Obama Campaign Chief Political Strategist David Axelrod
What the hell is Obama chief political strategist David Axelrod doing?
Nearly all of the major papers and a good slug of blogs have noted with some surprise his comment that Hillary Clinton bore some responsibility for Benazir Bhutto’s demise. When Obama has to backpedal for his team, something is up.
Axelrod’s basic point is that Hillary Clinton’s vote on the Iraq War Resolution motivated George W. Bush to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in order to take on Saddam Hussein. His point is that we were distracted from our true, first mission — which was to squash al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
If you live in an exceedingly simple-minded world of binary choices, one can understand why Axelrod made this assertion — but he’s really making an argument that Hillary Clinton’s votes are sort of like the flap of a butterfly’s wings leading up to a hurricane.
I have criticized Clinton’s votes on a number of resolutions — and I think it is incumbent on her to show how she is as good with carrots as with sticks and that she will not be the kind of President (like Bush) to define her presidency through the prism of conflict, war, and high-fear politics.
However, at this point, the global equilibrium has been thrown so far out of kilter that there are going to be assassinations and other forms of political convulsion and turmoil that need something more than vapid finger-pointing to confront.
I have been surprised that Obama and his team have not done what he did so admirably in approaching the need for a new course in US-Cuba relations and providing some detail as to how he would reset this neglected and Cold-War cocooned relationship. Rather than Obama suggesting a strategy that would deal with today’s and tomorrow’s mess in much of the Muslim world, he has attacked the kind of votes that legislators are stuck with and have to stand by — but which do not carry with them the imprimatur of executive authority and decision.
I tried to deal with the question of how to measure “executive decision making capacity” when looking at legislators last week — and was pretty surprised that Senator Obama did not call a single issue-oriented hearing in his role as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Europe Chairman.
Had Obama held such hearings — or even if he was planning them now for January — he might have highlighted Europe’s remarkable success in scoring the only tangible success with Iran on its nuclear program in September 2003.
Obama might also have focused his attention on Afghanistan — which Axelrod says we’ve all been distracted from — because Obama’s committee has jurisdiction over the foreign relations dimensions of NATO which is deeply embedded in the Afghanistan problem — which of course, is the Pakistan problem.
So, by David Axelrod’s own accounting, his candidate Barack Obama has complicity in our nation’s distraction from the serious, building threat of organized Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, by not commanding the resources under his control to raise attention.
And then of course, Biden, Dodd and Edwards all voted for that Iraq War Resolution in 2002 as well. Did they all help to kill Benazir Bhutto too?
I don’t think so. Obama’s foreign policy team — of which Axelrod is not really a qualified member — needs to quickly assemble and get their candidate back in the game.
He was the big picture guy, I hoped — someone who was going to address the real need that America has to leapfrog out of an incrementalist approach to siloed problems in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine.
Blaming Hillary Clinton — or Joe Biden, Chris Dodd or John Edwards — for Bhutto’s death is inane. And if many Americans get seduced into that thinking — then the candidates to look at are those with zero complicity in the votes that enabled the war — and that takes us to Kucinich, probably Ron Paul, and all of the Governors who want to live in the White House.
There are real problems brewing in Pakistan and its neighborhood today — and as I told the Baltimore Sun in an interview, the Bhutto slaying may be only a foreshock of a new type of political assassination in the region.
If I’m right — and I have a lot of fear that I am — we need something better than blame game inanity to reconnect with Muslims who are deeply alienated from the US and need a sensible, mature strategy to get a stable equilibrium back in place in the Middle East and South Asia.
— Steve Clemons