Obama Triangulates and Won’t Go Where Other Great Americans Will on Hamas

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jimmy carter twn.jpg
Ben Smith of Politico points out that Barack Obama has “drawn a line” regarding which of the world’s problematic bad guys should be met by Presidents like himself — and Jimmy Carter. He thinks Carter should not meet any Hamas leaders.
I guess isolation works for some and not others — but ah, just when does one know in Obama’s play book?
Apparently, he’s OK meeting Israeli leaders because they disavow terrorism — but still they protect and establish illegal settlements and have installed more roadblocks and inhibitions to Palestinian mobility than was the case since the November 2007 Annapolis Summit. And while knocking Carter’s efforts, Obama fails to articulate how any negotiation that does not include in some way a wrestling match and attempt at a negotiation with Hamas will be stable enough to believe in.
A leading Knesset Member in Israel who strongly favors Senator Obama if he had the chance to vote in the U.S. elections told me recently that his one fear about Obama is that in his quest for the White House, he will ultimately have to shed his pragmatic approach to problem solving and demonstrate to critics “that he will be more Israeli than the Israelis.”
To establish a context, look at this roster of great Americans — all national foreign policy leaders, military leaders, former government officials, and public intellectuals — who have been able to go where Barack Obama seems unable.


They all signed a letter at the time of the Annapolis Summit to President Bush and Secretary of State Rice that said that:

As to Hamas, we believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation; it could be conducted, for example, by the UN and Quartet Middle East envoys. Promoting a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza would be a good starting point.

While he didn’t sign our letter, Colin Powell has also said that Hamas should not be isolated and must be engaged.
The roster of American leaders who led the letter are:
BRENT SCOWCROFT, ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, THOMAS PICKERING, CARLA HILLS, LEE HAMILTON, THEODORE SORENSEN, ERIC SHINSEKI, NANCY KASSEBAUM BAKER, and PAUL VOLCKER.
Others that are included on the roster of signatories are:

US AID Deputy Administrator HARRIET “HATTIE” BABBITT, former USIA Chief JOSEPH DUFFEY, former US Senator GARY HART, former US Senator LINCOLN CHAFEE, RAND Corporation Board Member and New America Foundation/American Strategy Program Chair RITA HAUSER, former Assistant Secretary of State JAMES DOBBINS, former State Department Policy Planning Director MORTON HALPERIN, former Deputy Ambassador to the UN WILLIAM VAN DEN HEUVEL, former Israel Foreign Minister SCHLOMO BEN-AMI. . .
former US Senator BIRCH BAYH, former Congressman and Corning CEO AMO HOUGHTON Jr., former National Intelligence Council Chairman ROBERT HUTCHINGS, Fletcher School Dean and former U.S. Ambassador STEPHEN BOSWORTH, former Assistant Secretary of Defense LAWRENCE KORB, former American Political Science Association President and Columbia University professor ROBERT JERVIS, Kings College Terrorism Chair and New America Foundation Senior Fellow ANATOL LIEVEN, former National Security Agency Director Lt. General WILLIAM ODOM. . .
Committee for the Republic President WILLIAM NITZE, Brookings Visiting Senior Fellow DIANA VILLIERS NEGROPONTE, Former CIA Deputy Director JOHN McLAUGHLIN, former US Ambassador JOHN MALOTT, former EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations CHRISTOPHER PATTEN, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East PAUL PILLAR, former US Senator LARRY PRESSLER, former US Ambassador FELIX ROHATYN. . .
MIT Center for International Studies Director RICHARD SAMUELS, retired Marine Corps General JOHN J. “JACK” SHEEHAN, Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School Dean ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, Former Congressman STEPHEN SOLARZ, former First USA Bank CEO and Adagio Partners CEO RICHARD VAGUE, Former US Senator and UN Foundation President TIMOTHY WIRTH, and former US Ambassador and AIG Vice Chairman FRANK WISNER. . .
former New Jersey Governor and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, Nixon Center President and National Interest Publisher DIMITRI SIMES, former National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore LEON FUERTH, Brookings Senior Fellow PHILIP GORDON, former US Ambassador to NATO ROBERT HUNTER, former Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister ANWAR IBRAHIM, former CIA Deputy Director JOHN McLAUGHLIN. . .
former State Department Chief of Staff LAWRENCE WILKERSON, Lehman Brothers Managing Director THEODORE ROOSEVELT IV, former US Ambassador JOSEPH WILSON, former Chief Monitor of the Middle East Roadmap at the Department of State JOHN S. WOLF — among others.

Former President Jimmy Carter is right to try and do what can be done to kick the tires of an alternative, internal solution to the political division of Palestine. His work may fail — but the effort is worth exploring.
The correct position for Obama to have taken is to say that he would be open to what someone like a Jimmy Carter. . .or a Colin Powell. . .or a Tony Blair, Joschka Fischer, Javier Solana, Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, or Saudi King Abdullah might be able to achieve by way of Hamas and Fatah. Emissaries are important, and they can create opportunities a President can’t often take the risks to do himself or herself.
Obama, in my view, has tarnished his foreign policy credentials here. If he can’t embrace what these Americans have been able to do — and what Senator Chuck Hagel has suggested be done with Hamas — then what use is his new vision?
What is his position today if not one that has been influenced by special interests whose political weight has undermined the strategic interests of the United States?
— Steve Clemons

Comments

104 comments on “Obama Triangulates and Won’t Go Where Other Great Americans Will on Hamas

  1. arthurdecco says:

    “It’s possible, and even common, to be pro-Israeli, pro-peace, and NOT anti-Palestinian. It’s even possible, and common, to be a Zionist and be all those things.”
    No, it’s not possible “to be a Zionist and be all those things”.
    You need to get out more, Tintin.

    Reply

  2. TINtin says:

    “It’s STILL a pro-Israeli site!”
    It’s possible, and even common, to be pro-Israeli, pro-peace, and
    NOT anti-Palestinian. It’s even possible, and common, to be a
    Zionist and be all those things.
    Just go to tpm cafe and read MJ Rosenberg for a while…
    That’s what J Street is all about, as far as I can see. It’s a matter of
    the Jewish community cleaning up their own act.

    Reply

  3. arthurdecco says:

    Posted by ktguru “DonS: There’s a countervailing lobby to AIPAC now, it’s called J Street.” http://www.jstreet.org/
    From my dictionary: countervailing: acting against with equal force and influence.
    From J Street’s site: A new pro-peace, pro-Israel political voice
    It’s STILL a pro-Israeli site! Last time I checked, it was the Palestinians that needed some heavy duty lobbying assistance in America – not Israel.
    Could you be joking, ktguru? As if the web site I visited has a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling the curtain back on the ruthless AIPAC empire or effectively opposing its will. Because AIPAC IS a ruthless empire, make no mistake. So much for “equal force and influence”.
    From where I sit, J Street looks to be just another manipulative ploy by the Machiavellians of AIPAC to further fragment and confuse any and all of those who might be opposed to their on-going criminal acts and future ill-intentions.
    But if these people behind J Street really are well-intentioned and not just stooges for the Zionists, why don’t they apply all the money they can rustle up to hiring a bevy of brilliant lawyers and investigators to go after just one of the shadowy principals of AIPAC. And I mean, “GO AFTER!” As in “DESTROY”. You know – use AIPAC’s own m.o. against one of their own.
    That might be more effective than ineffectually lobbying and wastefully promoting another web site into the never-ending progression of PRO-Israeli organizations already screeching in the ears of American government officials.

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  4. ktguru says:

    DonS: There’s a countervailing lobby to AIPAC now, it’s called J Street.
    http://www.jstreet.org/
    This will allow fair-minded candidates to have some PAC support and organized citizen support, rather than getting marauded by AIPAC the last couple decades.

    Reply

  5. Tintin says:

    “Once we’re honest and up-front, we can begin to have an
    honest debate about how to solve the country’s problems,
    tackling global warming and America’s oil addiction
    simultaneously. Until then, it’s nothing but theater.”
    The problem is, it’s not in the interests of those “in the know” to
    be honest and up-front. Obscuring the truth for one’s own
    purposes, whatever they may be, is a large part of the game.
    As to ruling elites not having empathy, okay, except that but JFK,
    RFK, and FDR were among the wealthiest of ruling elites, and
    they did have empathy. So did LBJ at one point…and TR. Carter
    was no pauper. It’s not a question of class or wealth, it’s a
    question of consciousness, which is why blogs can be so
    important to our progress.
    BTW, am I the only one who has to type in the code multiple
    times before this site will let me post? It tells me I haven’t done
    it “exactly,” but I swear I have. And then, it lets me in for some
    reason.

    Reply

  6. David says:

    I don’t really have anything to add to the exchanges I just read, except to say that I will be one upset Deep Souther if I lose this comments section. I am of two minds on this point (I don’t have a problem with entertaining more than one way of looking at something): I do not think there is anything worthwhile achieved by attacking Steve’s motives, which are not really knowable to us anyway; I do think we really are standing on the edge of an abyss. We are confronted with a runaway malignancy in the White House, America is one of the great forces for the destruction of the planet, and the Iraq War is a war crime of the first order. This is my country those bastards have betrayed; this is a global ecosystem they have consistently refused to help protect, choosing instead to protect the interests of the engines of destruction of a planet that is our only home; and this is a grand experiment into which I was born, an experiment they have trashed like anti-social delinquents in their shit-for-brains retrograde arrogance.
    This website, and these comment sections, are a place of passionate sanity in an insane America. I ask only two things: challenge Steve’s ideas, not his character; and keep posting damned intelligent, informed commentary.
    POA, you nailed it with this one:
    “But how can empathy for the masses be achieved by a ruling elite that long ago fled the world of the masses for their gated communities, their offshore tax shelters, their global business interests, their private schools, their superior access to health care, and their total disengagement from the daily travails experienced by the poor working stiffs of middle America?”
    I have never read a more concise, more accurate description of modern America’s ruling elite.

    Reply

  7. arthurdecco says:

    Well, Gee, if both Steve and Greenspan have said it was about oil, then it must be so. After all, neither of them have ever been wrong about anything.

    Reply

  8. JohnH says:

    arthurdecco: Greenspan said it was largely about oil and Steve agreed. What’s tragic is that they waited until the war was 4.5 year old before they said boo.

    Reply

  9. arthurdecco says:

    “Once we’re honest and up-front, we can begin to have an honest debate about how to solve the country’s problems, tackling global warming and America’s oil addiction simultaneously.”
    JohnH, your own post helps to illustrate why what you want to see happen will never happen.
    From my perspective, you ignored the real reasons Iraq was destroyed and replaced it with a convenient one. IMO, the pulverization of Iraq was perpetrated to further the interests of Israel, the Neo-Cons and the insatiable appetites of your ruling class.
    I don’t believe oil had much to do with it.
    You see…your truth isn’t my truth. Cheney’s truth probably isn’t Bush’s truth. Obama’s truth isn’t…
    You see how difficult it’s going to be to do it your way?
    Everyone claims they’re honest and upfront in an argument or discussion. (Half of us will even mean it.) But even being well-intentioned doesn’t guarantee the rightness of our arguments, does it?
    The only kinds of debates we can have are those we’re capable of having. Channel John Lennon for a minute – (“There’s nothin’ you can sing that can’t be sung, nothin’ you can…”)
    And that means batters and bruises and hurt feelings, rolled eyes, temperatures rising and cooling, shouting and lying, accusing and crying, truths told hard and sharp as broken glass, pride and shame all over the page with all-too-human hubris and apathy brought on by the monstrousness of modern Power. And then of course, there’s our own insignificance.
    However this nightmare ends, we will all have played the only roles we’re capable of playing. And I’m having difficulty seeing our future developing as honestly as you would like to see it, JohnH. Face it, Bush won’t ever be impeached for war crimes, for sponsoring and advocating torture, for spying on Americans, for standing by and watching while New Orleans drown…and on and on and on and on.
    How the hell are you ever going to get to the point where:
    “Once we’re honest and up-front, we can begin to have an honest debate about how to solve the country’s problems, tackling global warming and America’s oil addiction simultaneously.”
    …when you can’t even impeach a murderer? Or even imprison a single one of his vile henchmen for their very real crimes against the state and the rule of law?
    You’re a Dreamer. Gotta luv ya.

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  10. JohnH says:

    I will spell out my expectations, which I think are entirely reasonable. What the foreign policy elites dole out to the American public is a charade, a really sick joke. Everybody inside the beltway had to know that the invasion of Iraq was about oil. But they all joined in lock step to keep up appearances that it was about something else, anything they could dream up to avoid candor. Now we see the same thing happening with Iran.
    As POA says, the “nation stands on the edge of an abyss.” Yet, to cite a parallel from the 15th century Vatican, they insist on arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin while Christian Byzantium falls to the Turks.
    I say, “enough.” It’s time for those who are plugged in to start telling it like it is. Steve claims he’s well connected, and I have no reason to doubt him. If so, what gets posted here is a tiny, tiny fraction of the terribly critical information that the American people need and deserve to know.
    It’s time to be honest and up-front about why we’re threatening Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. It’s time to be up-front about why Bush and McCain foresee endless war, and why the Democrats publicly wring their hands about not being able to leave Iraq and then roll over to whatever Bush wants. Centrist and progressive think tanks, including NAF, should make it their mission to inform instead of simply catering to the powers that be and perpetuating their charade.
    Once we’re honest and up-front, we can begin to have an honest debate about how to solve the country’s problems, tackling global warming and America’s oil addiction simultaneously. Until then, it’s nothing but theater.

    Reply

  11. arthurdecco says:

    POA, the best of yours I’ve ever read! If there ever was a call to arms…
    For those bemoaning the difficulties we have finding pundits and wonks willing to step up and be counted on the sides of the angels, you might be interested in reading Chris Floyd’s latest, “Too Much of Nothing: Crime Without Punishment, War Without End”:
    http://www.chris-floyd.com/content/view/1485/135/#comments
    It left me weak.
    Chris Floyd: “One could write yards of exegesis on these articles, unpacking the outright lies, the skewed, misinformed — and misinforming — “analysis,” the innumerable false assumptions built on old lies swallowed long before: “lies that no longer know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies.” This kind of exercise has great value, of course — if only to demontrate, to ourselves and to future generations, that not everyone was willing to gobble down horseshit at the order of killers and torturers, and their simpering courtiers. [For an excellent example, see Juan Cole’s takedown of the lies of the scribes and courtiers here: Iran Supported al-Maliki Against Militias.]”

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Personally I find it more and more absurd to put all that is wrong in the world on the shoulders of Mr Clemons”
    Paul, if you feel that is what our comments are intended to do, I think you have misinterpreted many of our comments. Speaking for myself, my admonitions are designed to request that WE ALL shoulder the burden of activism in an attempt to counter the most egregious policies that are now being pursued by an out of control Executive Branch and a politicized Justice Department.
    However, we all do not have the same breadth of shoulders. For myself, in my position, there is little I can do. I am not financially independent, I cannot drop everything to devote myself to activism. I have, like an increasing number of Americans, lost confidence in the wieght of my vote, believing the “elections” to be nothing more than a national scam of epic proportions. I am in no position to counter the well funded proffessional efforts of these lying pieces of shit like Luntz, Fox News, or the cadre of despicable mouthpieces that are regurgitating the lies, ad nauseum, that are fed to them by these monsters that pose as “leaders of the free world”.
    Steve, however, has been gracious enough to give us a forum, and, for some of us, the most we can hope to do is be heard, and pray that our anger and disillusionment is noticed, empathetically, by those that can institute true change.
    But how can empathy for the masses be achieved by a ruling elite that long ago fled the world of the masses for their gated communities, their offshore tax shelters, their global business interests, their private schools, their superior access to health care, and their total disengagement from the daily travails experienced by the poor working stiffs of middle America? This piece of shit Dick Cheney could spend the rest of his life basking in the sun in the Bahamas, and it would have less effect on his economical well being than the act of filling my gas tank has on mine. He is supposed to empathize? To even have that capability?
    Many of us, perhaps unfairly, have come to see Steve Clemons as a “go between”. For me, a way to SCREAM in these bastard’s ears that not all of us are hoodwinked, not all of us are ignorant and groveling in front of Fox News nodding stupidly as some privileged bimbo, or some carefully coiffed asshole, reads a bunch of propagandized crap off a government programmed prompter.
    Do we expect too much of Steve, and those like him? Probably. But for many of us, these blogs are our last gasp, our last feeble efforts to affect change. Our last vestige of hope for a free, secure, and comfortable future for our children. The internet stands as the last bastion of power for the people, the very last chance we have to having our voices heard. The last avenue to the truth.
    This is it, man, we’ve arrived. My nation stands at the edge of an abyss. If it falls over the edge, my fingernails will be amongst those bloody stubbs laying on the edge. I hope Steve will be able to say the same.

    Reply

  13. Steve Clemons says:

    Everyone — thanks for the thoughtful exchange above. I think that it is useful to have intellectual sparring partners like POA, Dan Kervick, JohnH and others — but let’s try to avoid the kind of attacks that veer into the deeply personal. This has been impressive, and my own sense of the importance of all this has been shifted by the quality of your exchange.
    I’m exhausted, just back from the Middle East and need to kick out a bit.
    JohnH — you’ve been reading the blog a long time I think. Are you really serious that you haven’t seen my Iran commentary.
    I’m not sure how much of this is really worth looking at — but I just googled my name in quotes with the word Iran and came up with more that 41,000 citations:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22steve+clemons%22+iran&btnG=Google+Search
    I’ve done a great deal on Iran — and most of Washington is aware of that.
    I wish I could somehow move out of the mode with you of having to defend to you that I have in fact covered many of the topics you assert I have not. I realize that you may not want to dig that much, but there is a search funtion on the blog, and google is a good source too as I do a lot of writing, speaking, and media work outside of the blog. I agree with much of what you write and just think it’s a shame that you don’t think I’ve touched on many of the things that I have.
    All the best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  14. JohnH says:

    Paul, give me a break. There are only three issues that are at the top of voters concerns: the economy, healthcare, and Iraq. Concern about Iraq and Iran are particularly acute among Democrats, where the action is now.
    Steve has been doing a lot of election coverage lately. Much has focused on the voter priorities I just listed. He has had some thoughtful posts about healthcare. And he is expanding his coverage of the economy.
    But as for Iran and Iraq on a foreign policy blog? Well Steve was in Saudi Arabia just as the Maliki-Sadr battle flared. He must have gotten an earful from the Saudis. The local English language media must have been buzzing. The air was full of speculation about al-Maliki’s intentions, Bush’s “defining moment”, possible go-aheads from Cheney/McCain when they were in Baghdad, and how an Iranian government “terrorist” organization had to be called in to negotiate a truce. How could you not come home bursting with insights to share? And what about the candidates’ reactions to events?
    Official Washington just danced around the subject…

    Reply

  15. Paul Norheim says:

    Well, well…among the really serious problems, you also have:
    Israeli-American relations
    Israel/Palestine
    McCain
    Afghanistan
    Pakistan
    Russia
    Climate change
    The financial crisis
    The housing crisis
    Health policy
    The increasing inequality in the USA
    Spreading of nuclear material
    Terrorism
    The White House abuse of presidential power
    The treatment of detainees
    Torture
    Surveillance of American citicens
    The big media talking as if evereything is business as usual
    The ignorance about the world among the majority of Americans
    Abrams
    Education
    Lebanon
    Somalia
    Darfur
    Cheney
    Aids
    Malaria
    the rising price of rise, wheat, cocking oil etc
    oil prices
    the struggle for control of energy resources among big powers
    The US election
    Addington
    Hunger
    US debt
    Fox News
    The list is much longer then this, and you could argue that most
    of these issues are indeed very serious and deserve more
    coverage. You may also argue that Mr. Clemons should cover
    the most important aspects of most of these cases
    simultaneously, and blame him if he does not mention, let`s say
    the neocons for more than a week.
    Personally I find it more and more absurd to put all that is
    wrong in the world on the shoulders of Mr Clemons.

    Reply

  16. JohnH says:

    I don’t know, Paul. When Iraq is generally accepted the #1 foreign policy challenge and Iran is cast as the #1 threat, you have to wonder when they are rarely mentioned. I mean, what’s up with that?

    Reply

  17. Paul Norheim says:

    Some of you guys seem to think that Steve Clemons is (or
    demanding him to be) synonymous with the critical media in the
    USA. Why else do you go on blaming him not for talking about
    any issue you consider important in US policy – or not talking
    often enough about it? Or that the fact that he does not mention
    something in particular means that he is trying to hide the truth?
    I mean – get real: Steve Clemons is a one man band!

    Reply

  18. Tintin says:

    “So when Obama endorses talking with Iran it doesn’t get
    mentioned here, even though the administration is currently
    seeking talks about stabilizing Iraq and even though Steve it.”
    I don’t know. Maybe I listen to different news. But it seems to me
    that Obama endorsing talks with Iran has been reported widely
    (though I don’t know whether Steve has). In fact, it was a point
    Obama made himself in one of the early debates (seen by millions)
    and has repeated on the stump in various ways.
    So even if Steve is trying to “shield the public” from this fact (which
    I doubt), the public is or should be well aware of it. And if they
    aren’t, then Steve mentioning it on TWN isn’t going to change
    things much as about .0000001% of the public read this blog.

    Reply

  19. JohnH says:

    Well said, POA. There are different forms of silence. One is a refusal to condemn morally outrageous behavior, which I believe is rampant is beltway policy circles, even though it is quite destructive to America’s long term interests. The second is a refusal to talk about the major issues of the day–America’s goals, motives, and “vital strategic interests” in Iraq, Iran, Gaza, etc. The number of issues that are not publicly discussed by politically correct insiders (Steve included) is simply mind boggling. By not talking about these topics, insiders seek to hide disastrous policies, shield the public from Bush’s true policies, and avoid moral condemnation–the policies simply cease to exist because no one talks about them.
    So when Obama endorses talking with Iran it doesn’t get mentioned here, even though the administration is currently seeking talks about stabilizing Iraq and even though Steve it. Apparently, such talk has become inconvenient for polite foreign policy circles.

    Reply

  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Short and sweet….
    Steve Clemons, without this blog, is a Washington insider. That carries no responsibility to me, to you, or to anyone other than his own conscience.
    But with this blog, he is a member of the Fourth Estate. And that carries a HUGE responsibility, particularly considering the current low state of the union, the criminality of our current leadership, (OF BOTH PARTIES), the tenuous state of world stability, and the atrocities being committed in our name.

    Reply

  21. Tintin says:

    Pissed–
    I see your larger point, and it’s an important one.
    However, I’m not trying to cast my candidate in any sort of light.
    But your larger point is more important and well taken.

    Reply

  22. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Tintin, you have seen this dispute purely in political terms, which is the problem, rather than the solution.
    Far more important, as Dan so succinctly points out, are the moral implications of our current political environment. This is no longer a simple partisan rivalry, or even an inter-party play on politics. We have now entered a completely different political environment, where only purposely applied denial can mask the nature of the true debate that should be taking place. While our politicians bicker and posture, policies are unfolding that are monstrous in their illegality, immorality, inhumanity, and sheer evil. This is no longer an argument about political differences. It has become an environment of moral imperatives, particularly among the citizens that have chosen to air the issues publically.
    Does Steve Clemons want to find himself placed on the same pages of history that Judith Miller, Novak, Frank Luntz, and this recent visitor, Moseley, will be placed? Or worse, as a collaborator with Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, etc?
    There are many ways to collaborate, and silence is one of them.
    Honestly, I feel that you have sought to use this so-called Kervick/Clemons “dispute” to attempt to cast your candidate of choice in a favorable light, while failing to recognize the broader nature of the “dispute”.
    Today, there are living breathing human beings in Gaza, in Israel, in Lebanon, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan who will not live to see the sun set. What this nation does about it, what part we play in it, and what our collective moral standing will be at the end of it is hardly a political question. We are being defined and tested as to what kind of human beings we want to be, and how far we are willing to let our government stray from that definition. And Steve, and insiders like him, by his choice of position, carries a huge responsibility for determining what the end definition will be.
    The time for political posturing and think tank horseshit is over. We are becoming, if we haven’t already, that which we have always claimed to stand against. All Dan and I ask is that Steve, who is on the front lines, help us become who we claim to be.

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  23. Tintin says:

    I’ve tried to work through the Kervick-Clemmons dispute, and
    here’s what I come to:
    • It would have been more accurate and fairer if Steve had made
    “negotiations with Hamas” the subject of the post and evaluated
    how all three candidates stood on the issue. In such a line-up
    Obama would have come out ahead, IMO, though marginally so.
    • I’m not sure that all of Steve’s posts have to “cover the
    waterfront.” He’s focusing on Obama exclusively here because:
    1) Obama promises a DIFFERENT vision, and Steve is questioning
    whether that promise holds up to scrutiny on one of the
    toughest issues of the day; 2) he’s likely to get the nomination,
    while Hillary almost certainly will not; 3) McCain is so far off the
    charts that it almost isn’t interesting to criticize him on this
    point, and there’s time enough to do so later.
    • There is a disturbing pattern among Obama supporters (of
    which I am one) in which any criticism of him is seen to be sort
    of a sacrilege, while any criticism of his opponents (almost) is
    fair game. I don’t get that. Does “taking a side” mean you never
    criticize your own side when you think they’re wrong (as Steve
    apparently does here)? The Republicans don’t do that; it’s just
    that when the shouting stops, they vote for whomever the R
    candidate is. They don’t sit home, as many of our folks do, if
    their guy doesn’t get the nod.
    If Dan and others are going to argue that it would be political
    suicide for Obama to support talks with Hamas, it would TRULY
    be political suicide for Hillary to do so. After all, being “from”
    New York, she has to cater to a relatively large and very vocal
    and very giving Jewish population–a good number of whom are
    one-issue voters. So, for her to branch out on her own would
    be very tough politically.
    Obama is not nearly as well tapped into this segment of the
    Jewish vote, and those Jews who support him are much more
    likely to be sympathetic to “talking with Hamas.” Arguably, he
    has much more leeway.
    • Much has been about “the Lobby’s” ability to defeat
    candidates. IMO, this has been overblown. Jews amount to 3%
    of the vote, and most of them are true liberals and not rightwing
    wackos, even on Israel. The Lobby’s power has been in its ability
    to direct large and reliable amounts of money to a candidate or
    his opponents. But Barack has tapped into an extremely large
    trove of small money. About 50% of his donors are small
    donors. In a real sense, this gives him an opening to do an end
    run around the Lobby because he doesn’t rely on their money.
    Hillary is much more reliant on large donors and bundlers, and
    has much less wiggle room in this regard.
    • Much criticism is directed at Bill Clinton over Camp David and
    who is at fault for its failure. I’m not going to attempt to answer
    that unanswerable. But it should be noted that, in addition to
    being the ONLY Democrat to get elected twice to the office since
    FDR, he is the only president who has made a serious attempt to
    resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, imperfectly.
    If any of you read MJ Rosenberg, an expert on this issue, over at
    tpm, as I do occasionally, you know that he strongly favors
    talking with Hamas, and you also know that he believes “the
    Clinton parameters” are the best basis for a reasonable
    resolution. MJ, a very strong Obama supporter, also believes
    that a President Obama would pursue peace using those very
    same parameters as a framework. He also believes that a second
    President Clinton would do the same. (After all, she would then
    not be “from New York” and would want to appeal a broader
    American public.)
    If Dan, or anyone else, knows of anyone else’s parameters that
    have a similar or better chance of working, they should come
    forth with them.

    Reply

  24. DonS says:

    Paul, good analysis.
    By the way, you use the word “opponents”, whereas I don’t see that so much as far as policy differences, but moreso on the “personal” level, trying to nudge Steve in a particular direction. And I recognize the argument, as I understand it, that they are inseparable.
    It is unfortunate, but understandable, that Steve (who does put himself out there) becomes a focal point; and that policy and person get intertwined. I gotta say though, I think he is not the issue. Consider that, were Steve suddenly to be transformed into some hyper radical, TWN would be a different animal. I understand that its sometimes difficult to differentiate between the collectively culpable beltway elites and the Steve we know from this blog.
    Perhaps the importance of the comments sections is to provide a venue to host radically differing opinion and temperature levels from the beltway elites, almost in their backyard. I honestly don’t pretend to know, but I know its valuable to me. I almost abandoned this whole post several times because it feels so self-referential and unimportant in light of the issues we face; and I respect the effort of our host and all those who comment with candor and good intention.
    But there is something in the tension you, Paul, cite that is real. I believe it reflects the gaping maw of disaster apparent on multiple fronts that many of us in the U.S. feel. It’s interesting that there seems to be a greater sense of urgency, and maybe reality, exhibited by most commenters, and our host, here than by the plastic replicas of humans that populate the corridors of power, and the institutions so far removed from people.
    Final thought: stretching the parameters of conversation on this still new media.

    Reply

  25. arthurdecco says:

    I’ve copied Dan Kervick’s latest Tour de Force onto my hard drive. I’m leaving it in an open file to better add your considered and thought-filled rebuttal when it appears, Mr. Clemons.

    Reply

  26. Paul Norheim says:

    Steve Clemons,
    As you may have observed, I criticized Dan Kervick for
    questioning your motives on the Obama/Hamas issue before
    you reacted personally on this thread. I also fully understand
    that you feel that he is unfair in his response to your approach.
    Too me, living in Europe, not having a 17 years old son, like
    Dan Kervick, I have nothing to loose on a personal level, and
    also nothing at stake on a professional/personal level, like you,
    living and working passionately in the middle of it. Just to make
    my position clear: I am at a comfortable distance, with little to
    loose.
    But this distance may also make me able to see something that
    only outsiders may observe. And what I see, and what I`ve said
    before here, is that your blog is getting more and more
    interesting not despite the commentators, but exactly because
    of the tensions between your opinions and perspectives (and
    the place you are approaching the issues from), and some of
    your opponents.
    For a long time, PissedOfAmerican has been one of your main
    opponents. For a superficial reader of the comments, it may
    seem like he is just someone who loves to rant and has a
    certain affinity to vulgar language and invectives. But anyone
    who follows his comments for a while will discover that his
    opinions are consistent, and represent what you may consider
    as founded on sound principles, principles that a lot of people
    would have shared a couple of decades ago, just that he sticks
    to them and wants those who violate them to be held
    accountable. POA is also, like many of your readers, very well
    informed, and when he gets into a dialogue or dispute with
    someone he respects, he also shows his humble side and a will
    to listen to different points of view.
    POA has often criticized your approach to different issues,
    and sometimes not been fair to you, as I see it. But somehow _
    and I don`t pretend to understand the dynamics between such
    different temperaments and positions as yours and his – you
    seem to have found a modus vivendi and appear to have a
    mutual respect towards each other. And I believe that this –
    which of course also is due to your consequent generosity on
    this blog, ha been a strength for TWN.
    When I read Dan Kervicks last long comment above, I realized
    that he is not only a very valuable commentator, but also a
    valuable opponent. Two of his most memorable attacks on “you”
    – or if you whish, the signature “Steve Clemons” – are his critical
    description of the Washington DC mentality where he made
    historical analogies to the french aristocracy in the 18`th
    century (several months ago), and his recent comment about his
    son and the prospect of a draft. Both were highly critical. But in
    his last comment on this thread, I think he argues well that
    these are issues where you can`t separate the case from the ad
    hominem aspects, because these cases may have serious direct,
    personal implications as well as enormous consequences that
    do not involve yourself personally.
    I still think, as I have said to Dan Kervick above, that the anger
    and suspicion he shows in the Obamas/Hamas thread is
    misplaced: you really don`t deserve it. But somehow, given the
    context and the place from where he is writing, some of Dan
    Kervick`s highly personal attacks seem to transcend the simple
    distinction between a rational argument and ad hominem
    attacks.
    At the same time, I think you are right when you take his
    attacks personally. However (seen from my very comfortable
    distance!), I discover that I find it much worse when someone
    routinely criticizes you, whatever you say, just like they eat
    breakfast and drink coffee every morning, a predictable habit
    with no consequences except being annoying for the target of
    the attacks, as well as for your many readers.
    I would urge Dan Kervick to think twice before he questions
    your motivations or habits/lifestyle. I also believe that even if he
    was right about you being more harsh on Obama than Clinton (I
    happen to disagree with him there, though your criticism of
    Obamas “identity politics”, gut/instincts, and lack of experience
    and awareness of the inner mechanisms of politics/power – in
    contrast to H. Clinton – have been strong and consistent), this is
    no reason for attacking you personally, despite everything that
    is at stake in this US election.
    But still: the things currently at stake, in America, and as a
    consequence, in big parts of the world, are huge, and involve
    personal losses and gains, body, soul and mind. This somehow
    implicates that Dan Kervick`s subjective approach is on level
    with the current issues, just as your personal reactions to his
    attacks are somehow unseparable from the issues themselves.
    I am not in a position to tell you how to run this blog. Some
    times you write stuff that I consider as weak, unclear or a bit
    too far from how the realities seem to be as I interpret them
    (admittedly from a distance). At other times, like during the last
    two or three weeks, you have delivered several highly
    interesting comments on very important issues. Seen as a
    whole, you have done a remarkable job with your blog. But I
    also think that the general level of the comments have been
    remarkably high recently. And I really think that the dynamics
    and tensions between you and some of your best critics is one
    of the things that makes The Washington Note so interesting.
    I would understand and respect your choices on this matter
    anyway – but for the sake of TWN in these extraordinary times, I
    believe that you would show real greatness if you gave space to
    your perhaps most important opponent here at the moment:
    Dan Kervick.

    Reply

  27. Tintin says:

    “I know you pride yourself on even-handedness Steve. But this
    time, America in 2008, is simply not the time for even-
    handedness. Even-handedness is grossly inappropriate where the
    two sides are not morally equivalent. You need to take a SIDE.”
    I guess the irony here is that Barack himself strives for even-
    handedness. It’s almost the theme of his campaign. He at least
    appears to be arguing against taking sides.

    Reply

  28. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “What next? Meetings with Bin Laden?”
    Nah, been there, done that.
    We have new monsters to create now, and Iran is ripe for the pluckin’. Its a new American century, haven’t you heard?
    Bin Laden is just so passe. Besides, he’s just so much more valuable to us loose, and on the run.
    BOO!!!! Don’t let the boogie man getcha.

    Reply

  29. Yale Marienhoff says:

    Re: Dan Valdron’s comments favoring diologe with Hamas leaders: What next? Meetings with Bin Laden?

    Reply

  30. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads, Steve. Its going to be pretty tough to counter this latest barrage by Dan. I don’t envy you.
    Honestly, his comment is sound enough in reason to warrant a response beyond the time worn threat to “shut down the comment section”. I sincerely hope thats not the direction you go.
    And Steve, as you know, I share Dan’s sentiments here. We have long since passed the juncture where intellectual discussion of policy and political tactics supercedes the moral gravity of the policies and tactics being discussed. It IS now a discussion of good versus evil, and there can be no intellectual equivications that can effectively mask the crimes, inhumanities, and immoral practices that our policies and political tactics and stategies now employ.
    As Den Valdron used to underscore, accurately and often, we are now dealing with MONSTERS in the highest levels of our government, and history will undoubtedly label them as such. The time to argue intellectual rationales and justifications for monstrous acts, performed by monsters, is over. Our denial is destroying us; as a nation, as a society, and as human beings.

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    I just re-read both of my posts on this thread, and can’t find the occurrence of the word “never” that you say I need to strike.
    What I complained about was your writing an entire post about the Hamas question in which Obama is ridiculed as a triangulator working from a mysterious “play book”, and not measuring up to various great Americans who have taken a different position, while Clinton and McCain are given a pass on the issue. Given the totality of these candidates’ positions on Middle East issues, and particularly on all the issues related to Israel, Hamas, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, that strikes me as showing a lack of balance and perspective.
    I have also complained that you have a pattern of showing a double standard in your discussions of Obama and Clinton. I don’t mean that you have never criticized Clinton at all. In the post you cite above, you gently criticize Clinton for failing to bring up Israel/Palestine in her speech at George Washington University, but add:
    “I don’t believe that the Hillary Clinton camp is purposely ducking Israel-Palestine, at least I hope not — and I have reason to believe that she might even be a “Nixon Goes to China” type on finally resolving this epic dispute.”
    I know you tend to err on the side of the most charitable and diplomatic readings of some people’s words, but can you honestly tell me that you believe that there is even the remotest possibility that in what was billed by the Clinton campaign as a major foreign policy address, she could really have simply forgotten or overlooked the Israeli-Palestinian issue? Clinton is a smart cookie. If Clinton gives a major foreign policy speech in which she doesn’t talk about one of the world’s most important conflicts, and one that has been at the center of the European, Middle East and US foreign policy debate for a generation, I think we can safely conclude she did this on purpose.
    I have been paying very close attention to the Clintons’ positions on Middle East issues since at least the time of the Camp David meetings at the end of Bill Clinton’s term in office. In my view, the Clintons long ago concluded that there is no such thing as being too pro-Israel in American politics. I don’t think there is any evidence at all that Hillary Clinton has some sort of Secret Doctrine on the Middle East, and plans to pull a Nixon to China once in office. That fond hope runs contrary to eight years of evidence. We can’t afford such a faith-based approach to the selection of our leaders.
    My reading of the Camp David meetings, based on the account of Kenneth Enderlin and others, is that Clinton mocked the Palestinians at those meetings for daring to suggest that UN 242 should form the background to the Camp David talks, even though the Oslo accords – which both parties had signed – had established that very principle. When the Palestinians attempted to get Clinton to support what they called “the principle of the exchange of territories” – that is, the principle that the 1967 border should be the baseline for the negotiations, and that any agreement on a different border in the final settlement should involve equal exchange of territories based on that 1967 baseline, Clinton blew up and informed the Palestinians that “this is not the UN”.
    Clinton and Barak tag teamed the Palestinians throughout the meetings, and attempted to get them to accept a final settlement that was little more than an abject surrender agreement based on the alternative Israeli framework, which we could call the “principle of the ratification of the occupation”. When the Palestinians declined to accept that framework, which called for haggling over what percentage of Palestinian territory the Israelis would be allowed to steal, they were vilified for failing to make a counteroffer in a ballpark that would have been acceptable to the Israeli-American bloc. Clinton, a large manipulative brat pissed off that the Palestinians had declined to bend over entirely, and had denied him his chance at another page in the history books, then went to work with Barak following the meetings to set up the Palestinians as the sole cause of the collapse of Camp David, thereby helping to assure the decade of reverse progress that has followed.
    Perhaps you would like to discuss the Marc Rich case, Steve. With all of your connections in Washington, I imagine you must have a pretty fair understanding of what happened there. Marc Rich was a global-scale gangster, a launderer of petroleum, a flouter of laws and a trafficker with some of shadiest people in the world – some of them outright murderers. He was called the “godfather” of the oligarchs who brutalized their way to the top in Russia, and looted that country in the 90’s under the pathetic Yeltsin. He was no small-time crook, but a fantastically rich major player in a global organized crime racket connected to the world’s petroleum markets, and was intensely sought by our own FBI. Yet he was pardoned by Clinton as he left office. Why?
    Well, it turns out that some of Rich’s ill-gotten lucre and blood money had been funneled to Israel over the years, some through a “foundation”. One of his best friends happened to be the former head of the Mossad, and had intervened on his behalf. To me that looks like a classic case of corruption at the highest level, similar to what happens when a big time Mafiosi killer is given a pardon, and even some special award or dedication in Rome, because of his long service to “Mother Church”. For the Clintons, Israel is now Mother Church. Rich bought his way out of trouble by greasing the right palms, and the Clintons were right in the thick of it. Oh yeah, Denise Rich also made a hefty contribution to the Clinton Library.
    Since then, Hillary Clinton has done nothing to disrupt this pattern, but has thrown herself into it with gusto. Her policy positions and public actions related to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine have all been pure gold for Aipac and Israel. (Her behavior during the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war I found particularly irresponsible and reprehensible.) She has tried to run a bit toward the left and the majority of her party during this nomination battle, but the pandering and dishonesty are transparent. One could call her “Bush lite”, but in some cases that would be unfair to Bush. Back in 2006, she was actually criticizing Bush for *not being tough enough* with Iran.
    Nothing is going to change, Steve, until someone does something to hold these people accountable. If Hillary Clinton can get away with six years of foreign policy positions which truly are just a minor variant of the Bush policies, and nevertheless succeed in becoming the nominee of the *opposition* party, the *anti-war* party, what message does that send to the people who run this country? To me it sends the message that popular resistance to militarism, neoconservatism and corruption is absolutely futile, and that obedient service to these nefarious causes carries no political cost at all.
    I know you pride yourself on even-handedness Steve. But this time, America in 2008, is simply not the time for even-handedness. Even-handedness is grossly inappropriate where the two sides are not morally equivalent. You need to take a SIDE.
    Some of the people you sup with and call your friends have been working as willing accomplices of people who have planned torture, plotted the illegal and violent takeover of a foreign country and engineered the slaughter of many thousands of innocent people. Euphemisms about bad “policy decisions” and inadequate foreign policy “skill sets” don’t suffice. For some reason, many of these people have convinced you that they are not as bad as the really bad guys, and that they secretly object in their hearts to the masters they serve. But haven’t we all learned that “it was just my job” doesn’t cut it when this level of evil is involved?
    Think of your own reputation, Steve. How is history going to judge those who refused to stand apart from the madness and evil of these times, but instead tried to be everybody’s friend, everybody’s favorite go-between, and ride the center line? I believe that some day this administration, and its various political accomplices like Hllary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and John McCain will be seen clearly by history and assigned the villainous roles they deserve. Their names will be infamous. When some historian of the future writes the book on “Bush’s Willing Executioners” where will Steve Clemons fit into the story? At some point, people like you need to say “I will no longer collaborate with an evil system of power. I will no longer break bread with these monsters and their toadies.”
    Damn it man. We now know our Vice President, Secretary of State and CIA head sat in a room and discussed specifics of whom to torture and what means and implements to use on them. This goes well beyond the problem of poor policy choices. And friends of yours like Ms. Dobriansky, whose career you tried to help promote in this blog, *work* for these people. Stop being even-handed with people who deserve only the back of your hand.
    You are too polite to the ghouls, predators and parasites who man the US imperial system in its present decadent, Caligula-like manifestation. And by doing that you help perpetuate the notion that what is truly foul and reprehensible is actually a respectable position, one that is worthy of an even-handed hearing. You have a platform, and therefore a moral obligation to speak on behalf of justice, and the millions who are suffering the pain inflicted by contemporary Washington. It is not enough to criticize people for their lack of “realism”, for having an “unbalanced foreign policy portfolio”, for employing a deficient set of bureaucratic “skill sets”, or for their lack of subtlety and nuance in the application of brute violent force.
    You rightly chafe at the personal nature of some of my comments. But, I don’t know how to make my points without being personal. These are not academic questions we are facing, but moral challenges that are trying our souls. Our personal behavior, our personal actions are all involved. I know I’m not at all happy with the way I have behaved, and my own personal failures. And I worry every day about what I can do differently.
    The main difference between you and me, I think, is that you are attracted to power, and I am repulsed by it. I can see that both temperaments have their virtues and their drawbacks, and we need some of both in this world. I understand very well that the world will never change if everyone were just an alienated, angry and misanthropic gadfly like me, and that some people have to get in there to work the levers and gears of the machines of power that run the world. But at a time when this power is so manifestly corrupt, maybe you also need to take stock of your need to be a player, your preference for the company and respect of wealthy and powerful elites, and your susceptibility to flattery.

    Reply

  32. DonS says:

    Further to my sleepy and somewhat audacious comment of last night regarding why I value a comment section here.
    Steve avers to be concerned mainly with issues that are interesting and important in his judgment. That gives me an opportunity to address those issues or allude to others. And truly that’s what I care about.
    In this political year, or any year for those of us who have some interest in politics, its easy to look at the politics of the issues through the lens of the individuals associated with them. My take, given they’re all politicians, is that none of them will rise to the level of hard nosed analysis and attempted implementation of “best” solutions, and certainly not consistently across a spectrum of issues. To that extent, in a word that’s use around here a lot, they’re all posturing.
    On the issue of this thread, Israel/Palestine, no pol fully meets the test of integrity and honesty, at best, and most seem willfully ignorant and dangerously compromised (though we know Steve seems to like a lot of Hegel’s approach). Steve hammers that hard by hammering the issue. Implicitly, everyone who reads a post, gets the information, gets Steve’s take on it.
    If Steve chooses to call out someone, in this case Obama, for an apparent shift in position, I guess that doesn’t bother me much because I don’t feel a stake in a candidate, probably because I’m so disappointed about the state of our politics in general. Others obviously feel differently and are very sensitive to candidate specific dynamics.
    As I said the last time this issue came up, quite a while back, we as commenters need to monitor ourselves too, both for ad hominems as well as contending with the premise that Steve sets up for his blog. And however much one may disagree with Steve’s explanations — and he laboriously does address those who cross over – I for one do not wish to see the comments section scraped because it becomes not worth Steve’s time to address personal gripes.
    True, none of us knows exactly where the line is, but over time one gets a sense; that is where the self-monitoring comes in.

    Reply

  33. tintin says:

    “Steve also might not realize something else, since he is on the
    road, but back here in The US, there has been an intense and
    steady campaign of media reports and viral emails in the Jewish-
    American and Christian Zionist community to thoroughly trash
    Obama’s reputation, and this pressure is beginning to make
    itself felt.”
    This is true and sickening. But it isn’t as if this sort of trashing is
    unique to Obama or particularly heinous. Clinton has suffered
    much more of similar sorts of insults, though from different
    quarters and on different issues. Some of it, of course, she’s
    invited; but a lot of it is unearned.
    We Obama supporters have to learn a simple lesson: Just
    because Obama is trying to run a more high-minded campaign
    doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is obliged to. It’s
    starting to feel like whining. He’s running for a tough job and
    he’s got to be tough himself.

    Reply

  34. tintin says:

    “Back when Obama announced, Steve jumped in right away with
    his opinion that Obama shouldn’t think beyond the Vice
    Presidency, and that Clinton would be the better candidate. How
    does that square with the political positions he is defending in
    this post?”
    I haven’t gone back to look at the relevant posts, Dan, but
    perhaps Steve’s views have evolved. I can tell you that my
    family–my wife, daughter, and I–are 100% Obama supporters.
    We and our extended have collectively maxxed out our
    contributions for the primary and will fork over an equal amount
    in the general should he become the nominee (almost a
    certainty). One family member works on his staff in Chicago.
    Nevertheless, the other day, my wife, who is more partisan than
    I in temperament, confessed that she didn’t think Obama had a
    snowball’s chance when he first announced. I’m not sure many
    did, though, for some reason, I always did. But her views have
    evolved–maybe Steve’s have as well.
    Why does he have “square” what he’s saying now with what he
    said before?

    Reply

  35. Tintin says:

    I find it interesting how armchair one-staters, whether pro Israeli
    or Palestinian, always seem willing to fight to the last Israeli and
    Palestinian to keep the “struggle” alive. Perhaps if they were on the
    frontlines, they might opt for a humane solution.

    Reply

  36. Steve Clemons says:

    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2008/02/hillarys_foreig/
    Whether or not you adjust your views accordingly, Dan and JohnH, above you will find links that falsify your assertions. I have frequently, flamboyantly applauded Obama on his willingness to engage Iran and others and criticized Hillary’s unwillingness to do so — particularly on TV and radio, but also on this blog, at HuffPost, and TPMCafe.
    I have also criticized Hillary’s unprogressive position on Israel-Palestine issues verbally and in writing. One of the times was the above case…so while I may not write about it enough to satisfy you Dan, you should strike “never” from your claim.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  37. JohnH says:

    Steve has yet to praise Obama for wanting to negotiate with Iran. (I searched past posts to verify this.) Yet I believe Obama’s position on Iran is entirely consistent with Steve’s own views. And it is a courageous stand given the position of the Lobby.
    http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Obama_calls_for_talks_with_Iran_ove_04082008.html
    But Steve is quick to criticize Obama for not wanting to talk to Hamas, which would represent a second courageous stand given the fierce opposition of the Lobby.
    It’s this kind of inconsistency that fosters perceptions of an anti-Obama bias.

    Reply

  38. Dan Kervick says:

    Paul Norheim,
    I respect your opinion very much, but the problem is that Steve did not say that *any* candidate should promise, before the election, to talk to Hamas. He derided Obama uniquely for declining to take this step. He also did this rather sneeringly, I thought, when he said:
    “I guess isolation works for some and not others — but ah, just when does one know in Obama’s play book?”
    The notion that Obama is some sort of cynical and sneaky “triangulator” simply because he declines to jump over the Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul cliff into the abyss of unelectable oblivion is really way off the mark, especially given the substantial political risks that Obama has already taken.
    And, in fact, Steve *did* imply Obama was a coward, who could not measure up to all the “great Americans” on his list, none of whom happening to be running for office. There was a taunting tone to the post. Of course Obama is back here in America, swimming with sharks in the bloody lagoon of presidential politics, while Steve was laying out his advanced positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from, I believe, a hotel in *Saudi Arabia*.
    For some reason, Clinton and McCain, whose positions are far more orthodox and far less venturesome than Obama’s when it comes to Middle East issues, and who have taken far fewer risks, get a pass here, while Obama is ridiculed and derided for saying that he is forced to draw the line at the suicide bombers of children, Hamas, even after he showed pronounced political courage in proposing to talk directly with Iranian leaders, including their rambling, loose-tongued President who held a ridiculous holocaust revisionism conference not too long ago, one of the participants at which was David Duke, and whose very name is political poison in the Jewish-American community.
    Damn that triangulating Obama! Always playing it so safe!
    If Steve’s hero Chuck Hagel is such a great American, than why didn’t he step forward and run for president? Steve probably knows the answer: Hagel couldn’t possibly win the Republican nomination in the current US political environment. In the foreign policy area, he is way outside his party’s retrograde mainstream. I’m trying to be understanding here. But I think Steve might want to consider the fact that he spends most of his time talking with a lot of very highly educated, affluent, cosmopolitan and culturally sophisticated people, including a lot of Europeans and Asians, and Americans from our most elite classes and educational institutions, and he may be a bit out of touch with the attitudes of about 90% of Americans, and the unfortunate political realities those attitudes impose on people running for national office in a democracy.
    Steve also might not realize something else, since he is on the road, but back here in The US, there has been an intense and steady campaign of media reports and viral emails in the Jewish-American and Christian Zionist community to thoroughly trash Obama’s reputation, and this pressure is beginning to make itself felt. Just this week there was an article in the LA Times – not an editorial but an article – that was built on material floating around in right wing blogs, and which raised all sorts of questions about Obama’s friendship with Rashid Khalidi, his having attended lectures by Edward Said etc. And a prominent component of the Jeremiah Wright, and part of what drove the coverage, was that it put Obama at two degrees of separation from Louis Farrakhan, and the latter’s notorious anti-Jewish comments.
    Steve might mean well. But there is a real double standard at work here. Clinton has been a perfect soldier of Aipac orthodoxy, and yet Steve never goes after her on that score. I don’t get it. Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza – on all these issues Clinton has been just this side of Joe Lieberman. Yet Steve has generally been full of praise and admiration for Clinton. Back when Obama announced, Steve jumped in right away with his opinion that Obama shouldn’t think beyond the Vice Presidency, and that Clinton would be the better candidate. How does that square with the political positions he is defending in this post?

    Reply

  39. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, I purposely posted the comment about Hannity after the “admonition” (your word) I directed towards you. Of course I recognize the fact that you tend to tread where others dare not go. And, although it may not seem like it, I appreciate the lengths you are willing to go, and understand the tightrope you must walk so as not to have the doors slammed in your face.
    I guess I just get extremely frustrated, because I see no opposition to these bastards like Luntz, Fox News, (and the Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Barks, Levin, Ingram etc kind of scumbags), that is willing and able to apply the same forcefulness of effort towards INFORMING the public as these bastards are at MISINFORMING the public.
    This huge propaganda machine that is feeding the American public a bunch of unmittigated horseshit is on a scale par with, or even surpassing, the TASS of yesteryear’s Russia. Look, you hob-nob with a completely different class of people than I do, and I cannot really expect you to have a firm grasp about just how ill-informed, un-engaged, misinformed, and flat out ignorant a huge segment of the American public is. And it is by design.
    I guess I would like to see someone screaming the truth as loud as those that are screaming the lies.

    Reply

  40. DonS says:

    Steve,
    You need to not shut the comments down. Just do what’s needed to keep them under control. Your limits are pretty fair, subject to your own rhythms.
    Us little folks tend to believe what you say about some of the big folks checking in here. They need to get some relatively unvarnished thought, not that we think it makes much of a dent.
    Take care.

    Reply

  41. DonS says:

    Steve,
    You need to not shut the comments down. Just do what’s needed to keep them under control. Your limits are pretty fair, subject to your own rhythms.
    Us little folks tend to believe what you say about some of the big folks checking in here. They need to get some relatively unvarnished thought, not that we think it makes much of a dent.
    Take care.

    Reply

  42. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks POA — No, I don’t think it’s time for me to change my approach. As I’ve said before, I am not able to engage each and every thread. And my own decisions on what to write or not write are influenced by my own interests, my time, other stuff I’m juggling, and my passion for the issue. I’m not going to bandwagon or just report what other blogs are reporting — and I’ll pave my own way forward in various policy challenges in the way I think will get traction in the policy world here. I’m not a flame thrower for the purpose of flame throwing. I want to see results from what I write and invest time in.
    But what is strange for me is that while many of you may disagree with my priorities or my own framing of public policy challenges or even what I choose to critique in all the candidates — a few choose to not debate the issues but rather to try and savage my character. I just don’t want to host that. I would rather keep doing what I’m doing and shut the comments down…so my appeal is pretty simple POA — let’s argue and debate priorities, policies, my being on the fence, etc — but when it comes to maligning me on personal stuff, I think I need to draw a line — or I can just choose to delete the post.
    Dan Kervick’s commentary is generall so good though without the slime that I’d had to delete because there is other good material. But I don’t have time time to read, censor, and edit entries. So, that’s not an option.
    I’m not going to debate with you my writing priorities. I’ve done more than anyone in the blogosphere to animate a Washington-based opposition to the neoconservatives – and while I’m open to other’s ideas on other things, I don’t need anyone’s admonitions for what I have or have not done in that regard. Most of the neocons have me high on the list of those that they think have helped undermine their position in Washington.
    My screaming about stuff on the blog is not always effective, and thus I try not to do it.
    Need to sleep. Have to do a lot of meetings in Jeddah in three hours…
    Steve

    Reply

  43. PissedOffAmerican says:

    BTW, Sean Hannity was ranting today about what a traitor Carter is for going to speak to Hamas.
    Remember Steve, there are literally millions of brain dead Americans listening to this asshole and his compatriots, who get their talking points and scripts from the ilk of Frank Luntz.
    This is a HUGE barrier to any fact based rhetoric about the Israeli/Palestinian issue.

    Reply

  44. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “JohnH — You are incorrect that I want Obama to aggravate all the hornets nests”
    Well, Steve. Why don’t you pave the way by doing so yourself?
    With all due respect, you have tread pretty lightly on this issue, even when the comment section of your blog has become pretty heated when the Isr/Pal issue, and the power Israel holds over United States foreign policy, is debated.
    Even on the recent Luntz threads, you have been quite silent about how you feel about some proffessional lying scumbag like Luntz framing issues for our politicians so they can most effectively bullshit the highest numbers of Americans. Anyone that is reasonably informed knows that it is this kind of proffessionally administered propopaganda that has shaped the American public’s perspective of the Israel/Palestinian issue, and has allowed the Israeli lobbies to exercise the obscene level of influence they exert over our politicians and policies.
    Even on an issue such as this posturing fraud Hillary’s advocation of boycotting the Olympic games, it hardly seems very fair to mention the hypocricy that is represented by decrying China’s actions in regards to Tibet and not mentioning the fact that we actually bankroll and arm the Israelis in their extreme human rights abuses committed against the Palestinians and the Lebanese.
    You apparently have a huge following of fans, and your blog is reputedly read by many of the Washington “elite”, so why don’t you lead the charge, instead of just cheerleading Obama to rush headlong into the fray?
    Steve, surely, you must recognise the extreme danger that these lying criminals like Wolfowitz, Bush, Cheney, Perle, Luntz, AIPAC, the PNAC, the Heritage Foundation, AEI, etc. pose to our democracy.
    Don’t you think its time you upped the ante a bit, and climbed down off the fence?

    Reply

  45. Steve Clemons says:

    thanks for your note arthurdecco and also for your excellent bird photos in the past.
    i don’t think that there is anything stressful in my life at the moment other than holding down a job that demands the time of two — and am keeping this blog up on the side. I don’t read each and every comment — and I do expect Dan Kervick, who is extremely thoughtful, to give me a rough time now and then. As you know from reading here, others do too — and I’m generally good with taking the punches.
    But when I do focus on something serious that Dan has written — and I take the time to seriously consider what he says, it pisses me off pretty strongly that he doesn’t take my own work and provocations as seriously. My comments on Clinton and China the other day — and my comments about Obama and Carter/Hamas have been carried throughout the net and have generated a sizable debate.
    I respect Dan — so when I read him malign me yet again for travel junkets, cocktail parties, and the like — he is in my view expressing lack of respect for my work, for me, and my lifestyle. And I just had enough of it from him on that level. I expect better from him, and I need to send a signal to those of you who get off the policy debate and attempt to malign someone’s character. I have no patience for it right now.
    He is a thougtful guy who does not like to be rebuked I sense — though he has no problem maligning me. So, it’s really a simple choice.
    I like him very much here — but I’m not going to permit him to continually seeth at me because of the insider-ish things I do in Washington. This is an insider-ish blog. That’s the way I’ve designed it and that’s the way it will remain.
    I think Dan is brilliant — but until he gets off his kick of knocking me in the gut for traveling, offering you folks insights into events and commentary that I do (that he called Unaccountable I think), and cocktail parties, etc. — I really don’t want him around.
    Again, I hope he stays — but if he doesn’t participate according to general rules of civility, I am really not interested in reading his otherwise erudite and insightful commentary.
    You can go read him at TPM Cafe and elsewhere.
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  46. arthurdecco says:

    Mr. Clemons, I’m a fan of your blog. I don’t genuflect at a Steve Clemons doll every morning while brushing my teeth but I certainly think of you as one of the few arbiters of American political thought in my online life.
    One of the extras I get by coming to your blog is the quality of the thinking that goes on in the comments section, and the articulate passion so often in evidence. Sure, there are always those who love to watch their fingers hit the keys while posting in lieu of thinking, but you, more than most, attract a group of subtle thinkers that provoke me with their acerbic wit, with their knowledge of current events and their passionate involvement with what they think right.
    After reading your response to Dan Kervik’s earlier post I had to go back to re-read his post that so upset you. (The first time through it had only impressed me with its insight and intelligence.)
    Could your resentment with his blog-written approach be in any way attributed to some other pressure in your life right now? The reason I ask is that I’ve read far more critical appraisals of your lifestyle here on the Washington Note where nary a pursed-lip-protest was heard from you. (In fact, I may have written one or two of them myself. 😉 )
    It would be a tragedy for your two intelligent and focused voices to be separated because of hurt feelings over the tone of a blog entry, don’t you think? The counterpoint between you is a thing to behold. I hope you recognize the value in it. And I hope you recognize the difficulty separating earnestness from rudeness on the internet. I think Dan deserves a break over this.
    I really do.

    Reply

  47. G Hazeltine says:

    See useful insights from Paul Woodward at War in Context:
    http://warincontext.org/2008/04/11/editorial-talking-to-the-
    enemy/
    This is in response to Steve Clemons above post printed at
    Huffington Post.
    Also see Woodward’s comments on yesterday’s WP Carter story ,
    and especially the included Al Jazeera interview with Ephraim
    Halevv, former Mossad director and former head of the Israeli
    National Security Council who favors talks with Hamas.
    In my view this controversy is empty. Obama cannot possibly do
    what Clemons expects. To ask him to is disingenuous at best.
    Dan has it right.
    Much more interesting would be a discussion of Clinton’s
    support for an undivided Jerusalem, and the radical implications
    of that position.

    Reply

  48. lurker says:

    Dan Kervick and Steve Clemons both take their commentary very seriously. Dan apparently has a 17 year old son who he fears will be sent off to war – – and so Steve’s Insiderism drives him a bit crazy.
    But Dan, Steve is really on your and our side. Look at all he has done. Name anyone other than Josh Marshall who has both taken us inside the power towers and done things that are real. He’s incredibly generous with his time and access to stuff, and you need to focus your anxiety on the bad guys, not on Clemons for going to cocktail parties.
    That’s part of is schtick, and I for one really like it. I don’t want him to change anything.
    So keep up your rattling, the good kind, and don’t confuse who you are really going after with Clemons.

    Reply

  49. Kathleen says:

    Ralph Nader on Jimmy Carter and Hamas…
    April 10, 2008
    Once again, former President Jimmy Carter is to be commended for taking the initiative toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The announcement that he will meet next week in Damascus with Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, is consonant with a March 1, 2008 poll by the leading Israeli newspaper – Haaretz – that found 64 percent of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas. Only 28 percent were opposed. (Hamas was created years ago with the critical support of both the Israeli and U.S. governments as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization.)
    An impressive number of retired top Israeli and American government officials have called for – or believe there should be – negotiations with Hamas, the organization which controls Gaza, presently under an Israeli siege.
    Both United Nations and European Union officials have demanded that the Israeli government lift the siege or blockade which is severely depriving Palestinian civilian families of needed medicine, food, electricity, clean water, fuel and other critical life-saving supplies and materials. Gaza has become the world’s largest prison with 1.5 million inmates – many sick or dying – making that tiny enclave a major humanitarian crisis that invites moral and political denunciation by world leaders.
    In addition, during the hostilities over the past year, Palestinians have suffered at least 300 civilian casualties to every Israeli civilian casualty.
    The major party Presidential candidates – McCain, most offensively for one who says he stands against individual and collective torture – and Clinton and Obama – distanced themselves from Carter’s forthcoming initiative.
    McCain, renewing his fealty to Washington’s Puppet Show, condemned Carter’s move, while Clinton and Obama declared they disagreed with Carter.
    It is time for all retired military, diplomatic and national security officials from both parties who agree with Carter – and there are many – to band together and launch the Washington Peace Show leading to what a majority of Palestinians and Israelis want – a viable two-state solution.
    It is remarkable that the Republican and Democratic candidates for President of the United States stand in opposition to 64 percent of Israeli public opinion – and in opposition to leading former Israeli intelligence chiefs and foreign ministers – who want negotiations with Hamas.
    If you agree with the Nader/Gonzalez platform of reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East, please vote now with your donation to our campaign.
    Thank you for your ongoing and generous support.
    Onward
    Ralph Nader
    PS We invite your comments to the blog.

    Reply

  50. Cee says:

    A better headline for your post might be, “Obama forced to knuckle under on Hamas to avoid a campaign-ending onslaught from the Israel lobby.”
    Dan,
    You understand. I’m looking forward the Obama inauguration.
    Pray that his opponents don’t stage something to derail it.

    Reply

  51. Kathleen says:

    Steve… I’m with you and Jimmy Carter. You’d actualy love Ralph Nader’s statement this week on Jimmy Carter and the Palestinian-Israel conflict and Hamas.
    blogwonk… I’m with you on the personal attacks on our host… it’s so rude. This is his virtual parlor and we are his guests. Good natured, animated debate is fun but some tones strike a sour note, like finger nails across a blacboard.

    Reply

  52. JohnH says:

    I agree with Steve. “Obama said he wanted to be an engager — wanted to take us in a different direction. These were his metrics. This kind of posturing only matters in policy areas where — well, where it matters.”
    Obama has been clear on Iran: he called for negotiations this week. And he challenged Bush/Petraeus to spell out conditions where America could withdraw — Petraeus couldn’t think of any. So he has been challenging the status quo. Clearly he has not gone far enough, but he has gone much farther than his opponents.
    And it is clearly time to end the posturing in areas that really, really matter: give the American people the reasons for occupying Iraq and let them decide for themselves if it’s worth it.
    Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer does a masterful job. He says that the American people are to blame for our involvement in the Middle East, for occupying Iraq, and for propping up awful dictators. Every time Americans go to the pump they are voting to support a horrific foreign policy. Americans should hear this until they either get a guilty conscience and decide to do something about it or until they realize that they are not an exceptional people and are a people willing to have millions slaughtered for the sake of filling their gas tanks.
    None of the candidates’ ME policies are anything but posturing, designed to avoid having to tell the American people anything but what they desperately need to hear.
    It’s time for all of them–Obama included–to start engaging with the American people and treating them like adults.

    Reply

  53. Paul Norheim says:

    Dan Kervick,
    if you`ve read the comments above, you`ll see that disagreed,
    when you questioned Steve Clemons`motivations for criticizing
    Barack Obama for not being willing to talk to Hamas.
    However – every time I see your name above a comment, I read
    it, and I read it slowly, because you are among those who very
    often have something substantial to say (and also, nota bene,
    when you criticize Steve Clemons!). I consider you as one of the
    most valuable commentators on TWN. I frequently get provoked
    by Steve Clemons`s comments as well, but to me it seems like
    your anger regarding earlier posts from S.C. was channeled to a
    context where he actually did not deserve it.
    My point is simple: I want more comments from you.
    I think this blog is more interesting because of your comments,
    and I hope that you and the host of this site can find a modus
    vivendi for further contributions.

    Reply

  54. blogwonk says:

    Steve, Dan Kervick is usually a great commenter but he seems to have something against you. It’s too bad though because he raises good points and then he goes after your motivations and you yourself.
    I think that kind of posting is undermining the spirit of debate here that our host provides and folks should take their private grievances to Steve directly rather than acting out their drama here.

    Reply

  55. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan Kervick — your comments are frequently so eloquent —
    but I just don’t understand your need to savage my personal
    character so frequently. I write material here everyday that is
    subjected to your review and response, as well as others. What
    is unaccountable about that. i host your responses to my
    commentary — which I don’t have to do. I think you should be
    more measured — and use your obvious intelletual heft to
    debate the merits of my arguments and try to insinuate so much
    about my intentions or character. You are over the line today —
    and you should pull back.
    Secondly, read Obama’s statement again. He opposes Carter’s
    action. If he had said I would not meet Hamas under current
    conditions, but I welcome those who might be able to see what
    progress mght be made, I’d be less critical of him than I have
    been.
    He did not. You make no distinction about that and should.
    I welcome most of your posts here — but I am tired of the
    personal assaults. Cease them or I will pull the plug on them.
    They make me angry — and that is not why I write this blog. We
    have a very tolerant atmosphere here — and I rarely censor or
    knock back anyone. I feel as if you are itching for a fight.
    I won’t engage in that kind of back and forth, however, and will
    just end it.
    You decide the course you want to go.
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  56. Matthew says:

    Obama can’t effectuate change unless he wins. As POA rightly notes, worshipping Zion is a requirement for any US candidate.
    However, President Obama–like every president before him–will still have to solve the problem. And that means deviating from the AIPAC talking points. When our Sunni puppets fall, it will be interesting to see how quickly America turns around on this issue. We have a tendency of discovering morality when its in our naked self-interest.
    If you’re a one-stater like me, this is actually good news. Palestine delayed will actually be Palestine enlarged. The two-state solution will evolve into the one-state, anti-apartheid struggle. Remember that the Afrikaners thought they could squeeze the black majority onto Bantustans as well.

    Reply

  57. Steve Clemons says:

    JohnH — You are incorrect that I want Obama to aggravate all
    the hornets nests. I believe that America needs to change
    course — perhaps what you might call part of aggravating
    hornet’s nests.
    Continuity of the past foreign policy course we have been on in
    some fundamental conflicts is undermining American power and
    prestige badly. Obama said he wanted to be an engager —
    wanted to take us in a different direction. These were his
    metrics.
    This kind of posturing only matters in policy areas where —
    well, where it matters. If it isn’t applied to consequential
    challenges, then his positioning was superficial. I’m balanced in
    my commentary — and consistent. I have applied the same
    analysis to McCain, Obama, Clinton — even Hagel.
    Of course, I’m serious. These are serious issues and demand
    debate. Too many of you think that I should shade my criticism
    one way or another depending on who I prefer to win – and I
    just don’t work that way.
    Best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  58. Tintin says:

    Questions…amen.
    Which holiday do you have in mind?
    As to the Carter Treatment: Carter was also attacked for
    inaccuracies in his book. Isn’t that fair? My impression is that
    Carter is NOT an antisemite, but if he were, or made antisemitic
    statements, wouldn’t that be fair game, too?
    Switching gears but sticking to the same theme…
    Somehow, we Obamans have the attitude that Obama’s policies,
    ideas, and actions are beyond reproach, so that any criticism of
    them amounts to a smear…or an attempt to bring him down.
    Steve no more wants to bring down Obama than he wants to
    bring down the man in the moon. Let’s quit this paranoid talk
    about what Steve “really” intends. It’s just laughable.

    Reply

  59. JohnH says:

    Steve seems to want Obama to aggravate all the hornets nests out there: the Israeli lobby, the Cuban lobby, the nuke-Iran folks, and all the other neanderthals out there.
    While I agree in principle with these positions, isn’t this asking a candidate to self-destruct? Is Steve really being serious?

    Reply

  60. questions says:

    I wish for the next holiday that we could invent a new vocabulary so that we could talk about the ME without offending arms dealers, people who equate anti-Semitism with an anti-Israeli-as-it-currently-behaves views, people who rightly fear that attacking Israel’s policies will likely lead to some amount of anti-Semitism….I try to think of someone with perfect credentials (Rabbi Hillel?) who could say that teenage Israels soldiers at checkpoints are really unkind, that Hamas’ bombs give excuses to Israel, but that Israel might find other excuses anyway, that until everyone involved stops profiting from the violence, the violence will continue. Palestinian leaders use it, Israel uses it, US politicians and the fringe Christian right use it, the “terrorists” use it, oil commodity brokers use it…. The violence is very profitable. Probably restaurants around Camp David make money too….

    Reply

  61. Paul Norheim says:

    “Dan Kervick’s comment is idiocy. The “full Carter treatment?” You
    mean invittaions to discuss his book on the Daily Show, Charlie
    Rose, Booknotes (c-span) and Meet the Press? Most authors
    would love the “full Carter treatment.”
    Wigwam: perhaps you did not see what was hard to ignore even
    here in Norway – that Carter was accused of being an anti-semite
    for saying that the Israelis had implemented an apartheid policy
    towards the Palestinian population.
    You may disagree with him, but yeah: Anti-semite! – that was the
    “full Carter treatment.” For Obama, or any presidential candidate,
    a statement similar to Jimmy Carter`s would imply political
    harakiri in the current US climate.

    Reply

  62. Mr.Murder says:

    If Obama had any kind of svelte grasp of the situation he’d have tried to triangulate a bit further.
    Mention Fatah, which was an outsider supported effort to split Palestinian support as a hedge to certain items.
    The Hamas triumph of the ballot box undid much of Fatah’s standing, though they are a political puppet you could set benchmarks for their participation as a way of stalling immediate progress. Then you’ve effectively punted in a way to at least satisfy the pan Israeli hawks, but you are still developing inroads to further legitimation of Hamas and eventual tabled talks.
    Win the day with actual progress for Palestine and you remove large sectors of support for terrorism. Of course, the OPEC bloc would then have to address its own shortcomings in giving political expression to its own residents. Thus they actually seem to support these pushback efforts as a plausible hedge to giving cover their own conflicts to transparency.
    Most notably, Saudi Arabia, where Steve just visited. The mote in thine eye, and all that… they and Israel have a client state relationship with the USA and each parallels the other’s efforts over key items.

    Reply

  63. WigWag says:

    “Do you think that if Obama wrote a book like *Peace Not Apartheid”, he would have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected in this country? Tell me straight, what do you think would happen if Obama announced tomorrow that he would talk to Hamas if elected? I can tell you what I think would happen. He would get the full Carter treatment. He would get Foxmanned and Dershowitzed into oblivion.”
    Dan Kervick’s comment is idiocy. The “full Carter treatment?” You mean invittaions to discuss his book on the Daily Show, Charlie Rose, Booknotes (c-span) and Meet the Press? Most authors would love the “full Carter treatment.”
    “Foxmanned” and “Dershowitzed” into oblivion? It is mystifying why anyone would think that Foxman and Dershowitz should have any less right to express their opinion than Steve Clemons, Dan Kervick or anyone else.
    Certainly, at least up to now, the American public and their elected representatives have supported the more hard line position of Israeli hawks. But it’s surely not because Foxman and Dershowitz have any less right to express their opionion than Carter, or for that matter Mearsheimer and Walt. It’s because they are winning the argument on the merits. People who think it’s time for a new approach to peace in the middle east would be well advised to spend more time crafting well reasoned arguments and less time ridiculing people who have a different point of view.

    Reply

  64. Bartolo says:

    Given the importance of Florida in November, I can’t rightly blame Obama for not telling the truth about what he would do as president regarding Palestine and Cuba.

    Reply

  65. Mr.Murder says:

    World Net Daily(WingNut Daily) and right spiel website, has more on Obama’s own association with people who made some bad character judgments.
    Rev.Wright’s own church newsletter reprinted a letter by “…Mousa Abu Marzook, identified in the publication as a “deputy of the political bureau of Hamas.” A photo image of the piece was captured and posted today by the business blog BizzyBlog, which first brought attention to it. The Hamas article was first published by the Los Angeles Times, garnering the newspaper much criticism.”
    -bizzyblog
    http://www.bizzyblog.com/2008/03/17/tuccs-church-bulletins-from-july-2007-probably-make-whether-obama-was-present-on-July-22-irrelevant/
    “…a manifesto by a Hamas spokesman that defended terrorism as legitimate resistance, refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist and compared the terror group’s official charter – which calls for the murder of Jews – to America’s Declaration of Independence.
    The Hamas piece was published on the “Pastor’s Page” of the Trinity United Church of Christ newsletter reserved for Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., whose anti-American, anti-Israel remarks landed Obama in hot water, prompting the presidential candidate to deliver a major race speech earlier this week.”
    This guy’s nukular, and Obama’s only plausible cover is to throw any talks with Hamas under the bus.
    That doesn’t sound like an official position by Palestine’s gov’t, or even Hamas, but if Rev.Wright is buddied up to these types then the One must find ways to overcome doubts about his sincerity, and the best way to do that is to sincerely be insincere to the notion of being some kind of new politician.
    “New Politician” = “Compassionate Conservative”
    There’s no there, there.

    Reply

  66. blogwonk says:

    Steve Clemons dominates another hot issue. It’s kind of interesting that our host’s blog continues to produce pretty hot material and perspectives, even when POA and others go nuts at some of what he writes, but hat’s off and a big cheer for my favorite lily pad in the blogosphere. It’s always interesting here. And of course, POA is interesting too.
    Thanks Steve!

    Reply

  67. Paul Norheim says:

    Since Steve Clemons during the last months has criticized both
    McCain, Clinton, and Obama, I have no reason to think that his
    main message here is that B. Obama is a coward, but rather that
    any candidate should promise, before the outcome of the US
    election, to talk to Hamas.
    I think that Mr. Clemons actually is speaking as a “realist” in
    foreign policy here, and being less realistic concerning the
    domestic tactics before the election.
    Dan Kervick: In this case you and S.C. seem to agree in strategy
    (talking to anybody involved in the conflicts abroad), but not in
    the domestic tactics (what the candidates can say before the
    elections). I don`t think you do Steve Clemons justice by
    questioning his motives. I may be wrong, but I believe that Steve
    C.`s realist instincts and principles in foreign policy may have
    made him forget the domestic realities for a moment.
    It`s obvious that any candidate not speaking in favor of Israel is
    likely to loose. But I`m quite sure that Steve knows this as well.
    A personal note: My parents, who were Norwegian missionaries
    in Ethiopia during the 1970`s, would (as well as a lot of their
    Christian friends), have supported Jimmy Carter in 1976 if
    they`d had an opportunity to vote. I`m also sure that they were
    in line with Carters strong support for Israel at that time.
    But after the massacres in the Lebanese refugee camps in the
    beginning of the 1980`s (in which Ariel Sharon, then Israeli
    defense minister, was involved), i observed that Israel, in my
    fathers eyes, lost its status as innocent victim. I think this
    change in view happened to a lot of Christians (of course not
    among the most fanatical), as well as among conservatives. I
    also believe that this is one of the events that actually made
    Jimmy Carter change his opinion about the Middle East conflict.
    Unfortunately, these horrible events did not make the people,
    media & leaders of the USA to change, or to ask fundamental
    questions about the whole conflict.
    This may change in the future. But I see no reason to get
    suspicious when Mr. Clemons urge the potential leaders to talk
    to Hamas. Bad tactics? Perhaps. Hidden motives? I can`t see any
    reason to think so.

    Reply

  68. Mr.Murder says:

    Obama needs plausible cover for the Wright backlash re:Israeli policy, so he throws the Palestinians under the bus.
    Say hi to grandma while you’re down there, and peace be with you.

    Reply

  69. WigWag says:

    All of the Washington Note readers who support Senator Obama should just get used to the fact that his position on the Israel/Palestine conflict is virtually identical to that of Senator Clinton and not that far from the position of Senator McCain. The idea that you can “devine” his inner thoughts is stupid. All you can do is listen to what he says and read what he writes. If you do this, then you will inevitably discover that if Senator Obama believes that President Carter shouldn’t meet with Hamas, neither he or anyone else in his administration would either.
    Instead of assuming the Senator is bowing to political reality when there is absolutely no documentary evidence that he is doing this,take him at his word. He believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization; he doesn’t think President Carter’s meeting with them will advance the cause of peace; and (according to his website)representatives of his administration will not negotiate with Hamas.
    Those of you who support Senator Obama’s candidacy and also believe that engaging Hamas is a good idea need to get used to the fact that your candidate disagrees with you. That is, he thinks you’re wrong!
    Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have similar views about the future of Iraq. They have profound disagreements with Senator McCain about this. On the Israel/Palestine issue, the policies of the three remaining presidential candidates are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable. You Obama supporters may not like it, but that’s the simple reality.
    And by the way, if you’re hoping that an Obama foreign policy would be that different from a Clinton or McCain foreign policy, you’re deluding yourselves. Senator Obama’s foreign policy ideas and his advisors are straight down main street. The liberal interventionists running the Clinton and Obama foreign policy shops are not so very different from the neocons advising McCain on foreign policy. No matter who is elected, it’s likely that the United States will be intervening in countries all around the world with little positive to show for it.

    Reply

  70. Linda says:

    I agree with much of the above as one can only expect so much from someone who is trying to win a nomination and be elected. Though I’ve lived in Atlanta for three years now, it wasn’t until last year that I got around to visiting the Carter Library and re-visiting the Carter Presidency–and looking at how correct he was on so many issues from energy conservation to civil rights to the ME, etc–way ahead of his time–not to mention the Carter Center and all the good works he does. He isn’t out giving speeches for six figures, write books and donates all the profits to charity, and every year holds an auction for the Carter Center of some of objects from his Presidency where the biggest item is a piece of furniture he’s made himself.
    So my hope is that Carter talks with Hamas this year, and next year Obama can send him officially to continue them.

    Reply

  71. Tintin says:

    “It will never be possible for a politician to use uncoded speech
    regarding [controversial topic] — perhaps more than any other area
    of the world, until the [X] lobby is defanged?”

    Reply

  72. TRIANGULATOR says:

    Behold and admire the mighty power of triangulation.
    http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0408/Bill_Clinton_brings_up_Tuzla.html
    Remember the finger.

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  73. Tess says:

    Not surprising, actually, to hear these comments from Obama. Note his essay, “Renewing American Leadership,” July/August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs:
    “For more than three decades, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab leaders, and the rest of the world have looked to America to lead the effort to build the road to a lasting peace. In recent years, they have all too often looked in vain. Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region — a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah. Now more than ever, we must strive to secure a lasting settlement of the conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. To do so, we must help the Israelis identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient effort and the personal commitment of the president of the United States. That is a commitment I will make.”

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  74. DonS says:

    It will never be possible for a politician to use uncoded speech regarding Israel — perhaps more than any other area of the world, until the Israel lobby is defanged. Its a PR industry that has flummoxed the American press for over half a century and kept politicians in line with money and threats of anit-Semitism.
    Who is ever going to start to talk straight about this mess if not the president? And then, even an ex-president gets ridiculed for trying to introduce some clarity.
    As far as public opinion, haven’t we learned a log time ago that opinion is maleable? Enough said.
    Deal with Hamas? Why not, its just another coded actor in the arena. At least ever since Abbas has become the “good” terrorist. Or maybe he is not a terrorist anymore I have checked my AIPAC-issued program today. And you know damn well that if Israel suddenly decided Hamas was the power to deal with, the U.S. team would suddenly get religion on that too.
    And let’s stop conflating the word Jewish with Israeli. The “Jewish vote” isn’t what is pushing this issue around. Its the right wing Likudist industry, Zionist functionaries, conservative and liberal Israel hawks in this country and, recently, the rise of the wacko, right wing so-called Christian end-of-time fundies.
    So let’s check our terminolgy. Here’s one with Jewish heritage who deplores having the Israel lobby write our middle east script. As with my Jewish friends. As with Tikkun. As with “Jewish Voice for Peace”. Why can’t this POV get a hearing? Why indeed?
    This crap about candidates having to pander but, wink wink, just wait till the get elected. Its only ONE issue folks. Are you telling me the Israel lobby is THAT powerful that the issue will always need to be “discussed” in second and third order code?? Yes? Then are you going to tell me in your next breath that this “system” has one shred of rationality or integrity?
    Get a grip. Some day the choke chain is going to have to come off.

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  75. Tintin says:

    Actually, Steve’s post and these comments bring to mind a broader question: When is a candidate being “prudent” and “realistic”…and is he a sell-out?
    To my mind, it’s not clear.
    Do you go with someone like Kucinich or Paul who makes unequivocal statements, but who can’t get himself out of single digits and whose pathetic fundraising dooms him to failure? Brings to mind that Dylan lyric: “Failure’s no success at all.”
    Or do you go with someone whose positions aren’t limned in bright neon line? Someone who gives himself wiggle room? Like Obama or Hillary? Seems to me that not long ago some folks here writing off Obama because he took impeachment off the table. Calling for impeachment was the principled stand–but where did it get Kucinich?
    Or was Kucinich’s problem just that he believed in Martians and banning guns and had nothing to do with any of his principled stands?
    Paul managed to attract some jack with his principled stands, but nothing compared with Obama or Hillary. And I don’t think he broke the double digit barrier, except in one state. Christ, Huckabee did far better than Paul!
    And while we’re on the topic of triangulation, the albatross that’s always slung around a Clinton’s neck, here’s the definition from Wiki. Perhaps someone can tell me how this is any different from what Obama espouses:
    “Triangulation is the act of a candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between” the left and right sides of the political spectrum. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent.”
    And just for the record, I support Obama.

    Reply

  76. Tintin says:

    Much to agree with here in the comment along the lines of Dan, Kovie, and Rich. Also Wigwag. And Zathras.
    But this is the heart of it, isn’t it: “It is ultimately the dilemma of trying inject rationality into presidential campaigns when the swing votes are too easily inflamed, manipulated, and/or driven by non-rational considerations.”
    This applies to many, many, many issues that have consumed the political discussion for lo’ these many years: abortion, gun control, gay marriage, Cuba, free trade, states rights, and on. Before that it was segregation. And communists in our midsts… And before that it was…
    The only times a politician can afford to be bold are when 1) the electorate is undergoing an overwhelming that forges a consensus; 2) when the politician has impeccable bona fides on the OTHER side of the issue to the one he’s addressing the bold move, e.g., Nixon going to China.
    Greg is right to point out that when Carter was in the hot seat, he was no bold leader on Israel/Palestine, nor on nuclear non-proliferation. In fact, he ran, as I recall, as a Democratic hawk. And any number of people have pointed out that Camp David was largely the accomplishment of Begin and Sadat who were willing/eager to come to an agreement WITHOUT Carter’s intervention (though undoubtedly he provided some nice grease).
    Clinton probably deserves more credit than Carter for HIS Camp David for trying to reach an agreement that was REALLY tough…and almost succeeding, despite the Lobby which, despite its powers, did NOT scuttle that effort. Time and lack of will did.

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  77. leo says:

    Other than Steve’s general inclination toward attacking Obama (I guess an establishment figure like Hillary poses less of a learning curve for oldish DC hands) my reaction to this piece is that “Steve’s” letter, with the lengthily ennumerated starry names, was written for a reason which Steve has failed to reveal…
    Why would all these people write to the Annapolis Conference wanting to include Hamas?
    I suppose Hamas was not included, but Why was Hamas not included? I suppose there’s an argument (not revealed here) along the lines that a terrorist group should not be equated with heads of state.
    Was Obama wrong to take this position? It actually seems sensible to me. All those heads of state can now go back to the middle east and send off representatives to talk with Hamas… at the kiddie table.

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  78. Will Bower says:

    Hey there, Steve. Well done, as always.
    I have a question though. Where do you specifically see Obama
    utilizing the principle of Triangulation in this scenario?
    Perhaps it’s semantic, but I’m one of those people of think *highly*
    of Triangulation, and you seem to be using the term as a negative
    in this case.
    Are you meaning to suggest that he’s being a fence rider?

    Reply

  79. rich says:

    Obama’s pragmatism on this issue puts the lie to claims he’s a dreamer, or unrealistic, or somehow just an empty suit.
    Sure, it’d be great if American candidates exhibited bold, visionary leadership prior to getting elected.
    But everyone knows declaring a willingness to talk to Hamas is political suicide for a candidate like Sen. Obama, who’s been misperceived and mischaracterized ad nauseum (usually by hypocrites).
    Obama’s been attacked for a) his willingness to speak to foreign heads of state (remarkable standard there); AND for b) his willingness to attack al Qaeda in Pakistan (suddenly getting Osama bin Laden “Dead or Alive” isn’t a national priority).
    So he’s either a naive peacenik or a reckless militarist.
    Obama can’t win as the Clinton campaign, the DLC, the neocons, and war cheerleaders in the corporate media frantically search for his “Dean Scream” moment.
    When they find it, they’ll be busy, 24/7, painting Obama with the ridicule they dealt to Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean, Al Gore, and Dennis Kucinich.
    When it became ideologically unacceptable for the American President to speak to foreign heads of state–or bring to justice guys like Osama bin Laden, who killed several thousand Americans—I don’t know. Richard Nixon must be rolling in his grave.
    Whether this post is meant to lure SEn. Obama into bold, decisive leadership or into political suicide, I don’t know.
    But one thing is true: Obama will be eviscerated if he goes out on a limb again, exp on a hotly contested issue.
    He’ll be Israel-baited.
    With Joe Lieberman openly stating that the American Occupation of Iraq is about making Israel safer, not primarily about the American national interest–and with Hillary Clinton’s close ties and strong support in the Jewish-American community (and likely facing a warhawk in McCain in the general) . . .
    . . . Barack Obama would be foolhardy to go too far on sensitive, inflamed issues.
    Hell yeah, we should be talking to Hamas.
    No way should Barack Obama be going out on a limb, if he wants to remain a viable candidate, that is. Not in the current political climate. That’s just a recipe for another political lynching in the mainstream media.
    And not given that the margin of victory in various political blocs may be razor-thin.
    The American electorate already know Barack Obama pretty damn well. He’s been smeared and painted black every which way. But he’s none of those things. His reticence in senstive areas displays a cautiousness and pragmatism that’ll ensure his success and insulate him from the vicious, baseless attacks that are the preferred method of political operatives so in vogue today. Operatives like Frank Luntz.

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  80. John Bowlus says:

    Obama should pledge to go to Damascus. His patriotic pronouncement regarding the Beijing Games was stupid and disappointed me. His value in that he can step outside the American political box and he needs to continue to campaign as someone who recognizes the truth in the world and talk to people. He should go meet with anyone and everyone. This argument that talking to enemies undermines the “office” of the presidency is bunk. Bush has undermined that office plenty.
    Obama is on the verge of becoming unspecial and will lose to Hillary Clinton if he loses ability to speak the truth. Realism, people, it’s the only way to deal with others…we know the same about that in our personal lives. Family is all you can count on.

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  81. kovie says:

    Whatever he says publically, the idea that a president Obama wouldn’t have backchannel discussions with Hamas to determine whether open discussions with them would be useful and wise, is ludicrous. Of course he’d do so, or consider doing so. He’s a politician, not a fool, which means that he has to first get elected to get anything done, which means not alienating the Jewish and pro-Israel vote. And then, if elected, he will have to tread very carefully into the I-P waters before committing to any one set of policies and actions, which agreeing to talk to Hamas would constitute. All that he’s said was that he’d be willing to consider talking to leaders of countries with whom we currently have adversarial relations, not that he’d actually do so in each and every case. I have no doubt that if he felt it would be useful, he’d meet with Hamas, and that to find out if this would be useful, he’d be willing to authorize backchannel meetings to see if open meetings were viable and adviseable. But he’s certainly not going to reveal his cards on this one, for both electoral and negotiating reasons. Why should he? Where’s the upside, vs. the downside? Little to none, in either case.

    Reply

  82. David Nassar says:

    Well said Steven. Leaders have always had emissaries to say the
    things they can’t and go where they can’t go until such time as they
    can.

    Reply

  83. WigWag says:

    I’m amazed at the total lack of respect that Senator Obama is getting, even from his ardent supporters. Isn’t it possible that Senator Obama is against meeting with Hamas because he thinks it’s a bad idea? Is it really so inconsistent to favor meetings with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba and oppose meetings with leaders of Hamas? After all, the former are all soverign states, three of which are in the United Nations. Hamas is, at best, a rogue organization that virtually no western leader recognizes and most Arab states detest.
    Hasn’t it occurred to anyone reading Steve’s post that maybe Senator Obama doesn’t support meetings with Hamas because of the effect it might have on his relationship with President Abbas if he does make it to the White House? Isn’t it possible that any efforts a President Obama might make towards peace in the Middle East might actually be hampered if he angers both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert by supporting meetings with Hamas before he gets elected?
    Why does everyone assume that Senator Obama has adopted this position out of political expediency? Give him more credit than that. The Senator seems to be a straight talker. It looks to me like he’s just telling us what he really believes.
    Are the folks who posted comments here so arrogant and so sure of the correctness of their point of view, that it is inconceivable that Senator Obama might actually have a different, more main stream opinion?

    Reply

  84. BillB says:

    I tend to agree with Dan here, and think Obama’s unfortunate statement reflected more a campaign caught off guard rather than a considered policy statement.
    Seeing as how Obama has already called for direct talks with Iran and Syria, I have a hard time believing he would really adhere to preconditions for Hamas.
    I see this as an example of the limits of Obama’s political courage during a heated primary. For me, this is an unfortunate but overall forgivable error.
    And I agree with the person who pointed out that compared to McCain and Clinton, Obama still comes out looking much better even despite this Hamas statement. Of the three, he is still the one who presents the most possibility of responding to pressure such as Steve is exerting here.

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  85. tomj says:

    I thought Obama drew the line of personally meeting with Heads of State of countries who belong to the UN.
    Hamas isn’t part of the UN. Iran is, Cuba is, is this a hard line to draw?

    Reply

  86. Chicagoan says:

    I don’t think that antiwar is out of the true American mainstream. I do think that if my living was dependent on access to power, and that if I had a lot of professional pressure on me to be Serious, as Clemons presumably does, I would feel a lot of unstated pressure not to do things like appear on Antiwar Radio. I’m not dissing antiwar; I’m giving Steve respect for not bowing to that pressure.

    Reply

  87. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hey, Chicago……..
    Care to tell us, (considering the poll numbers in regards to our “war in Iraq”), what is “out of the mainstrem” about Anti-war.com?
    Perhaps you might cite an article that illustrates what it is that prompts you to present the site as less than credible, and “out of the mainstream”.
    Of course, if you are one of those mindless idiots lapping up this horseshit that Fox News defecates on America day in and day out, then yeah, I guess Anti-war is “out of the mainstream”.

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  88. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Bottom line, there’s a reason the Israeli lobbies are partial to Hillary.
    And as Dan points out, isn’t it a bit questionable to take Obama to task for bowing, while ignoring that Hillary is on all fours squealing “Take me, I’m yours”.

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  89. Chicagoan says:

    Dan, the high quality of your posts here and at other blogs has often left me wishing you’d start your own. But we should be straight—while there’s truth in what you say, Steve is taking a not entirely insubstantial risk in being as blunt as he is and has been about the influence of the Lobby. I no more question his motives than I question those of Justin Raimondo—and while I criticize Steve from time to time here in his comments field, there are very few with his access who so go out of their way to legitimize sites like antiwar and rawstory, which are so far out of the mainstream as to make Steve vulnerable by the association.

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  90. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    Of course you are right to point out how disappointing it is that Obama feels he cannot go beyond the line that stops at Hamas. But your headline reads a little bit like “Roosevelt triangulates and refuses to embrace socialism”. Yes, a socialist might have been miffed at Roosevelt for not going all the way, and for stopping at the line of New Deal liberalism. But it would have seemed fair to point out to this disappointed socialist that what Roosevelt was offering was vastly more progressive than anything on offer from any of the other electable candidates.
    It seems a bit churlish to make a show of calling out Obama personally on this issue without pointing out that when it comes to the issue of talking with foreign leaders, Obama clearly comes out far ahead of the two remaining rivals. Why single out the guy who is willing to go three quarters of the way, but won’t go the full Monty, and give a pass to the other two candidates who won’t even go one quarter of the way.
    As someone given to criticizing people for their lack of political realism, you are striking an awfully ingenuous pose here, Steve. Surely even in your charmed, ivory tower world of free dinners, non-stop junkets and accountability-free talkathons it is recognized that there are limits to the universe of opinions one can endorse in a presidential election campaign, while preserving the possibility of actually getting elected.
    You may have noticed that your list of great Americans is also a list of great Americans who are *not running for elective office*, and who also seem to share the great virtue of being old, and the luxury of saying what’s on their mind, penalty free for the most part, as they prepare to pass beyond the twilight and into the shadows.
    If you’re really interested in the phenomenon of political candidates in the US won’t dare go near Hamas with a ten thousand foot pole, then perhaps you could delve into the *reasons* why all politicians in the US feel thus compelled, and expose the centers and sources of political power that exert that massive influence on the body politic. Even the most bold and creative politicians have to recognize that there are ultimate boundaries delimiting the sphere of electability in America. Don’t mock and deride the poor politician who must abide by the reality principle in order to achieve his goals, even though that sometimes forces him to behave in an abjectly humilating way. Blame the people who are out there establishing and enforcing the boundaries, and forcing the humiliating submission.
    Do you think that if Obama wrote a book like *Peace Not Apartheid^, he would have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected in this country? Tell me straight, what do you think would happen if Obama announced tomorrow that he would talk to Hamas if elected? I can tell you what I think would happen. He would get the full Carter treatment. He would get Foxmanned and Dershowitzed into oblivion. A furious campaign to derail his candidacy would be launched with startling alacrity, and within two weeks eighty percent of Democratic superdelegates would have switched to Clinton, having been persuaded that Obama is now unelectable.
    A better headline for your post might be, “Obama forced to knuckle under on Hamas to avoid a campaign-ending onslaught from the Israel lobby.”
    Once again, I really have to question your motives here. My cynical side (or maybe one could call it my *more* cynical side), says that maybe torpedoing Obama is just what you are trying to do. Do you think that by ridiculing him and tauting him you can tempt him to political suicide.

    Reply

  91. Zathras says:

    I’m fairly confident that Jimmy Carter has long forgotten his 1976 campaign statements. Whatever his faults, an excess of self-awareness is not one of them.
    With that said, there is a big difference between doing things as President that the American public will go along with and getting the public’s approval for those things beforehand in an election campaign. Hamas is, in fact, a terrorist group; it is dedicated to destroying the state of Israel and to killing Jews, and would be regardless of what the status of Palestinians in Gaza was right now. A new administration might well feel it necessary to engage Hamas diplomatically (I actually agree that there is no alternative to this), and would have a strong claim to the benefit of the doubt from Congress and the public when the time comes. It would be foolhardy, however, for a Presidential candidate to take on this issue in a Presidential campaign, certainly not at the stage this campaign is in.
    I understand this reality is upsetting to people who work in foreign policy for a living. They will recover. I’m not an Obama supporter, but any Presidential campaign will face issues like this. You win it now, you fix it later.

    Reply

  92. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its fitting that this thread comes right on the heels of the coupla Luntz pieces. The fact is that this Isr/Pal issue has been proffessionally framed now for many decades, resulting in an American public that is woefully uninformed, and worse; grossly and purposely misinformed.
    In just a matter of months, these proffessional con-men like this scumbag Luntz were able to purposely and cunningly misinform a major segment of the American public into believing the the 9/11 attacks, Saddam, al-Qaeda, and Iraq were all tied together.
    Just think, if the Bush administration could foist such a large scale con on the American people in such a short time, what DECADES of such proffessionally administered propaganda can accomplish. This is EXACTLY how the public has been carefully groomed to have this favorable opinion of Israel, and such a visceral disdain for the Palestinians. Even on this blog, we have seen how any criticism of Israel usually illicits a reaction that includes an army of “new posters” seeking to turn the thread into a forum on “anti-semitism”. Hasbara is not a conspiracy theory, it is a know entity, and it is foolish to think that AIPAC and the various other pro-Israel lobby groups do not actively seek and retain the services of these proffessional liars like Frank Luntz.
    Point being? Well, the decades long project of propaganda launched by Israel, its lobbys, and these proffessional propagandists has resulted in a political atmosphere that makes fact based treatment of the Isr/Pal issue IMPOSSIBLE for any politician to pursue, as it is political suicide. The pro-Israel spin and slant is so deeply engrained in the American public’s perception, that any candidate that seeks to break free of this mass mis-information campaign is demonized, villified, labeled, and neutralized.
    Obama has already shown us that he is unwilling to commit political suicide, and that he will take the course of action that he HAS TO if he truly aspires to occupy the Oval Office. Truth is, he CAN’T get there without kissing Israeli ass, and echoing the pro-Israeli mis-informational propaganda. No politician can. It is a reality in today’s political climate. If Israel doesn’t want you to be President, you won’t be. And if they do LET YOU achieve the Presidency, you will pay with your fealty.
    Period.
    That is how powerful they have become in determining who our leaders will be, and what foreign policies we will employ.

    Reply

  93. David says:

    Greg P does make a very important point. I have been troubled for a long time that anyone who would aspire to win the presidency must prove her/his Israel creds in a form that cannot be turned into an attack sound byte by her/his opponents. If I remember correctly, Howard Dean caught hell for suggesting that the United States needed a balanced policy (I don’t remember his exact words) in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
    Jimmy Carter’s words in ’76 perfectly underscore the dilemma for presidential candidates.
    I also remember when former Florida governor Reuben Askew suggested a rational policy toward Cuba.
    In this particular instance, blame American voters for their short-sightedness and refusal to give a majority vote to any candidate who would take an even-handed position on either of these issues, even though Steve’s take is absolutely correct on both counts.
    It is ultimately the dilemma of trying inject rationality into presidential campaigns when the swing votes are too easily inflamed, manipulated, and/or driven by non-rational considerations.
    If Obama can navigate this minefield successfully, get elected, and then sit down with advisers and do the right thing in the Middle East, he will have to be given serious consideration as a great president.
    I think the question relevant to this election cycle is Which candidate will do the least harm in the Middle East? Maybe it’s time to remember one of the most basic principles of sound medical practice: first do no harm.

    Reply

  94. Chicagoan says:

    Steve is 100% right here. It seems that a general consensus has
    settled in that the primary race is more or less a matter of Clinton
    playing out the string, and so I hope to see a hell of a lot more
    people following Steve’s lead and exerting pressure on Obama for
    nonsense like this rather than cheerleading.
    We should also remember that Walt and Mearsheimer lost a lot,
    personally and professionally, for being so blunt about the
    influence of this special interest in our politics, and applaud our
    host for his simple honesty here, which doesn’t come without its
    risks and burdens.

    Reply

  95. ringo says:

    Actually I agree with Greg P on this one. It would be nice if a candidate could be totally transparent about every issue, but this taken to extreme will result in the candidate being picked apart by every small, loud interest group he/she has offended.
    I read Obama as much more likely to be progressive on Israel than Hillary … I hope he can make it to the presidency without too many contortions.

    Reply

  96. Greg P says:

    I agree with your overall take, Steve, with this caveat: every successful presidential candidate in the past 40 years (at least) has tried to project a “more pro-Israel-than-my-opponent” stance during their election campaign.
    Since President Carter is the person cited here, let’s go back to 1976 for an example, when he had criticized President Ford during a televised debate for talking about a “reassessment” of US-Israel relations as part of Kissinger’s negotiating strategy:
    http://www.debates.org/pages/trans76b.html

    MR. CARTER: Well, I’d like to go back just one moment to the previous question, where uh – Mr. Ford, I think, confused the issue by trying to say that we are shipping Israel 40 percent of our aid. As a matter of fact, during this current year uh we are shipping Iran, or have contracted to ship to Iran, about seven and a half billion dollars worth of arms and also to Saudi Arabia, about seven and a half billion dollars worth of arms. Also in 1975, we almost brought Israel to their knees after the uh – Yom Kippur War by the so-called reassessment of our relationship to Israel. We in effect tried to make Israel the scapegoat for the problems in the Middle East. And this weakened our relationships with Israel a great deal and put a cloud on the total commitment that our people feel toward the Israelis. There ought to be a clear, unequivocal commitment without change to Israel.

    So anyway, there is certainly some room for hope that despite some pandering during the campaign, an individual will go on to carry out policies that differ from those suggested before the election. We really don’t know what Barack Obama thinks about the issue at this point, and if his views are as you and I would wish them to be, we might just be better off if he kept them to himself until after the election.

    Reply

  97. WhyMe? says:

    Steve Clemons is turning out to be the conscience of foreign policy.
    His blog is totally on fire lately, and I think that some of you who get a bit tipsy criticizing our host don’t see how this blog is pretty much setting the tempo of public debate. He was the counterpoint on Hillary and the Olympics. He broke the news on Condi and her Norquist meeting visit. He is forcing Cuba policy to change. It’s obvious. And now, he’s pushing Obama and some of his f.p. advisers to heed the views of his gaggle of people at the New America Foundation.
    I have no choice given the standing three but to support Obama, but I want Clemons to punch Obama into shape. I wonder if any of these campaigns would consider submitting their ideas to TWN for a stamp of approval first?

    Reply

  98. ... says:

    UNFORTUNATELY, this overwrought denunciation rests on the faulty premise that the United States is currently led by a president who would do anything constructive whatsoever with whatever initiative might be pursued by Jimmy Carter or any other capable emissary for the United States.
    Timing matters in international diplomatic initiatives.
    A chat session between Jimmy Carter and Hamas leadership, no matter how earnest, no matter how productive would be worthless without subsequent backing from GWB. Does anyone living on planet Earth really believe GWB or Cheney would ever acknowledge that Jimmy Carter had offered more productive leadership in the Middle East than they had? Let’s have some realism here.

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  99. Jai says:

    Thanks for highlighting this Steve — though after his primary loss in Ohio, and Obama’s public disavowal/distancing of Zbigniew Brzezinski days prior to the vote, I am not all that surprised that he has to now draw a public line on Hamas.
    Obama lost Ohio big time and he spent a large portion of that final week trying to convince ‘concerned’ Jewish primary voters that he a) disagreed with Zbig’s stance on the lobby, among other matters and b) that his middle name had no bearing on his actual faith. This is all to say that he’s still very vulnerable among this core demographic of voters — and his campaign team must be trying a new strategy ahead of PA.
    Obama has had the unfortunate, overwhelming burden of having to publicly flesh out the minutiae of his views on Israel and the greater Middle East during this primary season — leaving much more open to public dissection (take a look at the incessant, seemingly obsessive coverage of Obama’s views on Israel in Haaretz, the JPost, and the NYSun).
    While I found his distancing of Zbig regrettable, one can hope that he’d listen to Brzezinski’s counsel — and those that signed your letter — if he makes it to the White House.
    It’s also interesting to note that Nader, in part, decided to run again because of Obama’s rightward drifting on Israel and the Middle East.

    Reply

  100. Ben Rosengart says:

    Off topic —
    This blog often runs photos which are informative but
    aesthetically undistinguished. This picture of Jimmy Carter, in
    contrast, is quite well done. Good going.
    On topic, thanks for pressing my favored candidate to clarify his
    foreign policy. This is the *good* kind of criticism, IMHO.

    Reply

  101. stardust says:

    Good show Steven. You have very clearly shown that you have a clear vision in mind in your foreign policy views and are willing to challenge BOTH Obama and Clinton for their weak-knee moments.
    Obama’s call for preconditions completely contradicts his previously stated views. I support him, but I find is backsliding to show that he’s just as political as the rest.
    Which Obama will we get if he wins. These kinds of statements call into question his sincerity and honesty. We don’t know who the real guy is, and while we are occasionally tough on you, we all have to admit that you have a knack for picking the soft points of politicians and building a tidal wave of interest.
    Thank you for your hard work and for educating all of us. I think I still prefer Obama but he has fallen a notch or two in my estimation for flip-flopping on one of the most important slogans of his campaign.
    Pretty sad of him to do that. Hopefully, he’ll correct his views.

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  102. DonS says:

    Once again, the absence of a countervailing lobby makes it possible for politicians to pander to the Israel lobby, and basically to poison the well, again, far into the future.
    It makes one’s head want to explode, the trumping of politics over sanity.
    Oh, I guess we don’t really need confirming, yet differentiating comments to the right, by Hillary or St. McCain.

    Reply

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