Politics, Foreign Policy, Blogging and Saguaros: <em>TWN</em> Video Clips and a Tucson Update


After a week of some too chilly days and uncooperative ice flows (though things are now warming) in Washington, Tucson is paradise. Tonight I saw the stars — all of them, well, lots of them — and a great sunset on a 70 degree evening from the Skyline Country Club where I enjoyed a very interesting evening with about 110 members of the Tucson Committee on Foreign Relations.
These committees which are in many cities of the United States — all networked together in an organization called the American Committees on Foreign Relations — are packed with retired military, foreign service officers and ambassadors, and academics as well as folks just interested in the world. The political orientation, while representing every complexion of the political establishment, is mostly fixed on just being engaged, interested, and hoping for debate.
I enjoyed an interview tonight on KUAT-Channel 6 PBS tonight on a show called Arizona Illustrated with host Bill Buckmaster. We talked politics, and you can watch the clip here if you like. I liked the exchange quite a bit.
Bill referred to my blog as one of the top ten in the country — when it is really on Congressional Quarterly‘s top ten in Washington political circles, but who’s counting.
And following are a couple of television clips from encounters I had earlier in the week about politics, the internet and blogging on France 24 — sort of France’s answer to CNN.
I really enjoyed this too — though my co-panelists — Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief at France 24.com, Guillaume Payre, and Jerome Guillet — earned my envy as they got to walk off the stage into Paris, and I was in Washington. Here is the segment on “Politics and the Internet.”
And then here is a second segment that ran on France 24 more specifically on “Blogs and Politics.”
Just submitted for your interest.
I really apologize to the Tucson students and bloggers who contacted me wanting a coffee session. Regrettably I have to catch a 6 am flight back to DC, but I really wish I could hang out and see the big rodeo festival and talk Tucson blogs with some of you. The annual rodeo here combined with a golf extravaganza including Tiger Woods and some other golf stars has taken every available room in the city tomorrow and through the weekend.
I fly back to Washington tomorrow — and will try to report more on the Chuck Hagel dinner I helped organize the other night and more on what I have learned about Iran’s May 2003 offer to the U.S. suggesting comprehensive negotiations.
More later.
— Steve Clemons


21 comments on “Politics, Foreign Policy, Blogging and Saguaros: <em>TWN</em> Video Clips and a Tucson Update

  1. rich says:

    Since there’s such a need at the local level for sincere discussion of foreign policy, I’d been giving some thought to locally-generated committees. So I checked out the website the day you posted.
    I want to emphasize here I’m not posting to condemn, tar&feather, or jump to conclusions. Just examine what little we know. These guys could be reasonable.
    I’ve no doubt they’re a thoughtful bunch and full of bright people with a lot to offer. I did notice, though, that individuals may join the group by invitation only. Telling, if understandable.
    The links/resources page offers a very staid set of mainstream media outlets (Newsweek, Time, AP), which lists heavily to the right (Weekly Standard, National Interest, National Review)–but it ALSO includes The Nation and the National Journal. (note–I found the photo of the newspaper-holdin’ guy at http://www.acfr.org/acfrmemberssite.htm amusing). But columnist links are solely right-wing (or false moderates): Krauthammer, Kondracke, Matt Drudge, Howard Kurtz, Novak, Will (even Broder, Dowd, & Geyer aren’t centrist).
    I liked Ken Jensen’s letter a lot–there’s a huge need for Washington, DC folks to interact with experts & laity and access resources in the “hinterlands.” I will point out that it would only repeat DC’s fatal error if the Committees acted as exclusive enclaves, relative to their localities.
    Finally, three points. I have no doubt the expertise and thought is well-intentioned. But I question whether it’s distinct from DC ‘elite’ [sic] culture, OR equipped to meet contemporary global challenges, w/o grassroots input. Here’s why:
    1. They gave their first Distinguished Service Award for the Advancement of American Public Discourse on Foreign Policy to Donald P. Gregg. That’s VERY Old Guard. Anybody out there know what Donald P. Gregg has done for Public Discourse? I know what ELSE he’s done, but will leave it to Den Valdron to itemize the record. If these guys can’t make a distinction between the notorious Gregg and a new way forward, I question their capacity to offer reasonable, Constitutionally oriented solutions. Recipient selection of such awards speaks volumes about the organization.
    2. Newsletter recounts the Nashville Committee briefing by and tour of SOCOM & CENTCOM–incl Gen. Abizaid–which is fine. But rigidity of Abizaid’s thoughts won’t resolve the current problem, nor its roots: there’s a fundamental mis-apprehension of the situation. “Killing terrorists” or “killing commies” isn’t going to alter the nationalist & tribalist resistance of an occupier that’s continually violated local custom, human patience, and moral codes & realpolitik generally. (Abizaid is FACTUALLY in error in supposing that dealing w/ monetary or moral [sic] poverty will alleviate terrorism–many ‘terrorists’ are educated & middle class. Off-point, but disturbing.)
    This repeats a classic US mistake in Vietnam–the VIP tour has been a staple of Iraq from the start, w/guests staying in Kuwaiti hotels ferried into & outof Iraq each day (see early accts). Precisely the same tool used in Vietnam–one viewed bitterly by soldiers and civilian alike. One identified as a fatal flaw in US policy & process in that war. At root, a dog-n-pony show designed to curry support among ‘elites’–but short-circuit the need to alter methods or address the real problems. So how elite are people who only listen to themselves? Who don’t eagerly access new ideas & new sources or test their own ideas in the public arena?
    I’m willing to be open-minded as hell about these Committees, Steve. And I DID NOT start with a knee-jerk reaction. Or even come away negatively on my first site-visit. Again, ACFR may do some good work–but that’s gotta include some fealty to effective solutions, and to the social contract–not to maintenance of the breach of that contract.
    3. AND I DID notice AMANDA SOKOLOV is on staff as Program Manager, prompting curiosity on whether she’s any relation to HENRY Sokolov? (Intrigued readers can find info in the newsletters & programs section.) Turns out they’re married. Love is a beautiful thing.
    Henry Sokolov’s spoken at ACFR Conferences. Ok. That’s great. HE also appeared Feb 22 on the NewsHour, spouting a suite of inflammatory lies about Iran’s nuclear plans and capabilities.
    He made claims for which there was NO evidence. He leapt to imputing mal-intent, when even the facts in evidence don’t support any such claims about capability of the program itself. Nevermind that Sokolov’s lies are exposed by mainstream journalists in recent weeks & years:
    Sokolov: “When [Iran does], you pass a Rubicon, where you come within weeks of being able to make what you need for a bomb.” . . “Once these machines get to the point where they can make enough fuel to fuel a reactor, you can switch that machine overnight to make a bomb.”
    Give it a listen. Henry Sokolov is the new John Bolton. He’s falsely asserting a threat from Iran, w/ZERO evidence, when in fact WE are the aggressor. The US has NO claim to self-defense.
    Further, his dishonesty is proven almost immediately: Said Sokolov, “our government and the European three believe that and have said it. More important, I think the IAEA is very, very concerned. I mean, if they thought that there was no issue here, they would not be laying down these reports.”
    ONLY YESTERDAY, though, the LATimes showed Sokolov & te recent IAEA report to be false, b/c it was based on faulty (manufactured) “intelligence” provided by the US ! See: http://tinyurl.com/ypwbjg
    –“diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency HAS PROVED INACCURATE and NONE has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.
    The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to [the IAEA] since 2002. . But NONE of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear EVIDENCE that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.
    “Since 2002, PRETTY MUCH ALL THE INTELLIGENCE THAT’S COME TO US HAS PROVED TO BE WRONG,” a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency’s intelligence stream as “very cold now” because “so little panned out.”
    Recall that Plame’s humint WMD network in Iran was rolled up & that other blunders cost us any intel from inside Iran.
    Henry Sokolov is the new John Bolton. IF–I say IF–this is the ONLY kinda guy the ACFR listens to, then this country is in DEEP trouble.
    Again, they may be informed, thoughtful, well-intentioned. But if they cannot acquire facts and sound counsel, they reside in the same bubble Bush & DC does. That’s a huge problem, as our experience in Vietnam–and Iraq–proved.
    Insularity is the last thing this country needs in debating matters of war and peace. It’s proven costly, and damaging, to American interests & national security–and has failed to support our soldiers as they fought in Vietnam & Iraq–putting them in completely untenable positions (Is that granny the enemy? that kid? See the Toledo Blade’s ’04 Pulitzer). It undermines the intent of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
    We need more air and light let into these processes, particularly in the social, cultural, and organizational practices of groups such as the ACFR. It’s great they’re broadening participation in the discussion–but if everybody already agrees with each other, there’ll be no substantive fruit.
    Further, Steve, at your afternoon wine thing-ee, you noted that ~’insiders’ had run out of ideas–had “exhausted” every avenue known to them. ACFR can help a lot–but it’s clear they’re just as exhausted–and lacking in new blood. New ideas will come from outside those circles.


  2. rich says:

    Henry Sokolov & Ray Takeyh’s interview on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour is here:
    The LATimes’ article discrediting Sokolov’s inflammatory assertions is here:
    U.N. calls U.S. data on Iran’s nuclear aims unreliable:
    Tips about supposed secret weapons sites and documents with missile designs haven’t panned out, diplomats say.
    By Bob Drogin and Kim Murphy, February 25, 2007


  3. PrahaPartizan says:

    Steve, I’m just commenting from the information they posted on their website. You clearly didn’t understand my concern that an average citizen could not just attempt to join the organization, based on what they themselves post on their own website.
    Your experience might be different, but I would expect that. Just browse around the ACFR website yourself and tell me why one wouldn’t come to the same conclusions I did. Perhaps you can tell me how one manages to get “invited” to join, based on the people identified by the ACFR as being members on the committees. If you can present me different information, I’m more than willing to change my conclusion.


  4. Steven Clemons says:

    PrahaCitizen: How many of these ACFR groups have you visited. I have visited one is Dubuque, Tulsa, Burmingham, Nashvillie, Casper and Tucson. My experience is different than that which you assert. These are good groups — and they draw in a relatively diverse crowd, in some cases some local students.
    I’m reminded of John Maynard Keynes who was accosted by someone on an occasion attacking Keynes for changing his view on some economic matter. Keynes said something like “Sir, when presented with new information, I adjust my views accordingly. What sir do you when confronted with new information.”
    The same might apply to your depiction of the ACFR groups.
    best regards — and thanks for your note,
    Steve Clemons


  5. Robert Morrow says:

    “Class can be dirt-poor, fair-to-middlin’, or just plain dripping pedigree.” – Rich
    That’s right. Some people seem confuse “class” with having money or having some sort of a fancy academic pedigree. I’ve got a maid that comes over every 2 weeks to clean my house: she’s reliable, dependable, polite and does not steal. She is also very religious and is big into taking care of her grandkids. I would call her “class.” I once lent her $2,000 so she could so down to Mexico to check on an ailing aunt and I never, ever “lend” money to people because most seem to think “lend” = “give.” She and her family paid off the loan within ONE month when all the paychecks came in JUST LIKE THEY SAID THEY WOULD.
    Most of my own family I would not lend 20 bucks.
    Let’s compare my classy “lower class” maid to a Clinton, Hillary or Bill. Could you imagine either one of those grifters, moochers, liars, cheats, temper tantrum domestic-violence scumbags ever keeping their word on anything? Hillary is known for her abusive tongue, personal putdowns and military barracks vocabulary. I would define that as “trash.” [Hillary also likes to wear cross pendants.]
    When Hillary was receiving the award for 1984 Arkansas Mother of the Year (while Chelsea was being raised by a nanny), state trooper Ralph Parker who was backstage remarked that they should be giving Hillary an award for “Motherf*cker of the Year.” Hillary and Bill are worth tens of millions and are hyper-educated Wellesley/Georgetown/Yale Law School/Oxford alumni and yet they have lived a trashy, classless Jerry Springer lifestyle for DECADES. If they had lived in a trailer park and not a governor’s mansion Chelsea might have been taken from their custody.
    So my uneducated maid, who does not wear a bunch of cross pendants like Hillary does, is “class.” And Hillary and Bill, who was toting around a 5 lb Bible on Easter Sunday, 1996 (4/7/96), just before he was getting a BJ from the hired help, are “trash.”


  6. PrahaPartizan says:

    Christ on a crutch, I don’t understand you Clemons. Your comment about the American Committee on Foreign Relations — “…are packed with retired military, foreign service officers and ambassadors, and academics as well as folks just interested in the world. The political orientation, while representing every complexion of the political establishment, is mostly fixed on just being engaged, interested, and hoping for debate…” — just boggles the imagination.
    Have you bothered to look at the ACFR membership page to see how a person can join and the type of people who join. It’s done by invitation only and the membership is drawn from community elites. It’s no wonder it’s packed with movers’n’shakers. The organization draws its “membership” from that strata of society. No hippies need apply, no matter how interested they might be in “debating” foreign affairs and foreign relations.
    Also, take a look at the media folks associated with the ACFR and the sources it recommends. They’re right-wing, almost every last one except, for those which are completely compromised. I bet these committees have some very interesting debates, just so long as the decision have been reached well in advance. This group sounds like the American equivalent of all of those extreme right-wing secret organizations littering the South American landscape plotting on how to retain their control of the government and its sources of funds.


  7. rich says:

    Robert Morrow:
    –“I have 200+ books on the Clintons . . .”–
    –“David Geffen is just another in a LONG line of very close intimates of the Clintons to point out what trashy people they are.”–
    I think we should listen to what people have to say, whether they come from Rhinelander or Frog Jump or Hayward. When Strom Thurmond’s ‘illegitimate’ African-American daughter came out, the WashPost ran an article profiling Strom’s family matriarch, whose haughtiness & rage violated every possible interpretation of the word ‘gracious’ or ‘classy.’ Bill Frist’s family also embodies this inversion of ‘class,’ as is somewhat desperately advertised by the title of his book, “Good People Beget Good People.” Both betray a snottiness that’s closer to the truly trashy than it is the very real class and grace that crosses social & economic boundaries. Class can be dirt-poor, fair-to-middlin’, or just plain dripping pedigree. Around here, i.e the USA, it’s got a democratic streak. Clinton’s closer to Abe Lincoln than any Livingston or Pierce or Prescott will ever come to class.
    Any suggestion that Arkansas ‘was not ready for prime time’ –or New Mexico, for that matter, Steve– needs to rethink just how different or on the up-and-up DC or NY or anywhere else really ever was. Somebody’s been ‘trashing our house,’ but who? Cultural differences don’t equate to degrees of professionalism. Ask Bob Livingston. Or Cokie Roberts.
    –“Geffen, who raised $18M for the Clintons, says they lie with such ease it is disturbing.”–
    And how does that distinguish them from anyone else in Washington? Sorry, but what’s saucy for the goose, is saucy for the gander. They’ve stiff competition in McConnell, Lieberman, McCain, Rice, Cheney. Hey–and Nick Burns lies easily too.
    Anybody else catch his performance on the NewsHour last night? Don’t get me wrong–Burns is head&shoulders above Bolton: articulate, stable, even exceptional–but last night he repeated the brand new set of lies about Iran’s nuclear energy program. And because Burns has a more temperate & reasonable tone, or comes off that way, he’ll carry more weight. Problem is, there is no evidence to support what he said. Even the true points are beside the point: obviously arms flow from Iran—but the scope of SUNNI cash & guns flowing into Iraq far exceeds that–AND accounts for the majority of attacks on US forces. Burn’s purpose wasn’t to tell the truth.
    But he’s also not doing it for the greater good this time. Yes, I understand that to get the Sunnis on board an Iraqi coalition govt you have to (appear to) go after Shiite forces–and that diplomats have to subordinate the truth & your moral compass for a political objective. But all that takes a back seat to the context of Bush’s MO of muscling us into ‘pre-emptive’ [sic], baseless, illegitimate wars.
    Evidence, please. Many of Bush’s Iran-WMD statements have been discredited. There’s little proof the threat suddenly exceeds the facts. Many news accounts contradict Nick Burns’ line.
    MOST egregiously, several times Nick Burns said the US/Bush is ready to negotiate, but that IRAN is refusing to come to the table. This an OUTRIGHT INVERSION of the facts. The US is intransigent, and has repeatedly nixed talks w/Iran AND Syria. It’s IRAN that has repeatedly appealed for talks. I can rationalize away Burn’s other lies–but not THIS.
    The US condition for talks is tantamount to Iran renouncing its own sovereignty–just knuckle under and cave on all points nuclear, prior to any talks. It’s a set-up designed to enable Burns’ lie about Iran’s position. It’s also inherently intransigent. No nation could agree; it’s designed to fail. It’s also a form of extortion: ‘Give up on every negotiating point, or no talks.’ Exactly the same method Bush used in Iraq against Hussein: ‘Leave the country in 48 hours, or we start bombing.’
    Nick Burns is not going to save you. Don’t we have three aircraft carrier groups in the Gulf now, or near? Two sub groups? Purely defensive, right? What he’s doing endangers our security.
    Steve, I’m reminded that Bolton is very articulate and reasonable when he wants to be. So how well does your basis for objecting to John Bolton really align with the basis your readers? From here, the diff between Bolton & Burns looks like a matter of degree, not kind. Many object to Bolton on POLICY grounds (& Burns too as he’s so willing), not on internecine bureaucratic infighting or technicalities. The whole game is up, not just pieces of it.
    Pre-Iraq invasion, John Bolton could be found screaming on network TV that “the French & Germans (sovereign, democratic nations) should just shut up & follow orders.” The message couldn’t be more clear: Bolton was enforcing just who was issuing the orders this time, as both countries knew “I was just following orders” didn’t work at Nuremberg, either. Now, Burns is insisting we we swallow the rhetorical basis for war–that we, too, follow cognitive orders by accepting whatever line of crap is Orwellian enough to intimidate us into silence.


  8. karenk says:

    Thanks so much for that info Steve (ACFR).
    And I didn’t see the cactus that way at first but I gotta say Punchy’s got the funny!


  9. Pissed Off American says:

    Wonderful, our resident genocidal right wing Bush adoring bigot Muslim hater, Morrow, posts a glowing endorsment of Obama, (as an excuse to trash Hillary).
    As much as I despise Hillary, the one thing she has going for her is how terrified the right seems to be of her.
    And I’m sure Obama would be thrilled to be endorsed by Morrow after reading a few of Morrow’s droolings.


  10. Robert Morrow says:

    Barack Obama was in Austin, TX Friday and pulled in a WHOPPING 21,841 attendees. That is one of the biggest political rallies in Austin in years if not decades. http://www.texansforobama.com
    I told you Obama was my man of the year for 2006 and it looks like he will pull a repeat in 2007. You know, if Hillary comes down to Austin, she might pull in 4,000 people plus anti-war protestors and Freeper protesters who hate her from the 1990’s. I guess it might be dawning on Hillary that if you treat people like dirt for 35 years it’s hard to find friends when you need them.
    Speaking of close friends of the Clintons – David Geffen is just another in a LONG line of very close intimates of the Clintons to point out what trashy people they are. Geffen, who raised $18M for the Clintons, says they lie with such ease it is disturbing. I have 200+ books on the Clintons and that has been the rap on them for DECADES.
    All I can say is “Go, Obama” and “Go, John Edwards.” It is going to be a humiliating, long overdue and well deserved loss for Hillary in the Demo primary. The CFR is about to demote the Clintons to the also ran bin.


  11. Pissed Off American says:

    BTW, hears the link to the article….


  12. Pissed Off American says:

    Uh oh! Its time for another “Lying Sack(s) of Shit Alert”………
    This morning, perusing the front page of the Los Angeles Times, I was alarmed to see the main following headline……..
    “Iran’s nuclear effort in high gear, U.N. says”
    “The report raises fears Tehran may be capable of a warhead in a year.”
    Now, my first thought was “Gee, within a year, I better read this.”
    So I read it.
    You should too.
    At NO POINT in the article does it qualify or explain the sentence;
    “The report raises fears Tehran may be capable of a warhead in a year.”
    The closest I could find was a paragraph that states;
    “A facility that large, if it functions properly, could produce enough highly enriched uranium in a year to build a nuclear warhead. A senior U.N. diplomat here cautioned that the Iranian schedule was “fairly optimistic” and said that the highly sensitive linked centrifuges, called cascades, may not be operational before the fall.”
    Now just call me cynical, but do we REALLY want our media feeding us this kind of dishonest and exagerated fearmongering horseshit?? And is the collective body of the American citizenry REALLY so fuckin’ ignorant that they are BUYING this kind of obviously dishonest headlining and propaganda?
    The L.A. Times owes each and every American an apology, and those that wrote and edited that one sentence should promptly be FIRED for breaching journalistic ethics. When are these sons of bitches in the media going to stop feeding this shit to us??


  13. gq says:

    I’m from the southwest and can say that almost all saguaros “give you the finger”.
    Personally, I felt like Steve was giving me the finger whe he mentioned Hagel again. But hey, as long as a handful of posts don’t bloviate about Hagel, I’m happy.


  14. Steve Clemons says:

    MP — I know that. I was teasing back. Just joshing, steve


  15. MP says:

    Ah, Steve, I don’t think anyone’s criticizing you here–just teasing.


  16. Steve Clemons says:

    it’s getting funny that my picture selection gets criticized no matter what I put up… hope all is well with folks. just arrived in dc,
    steve clemons


  17. FaceOnMars says:

    Interesting to hear/see a beautiful anchor employed by a MSM entity harp on the internet. She’s definitely no dummy, but I wonder if she’d have the same position if she were 300lbs and thinning hair?


  18. MP says:

    I ALSO saw the cactus that way…and then said to myself, “Nah, I won’t mention it.”
    What does that say about US?


  19. Scott says:

    “Why is that cactus giving me the finger?”
    Thank god I wasn’t the only one. I had to double check that I wasn’t at Tbogg…


  20. Punchy says:

    Why is that cactus giving me the finger?


  21. Carol Gee says:

    You are so wise to get out of Washington on a regular basis. The fact is that folks in Tucson (and Bartlesville, OK) are vitally interested in foreign policy, too. That is often lost on those in certain corners of the Washington Foreign Policy establishment that have become far too insular to understand what the real deal is.


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