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“Carly Fiorina, Crackpot Warmonger”: Did Anyone Hear Her Talk About Foreign Policy?

I agree, as I already wrote, that as these things are measured, Carly Fiorina “won” the debate. She was well prepared and well spoken; seemed to know what she was talking about; tugged at emotion when she mentioned having lost a child.

So that’s all fine. And I understand that pundits measure debate wins in odd ways. But, uh…did anybody listen to the substance of what she said? As Kate Brannen has already noted for the Beast, Fiorina’s military buildup would add $500 billion to an already historically huge Pentagon budget. But it’s far worse than that. This woman is a crackpot warmonger who would start World War III. No—III and IV. I could barely believe what I was hearing.

Many have already picked apart what appear to be Fiorina’s flat-out lies about the Planned Parenthood videos. I haven’t watched those videos in their entirety, so I can’t say with personal authority. But Sarah Kliff of Vox has, and Kliff writes that all that business about a fetus with legs still kicking and people talking about needing to “harvest its brain” just isn’t true. Doesn’t exist. The charitable explanation, according to Kliff, is that Fiorina was confusing the Planned Parenthood videos with another that includes stock footage of the sort Fiorina described and maybe she confused them in her mind. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe she just lied.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m chiefly concerned about. What I think we should be concerned about were her remarks about Iran and Russia. Let’s have a look.

Iran: “On Day One in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.

“The second, to the Supreme Leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.

“We can do that, we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies.”

Well, this sounds great. Grrrrrr, Supreme Leader! But stop and think for a second. What is Ayatollah Khamenei going to say in response? Probably something like: “Very well, Madam President. Then you are abrogating the deal, I see. OK. Thank you. Have a nice century.” Iran will then stop honoring the deal, or even pretending to, and start building a nuclear weapon or six.

And note well: The rest of the world will blame us, the United States, and President Fiorina, for being the ones who first broke the deal. And, if she makes such a phone call, rightly so, because we will be the ones to have broken it. We can reimpose some sanctions unilaterally. But will the European Union and the United Nations reimpose theirs? Not bloody likely if we broke the deal. And countries like India, which is probably now lifting sanctions it had agreed to when the United States was leading a multilateral effort, may well start giving Iran nuclear-related technologies. These are just a few of the events that phone call could set in motion.

And soon enough Iran will have a bomb. Or, President Fiorina will start a war to prevent it.

That brings us to Russia, on which she said: “Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him.

“What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.”

So the president of the United States would just not talk to the president of Russia. Now, the president of Russia is a contemptible and dangerous quasi-fascist. But he is, you know, the president of Russia, a rather important country. I can’t remember an American president since Roosevelt who hasn’t talked to the head of the USSR or of post-Soviet Russia. Don’t these people remember that Ronald Reagan communicated with three Soviet premiers and talked directly with Mikhail Gorbachev? They don’t seem to remember now, but at the time, that was when Reagan lost them!

Fiorina seemed to get a lot of cred for name-dropping the Sixth Fleet. It shows that at least she read a briefing book, which is more than some of them do. And I will admit that I didn’t know (although I could logically have guessed) that the Sixth Fleet patrols the seas around Europe and Russia, from its base in Naples. So whoop de doo for her.

But this is what constitutes a good answer, just because she drops a little specific knowledge, even as she is essentially saying that her strategy as president with regard to one of the world’s two or three most dangerous and aggressive men is to surround him, provoke him, goad him into an act of war? That’s what “aggressive military exercises in the Baltic” states quite possibly ends up meaning. There’s this city in Estonia called Narva. Google it. It’s like 80 percent Russian or something. Putin has his little eye on it. World War III could start there, and all it would take is an errant American military shell landing in the wrong backyard. Or World War IV, in case President Fiorina has already started III in the Middle East.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 19, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Foreign Policy, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Two Leaders, Two Countries, Two International Standings”: Are Republicans Ready To Admit Their Putin Adulation Was Misplaced?

For many Republicans, there are some basic truths about international perceptions. President Obama, they assume, is not well respected abroad, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin is seen as tough and impressive.

Last year, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson wrote a column on how impressed he is with Putin, and argued, “Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours.”

With this in mind, the Pew Research Center has published a couple of helpful reports of late. In June, Pew’s “Global Attitudes & Trends” study found that impressions of the United States are up around the world – much improved over the findings from the Bush/Cheney era – and President Obama is an especially popular figure across much of the globe.

And this week, the Pew Research Center released related findings on Russia and Putin. Ben Carson may want to pay particular attention to the results.

Outside its own borders, neither Russia nor its president, Vladimir Putin, receives much respect or support, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. A median of only 30% see Russia favorably in the nations outside of Russia. Its image trails that of the United States in nearly every region of the world.

At the same time, a median of only 24% in the countries surveyed have confidence in Putin to do the right thing in world affairs, and there is far less faith in the Russian leader than there is in U.S. President Barack Obama.

If this makes it sound as if Republicans have described the entire dynamic backwards, that’s because they have.

Remember, it was just last year when American conservatives effectively adopted Putin as one of their own. Rudy Giuliani said of the Russian autocrat, “That’s what you call a leader.” Mitt Romney proclaimed, “I think Putin has outperformed our president time and time again on the world stage.” A Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted Putin to temporarily serve as “head of the United States.”

But by international standards, the GOP rhetoric seems quite foolish.

In all regions of the world, Putin’s image fares quite poorly compared with public perception of U.S. President Barack Obama. Three-quarters of Europeans have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Only 15% have such faith in Putin. By more than two-to-one, publics in Africa, Asia and Latin America trust Obama more than Putin.

So, what do you say, conservatives? Ready to admit your Putin adulation was misplaced?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 7, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Russia, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Iran Deal isn’t Perfect – But What Deal Is?”: Critics In Congress Should Have To Explain Why They Believe War Is A Better Idea

To understand why the Iran nuclear deal is such a triumph, consider the most likely alternative: war.

Imagine a U.S.-led military strike — not a pinprick but an extended bombing campaign robust enough to eliminate 98 percent of Iran’s enriched uranium, put two-thirds of the Islamic republic’s centrifuges out of action and erase any capability of producing plutonium. Imagine that the attack did so much damage that for the next 10 or 15 years it would be utterly impossible for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. Such an outcome would be hailed as a great success — achieved, however, at a terrible cost.

But I’m convinced such action would make Iran irrevocably determined to build a bomb — and that eventually the Iranians would achieve their goal. I’m also convinced that Iran would strike out at the West asymmetrically, through proxy groups and terrorism. And given the upheavals in the Middle East, any “limited” war has the potential to spread across borders.

The historic agreement announced Tuesday in Vienna accomplishes what an attack might, but without the toll in blood and treasure that war inevitably exacts. After the agreement expires, critics note, Iran could decide to race for a bomb. But the military option would still be available — and, after years of intrusive inspections, allied war planners would have a much better idea of where the nuclear facilities are and how best to destroy them.

Military action is not the only alternative to the deal that President Obama vigorously defended at his news conference Wednesday. But the other possibilities are absurdly remote.

One is simply to acquiesce and invite Iran to become a nuclear power. Obama has ruled this out, as did his predecessors and as will his successors. It should be noted that Iran’s leaders have always denied seeking to make a bomb, though they have never explained why an oil-rich nation would need tens of thousands of enrichment centrifuges and a ballistic missile program to generate nuclear power.

None of the United States’ partners at the negotiating table — the European powers, China, Russia — is prepared to accept a nuclear-armed Iran. The government in Tehran, which is fanatical but not suicidal, probably would be satisfied to reach threshold status. Arguably this is already the case, given that Iran’s scientists have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle.

The other option — the one favored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most other critics of the agreement — is to negotiate “a better deal” that deprives Iran of even more nuclear capability. The problem is that negotiators could not make tougher demands on Iran than the Chinese, Russians and Europeans were prepared to support.

If Congress overrides Obama and squelches the deal, the sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table will quickly crumble. Economic pressure from the United States alone, it seems obvious, is not enough to compel Iran to give up more than it surrendered in Vienna. On the contrary: Hard-liners in Tehran, who argued all along against negotiating with the United States, would have their hand greatly strengthened.

Iran’s reaction to a defeat of the agreement in Congress might be to crank up the centrifuges in defiance. Perhaps the government would honor some elements of the deal in order to obtain sanctions relief from China, Russia and Europe. Either way, the United States would have lost leverage and Iran’s nuclear program would be less constrained.

Obviously, the United States didn’t get everything it wanted in Vienna. That’s the nature of any negotiation. The relevant question is whether the United States and its allies, including Israel, got what they needed.

“With this deal, we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program,” Obama said Wednesday. “Without a deal, those pathways remain open.”

The president added that “the alternative, no limits on Iran’s nuclear program, no inspections, an Iran that’s closer to a nuclear weapon, the risk of a regional nuclear arms race, and the greater risk of war — all that would endanger our security. That’s the choice that we face.”

The agreement with Iran is a landmark achievement. It’s not perfect — no deal is — but it makes the world a much safer place. Critics in Congress should have to explain to the American people why they believe war is a better idea.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 16, 2015

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Middle East | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Self-Styled Super-Patriots”: Loving An Imaginary America, Hating The Real One

Leave it to Matt Taibbi in a return to the pages of Rolling Stone to come up with a unique perspective on Rudy Giuliani’s rants about Obama not loving America: it reminds Taibbi of communist bitter-enders in post-Soviet Russia:

Rudy Giuliani is giving me Soviet flashbacks…..

Not to go too far down memory lane, but in 1990, I went to Leningrad to study. The Soviet empire was in its death throes and most people there, particularly the younger ones, knew it.

But some hadn’t gotten the memo yet, and those folks, usually nice enough, often older — university administrators, check-room attendants, security guards, parents of some of my classmates, others — were constantly challenging me and other exchange students to East-versus-West debates, usually with the aim of proving that “their” way of life was better.

By the time I left Russia a dozen years and a couple of career changes later, a lot of those people still hadn’t gotten the memo. They were deep in denial about the passing of the USSR and spent a lot of time volubly claiming ownership of words like we and our and us in a way that quickly became a running joke in modernizing Russia.

U Nas Lusche — roughly, Ours is Better or It’s Better Here — was the unofficial slogan of the pining-for-the-old-days crowd in post-communist Russia….

[T]he Soviets also had a strong sense of exceptionalism. It was something that was carefully nurtured and encouraged by The Party and had been spread successfully from the Kremlin to the remotest drunk-tank in Kamchatka.

But the problem with exceptionalism is that it can turn unintentionally comic with the drop of a hat. You’re made to believe you’re at the center of an envious universe, but then the world changes just enough and suddenly you’re a punchline clinging to a lot of incoherent emotions. I watched this happen with my own eyes to a lot of people in the former Soviet Union.

And I feel like it’s happening here now, with Rudy and the rest of the exceptionalist die-hards. They’re hanging on to a conception of us that doesn’t really exist anymore, not realizing that “America” is now a deeply varied, rapidly-changing place, one incidentally that they spend a lot of their public lives declaring they can’t stand.

And that’s the real irony and outrage: self-styled super-patriots who make it more apparent every day that they don’t much like, much less love, their country.

The Giuliani crack-up started up a long-overdue discussion about what exactly it means when patrician pols like Rudy accuse others of not “loving America” enough.

After all, which America do they mean? The one that will be majority nonwhite by 2042? The one that twice elected Barack Obama president? The one that now produces more porn than steel? The one that has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates and one of the highest immigration rates? That America?

Are they big fans of South Park maybe? The Wu-Tang Clan? Looking? Because it’s ironic: The heavy industry and manufacturing might that was a key source of American power in the days of Giuliani’s youth is now in serious decline, but Hollywood (and American pop culture generally) is a bigger, more hegemonic world power than ever.

Yet the current batch of exceptionalists mostly despises Hollywood, one of our few still-exceptionally-performing industries. They liked it better in the days when John Wayne was the leading man, Rock Hudson was in the closet and nobody made movies about copulating cowboys or Che’s motorcycle trips.

And here’s the classic Taibbi-esque coup de grace:

Conservative politicians like Rudy are a bizarre combination of constant, withering, redundant whining about Actual Current America, mixed with endless demands that we all stand up and profess our love for some other America, one that apparently doesn’t include a lot of the rest of us or the things about this country we like.

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can’t love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it.

Kinda the way I feel about Erick Erickson insisting that Barack Obama and I can’t possibly be Christians.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 23, 2015

February 24, 2015 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Patriotism, Republicans, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lingering Problem With Racism”: Black Men; Beware Of Police Officers

It’s one of the best-known lines of any English-language poet — Robert Burns’ reflection on the upper-class church lady who doesn’t realize there’s a louse crawling around on her bonnet. “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!”

I had an opportunity to see how others see us while vacationing in Italy when news broke of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing teenager Michael Brown. Across Europe, the news coverage was nonstop. And it wasn’t pretty.

For most Europeans, the failure of the grand jury to indict, and resulting riots in Ferguson and other cities, was just further proof that a country that brags of its human rights record has itself a serious, continuing problem with racism. On German television, a special program on racism in America opened with the chilling observation: “For half a century, the land of the free has been trying to overcome racism and discrimination — with doubtful results.” French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira summed up her impressions on Twitter: “Racial profiling, social exclusion, territorial segregation, cultural marginalization, firearms, fear, fatal cocktail.”

Of course, nobody enjoyed rubbing our nose in it more than Russia. After years of our condemning the Russian government for its denial of basic human rights, this was their chance to get even. Russia’s foreign ministry, which dubbed the unrest a “color revolution,” cited the riots as evidence of “systematic shortcomings of American democracy.”

It’s uncomfortable to hear such criticism, especially from nations that are hardly paragons of virtue. Yet, they are right! We do have a lingering problem with racism in this country. We might as well admit it, and we’d better start dealing with it. We saw it in Los Angeles with Rodney King. We saw it in Sanford, Florida, with Trayvon Martin. We saw it in Ferguson with Michael Brown. And now we see it, once again, on Staten Island, with Eric Garner. Add to these cases that no doubt go unreported every day nationwide.

As shocking as the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson might be, the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict is even worse — because they were presented with so much more evidence. Starting with a video of the entire incident, on which Garner can be heard repeatedly warning “I can’t breathe,” as Officer Daniel Pantaleo locks him in a chokehold while four or five other police officers hold him down, face pressed into the sidewalk. They then leave him lying there for more than five minutes — handcuffed, not breathing, without administering any aid — until an ambulance arrives. And there’s no doubt how he died. The medical examiner ruled that Garner’s death was a homicide caused by the chokehold — the use of which is banned under New York Police Department rules.

Yet, despite such clear evidence of police abuse, the grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo, who thereby joined Darren Wilson as the latest white police officers to kill an unarmed black man and get away with it. Garner, meanwhile, joined Michael Brown as two of their latest victims, neither of whom deserved to die. Michael Brown’s crime? Walking down the street in Ferguson. Eric Garner’s crime? Allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island without a license. Would a young white man have been killed by police for such minor offenses?

Hopefully, the back-to-back deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner will serve as the two-by-four between the eyes necessary to wake all of us up to the need to confront the issue of race head-on — and not forget about it until the next headline-grabbing event. Yes, we’ve made a lot of progress since the days of Jim Crow. But the evidence of continuing racial discrimination is overwhelming: in racial profiling of young blacks by law enforcement, in the disproportionate number of blacks in prison, in a lack of representation in elective office and executive suites and in court decisions upholding restrictions on voting rights.

President Obama should take the lead by appointing a National Commission on Racism to hold hearings around the country, study the problem and make recommendations for action at the federal, state and local level. We can no longer accept a reality where an African-American occupies the Oval Office, yet a young black man can’t walk down the street without being stopped and questioned — merely because he’s black. It sounds harsh to say it, but it’s true. More than anyone else today, black men have much to fear when confronted by white cops.

 

By: Bill Press, Host, Nationally Syndicated Radio Show, Full Court Press; The National Memo, January 5, 2015

January 6, 2015 Posted by | Black Men, Racism, World Opinion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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