After 17 months of diplomacy, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was only able to get 12 of the 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council to vote to place increased sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that previous Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”. Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own poor performance look better isn’t factual. After so much hype about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy engagement strategy, the Obama UN resolution was remarkably weak, took too long to get and received less support than Bush’s team got in producing FIVE Security Council resolutions on Iran.
Wednesday’s vote was the first Iran resolution for the Obama team but not the first time the Security Council pressured the government of Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activity. In September 2008, President George W. Bush and his team wrote, negotiated and forced a vote of the 15 nations that sit on the Council. That resolution passed unanimously, including with the support of Russia and China. It was one of three Iran resolutions the Bush team got passed unanimously. Rice would lead you to believe otherwise. Two other resolutions passed with only one country voting against sanctions and one country abstaining (singular abstention, not plural as Rice claimed). Not a bad accomplishment for a team that the Obama Administration labeled devoid of friends around the world.
While the Obama team continues to tout their global fame, their popularity failed to convince Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon from voting for the sanctions resolution — despite 17 months of diplomacy. Obama’s foreign policy weakness and acquiescence has made him an international celebrity guest, but it isn’t producing the promised results on U.S. foreign policy priorities. The Obama team’s poor performance calls into question its overly diplomatic strategy to lead the world through excessive talk.
Barack Obama has been a law professor longer than he has done any other job. As an expert in Constitutional Law, he learned to intellectualize issues and map out ways to make change on paper. But Obama has very little experience dealing with issues outside the classroom or committee room. The 55 day oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a perfect study in the president’s intellectual strategy failing to produce results. Through a plethora of White House meetings with experts theorizing how the oil pipeline can be turned off, the Obama team is instructing BP rather than taking action itself. On Iran, there is some logic to the argument that we should not be afraid to speak to dictators. But the diplomatic reality is that dictators, like exploded pipelines, don’t play by rational rules.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama explained that he would speak directly to dictators like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them…is ridiculous,” he said. This argument makes sense only if you assume that the United States is just another country with no more influence than the next. And since we know that President Obama doesn’t believe America is exceptional, it makes sense to him.
But the 17 months of the Obama Presidency have proven that it actually does matter what America says – and to whom. The U.S. failed to strongly confront the Iranian regime with tough talk or multilateral diplomacy for 17 months, giving the Islamic Republic time and space to continue enriching uranium. The Administration’s delay and weakness also gave Russia, China, Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon a strong signal that the U.S. wouldn’t be leading the charge to isolate Iran, nor punish its bad behavior. The message to the world was very loud: America isn’t exceptional and you are free to ignore its wishes. Without American leadership, and yes, consequences, allies like Brazil and Turkey end up cutting their own deals with dictators like Ahmedinejad. And China and Russia are allowed to carve out economic contracts that circumvent UN demands and international sanctions.
Also during the 2008 campaign, Obama routinely called for more diplomacy and more international troops in Afghanistan. As last week’s UN vote shows, 17 months of more diplomacy from the diplomat in Chief achieved very little. Obama’s charm offense has also yet to convince our allies to give additional troops to help the Afghans, pass the Copenhagen Consensus, rally support for a no-fly zone in Sudan and put missiles in Eastern Europe. The facts show that the Bush style that Obama routinely ridiculed and derided produced better results than his exaggerated diplomacy has achieved. Bush lost two countries’ support in five Iran resolutions; Obama lost three countries’ support in one resolution.
If you are comfortable living in a world where America has no more influence than China, then you may like Obama’s softer, quieter, weaker America. Iran certainly loves the breathing room they got from Rice waiting 17 months before increasing the pressure on their illegal nuclear weapons program. And allies like Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon now find it easy to ignore Obama. It isn’t popular to say, but the world needs a strong America. The world needs an America that leads our allies and isn’t troubled by certain charges of hubris from elites on the Upper East Side of New York City or in capitals around the world. One thing is clear – Obama’s easy professorial attitude isn’t winning us votes.
Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina didn’t think it would be so easy. Both women fought hard and campaigned like champions. Both Women had Republican challengers that ran aggressive campaigns against them. But both Carly and Meg won big. And both races were over shortly after 9 PM.
Meg Whitman seemed to have a scary primary race developing when Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner ran a series of immigration ads in the last few weeks that made the race tense and close. Meg quickly responded with tough ads of her own to correct her record. More importantly, she never lost her cool. Meg proved she was a tough leader that knows how to fight. She showed California voters that she can handle the rough and tumble world of politics. Poizner’s aggressive campaign ultimately made Meg a better candidate. While she may have started as a soft spoken CEO, Poizner forced Meg into finishing as a sturdy leader that is focused in her message and comfortable in her abilities.
Carly Fiorina also had a tough primary battle. While Tom Campbell had little money, his message hit Carly hard. But Carly responded with both brilliant campaign ads and old fashion retail politics. Carly worked hard to criss-cross the state and campaign vigorously. She seemed to enjoy one on one conversations with everyday Californians in a way many pundits didn’t think possible. Carly knows the issues and is surprisingly and genuinely personable. Carly, too, is a better candidate because of Tom Campbell.
For Meg, Jerry Brown is the perfect opponent. And for Carly, running against Barbara Boxer presents voters with drastically different choices. Brown is all talk with very little to show for his decades of political activity. The last time Jerry Brown was Governor, he left the state with record unemployment and a budget deficit of more than $1 billion. Meg is soft spoken with a lifetime of business success. While voters across the country are tired of career politicians like Brown and Boxer, Californians in particular are wary of self-serving politicians that have left the state near fiscal collapse. Barbara Boxer, who is known as mean-spirited and difficult to get along with, is the poster-child for out-of-touch politicians with stale ideas. Boxer has many detractors who are energized to throw her out of office but few vocal supporters outside of the traditional union members that support all democrats. Carly, on the other hand, is smart, new to the scene and optimistic.
While east coasters erroneously think California voters are overwhelmingly liberal, Golden State residents are consistently anti-tax and fiercely independent. Californians are progressive and willing to try creative solutions to problems. Unlike other risk-adverse states, California tries everything out. How else can you explain a state that elected Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor and overwhelmingly passed Proposition 8, the anti-gay state-wide ballot initiative? Solidly liberal states would never have voted for Arnold and Prop 8. The current political climate for incumbents, combined with California’s penchant for continuous improvement and inventive ideas, spells trouble for old guards like Brown and Boxer.
This November, California voters have a clear choice – Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer who are uber-liberal career politicians with a history of support from special interests or Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, female Chief Executive Officers with decades of business experience and new ideas to try and turn around California’s dwindling future.
Two words: Don Imus.
So where is the main stream media on Helen Thomas’ hateful words?
She hasn’t been an unbiased journalist for years. Her liberal rantings and diatribes have been lamely disguised as questions and yet, because she is old and practiced, she’s been excused.
Hearst should act now and send her to a silent retirement.
Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council yesterday held an emergency Security Council meeting on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. The emergency meeting included a public meeting and a series of private consultations. The UN Security Council ultimately issued a statement on the situation in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 1, after starting deliberations on Monday, May 31 – the American Memorial Day holiday.
All 15 members of the Security Council delivered public speeches about the Israeli raid in which at least nine people were killed. While Arab nations called the ship a humanitarian mission for the desperate situation in Gaza, Israel called the ship’s operation an illegal act which defied calls for simple inspections. Israel has a blockade on all deliveries to Gaza, and Egypt, which shares a border with the Gaza Strip, keeps its border crossing closed most of the time.
Arab nations, Europeans and Asian members of the UN jumped to condemn Israel and the attack during the marathon public debate. Turkey’s Foreign Minister said, “This is tantamount to banditry and piracy. It is murder conducted by a state.” But while UN members were blasting Israel about a developing story with conflicting information as to what had actually happened, the American Ambassador failed to attend the emergency meeting. The U.S. Mission was represented by Ambassador Alex Wolff, the Mission’s deputy. Wolff, a skilled diplomat, defended the U.S. position and fended off the barrage of American critics that showed up for the emergency meeting.
One reporter told me, “I have no idea where she (Rice) was. We were there all day and the U.S. only had Wolff.” Another reporter said, “It’s Memorial Day. Rice doesn’t show up during a normal week, why would she show on a holiday?” Porter Speakman, Jr, NGO activist and director of the film “With God on Our Side,” said: “This is probably one of, if not, the most important meetings our Ambassador to the UN has seen since she arrived. What kind of message does this send to Arabs, the Turks and to Israel when Susan Rice doesn’t show up?”
Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand. The Associated Press said, “…long and difficult negotiations were conducted primarily by the United States with Turkey and Lebanon…” But those difficult negotiations didn’t involve Rice who failed to show throughout the 12 hour ordeal.
Coming on the heels of Rice’s silence and absence from the meeting where Iran was elected to the UN Women’s committee and Rice’s refusal to call out Libya after it was elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, Rice’s performance is leaving Americans wondering if she really wants to be the American Ambassador to the UN.