Foreign Policy

Donald Trump just tripped up on the air over foreign policy. Again and again.

(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)


Donald Trump, leading in the polls and riding a wave of momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, just hit a speed bump named Hugh Hewitt.

The conservative radio host peppered Trump with a host of foreign policy questions in a Thursday interview that produced some uncomfortable moments for the real estate mogul, who appeared upset at the line of questioning.

At one point, Hewitt asked Trump if he was familiar with “General  Soleimani” and the “Quds Forces.” (He referred to Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.) Trump said he was but then appeared to mistake the Quds for the Kurds, a Middle Eastern ethnic group.

“The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by us,” said Trump.

Hewitt corrected him: “No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.”

A portion of the video was posted on YouTube:

After that, Trump said he thought Hewitt said “Kurds.”

“No, Quds,” responded Hewitt.

Later on, Hewitt insisted he didn’t believe “in gotcha questions.” Trump disagreed.

“Well, that is a gotcha question, though,” he said. “I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.”

Asked what he would do as president if China were “to either accidentally or intentionally sink a Filipino or Japanese ship,” Trump refused to say.

“I wouldn’t want to tell you, because frankly, they have to, you know, somebody wrote a very good story about me recently, and they said there’s a certain unpredictable, and it was actually another businessman, said there’s a certain unpredictability about Trump that’s great, and it’s what made him a lot of money and a lot of success,” said Trump. “You don’t want to put, and you don’t want to let people know what you’re going to do with respect to certain things that happen.”

Hewitt told Trump that when it comes to terrorism, “I’m looking for the next commander in chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?”

Trump said he did not.

“No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed,” he said. “They’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll, but they’re all changing, Hugh.”

For the record, Hasan Nasrallah is the secretary general of Hezbollah; Ayman al-Zawahiri is the new leader of al-Qaeda after the death of Osama bin Laden; Abu Mohammad al-Julani is the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria; and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

Ordinarily, an interview like this would put a candidate at serious risk of falling in the polls. But nothing about Trump’s candidacy has been ordinary, so it remains to be seen whether it will hurt him or not.

In the same episode, Hewitt interviewed the GOP race’s other business leader-turned-candidate, Carly Fiorina. He asked her the same questions — informing her that “there’s been social media” coverage of how Trump did.

“Aren’t you familiar with General Soleimani?” Hewitt asked.

“Yes,” said Fiorina, who also recognized the name of the Quds Force. “We know that the general of the Quds Force has been a powerful tool of the Iranian regime to sow conflict. We also know that the Quds Forces are responsible for the deaths and woundings of American soldiers. We also that the Quds Forces have been in Syria and a whole bunch of other countries in the Middle East.”

Fiorina was more hesitant when Hewitt mentioned Nasrallah, Zawahiri and Julani, as well as Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Do you know most of these without a scorecard, Carly Fiorina?” Hewitt asked.

“I have to be very honest with you,” said Fiorina, “and say that sometimes I can get confused a bit between the name and group because they sound a bit alike sometimes, so I have to pause and think sometimes. But, I certainly know all those names both of the individual leaders and of the terrorist groups.”

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was on firmer ground when Hewitt asked her to differentiate between Hamas and Hezbollah. “Hamas is focused in Palestinian territories,” she said. “Hezbollah focuses in Beirut and other places, but the truth is, both of them are proxies of Iran.”

Trump hasn’t seen the last of Hewitt. He is slated to ask questions at the second Republican debate later this month.

“At the debate, I may bring up Nasrallah being with Hezbollah, and al-Julani being with al-Nusra, and al-Masri being with Hamas. Do you think if I ask people to talk about those three things, and the differences, that that’s a gotcha question?” asked Hewitt.

“Yes, I do. I totally do. I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump responded.

Sean Sullivan and David Weigel

Three Reasons Joe Biden Should Definitely Run for President

Image Credit: AP


The trial balloon went up on Sunday morning, when New York Times columnist and noted Clinton family antagonist Maureen Dowd reported that Vice President Joe Biden is “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” the 2016 presidential race.

Three days later, that balloon is looking more like a hydrogen-powered blimp. To start, a senior aide to Biden’s late son, Beau, has joined the push as an adviser to the Draft Biden Super PAC, a group dedicated to luring the vice president into the primary. His name is Josh Alcorn, and he has a talent for corralling campaign cash. If Biden were to join the fray at this late hour, stocking a feasible war chest would be his most immediate priority. Between April 12, when she entered the race, and June 30, Hillary Clinton raised $45 million. She began running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire on Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The darkest clouds, however, are not on the horizon. They are here, right now. The vice president is a grandfather many times over, and with Beau’s passing in May he has kept his public schedule relatively sparse. On Tuesday, for instance, Biden will take one meeting with a visiting dignitary, according to his White House schedule. A day before and over the past weekend, he was in Wilmington, Delaware, absent from any political events.

Still, the speculation continues apace. Because Biden could silence it with a word, there is real reason to believe he is seriously weighing his options. At 72 years old, this is it — there is no next turn. In her column, Dowd relates a deeply personal anecdote that suggests there could be more in play than a simple electoral calculation.

Toward the end of Beau’s life, Down writes, he “was losing his nouns, and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”

The narrative here, especially for a political press thirsty for more drama in the Democratic primary, is irresistible. But how would a Biden run really go? Here are three reasons the vice president might as well take a shot:

Even with the people likely to vote for her, Hillary Clinton is not very popular.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday, only 37% of voters enjoy a positive view of Clinton, even as 59% say they plan to vote for her in a Biden-free primary.

Source: Uri Schanker/Getty Images

Though the vice president is hardly a newcomer to the national stage — he has run for president twice, in 1988 and 2008, and served in the Senate for 36 years before being sworn in alongside President Barack Obama in 2009 — he is not quite the cultural icon that Clinton is. That means more room to maneuver politically and something closer to a “fresh start” with voters who don’t pay close attention to the daily grind.

Even then, Biden has a reliable base of national support. In their round-up of major national polling, RealClearPolitics finds the vice president with nearly 14% backing among Democrats, despite his absence from the campaign trail. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll surveying all voters, Biden has a 49% approval rating to Clinton’s 40%. Fifty-one percent disapprove of Clinton; only 39% have a negative view of the vice president.

For liberals who might currently favor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) but worry about his ability to take on a Republican in the general election, Biden provides a tested alternative to Clinton — not exactly a “progressive alternative” in the mold of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but someone who has twice been elected to within that proverbial heartbeat of the presidency.

He has an advantage with liberals on foreign policy.

Republicans are on the record with their reviews of Clinton’s time running the State Department. Hint: they don’t think she did a great job. Donald Trump, for instance, told NBC News, “there has never been a secretary of state so bad as Hillary. The world blew up around us. We lost everything!” Hysterical flourishes aside, Trump, the Republican primary frontrunner for a reason, touches a nerve here.

Clinton was the top U.S. diplomat during a time of historic unrest and fracture in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Even putting the ruthlessly demagogued Benghazi tragedy aside, Clinton’s support for the U.S. intervention in Libya, which successfully deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi but created a riotous, violent power vacuum currently being filled by a number of extremist groups, could become a liability in a primary contest.

Source: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Then there is the U.S. troop “surge” in Afghanistan, the foreign policy point on which Clinton and Biden diverged most famously. Upon arriving in office in 2009, Biden immediately registered his opposition to any plan that would deliver more troops into the cauldron. But Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates successfully lobbied Obama and, in 2009, he announced that 33,000 more Americans were headed to Afghanistan. Two years later, they were withdrawn on schedule but amid worsening Taliban violence and a series of deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers by Afghan trainees.

Clinton is not without her successes. She backed Obama’s successful 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan while Biden, according to Situation Room scuttlebutt, counseled the president to take more cautious steps. But in a Democratic Party wary of Clinton’s hawkish streak, the raid’s value is diminished.

On the question of the Iraq War and the vote that did so much to sink Clinton in 2008, Biden cannot pursue the same path as Obama, whose opposition to the invasion set the tone for his campaign. But in the aftermath, Biden has shown a more nuanced understanding of the regional dynamics. His 2006 op-ed in the New York Times,largely ridiculed at the time, called for Iraq to be split among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in the form of three “autonomous regions.”

Fast forward nearly a decade and the Iraqis have, in effect, done that themselves. Civil war has cleaved the country into three parts: a de facto Kurdish state in the north; a Sunni Islamic State group-held western region; and the withering Shiite stronghold in Baghdad.

If he can win the Democratic primary, Biden matches up well with Republicans.

A recent poll from Quinnipiac shows Biden performing almost identically to Clinton when pitted against the GOP presidential frontrunners. In a potential matchup with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Biden prevails, 43% to 42%. Clinton loses that contest by a point, 42% to 41%. Voters were similarly divided when asked to choose between the Democrats and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Source: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

While those numbers are all well within the poll’s margin of error, the message is clear: Biden is already primed to be a formidable candidate in the general election, and that’s without the benefit of having made a single campaign stop, speech or commercial spot. Clinton, on the other hand, has been a declared candidate for more than three months and an undeclared contender for much longer than that.

Hurdles ahead: The Joe-mentum is gathering, no doubt, but the vice president would not enter this race without considerable political baggage. A sympathetic figure today, in the aftermath of his son’s untimely death, he would inevitably be subject to the same brand of often merciless scrutiny now being directed at the vast field of even semi-legitimate White House hopefuls.

On Monday morning, Politico published a long piece about the young then-Senator Biden’s decision to effectively bail on his pro-busing colleagues when the issue roiled the upper chamber in the mid-1970s. Whether Biden was being pragmatic — many Northerners, including his constituents in Delaware, were vehemently opposed to enforced integration programs — or simply unwilling to take on a righteous fight is hard to say.

Whether he’ll be asked about it is not.

Gregory Krieg

Mitt Romney Warns Obama Not To Get Too Uppity (VIDEO)

The so-called “Party of inclusion” or tolerance or [fill in the blank]” is apparently exasperated with America’s first African American president side-stepping them and taking other measures to pass urgent legislation.  They’ve tried everything within their power to derail both elections.  They’ve tried to block any meaningful legislation the POTUS tries to send to Congress for a vote, thus forcing him in very rare circumstances, to use or threaten to use executive action to get certain actions which are vitally needed done…without the political theater.

For some of us the president has not been “uppity” enough…

Addicting Info

Mitt Romney, a.k.a. the guy who lost the last election to the current President, took to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday to issue a racially coded warning to Barack Obama: that he should remember that “he lost” the midterm elections and that he should back off and let the real men govern.

For some inexplicable reason, host Bob Schieffer first asked Romney about ISIS and despite the fact that Romney has exactly zero foreign policy experience, he answered that Obama was “inept.”

Romney, who seems to be getting his foreign policy advice from his losing predecessor, John McCain, argued that we should have kept troops in Iraq (even though it was Bush who agreed to the withdrawal).

He also argued that Obama should engage Syrian moderates. Again, I stress that Romney has ZERO foreign policy experience and if he had some, he might be aware that Syrian President Assad is anything but trustworthy and that “There is no organized insurgency in Syria. Rebels fight with rebels who fight with rebels. There was no possible course of action that would have allowed moderate rebels to fight ISIS.”

McCain Romney then argued that we should maybe probably send “boots on the ground,” but we shouldn’t let ISIS know we’re sending boots on the ground, or something like that.

Then Schieffer turned the subject to immigration, asking Romney what his advice might be to Republicans on the issue. Romney skipped right over the Republicans into telling Obama what he should do.

What Obama should do, Romney argues, is sit back and let the Republicans drive. He should passively wait till the Boehner and McConnell hand him a bill on immigration reform and just sign it.

Romney refers to any action Obama might take from the executive level as “poking Republicans with a stick in the eye.”

“The President has got to learn that he lost this last election round,” Romney said, despite the fact that the President wasn’t on the ballot and that the Democrats who lost were the Democrats that ran away from the President.

Here’s the video via YouTube:

This is far from the first time the country club former presidential candidate has used coded racism in referring to Obama. Of course, Romney is far too cultured to use the “n” word or other obvious racial slurs, but his racism was clear, even on the campaign trial.

You can watch the full Face the Nation exchange above.

7 reasons the Democratic coalition is more united than ever

Hillary Clinton |Andrew Burton Photo


Last weekend, Ross Douthat penned a provocative column arguing that Democrats should be thankful for the super-star power of Hillary Clinton because without her the party could be in severe trouble. Much of the subsequent debate has involved speculation about likely possible outcomes of the 2016 general election, about which I think the best one can say is that it will probably depend on the objective state of the world over the next 18 months.

His more intriguing idea was a vision of a deeply divided Democratic Party that, absent the presence of a star candidate, would likely fall apart: “the post-Obama Democratic Party could well be the Austro-Hungarian empire of presidential majorities: a sprawling, ramshackle and heterogeneous arrangement, one major crisis away from dissolution.”

This, I think, is completely wrong. The Democratic Party could easily lose the next election, but the coalition as a whole is more durable and robust than it’s ever been for reasons that go much deeper than Hillary’s popularity.

1) Hillary seems inevitable because Democrats are united


Edward Kimmel/Flickr

Hillary Clinton’s celebrity status and stature in the party combined with the lack of appropriately credentialed and charismatic alternatives put her head and shoulders ahead of the competition. But if the party faced a major policy divide, someone or other would emerge to champion it. Perhaps someone who would lose! But someone.

Today we have the opposite situation. It is impossible to mount a coherent anti-Clinton campaign because there is no issue that divides the mass of Democrats. If she were to unexpectedly decline to run, some other figure (perhaps Joe Biden, perhaps Martin O’Malley) would step into the void and lead the party on a similar policy agenda.

2) 2008 was about Iraq

Subsequent events have tended to obscure this, but the 2008 Democratic Primary was, among other things, a major argument about foreign policy. Hillary Clinton had supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and Barack Obama had not. Obama’s appeal, obviously, stretched beyond this fact. But his core substantive argument against Clinton dealt with Iraq in particular and foreign policy doctrine more broadly.

Crucially, both sides of the argument agreed that an argument was taking place. Clinton hit Obama as weak and naive for his willingness to undertake direct negotiations with leaders of rogue states and charged him with being unready to keep the nation safe in an emergency.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

3) The banking picture is muddled


Valerie Jean/FilmMagic

Many intellectuals who care passionately about regulation of the financial services industry would like to believe the Democratic Party is deeply divided between a bankster-friendly establishment and its populist critics.

There is something to this, but really much less than the proponents of schism-ism think.

Crucially, the allegedly bank-friendly faction of the party doesn’t accept this account of where they stand.They see themselves as having shepherded a massive bank regulation bill through congress, and as constantly fighting on multiple fronts — inside bipartisan regulatory agencies, in the courts, at international meetings, in congressional negotiations — to get tougher on the banks.

And the financial services industry agrees! Ever since the Dodd-Frank debate began, the financial services industry has poured enormous sums of money into GOP congressional campaigns and the effort to beat Barack Obama.

People who follow the issue closely will know that there are some very real disagreements about the details of bank regulation. And there are some even realer disagreements about atmospherics, rhetoric, and overall feelings about the financial sector. And even Obama has, selectively, engaged in populist anti-finance rhetoric when it suits his purposes.

Broadly speaking a non-specialist voter is going to see that any plausible 2016 nominee is going to push for tighter bank regulation, will be opposed by the bank lobby, and probably won’t accomplish everything she tries for due to GOP opposition.

4) Everyone agrees on inequality


David Shankbone/Flickr

Twenty years ago, Democrats were divided on the question of inequality with moderates largely accepting the Reaganite precept that some loss of equity was a reasonable price to pay for faster economic growth. Today, all Democrats think that inequality is out of control (heck, the CEO of Goldman Sachs thinks inequality is out of control) and that it should be addressed through tax hikes on high-income Americans.

Clearly, different people are going to differ on the details. But congressional Republicans have also made it clear that securing any tax hikes is going to be a very difficult political battle. Any Democratic nominee will try to raise taxes on the rich if she wins, and any Democratic President will end up in a huge fight with the GOP about it.

5) K-12 education doesn’t matter enough



For an example of the kind of issue that does divide the Democratic Party, look no further than K-12 education. The Obama administration has pursued an “education reform” agenda that features calls for more charter schools, and for more linkage of teacher compensation and job security to test results. Many Democrats around the country agree with Obama about this. But many other Democrats around the country agree with teachers unions that this is entirely backwards, and there should be fewer charter schools and less reliance on test-based assessments of teacher quality.

This is the kind of tug-o-war with one faction pulling one way and another faction pulling the other way that really does tear a party apart.

Except it’s not an important federal issue. Not because education isn’t important, but because the federal government plays a relatively modest role in America’s K-12 education policy. The education divide can be quite explosive and state and local politics (witness the disputes between Bill de Blasio and Andre Cuomo in New York) but it just isn’t important enough on the federal stage to lead to a major schism.

6) Demographics aren’t destiny


American Federation of Government Employees/Flickr

The much greater demographic diversity of the Democratic Party coalition may give it an illusion of fragility. Talk during recent primary campaigns of “wine track” versus “beer track” Democrats further amplifies that sense. But a look at the congressional caucus’ behavior reveals a party that is dramatically more united than at any time in the past hundred years. Defections come overwhelmingly from outlier legislators representing very conservative states like Arkansas or Louisiana.

What you would expect to see from a party torn apart by demographics is elected officials who put together very different voting records. But even though Jerry Nadler (Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side), Peter Welch (in Vermont), and Maxine Waters (South LA) represent very different people they vote in very similar ways. And you see that on most big issues Democratic Senators representing the contested terrain in the Midwest, Southwest, and Virginia vote together with those from the Northeast and the Pacific Coast.

Rustbelt legislators back Obama’s EPA regulations, and comprehensive immigration reform was unanimously endorsed by Democratic Party Senators. American politics is becoming more ideological, and the Democratic coalition is increasingly an ideological coalition that happens to be diverse (and, indeed, that upholds the value of diversity as an ideological precent) rather than a patchwork of ethnic interests or local machines.

7) American politics is getting nastier

Partisan_animosityAs a recent Pew report on polarization showed, completely apart from substantive policy issues both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly alarmed by the other party’s agenda. This alarmism in fact stronger on the GOP side, but it’s quite strong — and growing — on the Democratic side as well.

This seems like an unhealthy trend for the country, but it’s excellent news for party cohesion. Splits require not just internal disagreement, but a relatively blasé attitude toward the opposition.

None of this means that victory is somehow assured for Democrats in 2016 — far from it. But it does mean that the coalition is at no risk of collapse. The kind of electoral mega-landslides that happened in 1964 or 1980 where one party’s candidate gets utterly blown away simply can’t happen under modern conditions.

West Wing Week 03/14/14 or “What’s Up, Captain America?”

The White House

This week, the Vice President and Dr. Biden traveled to Chile to attend the inauguration of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, while President Obama worked on improving access to college for students, raising the minimum wage, and negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Ukraine. He also got out the word about the March 31 deadline for health insurance applications, congratulated NCAA champs, and designated a new national monument.


Friday, March 7th

·       The President and First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida to speak about the importance of signing up for Federal financial aid.

Monday, March 10th

·       The President participated in a conference call with healthcare enrollment leaders.

·       The President congratulated the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Champions at the White House.

Tuesday, March 11th

·      Funny or Die released an interview with President Obama on the web series Between Two Ferns.

·      The President added the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to existing National Monument land in California

·      Later that day, the President visited a Gap Store in New York City to highlight Gap’s choice to raise the minimum wage for their               employees.

Wednesday, March 12th

·     The President met with a group of advocates who are getting the word out about the Affordable Care Act.

·      Later that day, the President held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine.

·      Then, the President hosted a meeting with women members of Congressto discuss the 2014 women’s economic agenda.

Thursday, March 13th

·       The President spoke on the urgent need to get hardworking Americans the overtime pay they deserve.

·       Later, the President took a photo with the 52nd Annual U.S. Sentae Youth program.


West Wing Week 3-15-2013: “We Don’t Have a Moment to Waste”

The White House

International Courage Awards: Last Friday, the First Lady joined Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department for the International Women of Courage Awards—where nine different women were honored. The event was a celebration of the strength and sacrifice of individuals who have worked tirelessly for the advancement of women’s rights for all.

Trade Export Council: On Tuesday, President Obama touched base with business and government leaders at a meeting of the President’s Export Council.

“The good news is we are well on our way to meeting a very ambitious goal that we set several years ago to double U.S. exports,” said the President. “And what we know is, is that a lot of the growth, a lot of the new jobs that we’ve seen during the course of this recovery, have been export-driven.”

To maintain and ignite growth, President Obama discussed finishing new trade deals with Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The Administration signed legislation in 2011 supporting free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama which has kept America competitive in foreign trade, while creating jobs for Americans.

Sultan of Brunei: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei to the Oval Office for a bilateral meeting to share their desire for “a strong, peaceful, prosperous Asia-Pacific region.”

Brunei, a small country in the South China Sea, will be holding the ASEAN East Asia Summit meeting in October. The visit is a symbol of the President’s goal of working towards a peaceful and prosperous presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

#AskFLOTUS : On Monday, in celebration of Let’s Move’s third anniversary the First Ladyparticipated in a question and answer session through Twitter. The First Lady tweeted responses to questions such as how much exercise our kids need a day and her favorite healthy winter recipe. For the record, a minimum of 60 minutes a day is required and the First Lady’s favorite winter dish is turkey and veggie chili. Head over to Pinterest for MyPlate Recipes which haves hundreds of tasty recipes for a healthy diet.

Check out the Q & A on Storify and follow @FLOTUS and @LetsMove for the latest updates.

“Being Biden”: On Thursday, Vice President Biden introduced a new audio series called “Being Biden” to give Americans an opportunity to connect with the White House through the lens of Vice President Biden. In the series, the Vice President will discuss special photos and share why the moments matter to him. Check out the first installment

Subscribe and receive an email update when new stories are posted, sign up here.

Ask Him Anything: On Wednesday, Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to President Obama for Economic Policy, fielded questions on the President’s plan to reduce the deficit. Through Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” forum, Sperling answered economic policy questions from users, and even joked about the West Wing, a TV series on which he once worked.

You can read through the Q & A on Reddit here.

Hire Vets: On Wednesday, the First Lady addressed the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, and challenged them to hire our veterans and military spouses. Through Joining Forces, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden have made it a priority to support them:

“We’ve got to hold ourselves to the same standards of service and patriotism as they’ve held themselves,” said the First Lady. “And we’ve got to join forces so that we can truly serve our veterans and military families as well as they have served us.”


Crash Course on Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy Successes

Today I researched  President Obama’s foreign policy achievements in the last four years, in order to  prepare for  watching the debate tonight.  The entire debate will be on Foreign Policy.   This relevant article appeared in the Huffington Post on 07/06/2012.  

Here’s what I found…

The Huffington Post 


By any reasonable standard, Obama’s first-term foreign policy record is nothing short of astounding. On issue after issue, Obama has shown a steady — indeed, steely — resolve that has earned him major kudos from foreign policy specialists in both parties. Consider, for example, the following:

    • Two major U.S. land wars, both started by George W. Bush, are winding down. Obama, to the consternation of his base, pushed for a major “troop surge” in Afghanistan, but he alsostared down his top generals and resisted their demand for a prolonged counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign. The Taliban is reeling, and the American pull-back, starting this summer, is real. Obama also resisted pressure to reverse the Iraqi withdrawal and wisely brought in members of the Bush-era negotiating team to help seal and bless the deal.
    • Obama boldly intervened in Libya to oust dictator Muammar Gadaffi and to protect Western oil supplies, and he did it with minimal financial cost and no U.S. troop casualties. Moreover, in contrast to his predecessor, he didn’t act unilaterally but weighed in behind Europe and NATO. Republicans who charged the president with reckless “adventurism” have ended up with egg on their face. In fact, respect for multilateralism is back — and under Obama, it’s no longer just the “soft” option.
    • Obama has forged the closest American defense ties with Israel of any recent U.S. president, including Bush, while continuing to push for Israeli concessions on a Palestinian homeland. Obama has moved deftly, even winning strong support from the Israeli public, which says it wants its leaders to consult with Obama before taking future military action.Support from American Jews, despite concerns over friction between the White House and the Israeli Prime Minister, is holding steady.
  • Obama has also made China a key strategic priority, confronting Beijing on human rights, trade warfare, and economic spying, while bolstering America’s military presence in the Pacific. Donald Trump may think America is getting snookered but most Americans, it turns out, see Obama’s actions as judicious. In fact, leading foreign policy conservatives, includingRobert Kagan, who was a national security adviser to John McCain, and has periodically advised Romney himself, have strongly praised Obama’s entire Asia policy.

Some of Obama’s strongest foreign policy critics, in fact, aren’t on the right but on the left, which is disappointed that Obama hasn’t closed the base at Guantanamo, has eagerly embraced “drone” warfare, and has denied more Freedom of Information Act requests than his predecessor. But such criticism — while justified in some areas — is short-sighted overall. Obama has initiated some seismic shifts in national security doctrine that have a real chance of reducing the prospect of global war. Most notably:

    • Obama has quietly but forcefully revised the Pentagon’s long-standing “two-war” strategythat required an enormous conventional force structure supported by hundreds of American military bases. Under a new Obama plan, the number of soldiers in the Army and the Marines will decline by a remarkable 10-15 percent over the next decade, and a possible36 percent over the long haul. And base closures, already on the increase, will accelerate. The Obama shift means, in effect, that the U.S. is no longer contemplating a protracted land war on its own.
  • Just as dramatic are the significant steps that Obamas has taken to reduce the threat of nuclear war by shrinking American and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals to their lowest levels ever. The arms reduction process actually started under the first George Bush, but Obama is proposing to take it much further, tackling the more difficult deep-cuts, especially in tactical weapons, all the while working with Russia to force smaller nuclear states to slow or eliminate their own weapons programs.

What does Romney have to offer, by contrast? A return to Bush-era neo-conservativism managed by the same people who brought us the Iraq war, and who see any retreat from American unilateralism as a sign of military weakness. They include former Bush State department officialsEliot Cohen and John Bolton, who’ve been pushing Romney to attack Obama for abandoning Israel and for crippling America’s nuclear and conventional war capabilities. They’re also suggesting that Obama is weakening the United States in the face of threats from Iran and failing to intervene decisively to bring down the regime in Syria.

Fortunately, much of the foreign policy establishment, including Republicans like former Secretary of State James Baker, aren’t biting. In fact, there’s even growing concern over Romney’s call for a huge increase in U.S. defense spending over and above what the Pentagon under Obama is seeking. Romney’s spending hike would cost the Treasury an additional $2.1 trillion, undermining the GOP’s ostensible commitment to deficit-reduction, without necessarily enhancing U.S. defense capabilities.

How much does foreign policy matter? In the end, in a close race, it could matter a lot. One foreign policy expert, Bruce Jentleson, has noted that 8-10 percent or more of U.S. voters consistently say that foreign policy drives their vote. And the fact is, even those voters who say they’re mostly concerned about their “pocketbook” still form powerful impressions about candidates and their leadership abilities based on more than their records as economic “stewards.” These days, most voters know that America lives in a global world and that domestic and foreign policy are related, even if they’re not always sure how. It’s really up to the president to show how his handling of the trade deficit, increases in defense spending, or the threat of war can directly affect whether the economy grows or stagnates.

Some Obama successes, like his adroit handling of China, are inextricably tied to future jobs growth, in part through the recapturing of American jobs via “in-sourcing,” It makes no sense not to make this connection more explicit. Other foreign policy accomplishments could help the president with specific voter groups, including disillusioned youth and veterans, both of whom are showing strong signs of defection. Obama’s nuclear and conventional force reductions, for example, could galvanize his peace supporters but, as long-term deficit-busting measures, could appeal more widely, too.

In short, Obama seems to have a real opening on foreign and defense policy, which is something of a rarity for a Democratic presidential candidate. But he needs to seize this advantage now, before Karl Rove & Co. begin launching the kind of national security attack campaign that helped derail John Kerry’s bid for the White House in 2004. Developing a broader reelection narrative will allow voters to appreciate just how much is at stake in the election this November. It will also sharply contrast the two candidates’ leadership abilities and their fundamentally different visions for how America should confront the deeply intertwined global and domestic challenges of the 21st century.

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West Wing Week 12/2/11 or “Bo Meets Bo”

The White House

This week, as the President urged Republicans to join a Democratic effort to prevent a thousand dollar tax increase on the typical American family, the White House got spruced up for the holidays.

The President also hosted the EU Summit, the Dutch Prime Minister, and announced a new commitment to fighting AIDS in America and around the world. He also lit the National Christmas Tree. That’s November 25th to December 1st, or “Bo Meets Bo.”

Herman Cain Speaks Of ‘The So-Called Palestinian People’

Showcasing GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s utter ignorance is something I enjoy doing and will continue to do until this really strange man descends from his first place position in the GOP lineup…


Herman Cain’s lack of foreign policy knowledge has had him in hot water before. Since he hit frontrunner status he’s been dinged for mocking “Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan” and suggesting he might free every prisoner in Guantanamo Bayin exchange for one U.S. soldier.

Earlier in the campaign, before he had frontrunner status and its resulting scrutiny, the former CEO was asked about the Israel-Palestine “right of return” issue. This is one of the red lines in mid-east diplomacy, with the Israeli stance being that the prospect of opening the door to Palestinians displaced in the 1947-48 fighting should not even be negotiated. Cain rather put his foot in it when he was quizzed about the issue on Fox News and – clearly unfamiliar with the subject – he tried to dodge it by saying, “that should be an issue for negotiation.”

Cain’s clearly been swotting up on his mid-east knowledge since then, and a recent choice of words suggests he may have been dipping into some fairly controversial sources.

Cain gave an interview to Israel Hayom that was released Friday. It’s fairly boilerplate except for the part where he addresses the Palestinians’ recent push for full UN membership:

“I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president as weak.”

It’s that “so-called” that’s striking. This is still pretty controversial territory, though it did admittedly find its most notorious expression in the words of the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. She famously said, “There is no such thing as the Palestinians.”

What she meant by that, and what Cain is tapping into, is that the notion of a Palestinian people only arose after the foundation of Israel, and that this was a convenient way of harnessing the disparate resentments of various Arab groups who had been dislodged during the tumult of 1947-48.

This is something most serious commentators tend to hold back from claiming. Around the time the statehood push chatter was reaching its peak, a National Review editorial led with the line: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian state, and the United Nations can’t conjure one into existence.” However, their contention was very different from the idea that the Palestinian identity was simply invented so the Arabs could have a convenient stick with which to beat Israel in international institutions. Their argument rested on the far more common contention that the Palestinians – riven between Hamas and Fatah-controlled territories, lacking a Weberian “monopoly on violence,” and without strong political institutions – are not yet ready to have a definite political entity that could credibly be called a “state.” But though the editorial writers denied the Palestinians the concept of statehood, they held back from denyingnationhood.

The only people willing to go that far tend to be the more hardline publications such as World Net Daily. That publication’s editor, Joseph Farah, has several articles arguing that “Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc.”

The statehood push is a thorny diplomatic issue, and people on both sides of the matter have some fairly nuanced positions. However, it would seem that Cain has avoided these and has moved instead to one of the furthest edges available in this debate.

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How Obama made the 3 am phone call ad obsolete

Many of us remember the 2008  Hillary Clinton campaign video about the 3 a.m. call, implying that Hillary had the necessary foreign policy experience to handle a 3 a.m. foreign policy emergency and her Democratic primary opponent, Barack Obama didn’t.

Well, one would argue that since May 1st, 2011, President Barack Obama has put that fallacy to rest with his Obama Doctrine.  Subsequent action against known terrorists have solidified once and for all that the Obama Doctrine is working.

So goodnight 3 a.m. call, Obama’s got this…

The Grio

During the 2008 Democratic primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama there was that now infamous 3 a.m. phone call ad. At the time the fear mongering-style ad was intended to scare Texas primary voters into voting for Hillary Clinton over the inexperienced new kid on the block Senator Barack Obama.

The spooky voiceover said, “It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep…But there’s a phone in the White House, and it’s ringing…Who do you want answering the phone?”

In the wake of the incredibly historic news that reviled dictator Muammar Gadhafi, who rulked Libya with an iron fist for 42 years, was captured and killed yesterday, doesn’t the 3 a.m. ad now seem utterly ridiculous?

At this moment in the Obama presidency does anyone with a little common sense and a television set really believe that President Obama has not proven both able to answer that 3 a.m. call but also give the proper orders to whoever is on the other end?

Let’s recap for a moment: President Obama came into office and experts said he wasn’t ready to be a leader on the world stage. During the primary fight with Hillary he specifically was attacked for saying that if as president he if learned that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would send in troops to take him out whether or not he had the Pakistani government’s permission.

Everyone called him naïve. Obama was opening mocked by both Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain for his position on Pakistan.

In May, when the President Obama learned that Bin Laden was in Pakistan, he sent in Navy Seals to take Bin Laden out. And as Americans coast-to-coast celebrated, no one dared call President Obama naïve anymore.

Last month, a drone strike in Yemen killed yet another prominent Al Qaida figure, Anwar al-Awlaki who was suspected of orchestrating a number of terrorist plots including the two on U.S.airlines in 2009.

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