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“GOP’s Condemnation Of Trump Pure Hypocrisy”: What Is Right Does Not Change From Red State To Blue

Here’s the thing about principle.

Unless applied equally it is not really principle at all. He who climbs on his moral high horse when a wrong is done to him or his, but leaves the horse stabled when an identical wrong is done to someone else, acts from self-interest and that is the opposite of principle.

All of which renders rather hollow the GOP’s recent chastisement of its problem child, Donald Trump, over an insult to Sen. John McCain. As you’ve no doubt heard, Trump, speaking at a conference of Christian conservatives, took issue with a suggestion that McCain, a Vietnam-era Navy flier shot down by the North Vietnamese, is a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump shot back. Then, perhaps hearing what he had just blurted, Trump turned smarmy and facetious. “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” he said, in the same tone you might use to say someone is a poet because he scribbled a limerick on a bathroom wall. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He’s a war hero because he was captured, OK? And I believe — perhaps he’s a war hero.”

McCain, should it need saying, is a war hero, period, full stop. If that term doesn’t fit a man who survived five brutal years in enemy hands — and refused an offer of release as the son of an American admiral because it did not include his fellow captives — then it doesn’t fit anyone.

So Trump deserves every bit of scorn his party has heaped upon him. He deserved to have Jeb Bush call his remark “slanderous” and Rick Perry to call it “offensive.” He deserved Rick Santorum’s tweet that “McCain is an American hero,” and the Republican National Committee’s statement that “there is no place in our party or our country” for such remarks. In a word, he deserved condemnation.

But the people who slandered John Kerry deserved it, too. The Secretary of State is also a war hero, period, full stop. If that term doesn’t fit a wounded man who braved enemy fire to fish another man out of a river, then it doesn’t fit anyone. Yet in 2004 when then-Sen. Kerry ran for president and a shadowy Republican-allied group mocked that heroism and baselessly called Kerry a liar, the GOP had a different response.

Jeb Bush wrote a letter praising those who questioned Kerry’s heroism. Perry declined to condemn them. “I think that there’s a lot of questions,” he said. Santorum said Kerry “brought this upon himself” by emphasizing his military service. And Republicans went to their convention sporting small purple bandages in mockery of Kerry’s Purple Heart.

That behavior was what Trump’s comment is: shameful. It is to their discredit that so many Republicans failed to condemn it as such. Interestingly enough, at least one did. His name was John McCain.

Perhaps he understood that principle is not politics. And that what is right does not change from red state to blue.

This much is surely right: It is a sin to mock the honorable service of those who have gone into harm’s way on their country’s behalf, particularly if, like Trump, you’ve never served a day in your life. We’ve seen a lot of this in recent years: It happened to former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who left three limbs in Vietnam, happened to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha who spent 37 years in the Marines, happened to Kerry and has happened more than once to McCain.

Principle — a decent respect for the sacrifices of military men and women for this country — demands that patriotic Americans condemn this, no matter who it happens to. But if, somehow, your condemnation depends on whether the insulted person is of your political party, please understand that there is a word for what motivates you, and “principle” is not it.

“Hypocrisy” is.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, John Kerry, John McCain | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Whole Debate Is A Charade”: Let’s Stop Pretending Republicans Have A Serious Critique Of The Iran Deal

Secretary of State John Kerry went to Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. As expected he absorbed a lot of insults and invective from Republicans who are critical of the deal. Along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Kerry tried to rebut the criticisms as best he could.

But you could see in Kerry’s occasionally exasperated expression something that we all ought to be willing to acknowledge: This whole debate is a charade.

There’s a reason no Republican has managed to answer President Obama’s challenge to articulate an alternative that would be preferable to what the six-party negotiations produced, and it isn’t because this deal is perfect or couldn’t have been better. It’s that from where Republicans sit, any deal negotiated with Iran is a bad one by definition.

That’s partly because it was negotiated by the Obama administration, of course, and the GOP has gotten itself to a position where opposition to pretty much anything Barack Obama does is not just reflexive but mandatory for any elected Republican who wants to keep his job. It’s also because the sustained critique of Obama’s foreign policy that Republicans have pushed for the last six and a half years is that everything Obama does is “weak.” The word comes up again and again in Republican statements about foreign policy; ask them what they’d do differently, and in every situation their answer always revolves around being stronger. The content of this strength is rarely detailed, but when it is it usually involves more aggressive use of the military.

And it assumes that when dealing with adversaries like Iran, negotiation is weak, again by definition. Negotiation means talking to those we hate, and even offering them concessions. Successful negotiation ends with an outcome that our adversaries actually praise, when what we really want is for them to fall to their knees and surrender to our might. This is what elected Republicans believe, and more importantly, it’s what they’ve been telling their constituents for years, so it’s what those constituents demand.

So there was literally no deal this administration could have negotiated with Iran that Republicans would have agreed to. None. From their perspective, the substance of the deal never mattered. No one who has been remotely attentive to our politics in recent years could honestly deny that.

And there’s something important to understand about whether Republicans have an alternative. Yes, it’s a reasonable rhetorical point to demand that they explain what other kind of deal they’d support. But right now, they are actually proposing an alternative: that the U.S. pull out of this deal. And we need to explore what that means.

You can argue that this deal should have been different, but when it comes time to vote on whether it should go forward, members of Congress will be choosing between two options, neither of them hypothetical. A yes vote means all the parties — not only Iran and the United States, but also the United Nations, China, Russia, and the European Union — implement this deal. A no vote, in contrast, doesn’t mean that some fantasy deal will fall from the sky. It means that the U.S. walks away from this deal, and it collapses.

That also could mean that the existing sanctions regime collapses. We can keep our sanctions on Iran, but the reason sanctions have been so devastating to the country’s economy is that they haven’t just come from the U.S., but also from the United Nations, the European Union, and elsewhere. If those other sanctions were to disappear, Iran would get most of what it wanted without having to fulfill any obligations at all. And if they want to pursue a nuclear weapon, they could then go right ahead.

So now that the deal is on the table and congressional votes are on their way, what Republicans really need to explain is not what sort of deal they might have preferred. We know their answer to that question — they’ll say they would have rather had a deal where Iran gives us everything we want, and we give up nothing. But that’s irrelevant at this point. What they need to explain now is why the U.S. pulling out of this deal — and what happens afterward — will be preferable to implementing it, imperfections and all. Do they think the Iranians will come crawling back and make further concessions? Do they think the rest of the world’s powers, which support the deal they helped negotiate, will just follow us and impose new sanctions in the hope that eventually that might lead to more negotiations (which, like these, would take years) and ultimately the fantasy deal where Iran capitulates? What precisely is the chain of events Republicans think will occur if we pull out?

If they’ve given that question even a moment’s consideration, you wouldn’t know it to listen to them. But it’s what they ought to be asked now.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 23, 2014

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, John Kerry, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Bond Far Stronger Than Politics”: Trump Awakens Kerry’s Vietnam Anger With Slam On McCain

John Kerry was angry.

“Listen to this. Listen to what Trump just said about John McCain,” Kerry was saying over the phone. “‘He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.’

“That’s unbelievable,” Kerry said. “That’s beyond outrageous.’”

“John and I have some serious differences on a lot of things but he is nothing other than a hero and a good man. Where was Trump when John got shot down over North Vietnam? In school? At a party? Where was he?”

For many months now, years even, Kerry has been point man in Barack Obama’s attempt to restrict Iran’s plan to develop a nuclear bomb. He has been a walking high-wire act, traveling a region that is nothing less than a geographical bonfire filled with the debris of failed nations, countries that have collapsed into chaos and terror largely because of the contrived plans of men like Dick Cheney who dreamed of the day when Saddam Hussein could be toppled. The conservative ideologues got their wish while the United States got a larger, longer war and the Middle East became an even bigger source of horror and death.

Trump’s assault on McCain evoked immediate anger in Kerry because it resurrected feelings within him that are always there, certainly beneath a surface calm but always, always there: a long gone war called Vietnam.

“All of us sat for weeks and months around a table trying to get this deal done,” Kerry was saying. “The Russians, the Chinese, the French, the British, the Germans, all of us. And every once in awhile I thought about that other table, that other time, and that was nearly a half century ago.”

He was talking about the Paris Peace Talks that began in 1970 and concluded with an agreement signed on January 23, 1973. Henry Kissinger represented another president, Richard Nixon. John McCain was in Hanoi, in captivity. John Kerry had returned from Vietnam to help organize Vietnam Veterans Against The War. Donald Trump was somewhere else.

As talks in Paris dragged on, more than half of the 58,195 names carved into the wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington were killed. Thousands more were wounded and carry those wounds still, today.

Both Kerry and Obama are firm believers that conversation is a better starter-kit than combat when it comes to dealing with a country like Iran. Neither man is naive about that nation’s aspiration to dominate the region.

“But the Iranians are not suicidal,” Kerry pointed out.

Clearly, the Iranians are well aware that Teheran would be turned into a field of glass and sand if they ever stepped toward open war with Israel or Saudi Arabia. And every nation around that table in Vienna knew that the sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy and caused Iran to accept a deal would soon collapse under the weight of countries like France, Russia and China that were eager to begin doing business in Teheran, the dollar emerging as the strongest weapon of all.

So as he shuttled back and forth between Washington and Vienna, his leg broken, his spirit determined, Kerry found himself thinking about that other time and those other talks. He is a student of history and in his mind’s eye he saw another president, Lyndon Johnson, broken by a long war that still lingers in the American psyche. He thought about the Ivy League sophisticates that surrounded John F. Kennedy and then Johnson, men named Bundy, Rostow, McNamara, and others who spent the lives of so many younger men pursuing their old men’s dreams of defeating communism in the lethal laboratory of Vietnam.

In a trick of history and irony communism collapsed on a deathbed that Ronald Reagan helped make up by…talking; talking to Mikhail Gorbachev. A wall fell. One continent, Europe, changed forever. Two nations, Russia and the United States, altered their behavior toward each another because of a handshake and a conversation.

Last week, John Kerry returned to the United States. After months of discussion, Germany, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Putin’s Russia along with the U.S. had a deal with Iran. Now it goes to a Congress more than half full of politicians who place a higher priority in defeating anything Barack Obama supports than educating the country and the world with an honest debate about a deal structured to insert more than a decade’s worth of roadblocks in Iran’s drive to develop a nuclear weapon.

And as John Kerry came home, his mind filled with facts, the ups, the downs, the potential, and the politics of getting an accord with Iran through the Congress, he was brought back to his own war five decades ago. A war that won’t go away. A war that awoke him one more time because of a libelous slur uttered by a real estate man against a friend of Kerry’s who will line up against him on the treaty with Iran. But that didn’t matter because brothers in arms form a bond far stronger than politics.

 

By: Mike Barnicle, The Daily Beast, July 19, 2015

July 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, John Kerry, John McCain | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Kerry Teaches Rubio The Basics About The Middle East”: Explaining Current Events To A Student Who Failed To Do His Homework

At the recent CPAC gathering, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a likely Republican presidential candidate, seemed to stumble on one of the basic facts of the Middle East. “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” the Florida Republican said.

The senator seemed confused. In reality, President Obama has put an anti-ISIS military strategy in place, and that’s fine with Iran, since Iran and ISIS are enemies.

I’d hoped that Rubio just misspoke, or had been briefed poorly by an aide, but apparently not – -at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this afternoon, the far-right Floridian continued to push this strange theory, pressing Secretary of State John Kerry on the point. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” Rubio said. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”

And so, Kerry told him why he’s wrong.

For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the heart of the exchange.

KERRY: What’s important, senator, with respect to your question is to understand this. And I think this has been a misread by a lot of people up here on the Hill, to be honest with you. There is no grand bargain being discussed here with regards to this negotiation, this is about a nuclear weapon potential. That’s it. And the president has made it absolutely clear they will not get a nuclear weapon. Now the presumption by a lot of people up on the Hill here has been that we somehow aren’t aware of that goal even as we negotiate that goal. Our negotiation is calculated to make sure they can’t get a nuclear weapon. It’s really almost insulting that the presumption here is that we’re going to negotiate something that allows them to get a nuclear weapon.

RUBIO: Well I haven’t discussed about the nuclear weapon but I – and I’m not saying there is a grand bargain – what I’m saying is that I believe that our military strategy towards ISIS is influenced by our desire not to cross red lines That the Iranians have –

KERRY: Absolutely not in the least.

Rubio went on to insist that many of our Sunni allies in the region – including Jordan and U.A.E. – feel as if we’ve kept them “in the dark” about the nuclear talks with Iran, reducing our “trust level” in the region.

Again, Kerry had to patiently explained to the Republican, “Senator, that is actually flat wrong.”

Honestly, it was like watching a competent teacher trying to explain the basics of current events to a student who failed to do his homework. Andrea Mitchell said the Secretary of State took Rubio “to school.”

Rubio recently said he’d have an important advantage in the race for the White House because he, unlike the GOP governors, has “a clear view of what’s happening in the world.” The senator added that for governors running for president, international affairs will be “a challenge, at least initially, because they don’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis.”

That’s not a bad argument, though it’s predicated on the assumption that senators who deal with foreign policy actually have some idea what they’re talking about. This afternoon, Rubio fell far short.

For more on today’s committee hearing, be sure to check out msnbc’s related coverage.

 

By: Steve Benen, Yhe Maddow Blog, March 11, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | John Kerry, Marco Rubio, Middle East | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ham Handed Politics”: Netanyahu Becomes Political Player, So Kerry Treats Him Like One

Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill yesterday, and going into the hearing, it was widely expected that he’d tout the importance of international nuclear talks with Iran. He did exactly that, though he also went a little further in challenging a critic of those talks.

Secretary of State John Kerry reminded Americans on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who is expected to denounce a potential nuclear deal with Iran during an address to Congress next week, also visited Washington in late 2002 to lobby for the invasion of Iraq.

Apparently referring to testimony on the Middle East that Mr. Netanyahu delivered to Congress on Sept. 12, 2002, when he was a private citizen, Mr. Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “The prime minister, as you will recall, was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision.”

In 2002, Netanyahu assured lawmakers that invading Iraq was a great idea. “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,” he said at the time.

We now know, of course, that Netanyahu’s guarantee was spectacularly wrong, which matters insofar as credibility still counts – the same Israeli leader is now telling lawmakers an international agreement with Iran would be a disaster for the United States and its allies. Kerry’s point wasn’t subtle: those who were this wrong before probably shouldn’t be trusted to be right now.

There’s something almost refreshing about this. Note, there’s nothing personal or even electoral about the administration’s message – Kerry didn’t offer some prolonged complaint about Netanyahu and the Israeli elections, or the unprecedented nature of the prime minister’s partnership with congressional Republicans.

It’s far more straightforward. Netanyahu has positioned himself as a participant in a policy debate and, at the same time, he’s claiming great credibility on the subject matter. The White House is responding in kind, treating Netanyahu as a policy rival.

What’s wrong with this? Actually, nothing.

We’re accustomed to foreign heads of state, at least publicly, approaching these kinds of disagreements with great care and delicacy, but the Israeli leader has forgone the usual route and is engaging in a fight as if he were just another political pugilist.

Netanyahu effectively told Obama and his team, “I’m going to try to derail American foreign policy,” to which administration officials have replied, “And we’re going to try to stop you.”

In yesterday’s case, that meant doing a little research and presenting lawmakers with a reminder about Netanyahu’s track record.

Kerry’s comments came soon after Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) announced he will not attend the Israeli prime minister’s speech next week, calling the event “highly inappropriate.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who is Jewish and represents a district with a large Jewish population, also said yesterday she’ll skip the joint-session of address, criticizing “the ham-handed politics” surrounding the Netanyahu/Republican partnership.

Barring an unexpected change, the Israeli leader will be on the House floor for his speech on Tuesday, March 3. As of yesterday, 25 House Democrats and four members of the Senate Democratic caucus have said they will not be there.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 26, 2015

February 27, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, John Kerry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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