Is Sarkozy becoming a French version of Putin by flexing France's military muscle? I would not be a bit surprised if France assisted Israel should Israel decide to take on Iran. (See 1 below.)
Meanwhile, there is something deliciously perverse about watching liberals willingly embrace Obama's candidacy along with Louis Farrakhan. These are the same liberals who find nothing wrong with Clinton's unctuous "indiscretions" yet viciously attack GW for his own youthful peccadilloes, inarticulateness and government service and,to this day, cannot cut him any slack. Obama can smoke pot and tell about it to young children in a schoolhouse setting and they deem this as a charming act of contrition but these same voters become sanctimonious when it comes to comparable immoral conduct by Conservatives. They are no less slaves to the Democrat Party than the Far Right they self-righteously condemn.
Everyone has a right to vote as they choose but is it asking too much of them to at least be intellectually honest about their vote and defense of their selected candidate when they obviously engage in obnoxious duplicity?
They defend Senator Kennedy yet find untold fault with Newt Gingrich. They adore Ms. Clinton for standing by her man but attack Barbara Bush for defending her husband who was falsely accused of amorous affairs. The New York Times continues to print sleaze and they eat it up while the stock slides into oblivion because of declining readership due, in part, to an editorial staff more interested in making "news unfit to print" than reporting that which is.
Sen. Clinton lied in public about ill gotten cattle trading gains and hiding documents and now claims years of hands on experience experience because she attended some Senate Intelligence briefings. Did she ever serve in the military? Was she ever a POW? No, she was busy protesting the Viet Nam War and can't wait to bring the troops home so history can document we willingly lost another war. GW served as an effective Governor of one of the nation's largest states and all liberals can say is he was a failure in everything he did, yet their own precious candidates have no executive experience but are somehow deemed very talented and experienced.
Obama is so full "of hope" after serving three years in the Senate he has the "chutzpah" to believe he is qualified to lead the nation and "can." His voting record is sporadic and spotty yet he considers himself qualified on foreign affairs and other serious executive matters and he too pledges to bring the troops home even faster than his Democrat opponent.
Ronald Reagan was mocked as a movie simpleton yet served as an effective governor of an enormous state, negotiated with tough movie moguls as a labor representative. He understood our national sport and could eat a hot dog with the best of them. He loved life, was a wonderful communicator and was not maudlin in his outlook. He did not campaign on our nation's negatives.
It appears to this observer what I see is all smoke and mirrors and the sound of mighty fury but if that is what the nation wants, I willingly will go along though I will cast my vote elsewhere and at least try and be honest what I am about and why. I have no illusions about the problems this nation faces, the questionable paths our society has chosen to follow and have no answers or solutions to offer other than we are likely to accomplish more being truthful to ourselves than to continue to wantonly defend our bias - "To thine own self be true and thou canst be false to any man!"
Stephen Hayes believes otherwise regarding Obama. He finds substance not shallow words. (See 2 below.)
Then there is Carrie Brown. (See 3 below.)
As Olmert lands in Japan he responds to Abbas. Yes, peace between the Palestinians and Israel is possible in '08, if Olmert is willing to meet Abbas' every demand and then more after Abbas proves either unwilling and/or incapable of delivering on his promises. Yes, peace can be obtained quickly if Olmert is willing to sell out his nation's security but if he is serious about standing firm, on matters legitimate, peace is nowhere in sight.
Olmert is in a difficult position because he is negotiating with a partner who cannot deliver anything dependable even if he wants to because he represents only a part of the loaf and is too weak to enforce his own agreements. Hamas has no desire to offer Israel anything resembling a fig leaf. Hamas is still bent on eliminating Israel and that is not the basis upon which to build anything secure and believable.
Progress is more likely achievable when your adversary has had a bankable epiphany or is on his knees. Hamas is not there yet.
Meanwhile, Olmert apparently was more interested in Soccer than Palestinians being driven by Hamas to penetrate Israel's borders.
Olmert seems clueless and incompetent enough to be a candidate to run our own nation.(See 4 and 5 below.)
Sec. Rice reaffirms a pledge not to press for a U.N. vote regarding Taiwan for China's renewed statement regarding N Korea. (See 6 below.)
1)France, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia secretly launch their first joint war game
Military sources report exclusively that the first Persian Gulf exercise without the US in many years began Feb. 24. It will last ten days. It is also the first time the United Arab Emirates and France have invoked their 19-year old military pact. France has contributed 1,500 navy marine and air force personnel to the exercise; the UAE, 1,500 and Qatar 3,000 troops. Our military sources report that a number of the advanced French Rafale B and naval units are deployed in the exercise.
While Iran is not explicitly targeted, the objectives of the maneuver are to practice repulsing marine landings by sea on the Gulf participants’ shores and missile attacks from the east, i.e. Iran. The joint force is also drilling tactics to defend their oil and gas fields and oil ports.
While the Saudi army is not directly participating in the maneuver, King Abdullah has permitted some of the air and naval movements to take place in the kingdom’s territorial waters and over its air space.
Some of the participating French units will stay on as the vanguard of the 400-strong contingent to permanently man the new French base under construction in Abu Dhabi opposite the Strait of Hormuz.
It will be France’s first military foothold in the Persian Gulf region. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the UAE government agreed to establish this base with the approval of US president George W. Bush during their respective Gulf tours last month.
2) Obama and the Power of Words
By STEPHEN F. HAYES
These are words that move and uplift, that give hope to the hopeless. These words inspired millions of voters nationwide to join the grand experiment called democracy, casting votes for their candidate, their country, their destiny:
"More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values . . . For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"
So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.
Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"
Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."
Conservatives understood that this Reagan-as-a-simpleton view was a caricature (something made even clearer in several recent books, particularly Reagan's own diaries). That his opponents never got this is what led to their undoing. Those critics who giggled about his turn alongside a chimp were considerably less delighted when Reagan won 44 states and 489 electoral votes in November.
One Reagan adviser had predicted such a win shortly after Reagan had become the de facto nominee the previous spring. In a memo about the coming general election contest with Jimmy Carter, Richard Whalen wrote Reagan's "secret weapon" was that "Democrats fail to take him very seriously."
Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?
[Hillary Rodham Clinton]
For months now, Hillary Clinton has suggested that Mr. Obama is all rhetoric, no substance. This claim, or some version of it, has been at the center of her campaign since November. One day after losing to him in Wisconsin and Hawaii -- her ninth and tenth consecutive defeats -- she rather incredibly went back to it again. "It's time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions," she said -- a formulation that could be mistaken for a sound bite.
As she complained about his lack of substance, tens of thousands of people lined up in city after city, sometimes in subfreezing temperatures, for a chance to get a shot of some Mr. Obama hopemongering. Plainly, her critique is not working.
And yet, Republicans are picking it up. In just the past week, conservative commentators have accused Mr. Obama of speaking in "Sesame Street platitudes," of giving speeches that are "almost content free," of "saying nothing." He has been likened to Chance the Gardner, the clueless mope in Jerzy Koscinski's "Being There," whose banal utterances are taken as brilliant by a gullible political class. Others complain that his campaign is "messianic," too self-aggrandizing and too self-referential.
John McCain has joined the fray. In a speech after he won primaries in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, Mr. McCain said: "To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude." After Wisconsin, he sharpened the attack, warning that he would expose Mr. Obama's "eloquent but empty call for change."
The assumption behind much of this criticism is that because Mr. Obama gives a good speech he cannot do substance. This is wrong. Mr. Obama has done well in most of the Democratic debates because he has consistently shown himself able to think on his feet. Even on health care, a complicated national issue that should be Mrs. Clinton's strength, Mr. Obama has regularly fought her to a draw by displaying a grasp of the details that rivals hers, and talking about it in ways Americans can understand.
[Obama and the Power of Words]
In Iowa, long before the race became the national campaign it is today, Mr. Obama spent much of his time at town halls in which he took questions from the audience. His answers in such settings were often as good or better than the rhetoric in his stump speech, and usually more substantive. He spoke about issues like immigration and national service in a thoughtful manner -- not wonky, not pedantic, but in a way that suggested he'd spent some time thinking about them before.
More important for the race ahead, Mr. Obama has the unique ability to offer doctrinaire liberal positions in a way that avoids the stridency of many recent Democratic candidates. That he managed to do this in the days before the Iowa caucuses -- at a time when he might have been expected to be at his most liberal -- was quite striking.
His rhetorical gimmick is simple. When he addresses a contentious issue, Mr. Obama almost always begins his answer with a respectful nod in the direction of the view he is rejecting -- a line or two that suggests he understands or perhaps even sympathizes with the concerns of a conservative.
At Cornell College on Dec. 5, for example, a student asked Mr. Obama how his administration would view the Second Amendment. He replied: "There's a Supreme Court case that's going to be decided fairly soon about what the Second Amendment means. I taught Constitutional Law for 10 years, so I've got my opinion. And my opinion is that the Second Amendment is probably -- it is an individual right and not just a right of the militia. That's what I expect the Supreme Court to rule. I think that's a fair reading of the text of the Constitution. And so I respect the right of lawful gun owners to hunt, fish, protect their families."
Then came the pivot:
"Like all rights, though, they are constrained and bound by the needs of the community . . . So when I look at Chicago and 34 Chicago public school students gunned down in a single school year, then I don't think the Second Amendment prohibits us from taking action and making sure that, for example, ATF can share tracing information about illegal handguns that are used on the streets and track them to the gun dealers to find out -- what are you doing?"
"There is a tradition of gun ownership in this country that can be respected that is not mutually exclusive with making sure that we are shutting down gun traffic that is killing kids on our streets. The argument I have with the NRA is not whether people have the right to bear arms. The problem is they believe any constraint or regulation whatsoever is something that they have to beat back. And I don't think that's how most lawful firearms owners think."
In the end, Mr. Obama is simply campaigning for office in the same way he says he would operate if he were elected. "We're not looking for a chief operating officer when we select a president," he said during a question and answer session at Google headquarters back in December.
"What we're looking for is somebody who will chart a course and say: Here is where America needs to go -- here is how to solve our energy crisis, here's how we need to revamp our education system -- and then gather the talent together and then mobilize that talent to achieve that goal. And to inspire a sense of hope and possibility."
Like Ronald Reagan did.
3) Obama stiffs, stifles national press
By: Carrie Budoff Brown
EDINBURG, Texas - For all the positive press Barack Obama receives, as he moves closer to clinching the Democratic nomination he is establishing himself as the candidate who keeps the most distance from the national media.
Reporters covering Obama can no longer move freely among the thousands of zealous supporters at his events — unless the reporter receives a staff escort through the security gates. (In one city, that meant using a port-o-potty outside because the route to the indoor plumbing ran through the crowd.)
And the traveling press corps has been shut out of monitoring Obama's satellite interviews with local media outlets, which is a normal practice on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.
On top of that, the traveling media has been tussling with Obama aides to keep conversations with the candidate on his campaign plane on the record.
In any other campaign year, the media strategy might not raise eyebrows since it is standard practice for a frontrunner. But this is a year when the likely Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, has set a new standard for press accessibility, creating a potentially stark general election contrast between a reticent Democrat and the most accessible GOP nominee in decades.
McCain sits with reporters on his campaign bus. He jokes with them on the plane. He talks until they have no more questions to ask. The open-book policy creates a rapport that works to his advantage: A reporter who knows a candidate is more likely to give the benefit of the doubt.
Even after McCain went into crisis mode over a potentially lethal story in the New York Times last week, the Arizona senator did not retreat entirely from the media.
Obama is gregarious on the occasions when he interacts with the traveling press corps. But he largely remains a distant figure to most reporters, appearing more removed from the national media than Clinton—who has never been noted for her coziness with the press.
Indeed, after losing Iowa, Clinton upended her approach. Once reluctant to engage the traveling press corps, Clinton began holding availabilities roughly every other day. She dined with reporters at off-the-record gatherings, and chatted with them on her plane almost daily until they insisted the conversations be placed on the record. The frequency of the plane visits has since tapered off.
The Obama campaign, on the other hand, is mimicking the 2004 campaign playbooks of President Bush and Democrat John Kerry, who often bypassed the national press in favor of local media, which tended to focus on local issues and yield more favorable headlines.
Obama does between six and a dozen local interviews a day, according to the campaign. By contrast, he usually meets with the national media twice a week.
This past week, however, was unusual. Following a press conference last Monday, he answered 10 minutes worth of questions Saturday in Ohio - the same amount of time reserved earlier in the day for an unthreatening interview with Entertainment Tonight - to respond to harsh criticism from Clinton about one of his mailers. He went back for more questioning Sunday.
But in general, the candidate's time is better spent with the local press, said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director.
"The truth is, in a lot of these little communities, most people are going to get information from their most local media source," Gibbs said.
It's also true that press conferences with national media tend to veer into areas that do not necessarily underscore the campaign's message of the day. The focus is often not on issues like the economy or health care, but on process and punditry, which campaigns loathe.
"The questions that seem to dominate now are superdelegates, pledged delegates, Florida and Michigan," Gibbs said. "I just don't know that they provide a tremendous insight into the type of president" he would be
4) Olmert: I'm unsure peace deal with PA possible in 2008
By Barak Ravid
TOKYO - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that he is not certain Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be able to reach a peace agreement by the end of 2008, as they committed themselves to doing in the November U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference.
"We have a desire to reach an agreement within the year 2008," Olmert told a business conference in Tokyo, where he is making his first visit as prime minister. "I am not sure we will make it, but we are determined to make a giant step forward to end this dispute once and for all."
The prime minister said he would make every effort to reach an agreement with Palestinians that would lead to a two-state solution to a decades-old conflict.
"In these days we are making exceptional efforts to conclude all differences with our neighbors and to resolve outstanding disputes with our Palestinian neighbors," he said.
Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met last week and agreed to accelerate the peace talks.
The prime minister is due to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tokyo on Thursday to update her on the peace talks and growing tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip's Hamas leaders.
"There will be no better opportunity, and we want to make every possible effort to seize this opportunity," said Olmert, who is to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Wednesday.
5) Olmert aides: insignificant that Olmert was clueless about Gaza challenge he left for Barak and Livni to handle.
Mental gymnastics by Olmert's aides and Winograd Committee member Yehezkel Dror notwithstanding, the fact that Prime Minister Olmert was clueless about a critical security and diplomatic challenge as he boarded his flight for Tokyo speaks volumes about the absence of a true change in Olmert's operating procedures since the Second Lebanon War.
The Gaza challenge didn't end the way it did because of luck. It ended in a
whimper because while Olmert and his wife were discussing sushi, there were
people in Israel who had the intestinal fortitude to make it clear that if
the choice is going to be between the bad PR of a Palestinian bloodbath and
a Palestinians invasion Israel will, without hesitation, opt for the bad
Olmert sat on a seat at the end of the plane and started asking questions.
He already knew the results (2:0 to Beitar) but wanted to hear details. "I
heard Gal Alberman scored a great goal," he told the reporters.
"Sir, what about the warnings that a Palestinian mass could breach the
border in the Gaza Strip," asked Channel 2 reporter Udi Segal.
"I know of no such warnings," Olmert replied curtly, reluctant to answer
A few minutes later he pulled himself together and added, "we must remember
that in the Middle East every scenario is possible, and therefore we must
Only after landing did Olmert, his advisers and the reporters realize what a
commotion had taken place in Israel while they were in the air.
At first the entourage grumbled about Livni and Barak's "hasty" statement,
which had been issued without consulting Olmert. Then, realizing that this
would spark another spat in the media, they changed their tone. "Hamas
announced its intentions after we had taken off and Livni and Barak thought
it wasn't sufficiently dramatic to bother the prime minister on his flight,
and that's okay," an Olmert aide said.
"They did what they had to do," he said. "Their statement was blown up by
the media although it was quite moderate."
Olmert's people were all business-as-usual. Military secretary Meir Kalifi
was briefed from Israel, but the morning was devoted to a tour of Tokyo and
the atmosphere was amazingly pastoral.
In the early evening, after it transpired that the Gazans had stayed home,
Olmert's people announced that altogether it had been "much ado about
nothing." Olmert knew that more people came to Teddy Stadium to see Alberman
score than participated in the demonstration in Gaza.
6) Rice wins Chinese help on NKorea nukes
By MATTHEW LEE
BEIJING - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won a verbal assurance Tuesday from China to use its influence to jump-start the stalled process of dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs. Yet it was unclear when or how the Chinese would follow through.
In broad discussions with Chinese officials, Rice also won an agreement from China to resume an on-again, off-again human rights dialogue with the United States and she pleased her Chinese hosts by restating firm U.S. opposition to a Taiwanese referendum on United Nations entry that has infuriated Beijing.
But North Korea dominated the talks and Rice urged China, which has considerable leverage with its Stalinist neighbor, along with others n the six-nation denuclearization effort, to "use all influence possible" with Pyongyang to meet its pledges to the group.
"I believe that all of the parties to the six-party talks have both an obligation and an interest to make certain that the obligations of the first phase are carried out," Rice told reporters at a news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
"We are the cusp of something very special here," she said, referring to the shutdown and continuing disablement of North Korea's main nuclear facility in Yongbyon. "Now it is time to move on because the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is in everyone's interest."
"What I am expecting from China is what I am expecting from others: Use all influence possible with the North Koreans to convince them that it is time to move forward," Rice said.
Yang said China was "consistently committed to the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and would continue to work on the matter. But he also made clear that Beijing had already pressed the North hard on the matter.
"The Chinese side hopes that the parties will treasure the results we have already produced, which have not come easily," he said through an interpreter at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
Yang added that China wanted all members of process — the United States, China, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea — to "create favorable conditions to overcome the current difficulties and move forward the six-party process as soon as possible."
Although progress has been made in disabling Yongbyon, the United States says North Korea has not yet produced a full declaration of its nuclear programs, including details on the transfer of technology and know-how that could be used to develop atomic weapons.
The declaration was due almost two months ago, and the North says it has already met the requirement but the Bush administration rejects the claim, which has slowed progress on the process aimed at restoring stability in North Asia and bringing a final end to the Korean War.
Yang said China was eager to see the second phase of the denuclearization process — the complete dismantlement of Yongbyon, the production of the declaration and in return the provision of fuel oil to North Korea — completed quickly.
Rice is in China on the second leg of a three-nation tour of Asia that has already taken her to South Korea and ends in Japan on Thursday.
The trip coincides with an historic performance in North Korea by the New York Philharmonic later Tuesday in an unprecedented cultural exchange that some have dubbed "violin diplomacy."
But the classically trained pianist has steered clear of the topic, ignoring it entirely on Monday in Seoul where she attended the inauguration of new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and lauded his intent to hold North Korea to its promise to abandon nuclear weapons.
Rice has previously played down the possible impact of the concert noting that North Korea's reclusive and authoritarian leadership is unlikely to be influenced by it.
She has ruled out talks with North Korean officials while in China, saying such a meeting was neither warranted nor could be of any use in the current circumstances.
In Beijing, Rice said she had also raised human rights issues, along with intellectual property protections, product safety, efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and the upcoming referendum in Taiwan — an island Beijing sees as a breakaway province.
Yang said China had agreed to resume the human rights dialogue with the United States that it had broken off in 2004 when the Bush administration unsuccessfully sponsored a resolution censuring China before the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He did not, however, give a date.
China bristles at criticism of its human rights record, which it regards as meddling in its internal affairs, and groups have accused the administration of playing down its lapses to win Beijing's help in dealing with North Korea, Iran and the war on terrorism.
Rice said she approached the matter with "respect" for the Chinese but stressed that civil liberties and religious freedoms are "very near and dear to American values."
A senior State Department official said Rice raised specific cases of concern with Yang, but gave no details.
On Iran, Rice said the United States was seeking Chinese support for new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programs. China and Russia, veto-wielding permanent members of the council, have been resisting the effort.
Yang did not directly address how China would vote but called for all sides "to work creatively" to resolve the matter.
The foreign minister also said Beijing "appreciated" Washington's outspoken opposition to the Taiwanese referendum, which Rice restated on Tuesday.
"We believe this referendum is not going to help anyone," she said. "In fact, it should not be held.