Thursday, May 29, 2008

McCain, Barack, Iraq and Foreign Policy Experience

Today comes news that Barack Obama is considering a trip to Iraq after turning down an invitation from McCain to do a joint visit. John McCain believes we should stay in Iraq while Obama believes it is time to pull the troops out. He has committed to doing just this within 16-months of taking office. On that topic John McCain is quoted this week as saying:



"Obama was driven to his position by ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or the experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be."
John McCain claims he has visited Iraq several times and thus "knows what is happening on the ground". If that is the case, then why was it he had such a skewed view of the security situation in this interview last year when he suggested some neighborhoods were safe enough for Americans to walk around without maximum security?


In the interview McCain scolded Wolf Blitzer to "catch up" and for "giving the old line". Following this interview John McCain was shown to be wrong on this fact (see second video below) and insisted he didn't say what he had said. So, either McCain was not telling the truth or HE doesn't know what is happening on the ground in Iraq.



video

There have been other McCain Iraq and foreign policy mistakes. See below for a few examples. In the mean time, what does Barack Obama have to say about his plan for Iraq? In short, he believes we need to give the military a new mission of removing our troops, in a safe way, in 16-months. He is willing to listen to the military experts on how to do this, but he believes the president, as commander in chief, sets the mission and the military is to execute.

The commander in chief sets the mission. That's not the role of the
generals. The president's approach lately has been to say, well, I'm just taking
cues from General Petraeus. Well, the president sets the mission. The general
and our troops carry out that mission. And unfortunately we have had a bad
mission. Once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed
deliberately in an orderly fashion out of Iraq, if they come to me and want to
adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into
consideration. And I have to look at not just the situation in Iraq, but the
fact that we continue to see al Qaeda getting stronger in Afghanistan and in
Pakistan, we continue to see anti-American sentiment fanned all cross the Middle
East, and we are overstretched in a way that we do not have a strategic reserve
at this point.
For a video of this response, visit this link and forward ahead to about 5:30.

John McCain Examples:

Mistaking Sunni and Shia:


Not knowing where the power lies in Iran:



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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A new kind of politics: What does that mean?

A key message of the Barack Obama campaign is "Change". This has a number of meanings in the campaign but a primary one, in my opinion, is the need to change our politics. Senator Obama often talks about the need to rise above petty politics and divisiveness and instead focus on issues and honest dialogue in search of solutions. But what does all that mean? How is Barack Obama different than the other candidates still in the race? I believe a key example is the negative attacks that are so common in old style politics.

As I was thinking about this post, another Blogger did a nice analysis that clearly demonstrates the issue. Rather than come up with my own measure, I'll refer to that analysis. The chart below graphs the number of press releases from each campaign and respective parties (Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee) that mention other candidates. The assumption here, which seems obvious, is that a campaign only mentions the competitor when they are throwing mud.



If we focus just on stuff from candidates, you need to look at the lighter blue, the dark blue, and the bright red. These are attacks coming from Clinton, Obama, and McCain respectively. As can be clearly seen, the bars representing "from McCain" and "from Clinton" are much larger than the minuscule bars representing "from Obama."

To me, this provides a nice picture into the true commitment Obama has made to "a new kind of politics." Again, check it out for yourself. Visit the press release page for each campaign and decide which "tone" represents what you want leading our country.

Links to campaign press releases:

Obama

Clinton

McCain



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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What topics can a president joke about?

Leader of the free world.
Most powerful person in the world.
Commander in chief.

These are all terms used to describe the president of the United States. It's an awesome position and we need to think long and hard about to whom we should give the job.

So here's an odd question: Given the position, what topics should be off limits to the president (or presidential candidate) when cracking jokes?

A few weeks ago I suggested that we should never call a kid a "little jerk." Maybe you don't agree. Maybe you view it as a harmless joke or a just response to a kid speaking out of line. OK, I stand by my original post but let's kick it up a notch.





How can the leader of the United States look another leader in the eye and be taken seriously when they openly joke about the most important responsibility of the president? Going to war should be the last option. Putting troops in harms way should be done only with great trepidation. Yet, John McCain feels that it is OK to joke about such a thing. I believe this is fine material for the late night comics but not for the future occupant of the oval office.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gas Tax Holiday: Further Evidence of Independent Thinking

A few weeks ago I wrote about Barack Obama's demonstration of independent thinking. In that post I suggested that his decision to forgo a flag pin on his lapel was evidence of his willingness to make decisions that might be unpopular. If you haven't read that post, have a look.

This week we have another example. Earlier in the week McCain proposed a gas tax holiday which would drop the price of gas by about 18 cents a gallon. Hillary Clinton quickly voiced her support of the plan. The best experts in the nation have looked at this and concluded it would save the average family less than $30 over the course of the summer. They also suggest it could be much less because the base price of gas could go up as a result of the reduced tax.



Think about the decision Barack Obama had to make when this came out. He could jump on the bandwagon and trumpet his support for this plan. Without further scrutiny, everyone would be happy to hear about a tax cut of any kind. Or, he could speak his belief and oppose this plan. Doing so would require an explanation to the American public about the full impact of this tax cut and the likelihood that prices could go UP as a result.

Picking the latter route, and criticizing this plan, on the heels of a difficult week caused by his former pastor, highlights Obama's commitment to making the decisions that are right for Americans rather than those decisions that are right just for himself. It showed his belief that, when presented with unvarnished facts, Americans can understand nuanced political decisions.

Hillary Clinton faced the same decision. She has advisors who have admitted the shortcomings of this plan. Yet, being the calculator she is, she chose the easy option. She chose the option that would be popular at first glance if not best for America.

If Barack Obama was an ordinary politician he would have taken the safe route too. He didn't and this is further evidence of his independent thinking that will help move our country forward.

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