Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama vs Clinton: Foreign Policy

John Holum, a former Clinton administration official, wrote an article in the Huffington Post about why he believes Obama has a better foreign policy than Clinton.

As a long time friend of the Clintons and a member of President Clinton's foreign policy team, I naturally assumed I'd be firmly in Senator Clinton's camp in 2008. Instead, by last fall I'd become an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. Why?

There are two good reasons: The first comes from who Barack Obama is.

It will take at least a generation to repair the damage to U.S. international interests inflicted by George Bush and the far-right ideologues whose pet theories became his lodestars. After the debacle in Iraq, hawked through exaggerated intelligence and minimized dangers, we'll have to struggle uphill just to regain American credibility, so other nations and institutions will at least trust what we say. Then we'll need to rebuild alliances fractured by Bush's arrogant go-it-alone mentality, and forge new friendships and coalitions effectively to address challenges as diverse as climate change and radical Islam, which even the world's strongest nation can't resolve by itself. In short, we'll have to re-connect with the world, through means other than arms and bluster.

The election of Barack Obama will, in and of itself, jump-start those endeavors. His heritage and extraordinary life story will capture the imagination of people all over the world, and be seen as a confirmation, more powerful than any words, that America has returned to our best ideals. In one stroke, it will propel us out of the hole Bush has dug for us and onto the high ground, where we can engage from strength and respect.

The second reason for supporting Obama is change -- a word lately so widely cribbed and overused as to be nearly drained of meaning. But in Obama's case it carries profound content -- indeed, on some of the very issues on which he's been assailed, he's shown a way of looking at foreign and national security policy that breaks through tired old talking points and opens up new avenues for progress. Some examples:

When Senator Obama said in a debate he'd be prepared to talk directly with the heads of rogue states such as Iran, North Korea and Cuba, it was widely described as a mis-step. Senator Clinton, instinctively lining up with settled precepts, called him naïve, a charge recently echoed by the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain. Obama is the only one prepared to look at things in a new way.

When Obama suggested he wouldn't brandish nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden, Senator Clinton chastised him again, declaring that we shouldn't signal the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might be used. That's the old formula, all right, but to adhere to it blindly in this case is both unrealistic and foolish, conveying the message that we place no value on the tens of thousands of other lives that would be extinguished if we decided to "nuke" one despicable person.

There was more tut-tutting when Senator Obama said if we knew where bin Laden was hiding and Pakistan's leader wouldn't allow us to go after him, the U.S. would act on its own. Then the bipartisan co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, said the same thing, and soon the other Democratic candidates were following suit -- although Senator McCain still thinks otherwise.

On the spread of nuclear weapons, Senator Obama has grasped the core truth that to enforce the global agreement against proliferation, the U.S. must live up to our side of the bargain and move toward a world entirely free of such weapons. That, too, challenges much orthodoxy, and it's a pledge Senator Clinton has not yet made. But it's where a wise President must lead if we are to avert an even more dangerous world.

On each of these issues the other candidates and foreign policy experts have become increasingly receptive to Senator Obama's views. But as with his 2002 opposition to the Iraq war, it has been Barack Obama demonstrating the judgment, foresight and courage to lead the way.

In sum, because of both who he is and what he believes, Senator Obama offers the hope of a rapid recovery from the Bush years, and a liberation from the foreign policy conformity that too often holds us back. He is our best hope for not just the terminology of "change," but the reality -- and embodies an opportunity America cannot afford to pass by.

John Holum served all eight years of the Clinton Administration, first as Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and then as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Dodd Endorsement

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Chris Dodd has endorsed Obama for the presidency. Watch his remarks here (it's just under 10 minutes long, but very good).


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vacation!


We booked our hotel in Brussels today for our vacation in April. It's called the Hotel Les Bluets, and looks very cute and fun.

That's for our last 2 days over there. Before that, we'll be staying at an old, 17th century, restored mill in Annevoie for the family celebration, then a day or two in Den Bosch with Oma, a couple of days in Amsterdam with Karin, then down to Brussels.

We can't wait!

I have a SERIOUS problem with this


Ralph Nader has announced that he will be the Green Party's candidate for president this year. This makes me VERY upset. This year's election is SO vital to the future of our country! If his presence in the election causes McCain to win (like many people claim his presence in the 2000 election sealed Bush's victory) I will either have to explode or move.

Doesn't he understand how important this is? He claims that "if Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form."

Then get out of the way!

I realize that he has many issues he wants to bring to the debate, but he KNOWS he's not going to win the election! Fine, announce your candidacy, bring up your issues in the debates, but then drop out before the actual election! If we want ANY kind of change in this country, we cannot afford to lose a single vote to Nader! McCain supports Bush and aligns himself with his ideals! He wants us in Iraq for another 100 years! This country CANNOT have him as our next president!

What is the purpose, really, for Nader to run in this race? Does he just need to make himself feel better by having a few people vote for him? Does he want to be on TV some more?

Ugh, I'm so frustrated!!!!

Please, whatever you do, don't vote for him!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kosovo Declares Independence, Serbs Attack in Protest

"We, the democratically elected leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign state. This declaration reflects the will of our people and it is in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.

We declare Kosovo to be a democratic, secular and multiethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law." (Full text of the declaration)


On Sunday, February 17, 2008, the Serbian-ruled region of Kosovo declared its independence. Most of the people living in Kosovo are Albanian, and no longer wish to remain under the auspices of the Serbs. The US is among many nations who quickly recognized Kosovo's right to exist as a sovereign state. In response, the US Embassy was attacked yesterday by angry Serbs. Demonstrators set part of the building ablaze after tens of thousands of people rallied against Kosovo’s independence in the Serbian capital.

Can peace come soon to this distressed region of Europe?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

10 in a row!


Obama won again last night, once again by convincing leads, in both Hawaii and Wisconsin. Most counts are projecting him far ahead in the delegate counts, even with only around half of the superdelegates promised to him (as to Clinton) at this point. Hope the "O-mentum" continues into next week!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Realism vs. Idealism

I've been having a stimulating discussion with a colleague about the merits of realistic leaders versus idealists. Here is my most recent response... a beginning look to why I choose Obama.

Re: Idealist vs. Realist Leaders

Thanks again for the fantastic response to our Wednesday discussion. First, I want to say that I believe that my original statement was not that idealists have made the greatest leaders in history. Rather, I said that idealists have been the people who have gotten things done. Semantics, perhaps, but I think it makes quite a bit of difference to my argument.

As I wrote in my previous, brief email, I do believe that many bad leaders, like Bush, have been idealists. But, you can’t argue that he hasn’t done anything. He just hasn’t done much that I agree with.

Really, I think, the motive behind my statement was the idea that if people don’t attempt something that nobody thinks is possible, then things will always remain the same…

To me, a realist says, “Well, what can I do? The ‘system’ is such that I can’t make a difference.” Whereas, an idealist says, “I have ideas, and even though I’m just one person, I’m sure that I can find others who will support me. To hell with the status quo! If not me, then who?”

Would you say that Washington, Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, etc. were not idealists? Sure, they met and made plans and crafted documents to establish this new republic that they dreamed of, but would anything have happened if they hadn’t dreamed in the first place? Who would have thought it possible that the American colonists could not only start a fight for independence against the British, but then manage to win and put together a country that stands among the strongest in the world 200 years later?

Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu… again, idealists who hoped for an end to absolutism, who hoped to create governments in which the people had a voice. And sure, their ideas were just that, ideas, but they inspired revolutions across Europe and Latin America. It’s true that Robespierre and Napoleon, both idealists, caused a lot of bloodshed, perhaps making them poor leaders, but they sure did get things done.

I’d say another great idealist was Bobby Kennedy. I believe this country would be in a far different place today if he had survived and won the election. Looking at that same time period, what about Martin Luther King, Jr.?

So, perhaps, a great leader needs a bit of a mix between the two – a strong sense of idealism and hope, with her/his feet grounded in knowing what it takes to actually make things happen.

So then back to the argument at hand, Clinton vs. Obama. Realist vs. Idealist. Sure, Clinton has put forth plans and knows what it takes to work the system in Washington, but that’s not exactly what I’m looking for. Blame it on my youth, but I want the system itself to change. That’s my beef, I suppose, with Clinton’s experience. To me, it’s experience in working with the same-old, the status quo. Additionally, her plans won’t mean much if she can’t get Congress to work together and support her.

Obama says he wants to change the way things work in Washington, and I believe him. He has plans, too. Are they as detailed and laid-out as Clinton’s? I don’t know. He did put forth a 64-page “Blueprint for Change.” But, you can’t say he doesn’t have experience. He’s been in politics since he entered the Illinois state legislature in 1995. So actually, he’s held a government position for longer than Hillary. Yes, she was first lady, both in Arkansas and the White House, but she’s only been a US Senator for 4 years longer than Obama. Neither one of them has run the Oval Office before. Nor had George Washington, for that matter.

Hillary sounds pretty good when she speaks, to a Democrat, at least. But some 45% of the country or so claim to “hate that bitch.” Not a good start to getting things done in this country. Another credit I give to Obama. He inspires people and, I think, is therefore better able to unite people. Republicans like him! I've been told by red Republicans that if Obama wins the nomination, for the first time ever they will vote for a Democrat for President. The best laid plans can never work if you can’t get enough support. I believe Obama can gather that support.

On top of that, all he really needs to do to make up for his lack of experience in the White House is to surround himself with the right people. And listen. I believe that Obama listens.

I’m tired of the status quo. I’m tired of feeling frustrated that I can’t do anything. And yes, I’m tired of having a Bush or a Clinton to look to. Is it possible for me to be a cynic and an idealist at the same time? I don’t think Washington works. I don’t think my voice is very well represented, because I don’t have enough money to influence anyone. I don’t want to just sit around and wait for things to happen. To me, Barack is my hope, the voice that people will listen to, the voice that (mostly) says what I have been trying to say. I want a chance, I want to feel like I’m not just one person, that I can do something.

Is that weak compared to a realist’s point of view? Perhaps, but if I don’t dream, who will?

Looking forward to your response…

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Barack Video

Here's a video that you can actually understand what he's saying. Still don't know why you should vote for Obama? Watch this.

OBAMA!

The rally was awesome, awesome! Here are a few pics:

The Crowd


VA Gov. Tim Kaine


The Next US President -- Barack Obama!


Video of some of the speech

video

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