” has been singled out for scorn by those who seem unaware that – like Kennedy’s Irish-American political advisors – only a small part of the president’s team fit this description. Obama, like Kennedy, has earned the loyalty of his staff, defending them at every opportunity, demonstrating the all-too-rare quality of “loyalty down” that was not displayed by those predecessors in the Oval Office who did not hesitate to blame, deceive, and dismiss loyal staffers as handy scapegoats.
Another complaint today familiar to my ears is the demand that, “in order to get things done,” young amateurs should be replaced by aging veterans from earlier administrations (including those from earlier administrations noted for not getting things done). More than most of my fellow aging veterans, I know the extent to which the recurrent crises, emergencies, all-night and weekend sessions of White House employment require youthful energy.
Blaming the unprecedented negativity of Republican opposition leaders who prefer to see the nation fall than the president succeed on White House Chief of Staff Emanuel is fatuous. They may as well ask: Why can’t Obama, like Kennedy, have a Senate Republican leader like Everett Dirksen who supported Kennedy on big issues like nuclear test limitations and civil rights? It was former General Eisenhower who, as president, set the precedent for chiefs of staff, drawing upon the military command system and empowering Sherman Adams to screen virtually every piece of paper and person (other than the secretary of state and press secretary) entering the Oval Office.
Kennedy knew he needed no such rigorous hierarchy, and appointed himself as his own chief of staff. He once termed me his “chief of staff for ideas,” but that was an exaggeration – I had no authority over the national security adviser, press secretary, appointments secretary or congressional liaison team. Former Congressman Emanuel has all the gifts and guts to survive that difficult post; but like most university presidents, his responsibilities exceed his authority. He can no more direct all the many dukes in the White House kingdom (to say nothing of all the fiefdoms in the Cabinet departments) than a university president can control his faculty.
After a few legislative and political victories, once the Republicans have come to their senses, the current staff “punching bags” will look like sudden geniuses.
Complaints will continue. Some Democratic congressmen will still voice surprise that the White House has its own priorities. There will still be Democratic congressmen who think he’s been overly accommodating to Republicans on health care, Afghanistan, and the location of terrorist trials.
Some discontented leakers from the departments will grumble that the president is interfering with his government. Some journalists will gripe that their unprecedented access to interview all the leakers is curbed by a “culture of secrecy.” Almost all presidents lose ground in polls and House seats in their first two years. But a president and chief of staff criticized from both left and right must be doing something right.
To me, the most absurd of all is that some Obama staff members like David Axelrod are being called “too supportive, lovingly loyal” to the president. For 50 years I have tasted that same criticism, and I am proud of it. Highly placed turncoats in this and other countries over the years who paid more attention to their own agendas, memoirs, and ideologies eventually sank both their countries and their careers.
Since leaving the White House more than 46 years ago, I have observed that the average Washington pundit and New York dinner guest, equipped with hindsight, is always smarter than the president of the United States.
When President Kennedy was warned by a press conference in 1962-63 that his poll ratings had slipped below their former high of 70%, he replied in effect: “If I were still at 70% after a vigorous congressional session, I would feel that I had not been doing my duty.” Barack Obama has been doing his duty, and so has every member of his team.
— Ted Sorensen

Comments

59 comments on “Counterpoint: Why All the Steam about Obama’s Team?

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    “When President Kennedy was warned by a press conference in 1962-63 that his poll ratings had slipped below their former high of 70%, he replied in effect: “If I were still at 70% after a vigorous congressional session, I would feel that I had not been doing my duty.” Barack Obama has been doing his duty, and so has every member of his team.
    — Ted Sorensen”
    That is a brilliant encapsulation of leadership’s qualities.

    Reply

  2. Carroll says:

    Opps, sorry for repeat in comment above. I am STILL having a problem typing on this laptop and with my cut and copy clickers. I can’t type anyway so it’s doubly annoying to all concerned.

    Reply

  3. Carroll says:

    I have suggested several times on this board that those interested in what lies behind zionism, the mentality of it’s supporters and Israel, read Jacqueline Rose’s ‘The Question of Zion’. I have also before used the description the ‘Israelizing of America’ to point out how they long ago started influencing congress in particular to adopt a faulty and distorted view of ‘terrorism and it’s causes and how the US should respond.
    Well, now Rose,Weiss,Benjamin and me makes four who agree.
    Anyone on who hasn’t seen this dripping from the comments of our ardent zionist…”Rose makes a very compelling argument that the Zionist commitment to violence is rooted in reconstructing Jewish identity from Holocaust shame, at the cost of completely denying the actual victims of Zionist violence”….in other words… the ‘strutting victimization as Cecilie Surasky” so aptly described it .. hasn’t been paying attention.I have suggested several times on this board that those interested in what lies behind zionism, the mentality of it’s supporters and Israel, read Jacqueline Rose’s ‘The Question of Zion’. I have also before used the description the ‘Israelizing of America’ to point out how they long ago started influencing congress in particular to adopt a faulty and distorted view of ‘terrorism and it’s causes and how the US should respond.
    Although Netanyahu alone couldn’t have created this mindset without the willing help of like minded neos in congress. And as we have seen, it infects both the repubs and dems.
    http://mondoweiss.net/
    “I wonder, wonder who

    Reply

  4. nadine says:

    Wigwag, thanks for the data. It’s rather obvious that within Lebanon, Nasrallah is approved by the Shia as their “strong horse” and disapproved by the Sunni as the other guy’s strong horse.
    The Lebanese Palestinians are all Sunni. So much for liking Nasrallah for the sake of the Cause of Palestine.

    Reply

  5. Paul Norheim says:

    And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, a big applause to
    Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, and
    Ehud Barak, acting as as The Persecuted Bulldozers!

    Reply

  6. Carroll says:

    No one is as good as Cecilie Surasky and Carol Sanders at ridiculing the Israeli ‘double think’ split personality and ‘language bending’ they try to do in their own defense.
    http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2010/03/29/what-the-reut-institute-is-really-afraid-of-one-person-one-vote/
    A week after his visit to AIPAC, I am left wondering if it is possible for anyone other than Bibi Netanyahu to so beautifully embody the notion of

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Ramzy Baroud
    The lobby vs. America: On Netanyahu

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So know these chicken shit assholes in the Obama Administration are asking Israel to freeze settlement activity in E. Jerusalem for four months.
    WTF???!!!! Four months??? You gotta be kidding me. Number one, the Palestinians aren’t complete idiots, and number two, Netanyahu already scammed the world community with his last sham of a “freeze”. Now we are supposed to buy into a fresh con-job by this piece of shit liar and his enablers in Washington DC??
    Four months.
    Yeah, right.
    Whatta bunch of fuckin’ wimps we have steering our ship of state.
    What “team”??? More like a clump of spineless maggots consuming American tax dollars and giving nothing in return.
    Gee, I have an idea, lets send that bloodsucking little shithole country a few more billion. Its not like we need the money or anything.

    Reply

  9. btraven says:

    Did Ted know about the latest FT piece on the whacky decision
    making structure in foreign policy prior to asking you to run his
    apologia for Obama?
    If he did and he didn’t tell you then you got snookered.
    If he did and you didn’t tell us then we got snookered.
    In any case Sorenson misses the key point of the Luce stories
    either consciously or naively. That is, the dual power structure
    that seems to be in place inside the WH. As the latest piece by
    Luce makes clear, Donilon holds a lot of meetings but does not
    seem to be able to move the ball down the field. Meanwhile
    McDonough has apparently supplanted the formal NSA, Jim
    Jones, and is part of the Chicago cabal!
    The result is a lack of transparency, accountability and
    efficiency. It serves the politically correct agenda of Jarrett, Axe,
    Rahm and Obama but does it serve the interests of the country?
    Under JFK the lean internal staff meant there was a lot of clarity.
    When the Cuban missile crisis hit, for example, the level of brain
    power in the room was impressive and while JFK may have had
    side meetings with his brother and a few others there was no
    question that that formal constitutionally appointed and
    congressionally approved officers of the United States were
    working hand in glove with the President to make key decisions.
    Now? Not so much.

    Reply

  10. Linda says:

    Wigwag and Rosenberg,
    I only have time right now to take a look at a thread that already is too long and all over the place, but I think you both can be correct–and I can agree with both of you.
    Everybody here knows that I was for Obama from the day he announced and even worked for him very hard in GA. But I always said that every time a Democrat I like gets elected President, within a year or two, I don’t like what he does and is not what he promised during the election. Both Clintons lost me forever when they blew health care reform because it would be 20 years until we have it again–like 2014. But the health care reform that just passed is very flawed bad piece of legislation that took way to long to achieve, and I seriously doubt will work.
    While I surely don’t think of JFK every day, it was a shock to everyone alive then and impossible to describe almost to younger generations, i.e., to have an entire weekend without commercial broadcasting on the three networks, to witness then having Lee Harvey Oswald killed, etc. It was a defining moment in our history.
    So I can understand Rosenberg’s fear for Obama’s life because no security can be perfect especially in a country where any nut can buy and own a gun. I don’t like writing this, but everybody who decides to run for President accepts that risk and so do their spouses. It’s no different than choosing to do many other high risk jobs including the military but also trapeze artist, lion tamer, Sea World trainer and many many more. Still no one here wants to see violence against any President of either party.
    And if the Presidential election were this November, I’d vote for Obama again merely because of Supreme Court appointments. Anybody who knows me knows that I’d repeal or rewrite the Second Amendment to make it only apply to militias.
    This country is in a very precarioius situation in many ways. The majority of the people still live in some bubble of American exceptionalism as if even the laws of gravity don’t apply to us. And they just scoff at what Paul and other Europeans’ opinion of us–i.e., our lack of universal health care and our love affair with owning guns.
    BTW, as a public health person, lots of suicides have guns as the weapon of choice, especially for men. And most murders in this country are between family members, friends, co-workers that probably would not result in death were there not a loaded gun around not to mention accidental deaths of children. The odds of being killed by a criminal, gang member, or terrorist with a gun are a lot less than any of the above.

    Reply

  11. Paul Norheim says:

    “But the reflexive leftist tendency to assume that Nasrallah and
    Ahmadinejad must be popular reveals far more about the people
    making the assumption than it does about the Muslim world
    itself.”
    I’m not so sure about that, WigWag. These guys were quite
    popular not long ago. I would assume that the average leftist
    haven’t studied the Pew Global Poll of 2010 yet – three months
    into the year – since the average leftist is neither a policy wonk,
    an ME expert, a journalist working abroad, or involved in other
    connections where studying such polls is an urgent matter.
    I agree that it’s interesting and surprising that King Abdullah of
    Saudi Arabia is the most popular leader in the Arab world.

    Reply

  12. WigWag says:

    “I think we can agree that if the polls are correct, neither of them are currently extremely popular, but neither of them are extremely unpopular either, don’t you think? Half empty? Half full? I would also assume that the polls showed a different picture during the bombardment of Gaza last year, and during the invasion of Lebanon in 2006 – indicating that their popularity is linked to Israel and the Palestinian cause.” (Paul Norheim)
    The data suggests that in the nations surveyed, more respondents held a negative rather than positive assessment of Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad in most but not all of the countries.
    In fact there was a time that both Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad were far more popular in the Arab and Muslim world than they are now. You only have to go back to 2008 to find the time when Nasrallah was indeed the most popular Muslim leader. But his popularity plummeted in the 2009 polling and now again in the 2010 polling. Ahmadinejad was also more popular in the past than he is now.
    I find the data interesting; in the aftermath of Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, Nasrallah in particular gained in popularity. But in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas neither Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad nor even Hamas itself became more popular; they became less popular.
    Why Arab and broader Muslim opinion reacted differently to the Gaza versus Lebanon Wars is a matter for speculation.
    I gave you the Pew data, Paul. Each year Zogby and Shibley Telhami produce an “Annual Arab Opinion Survey.” It comes out every June and it will be interesting to see if the Pew Data and the Zogby data coincide.
    Here’s the data from last year’s Zogby poll of Arab nations,
    http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/events/2009/0519_arab_opinion/2009_arab_public_opinion_poll.pdf
    You are certainly correct that Arab and Muslim perception of these leaders (especially Nasrallah) is related to what’s going on between Palestinians and Israelis at any given time. But the polling suggests much more than this.
    It hint’s at the traditional Sunni animosity towards their Shia co-religionists and it certainly suggests that the animosity between Persians and Arabs is still a potent force.
    My guess is that the polling also suggests that Arabs pay close attention to what’s happening in Lebanon and that many Sunni Arabs, especially in Egypt and Lebanon itself have a serious dislike of Hezbollah.
    But the reflexive leftist tendency to assume that Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad must be popular reveals far more about the people making the assumption than it does about the Muslim world itself.

    Reply

  13. JohnH says:

    Interesting that Hezbollah and Hamas are each twice as popular as the US in Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories. The only Arab country where the US managed to be more popular than Hamas and Hezbollah was Lebanon.
    Interesting also that Pew only mentioned three Arab leaders–Abdullah, Nasrullah and Abbas. This presumably because there are no other Arab leaders even as popular and Nasrullah and Abbas, despite their low ratings.
    So it’s hard to dispute that Nasrullah has a wide following despite being Shi’a. And US backed tyrants don’t have much of a following.

    Reply

  14. Paul Norheim says:

    “Both Nasrallah and Ahmadenijad are unpopular throughout the
    Arab and greater Muslim worlds.” (WigWag)
    Isn’t that a bit factually inaccurate too, WigWag?
    Staying in the Arab Streets, which I referred to, here are the
    approval percents re. Achmedinejad:
    1) In Egypt 26 percent approve.
    2) In Jordan 32 percent approve.
    3) In Lebanon 32 percent approve.
    4) In the West Bank and Gaza (collectively) 45 percent approve.
    You do not give direct numbers for approval in all the cases re
    Nasrallah – but if the disapproval numbers indicate the approval
    numbers, we get:
    2) In Egypt 35 percent approve.
    3) In Lebanon: While 97 percent of the Shia approve of
    Nasrallah, 97 percent of the Sunni disapprove of Nasrallah and
    76 percent of the Christians disapprove of Nasrallah.
    4) In Jordan 65 percent approve.
    5) In the West Bank 71 percent approve.
    In Gaza 49 percent approve of Nasrallah.
    6) Amongst Israeli Arabs, 45 percent disapprove of Nasrallah.
    I think we can agree that if the polls are correct, neither of them
    are currently extremely popular, but neither of them are
    extremely unpopular either, don’t you think? Half empty? Half
    full?
    I would also assume that the polls showed a different picture
    during the bombardment of Gaza last year, and during the
    invasion of Lebanon in 2006 – indicating that their popularity is
    linked to Israel and the Palestinian cause.

    Reply

  15. WigWag says:

    Paul, not only are you mistaken about the popularity of Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad, you’ve also failed to notice who the most popular leader in the Arab world is.
    I never would have guessed it either; it’s King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
    The Saudi King is viewed more positively than negatively in: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Indonesia and Pakistan. Only in the West Bank, Gaza and Turkey is the Saudi King viewed negatively by most people.
    It is important to remember that Saudi Arabia is a major adversary of Iran and it has been as assertive as Israel in pressing the Obama Administration to take action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
    Saudi Arabia is also widely viewed as an enemy of Hezbollah and until a recent rapprochement, had very dicey relations with Iran’s ally, Syria.
    During Israel’s war against Hamas 15 months ago, Saudi Arabia surreptitiously supported the Israeli attack on Gaza and deliberately sabotaged all attempts by the Arab League to criticize the attack. If Israel wasn’t Saudi Arabia’s proxy in attacking Hamas, the Israeli attack was launched with the full approval of Saudi Arabia.
    Despite all of this, King Abdullah is the most popular Arab leader and is far and away more popular than either Nasrallah or Ahmadinejad.
    Very interesting; don’t you think?
    The data I refer to is on page 2 of the report to be found at this link,
    http://pewglobal.org/reports/pdf/268.pdf

    Reply

  16. WigWag says:

    “It is well known that Nasrallah and Ahmedinejad are popular in the Arab streets because they express support for the Palestinian people and actively support Hamas, while being adversaries of Israel.” (Paul Norheim)
    This statement is factually inaccurate. Both Nasrallah and Ahmadenijad are unpopular throughout the Arab and greater Muslim worlds.
    Here’s the actual date from the most recent Pew Global Poll on the subject. The data was collected in 2010.
    1) In Turkey, 72 percent disapprove of Nasrallah.
    2) In Egypt 65 percent disapprove of Nasrallah.
    3) In Lebanon, 62 percent disapprove of Nasrallah; but the breakdown is interesting. While 97 percent of the Shia approve of Nasrallah, 97 percent of the Sunni disapprove of Nasrallah and 76 percent of the Christians disapprove of Nasrallah.
    4) In Jordan, 44 percent disapprove of Nasrallah while 65 percent approve.
    5) In the West Bank, 28 percent disapprove of Nasrallah while 71 percent approve; Interestingly, in Gaza, 49 percent approve of Nasrallah while 49 percent disapprove.
    6) Amongst Israeli Arabs, 55 percent disapprove of Nasrallah.
    The views of Ahmadinejad in the Arab and broader Muslim world are also far from positive. Here’s the data:
    1) In Egypt, 74 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad while 26 percent approve.
    2) In Jordan, 68 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad while 32 percent approve.
    3) In Lebanon. 68 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad while 32 percent approve.
    4) In the West Bank and Gaza (collectively) 51 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad while 45 percent approve.
    5) In Turkey, 79 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad while 17 percent approve.
    6) In Indonesia, 23 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad whole 43 percent approve.
    7) In Pakistan, 17 percent disapprove of Ahmadinehad while 37 percent approve.
    8) In Nigeria, 45 percent disapprove of Ahmadinejad while 39 percent approve.
    Here’s a link to the data; the specific data I cite starts on page 16 or the report.
    http://pewglobal.org/reports/pdf/268.pdf
    While Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad may be popular among a group of nihilistic and deluded western leftists, they are relatively unpopular in the part of the world that knows them best.
    Go figure.

    Reply

  17. Paul Norheim says:

    So what do we have here? At least two baseless accusations only
    on this thread against regular commenters, accusations that
    Nadine KNOWS are false. And one baseless accusation against
    ElBaradei.
    And all accusations refuted, by JohnH and myself.
    Will that make Nadine feel embarrassed?
    We’ll never know. Because showing embarrassment would in her
    eyes be like exposing signs weakness in the face of Jew-hating
    Muslims.
    Instead, she’ll just go on making up more allegations out of thin
    air.
    This self-acclaimed representative of superior Western values
    reminds me of someone steeling candy in a shop, and when
    someone points this out, she tries to divert their attention by
    stealing chocolate, and when they try to arrest her for this, she
    diverts their attention by stealing ice cream, and so forth…

    Reply

  18. JohnH says:

    Once again, Ann Coulter’s sister Nadine manages to put her vivid imagination before any facts. She suggests that I have no problem with Arab governments, which I have described as tyrants here many times. Nor does she remember that I mocked Hillary for criticizing Iran’s dictatorship while broadcasting from an Arab dictatorship.
    But the icing on the cake comes when Nadine defends the Turkish military as the protector of democracy. So in one breath she lambastes dictators while in the next advocates for dictatorial powers for the military via “supervision.”
    But no matter. With Nadine, we all know that it’s Israel right or wrong. That’s the only lens used to judge foreign governments.
    And to defend Israel she becomes an Ann Coulter like persona here at TWN, making up allegations out of thin air. I was thinking she should try her hand a writing fiction, which is what she does here. Unfortunately for her, even fiction requires a patina of plausibility…

    Reply

  19. Paul Norheim says:

    “”When you [the west] see that the most popular people in the
    Middle East are Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah, that should
    send you a message: that your policy is not reaching out to the
    people.” (ElBaradei)
    Which policy? The policy of supporting the Arab autocracies
    (and Israel).
    Citing Ahmedinijad and Nasrallah as “Arab human rights
    champions” would indeed be absurd if that was what he meant.
    Achmedinejas isn’t even Arab.
    ElBaradei goes on saying: “The policy should be: ‘We care about
    you, we care about your welfare, we care about your human
    rights’.”
    This is a repetition of the recommendations he expressed above
    in the text, as an alternative to the Western support of the Arab
    autocracies.
    Within the context and your knowledge of sympathies and
    antipathies in the Middle East, what ElBaradei really meant
    should be fairly obvious, although you may disagree with his
    analysis.
    It is well known that Nasrallah and Achmedinejad are popular in
    the Arab streets because they express support for the
    Palestinian people and actively support Hamas, while being
    adversaries of Israel.
    You know this.

    Reply

  20. nadine says:

    Paul, you have your head so far up your you-know-what that you’re not in position to talk about anybody else’s shit.
    What you fail to understand at the most basic level is that I am not “exporting” a view of strength from the Middle East to the rest of the globe: I am saying that power is zero sum game in most foreign policy, and that goes double for the Middle East.
    Therefore your recommendations, which are 100% for more and more Israeli concessions – if you don’t think the Arab is doing fine, this thought never spills over into your prescriptions for Middle East peace – ignore fp reality and are counter-productive.
    I said that I was impressed that ElBaradei attacked Mubarak directly (you ignored me), but I doubt that he will escape the pervasive conspiracy mongering of Egyptian politics.
    As evidence, I cited the paragraph where ElBaradei seems to cite Ahmedinijad and Nasrallah as Arab human rights champions, which is absurd – unless you define “the strong horse” as a human rights champion. The Arab world does. You are just too myopic to see it. You project your own values onto the Arabs. You’re not even talking about the real Middle East. You’re preaching about a fantasy.
    Because the Arab world values strength above human rights, Israeli concessions, esp. unilateral concessions, embolden its enemies. The radical interpretation of Islam, which forbids infidel rule in the lands of the ummah, is in ascendancy everywhere. Look at the Gaza withdrawal: did it lead closer to peace? Even if Abbas wanted to sign a deal, he would be a dead man walking if he did. Hamas would kill him. Yet the idea that Hamas is problem never crosses your keyboard.

    Reply

  21. Paul Norheim says:

    Sorry Nadine, but you can’t bytheway yourself out of this corner.
    First you’re (deliberately, I assume) missing my point from my
    Mars 30 2010, 4:04PM comment on another thread –
    quote:
    “Partisan Zionist commenters (…) believe that the Israelis must
    never show any signs of being soft, or worse: weak (…)
    Regardless of the veracity of this analysis of Israel surrounded
    by hostile Arab neighbors, many Zionists and pro Israeli
    Americans export this Middle East analysis as a metaphor for
    America’s relationship to it’s neighbors – i.e. the whole world.
    People like Nadine transfer the war-like circumstances in the
    Middle East into an American blog, and almost destroys it.
    “Never show any softness, or weakness. Never give up. Always
    talk as if you are 100 % right. Never admit anything.”
    And when you add to that mindset the uncompromising
    mindset of domestic US GOP and teaparty people, you get a
    toxic combination.”
    —————————————-
    That was my basic point: treating US-versus-the-world
    relationships as if it was akin to the perceived realities in the
    ME; secondly applying the same mindset to this blog, the
    Washington Note.
    My point was obviously not the veracity of this Middle East
    analysis, but the export of that metaphor to the US and to this
    blog. But you divert the attention, as if I was criticizing the ME
    analysis.
    Secondly, you go on with your habitual baseless accusations,
    like in the Mar 31 2010, 2:20PM comment:
    “it never occurs to the Pauls or JohnH’s of this board that the
    Arab world has any self-reflection it ought to be doing. None.
    Zip. Nada. They are doing just fine”
    Baseless crap. So then I quote ElBaradei, obviously approvingly,
    at 2:30PM, criticizing the West for supporting Arab autocracies.
    Message: THE PAULS OF THIS BOARD DON’T THINK THAT THE
    ARAB WORLD IS DOING JUST FINE.
    This of course results in no excuses from the Nadines of this
    board, but another baseless accusation, this time directed at
    ElBaradei (Mar 31 2010, 3:08PM):
    “Notice the angle: even ElBaradei can only criticize repressive
    regimes by way of criticizing the West. He can’t say, “what the f-
    — have we Egyptians done to ourselves? Why can’t we have
    good government? We demand free elections!” No, no, it has to
    be someone else’s fault. ”
    Then I spoon-feeded you with another recent AlBaradei
    interview, where he directly attacks the Egyptian government for
    exactly the same things you claimed that he avoided.
    Message: ALBARADEI ATTACKS THE EGYPTIAN REGIME
    DIRECTLY. YOUR ACCUSATION IS BASELESS. FALSE. CRAP. BS.
    INVENTION. DIVERTION.
    Any excuse from the Nadines on this board this time? Nope.
    More rambling about conspiracies, Egyptian librarians, the
    Protocols, the head of Egyptian Antiquities…
    And then a “BTW” about Obama – as if nothing had happened.
    Do you never ever feel embarrassed by your own words,
    Nadine?
    It usually takes me one minute to google a credible source
    refuting your invented accusations and claims, unless they are
    directed against me, and I can address them directly.
    But what’s the point of doing so? Why are you wasting our time
    and attention by inventing claims and accusations that can be
    immediately refuted? And why are you replying to these
    refutations by new, meaningless, false claims?
    Do you never smell the stench from your own shit, Nadine?
    Oh, I’m sure you do, but you just have to act as if nothing
    happened. Facial expression of disgust could be perceived as a
    sign of weakness, and we don’t show weakness to those who
    want to exterminate us, do we?
    Enough said.

    Reply

  22. nadine says:

    btw: debka is reporting that Obama intends to jettison a sanctions approach altogether (despite what he said yesterday in the presser with Sarkozy) and try negotiating with Hizbullah and the Revolutionary Guards of Iran. debka is not the most reliable source, but this is certainly plausible when we see Flynt Leverett out there scouting for this approach. We should know soon enough. If we hear flaks touting the (entirely fictional) separation between Hizbullah’s military and political wings, that will be a strong indicator.
    Since Carter, every American President has looked for somebody to talk to in Iran and it has always ended the same way: they get led on a merry dance, and at the end of the day, the Iranians get what they wanted (most of all, more time on the clock to make mischief unhindered) and the Americans get nothing but egg on their face. But Obama can’t learn anything from history: he thinks he’s smarter and more persuasive than anybody who ever lived.

    Reply

  23. nadine says:

    “”When you [the west] see that the most popular people in the
    Middle East are [Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and
    [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah, that should send you a
    message: that your policy is not reaching out to the people. The
    policy should be: ‘We care about you, we care about your
    welfare, we care about your human rights'”
    This is a total non-sequitur. Ironically, you just quoted a passage that absolutely supports the interpretation of Middle East attitudes of the ynet article you posted.
    Are we actually supposed to believe that the Arab Middle East likes Ahmedinejad and Nasrallah because they are such wonderful humanitarians? Because they care about human rights? No, they like them because they are the “strong horse” — they shout “resistance! resistance!”, make the US bow and cringe, and make Arabs feel proud, like they’ve got a winning team to cheer on. Nobody cares how many people they kill, unless you’re in one of the groups (such as the Iranian protesters, or the Sunnis, Christians or Druze of Lebanon) getting killed.

    Reply

  24. nadine says:

    I’m rather impressed, I hadn’t heard any ElBaradei attacks on Mubarak that didn’t indulge the usual Arab conspiracy thinking. But don’t worry, the conspiracy mongering will be back soon; the Egyptian political culture is addicted to it.
    If ElBaradei ever says “we have to stop using Israel as an excuse not to reform” then I’ll be really impressed. If, on the other hand, he says “we have to throw out our corrupt rulers so we can fight the Jewish conspiracy that rules the world” then I won’t be impressed or surprised at all.
    Did you see where Zahi Hawass, the head of Egyptian Antiquities (and all around camera hog; if you’ve seen any TV program on Egyptian archaeology made in the last 10 years you’ve seen him), matter of factly said that Jews control America and rule the world? view it here: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2049.htm
    And do you remember the fuss when the new Librarian of Alexandria displayed a copy of the Protoocols of the Elders of Zion next to a Torah in the lobby, as true scriptures of the Jews?

    Reply

  25. Paul Norheim says:

    Was there anything else you would like to say, Nadine?

    Reply

  26. Paul Norheim says:

    “ElBaradei returns to Egypt, urges change
    By ASSOCIATED PRESS
    22/02/2010 09:56
    Former UN nuclear chief slams Egypt’s ruling system Sunday,
    says country has stagnated under Mubarak while corruption has
    thrived.
    Former UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei sharply criticized
    Egypt’s ruling system Sunday, saying the country has stagnated
    under President Hosni Mubarak while corruption has thrived.
    In his first televised appearance since he returned to his native
    Egypt, the 67-year-old ElBaradei said his ultimate goal is to set
    the country down the path of democratic reform.
    (…)
    Last year, young Egyptians and activists called on him in an
    open letter to run for president. ElBaradei responded that he
    would only join the race if guaranteed that elections would be
    free, fully supervised by the judiciary and monitored by the
    international community.
    (…)
    On top of that, the regime

    Reply

  27. nadine says:

    “Mohamed ElBaradei hits out at west’s support for repressive regimes”
    Notice the angle: even ElBaradei can only criticize repressive regimes by way of criticizing the West. He can’t say, “what the f— have we Egyptians done to ourselves? Why can’t we have good government? We demand free elections!” No, no, it has to be someone else’s fault. The West, Israel (which is just a vanguard of the West), or the Jews. Always a conspiracy by nefarious others.

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    Mohamed ElBaradei hits out at west’s support for repressive
    regimes
    Exclusive: Ex-nuclear chief says west must rethink Middle East
    policy as speculation grows he may run for office in Egypt
    Jack Shenker in Cairo
    Wednesday 31 March 2010 18.01 BST
    Western governments risk creating a new generation of Islamist
    extremists if they continue to support repressive regimes in the
    Middle East, the former UN nuclear weapons chief Mohamed
    ElBaradei has told the Guardian.
    In his first English-language interview since returning to Cairo
    in February, the highly respected Nobel peace prize-winner said
    the strategy of supporting authoritarian rulers in an effort to
    combat the threat of Islamic extremism had been a failure, with
    potentially disastrous consequences.
    ElBaradei, who has emerged as a potential challenger to the
    three-decade rule of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, said:
    “There is a need for re-evaluation … The idea that the only
    alternative to authoritarian regimes is [Osama] Bin Laden and co
    is a fake one, yet continuation of current policies will make that
    prophecy come true.
    “I see increasing radicalisation in this area of the world, and I
    understand the reason. People feel depressed by their own
    governments, they feel unfairly treated by the outside world,
    they wake up in the morning and who do they see

    Reply

  29. nadine says:

    For 60 years, the Arab states have held forth the problem of Palestine as the great excuse why Arab states from Libya to the Persian Gulf can’t have political or economic reform. The Arab states have launched 5 major wars and ongoing proxy efforts to destroy Israel, all the time keeping Palestinians stateless and in camps. Daily, the Arab media incites hatred against the Jews, portraying them as devils who want to take over the world, making TV specials out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in more than one country, accusing the Israelis of every atrocity known to man.
    Yet somehow, it never occurs to the Pauls or JohnH’s of this board that the Arab world has any self-reflection it ought to be doing. None. Zip. Nada. They are doing just fine – as long as you don’t look at their scores for political or economic freedom, literacy, or frankly any other measurement you might care to name. Nope, only the one thriving vibrant democracy in the Mideast needs to meditate on the error of its ways.

    Reply

  30. nadine says:

    “Obama’s team, like Kennedy’s is smart, natty and mostly ineffective.” (Wigwag)
    What was it LBJ said? “I’d feel better if just one of these guys had ever run for sheriff” or something to that effect? I could add, “or had ever met a payroll.” Heck, I’d be happier if any of this crowd had ever run a hot dog stand for a summer.
    The we-know-what’s-best-for-you arrogance of this administration is simply off the charts. What’s even more dangerous is the attitude that it’s legitimate for government to simply abrogate contracts at will because “markets failed” or to “redistribute the wealth.”
    The backlash is November is going to be huge. If both houses of Congress go Republican (which is no longer unthinkable) it will be a fiercely conservative Republican with no comity. “So, reconciliation is a good method for passing sweeping trillion dollar spending bills? Watch us use it to defund them.”
    Obama knows it. He’s going to try to jam down as much of his agenda between now and November as he can, telling the Democratic caucus essentially, “in for a calf, in for a cow”

    Reply

  31. Carroll says:

    MJ Rosenberg said…
    “Can anyone who was not alive at the time of Dallas even imagine
    what is is we fear? And, as ugly as the right was then, it was
    nothing compared to now.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I have to say MJ is probably right about this.
    Yesterday I flipped on Fox news and was transported back to the dark ages.
    Glenn Beck and his guest were on with what looked like a cross between a old time tent revival and a call to arms. They were using such way out nonsense as linking the Statue of Liberty to Moses leading Israelites out of the desert, using bible quotes to link to horrors of big government.
    Evidently they are trying to rile the religious retards.
    These people are quite literally insane.

    Reply

  32. Incredulous says:

    You’re right Wig, Rosenberg sounds like a love struck school girl.
    The only flame that’s still burning when it comes to the Kennedys is the flame in hell that old Joe Kennedy is burning in.
    Remember that it’s not just the left that idolizes its political leaders. Think about the way that the right idolizes Reagan or the Tea people love Palin.
    Rosenberg’s comment is pretty nausea inducing.

    Reply

  33. WigWag says:

    Is it just me or does MJ Rosenberg sound like a “Moonie?”
    He says,
    “This is not quite apropos but I am so glad Ted Sorensen was there for Obama in 2008 and 2009. And I also want to say, though he must hear this a lot, that LITERALLY not a day has gone by since 11.22.63 that my wife and I have thought about JFK.” (M.J. Rosenberg)
    If a day “literally” hasn’t passed since the day Kennedy was assassinated that Rosenberg hasn’t thought of JFK then he desperately needs to get a life.
    Rosenberg’s comment is perfectly emblematic of the cult-like personality of so many on the left. To the Rosenbergs of the world Obama is “The One” and Kennedy was the second coming of King Arthur.
    Apparently Rosenberg can’t merely agree with or support Presidents that he respects; he has to idolize them.
    Is it any wonder that so much that comes out of his mouth is so preternaturally juvenile?

    Reply

  34. WigWag says:

    Linda, you’re right, Sorensen does seem to be one of the last men standing from the Kennedy Administration.
    You should read Schlesinger’s diaries. I was surprised at the hostile attitude that he portrayed towards Sorensen and I was especially surprised to read that neither Jackie nor Bobby thought highly of Sorensen.
    I do think Sorensen makes some good points when he compares the Obama Administration of today with the Kennedy Administration of almost 50 years ago.
    Obama’s team, like Kennedy’s is smart, natty and mostly ineffective.

    Reply

  35. MJ Rosenberg says:

    This is not quite apropos but I am so glad Ted Sorensen was
    there for Obama in 2008 and 2009.
    And I also want to say, though he must hear this a lot, that
    LITERALLY not a day has gone by since 11.22.63 that my wife
    and I have thought about JFK.
    I think that is why all this violence directed at BHO is so
    upsetting to those of us who were old enough to understand
    what happened in 1963.
    My wife often says, “we were kids. We cried for days and really
    have never gotten over it. If we knew what the next 40 years
    would be like we would have thrown ourselves off a bridge.”
    Can anyone who was not alive at the time of Dallas even imagine
    what is is we fear? And, as ugly as the right was then, it was
    nothing compared to now.
    Thanks, Ted, for keeping the flame burning.

    Reply

  36. Linda says:

    Wigwag,
    I also vote for JFK, just happened to turn 21 that year–so it was my first time voting–seemed better than Nixon at the time. So I was young and happy that he won, but there always was speculation that Joe Kennedy, who was no paragon of virtue, wanted a son as President and somehow bought the election. I don’t even recall all the details and haven’t read any of the histories or memooirs only the reviews mostly. I think that is much more the source of whatever probably were any problems with the 1960 election.
    I don’t think it was much LBJ’s fault though LBJ’s earliest elections in TX definitely were not won honestly. Indeed I have a dear friend who grew up in LBJ’s original district, and everybody there knew that.
    For many of the same reasons, I think Sorenson’s opinion now should not be taken very seriously. If I’m not mistaken, he is getting the last word because he is the last one alive.
    I always wished that McNamara would have said more about Afghanistan and Iraq Wars between “Fog of War” in 2003 and his death in 2009. His voice could have made a difference.
    Perhaps we will learn more as other documents are made public.
    I appreciate Steve’s posting the Sorenson piece for balance, but I don’t think it adds much to understanding Obama Administration or JFK Administration either.

    Reply

  37. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its interesting seeing the current “rift” being described, and discussed, as being between the United States and Israel. Point of fact, it isn’t.
    The “rift”, if one exists, is between Obama and Israel. The United States Congress, overtly, has chosen to side with the bigots, monsters, murderers, and criminals in Israel. And those of Clinton’s ilk have done so in a more covert manner, but still, unmistakingly groveling before the political clout of this advocate for a foreign nation; AIPAC.
    I find JohnH’s optimism inexplicable, as it is obvious that Congress intends to neuter Obama in all matters Israel. Surely, were it not for the cowards Reid, Hoyer, Huckabee, and Cantor defusing and marginalizing Obama’s original stance on the settlements, Israel would not feel the empowerment they obviously feel if their recent arrogance is any indication. And this pathetic mewling Secretary of State comlimenting Netanyahu on his non-existent “concessions”, coupled with her comments regarding the Goldstone report, certainly do not portray a sincere effort at “tough love” or a “hardline”. Factor in Hillary’s rote recitations of the Israeli script on Iran, and its obvious her tepid criticisms are outwieghed by her glowing endorsements of all things Israel.
    Obama is going to lose this one, and it is going to cost him dearly. He has two choices, throw away the support and cooperation of his own party in seeking a second term, or throw away his convictions on the “plight of the Palestinians”. As we have all seen, his testicles are a mirage, and his loyalties are blown by the political wind. The status quo will be maintained, we will continue to support Israel with arms and pissed away American tax dollars, and the Palestinians will continue to be murdered, bombed, poisoned, starved, oppressed, stolen from, eliminated, and demonized until there is no longer a need for a “palestinian state” because, quite simply, there won’t be any Palestinians left.
    Or, some leader in one of Israel’s neighboring states will get fed up, rile up a couple more nieghbors, and hand the little arrogant back-water commune the ass kicking it so richly deserves.

    Reply

  38. JohnH says:

    Paul Norheim, I must say that I am intrigued by the situation. IMHO Israel has dug itself a gigantic hole. Their strategy was to get America on its side via guilt and highly organized pressure groups. With the superpower in its pocket, it could routinely conduct pogroms in the neighborhood with impunity, thereby convincing ordinary Israelis that they could not be challenged and were secure as a result.
    Both ends of that strategy are fraying. America is now realizing that Israeli behavior threatens American interests, so Israel is starting to get push back. Meanwhile, Israel’s Arab neighbors have found a measure of deterrence, limiting Israel’s ability to conduct pogroms with impunity.
    In my mind, the question is whether the Israeli government finally recognizes the need to adopt a less arrogant and belligerent and more accommodating stance. Or more likely, the dysfunctional leadership will cling to past policies that will result in widespread destruction inside Israel after it starts the next conflict, motivating a massive emigration of talent.
    Either way, I don’t think the situation of the past 60 years can be maintained much longer. Obama could do the Israelis a favor by goading them to do what they must know in their hearts that they must do to survive–make peace and become a member of the neighborhood in good standing. No more being a “chosen people” among disposable, “unchosen people.”

    Reply

  39. Carroll says:

    Posted by PissedOffAmerican, Mar 30 2010, 9:23PM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Thanks POA. I see my congreeman didn’t sign it but I am going to call some of the other’s offices and ask them why they did. I know already I will get the usual”…I can’t speak for congressman Hoyer, etc,etc..
    Disgusting.

    Reply

  40. Paul Norheim says:

    John,
    I basically agree, but it is interesting to compare your statements
    with the poll quoted by POA at 9:09PM.
    Perhaps Obama is helping the Israelis in sobering up?
    I have seen this conflict going on for decades, and I am a
    pessimist. But seeing the latest developments, I have to admit
    that I get a bit curious again.

    Reply

  41. JohnH says:

    Paul Norheim is right that “what is required is not a Livni here or a Barak there, but a deep and sober self-reflexion within the Israeli society on all levels, before it is to late.”
    Exactly, and that is where the Kennedy-Khruschev analogy falls apart. Kennedy was able to tap into a deep American desire for peace. Washington experts were mostly all gung-ho militarists advising Kennedy against signing a nuclear test ban treaty. But Kennedy prevailed over them.
    Similarly, in Russia there was a yearning to recover from the trauma of WWII.
    There appears to be little of that in Israel. And so it is incumbent on Obama to show that America cannot support Israel when it egregiously commits war crimes and flaunts human rights. Unfortunately, there is little will among the American people to do anything but play nerf ball with the Israelis.
    And most Israelis continue to be fooled by the evaporating mirage of military deterrence and a false sense of immunity from the effects of war.

    Reply

  42. PissedOffAmerican says:

    BTW Carroll………
    I believe you were looking for this;
    http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SourceMaterialsCongressionalAction/Signatories_to_Hoyer-Cantor_Letter.pdf
    It appears that Obama’s “team” is the least of his troubles. In actuality, its damned near the entire scumbag Congress that is flipping him the bird and working to undermine him.

    Reply

  43. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The basic problem here is not Netanyahu and his right wing factions. The problem is that he to a large extent represents the current thinking of the Israeli voters”- Paul
    http://palestinenote.com/cs/blogs/blogs/archive/2010/03/29/poll-obama-s-message-getting-through-to-israeli-public-netanyahu-losing-ground.aspx
    By Noam Sheizaf
    Poll: Obama

    Reply

  44. Tosk59 says:

    Sorenson has some good points, and in general things can be very cyclical, so that the goats of today are the geniuses of tomorrow (and vice versa).
    However, one has to say that Sorenson appears to be really stuck in the Kennedy era… an article on the Obama presidency has as many references to Kennedy as to Obama…

    Reply

  45. PissedOffAmerican says:

    How is it our mutinous and inept Secretary of State has escaped a Steve Clemons’ or TWN critique?
    Anyone wanna tell me one single foreign policy prize she has brought home? I sure as hell can come up with a litany of diplomatic blunders she has committed.

    Reply

  46. Paul Norheim says:

    John H,
    of course the Khruschev metaphor isn’t perfect. But look at the
    background: Joe Biden warning during the campaign that
    Obama “will be tested”. Clemons noticing that and writing about
    it. And everyone (Biden and Clemons included, I assume),
    thought of Kim Yong Il, Achmedinejad, Chavez, Putin, or others
    at that time.
    But when Netanyahu got elected, Clemons picked up the Biden
    warning and made a point. I think it is relevant, although not
    perfect.
    What will happen next in Israel is anybody’s guess. But I would
    like to remind you all of something else quoted by Steve/Lobe
    at TWN when Netanyahu was elected – a very important
    statement that deserves to be repeated today:
    “”It will be easier for President Obama to deal with Netanyahu
    than with the almost equally hawkish Livni because… her
    seeming moderation is a nice cover,” wrote the IPF’s M.J.
    Goldberg.”
    This is important to remember when many people seem to want
    Livni into the government as a replacement of the right wing
    factions.
    The basic problem here is not Netanyahu and his right wing
    factions. The problem is that he to a large extent represents the
    current thinking of the Israeli voters.
    What is required is not a Livni here or a Barak there, but a deep
    and sober self-reflexion within the Israeli society on all levels,
    before it is to late.

    Reply

  47. JohnH says:

    I have to applaud Steve for willing to brave the conventional wisdom of the time. However, one has to do such things judiciously. Likening Netanyahu to Khrushchev is pretty outlandish. Of course, I remember when pundits were fond of calling the Butcher of Beirut (Sharon) a man of peace, too.
    The main problem is that Netanyahu doesn’t need or want peace. As Tom Friedman pointed out a couple days ago, peace processing has become a hobby for Israel. The country is prospering. Its security driven software industries thrive on insecurity. Belligerence generates gobs of American supplied welfare payments and money from the diaspora. Nothing is hanging over Bibi’s head to make him change.
    Khrushchev on the other hand had just faced the ultimate existential threat–nuclear annihilation. His economy and society had barely recovered from the trauma of WWII. He needed to focus resources on non-military development. He had real incentives to do business with Kennedy, even at the risk of bucking his own generals.
    Netanyahu has no incentives to alter the status quo, other than a little nerf ball politics from Obama and a few thousand Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, which will go off only if Netanyahu chooses to start another pogrom. Palestinians, while slightly annoying at times, have been successfully caged.
    Bottom line: I don’t see anything to make Netanyahu change–unless Obama stops playing nerf ball. And frankly, Obama has little incentive to do that, unless Arab leaders and the military successfully convince him that American interests are truly at risk.

    Reply

  48. Paul Norheim says:

    Due to technical issues with my browser, I’ll post the links to Steve’s posts from the time when Netanyahu
    won the Israeli election last year (see my comment above) in a separate comment. I hope the links work:
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/02/jim_lobe_gets_d/
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/02/neal_conans_tal/

    Reply

  49. Paul Norheim says:

    Steve,
    I doubt that others besides you have used that metaphor before
    Cohen borrowed it in the NYT – because Netanyahu would not
    usually be perceived as an “enemy” among pundits, the way
    Khruschev obviously was in those days.
    It’s really nice to see that Obama stood that test…
    But Steve, what interests me much more is whether your
    immediate reaction to the election of Netanyahu last year –
    basically interpreting it as a blessing in disguise – will be seen
    as prescient in the broader context of not only US-Israeli
    relations, but also in helping Israel realizing that it should
    change course.
    Here is one quote, Steve, from 2/13 2009, just to remind you of
    your own words at that time:
    “Both M.J. Rosenberg and I think that having Netanyahu in
    charge actually presents more opportunities than obstacles in
    that it removes the gauze of believing in moderation from the
    Israeli side — and gives Obama’s team the opportunity to play
    tackle ball.
    I realize that there are many who disagree with my take — but I
    think that Israel-Palestine issues are fundamental to any broad
    resolution in the Middle East, and that we can’t afford for the
    Middle East peace business to produce and preside over more
    failure.”
    ————————–
    In the same post, Steve, you also quote Jim Lobe – who quotes
    you in his comment:
    “Some analysts, however, believe the dynamics could indeed
    change, particularly if Netanyahu forms a solidly right-wing
    government, and Obama is willing to take him on, much as
    former President George H.W. Bush took on former Likud Prime
    Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
    “It will be easier for President Obama to deal with Netanyahu
    than with the almost equally hawkish Livni because… her
    seeming moderation is a nice cover,” wrote the IPF’s M.J.
    Goldberg. “A Netanyahu government would have no such cover,
    (and) any acts of sabotage to the peace process or new misery
    inflicted on the Palestinians would likely be strongly opposed by
    the United States. Israel’s most slavish ‘friends’ in Congress –
    almost all Democrats – would find it hard, although far from
    impossible, to choose Netanyahu (who is very close to
    Republicans) over Obama.”
    “I think the best path towards peace would be for Netanyahu to
    form a right-wing government because it will make clear that
    the Israelis and Palestinians can’t make peace by themselves,”
    said Steve Clemons, head of the American Strategy programme
    at the New America Foundation.
    “A right-wing government in Israel will show that the only way
    to purge what has become an increasingly destructive geo-
    strategic ulcer is for the United States, Europe, the U.N., Russia,
    and key Arab stakeholders to coalesce around a two-state
    solution whose outlines are already well known, and impose it.”
    “The U.S. and the much of the rest of the world simply can’t
    afford the recklessness, immaturity and sheer stupidity of
    leadership on all sides of the conflict to continue,” he added.”
    Here is the link to the post:
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/02/jim_lob
    e_gets_d/
    ———————
    And here is another Steve Clemons quote, dated 2/9 2009:
    “I spent about 20 minutes with Neal Conan on NPR’s “Talk of
    the Nation” today discussing Israel’s elections and why I’m ready
    for Netanyahu to lead Israel’s government — either because
    he’ll find his mature, Nixonian, do-a-deal, makeover side — or
    because he’ll be so flamboyantly destructive of Israel’s and
    America’s interests that he’ll finally get the kind of attention
    from the US public that will change the course of things in Israel
    Palestine negotiations.
    Am I naive? Perhaps? But with my typical flood of email telling
    me that I’m nuts – I’ve had suprising support from leading
    Americans who think that there is something to what I’ve
    proposed.”
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/02/neal_co
    nans_tal/
    —————————
    Not bad, Steve, not bad…

    Reply

  50. WigWag says:

    “And at the time of his assassination in 11/63, Kennedy had passed and accomplished relatively little of his major domestic program. People were disappointed about that, and he did pick LBJ as VP, not only for votes he could bring but also for his ability to be effective in dealing with Congress…” (Linda)
    Linda did JFK select LBJ (who he detested) because of the “votes he could bring” or the votes he could steal?
    There seems to be little doubt that Kennedy, who won the popular vote by the smallest margin in American history (114 thousand votes out of 66.3 million) was elected because Johnson and his allies manipulated the vote count in Texas and Richard Daly and his allies literally falsified the vote in Chicago.
    I voted for JFK and at the time I despised Nixon, but I think it’s just dishonest not to admit that had the count been fair, Nixon would have won.
    JFK’s election wasn’t any more honest than the victory George W. Bush had over Al Gore.
    My guess is that in his heart of hearts the author of this post, Ted Sorensen, knows that to be true.
    It wouldn’t even surprise me if Sorensen knows details about all of this that have never been revealed.

    Reply

  51. Sweetness says:

    Carroll, I remember that snapshot of O and Joe going toe to toe or
    nose to nose. In fact, I think he had his arm on him, if I remember
    correctly.

    Reply

  52. Linda says:

    It’s very difficult, as Soresnson does, to compare Kennedy and Obama Administrations for several reasons. He is comparing the first 15 months of Obama Administration with 33 months of Kennedy Administration.
    At 15 months, Kennedy had only the Bay of Pigs and not yet the triumph of Cuban Missile Crisis. He was engaging more in Vietnam, and we will never know if he would have escalated and got US more involved as LBJ did.
    Kennedy ran against Nixon partly on the false premise of believing the Gaither Committee report of 1957 that there was a missle gap with Soviets. That later proved to be an unreal as “WMD.” He wasn’t a dove. But we will never know what he would have done in Vietnam.
    And at the time of his assassination in 11/63, Kennedy had passed and accomplished relatively little of his major domestic program. People were disappointed about that, and he did pick LBJ as VP, not only for votes he could bring but also for his ability to be effective in dealing with Congress–a lot more powerful at that than either Rahm or Biden.
    Kennedy’s top advisors surely were brilliant. They knew they wanted to do Medicare and civil rights laws (Only the original equal pay act fro women had passed in 1962–and it was a relatively weak law. but none of this was passed until 1964-65. Would they have passed if Kennedy had lived?
    We don’t know. It’s surely true that it was easier to pass his domestic program as a memorial to him. That’s sad.

    Reply

  53. Carroll says:

    Once again, it’s time for all of us to support Obama on the Israeli issue as we would any other issue we agreed with.
    Go to the WH site and send a message.
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
    Go to Susan Rice’s UN office and send a message
    http://archive.usun.state.gov/Issues/Contact2.html
    Call congress 1 877 762 8762
    Ask for your rep’s office and ask if they signed the AIPAC letter to Obama. If they say he or she did then remind them that no amount of campaign money donated and spent is going wipe out of the voters mind that fact that they went against our own president and country for a Foreign country at the urgin of a foreign lobby.

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  54. Carroll says:

    Sorensen’s comeback to the criticism is fair.
    But I don’t know that Netanyahu necessarily awoke Obama. The ‘edge’ in Obama has been there all along..the question was when and if it would surface…and on what issues.
    I remember during the campaign when Obama returned to the senate for some vote and took Joe Lieberman aside to a corner of the floor to hash out something he had said.
    A very revealing picture if it was snapped and you could tell by Obama’s posture, nose to nose with Lieberman and Lieberman’s face that Lieberman’s jig was up as far as Obama was concerned. I will see if I can find that snapshot…it was worth a thousand words.

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  55. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Paul — I was pretty surprised by the lack of attribution or reference in Roger Cohen’s Khruschev/Obama line. Of course, it could occur to others and isn’t copyrighted — but to cite my friend Andrew Sullivan and not cite the plethora of times I have tried to make the case (taking much heat) about Khrushchev, Netanyahu and Obama on CNN, ABC, MSNBC, NPR, and through much of the blogosphere was not polite.
    I’ve sent Roger a note — oh well,
    Steve Clemons

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