Grenell discusses the Obama administration’s Iran policy
ABC News and George Stephanopoulos have a credibility problem with conservatives and middle America. And it seems to be getting worse.
It’s not just that ABC News hired former President Clinton’s White House spokesman and counselor George Stephanopoulos as a journalist; it’s that
the pack mentality at ABC News doesn’t see it as a problem.
“The planning meetings (at ABC News) have little political diversity. Everyone is left of center and at ease with their liberal ideals. The other viewpoint is rarely raised and never fully represented,” a current ABC News producer told me last week.
And this week is a perfect example of the problem. Stephanopoulos opened Good Morning America’s show the morning after Congressman Anthony Weiner’s press conference clearly feeling sorry for Weiner and dismissing the negative media coverage. Stephanopoulos went on to interview Democratic activist and close friend James Carville on Weiner’s Twitter troubles and asked “what’s illegal, if anything?” Carville responded to his friend in agreement. While NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s Early Show interviewed Andrew Breitbart, the man who broke the Weiner story, Stephanopoulos’ team at Good Morning America never reached out to the conservative to request an interview.
But this week’s bias is certainly not unique for ABC News. Stephanopoulos currently has an ABCNews.com story running where he interviews his buddy and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and gives this prediction: “After serving in two administrations and becoming a top Democrat in the House, if Emanuel does a good job as mayor Democrats will talk about him for a 2016 presidential run.” Stephanopoulos also interviewed Emanual last week and titled the article “Rahm Emanuel: President Obama ‘Consistent’ on Israel”.
The week before Stephanopoulos “interviewed” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and gave her nothing but softball questions. He didn’t even give her one follow up question after she dismissed the criticism over rapper Common’s White House invite.
But the bias at ABC News doesn’t stop with just political activist turned “journalist” Stephanopoulos. Obama White House Spokesman Jay Carney is married to ABC News reporter Claire Shipman. Shipman regularly reports for ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America on political issues with no mention to the viewers that she is married to the Obama White House Spokesman. The morning after the memorial service for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Shipman criticized Sarah Palin on Good Morning America for comments interpreted by the left as inciting and encouraging violence. Shipman produced former Clinton White House strategist and Democratic activist Paul Begala to weigh in on the controversy and then showed a Keith Olberman attack video (her husband was Vice President Biden’s Spokesman at the time). Perhaps more troubling, the ABC News’ website currently erroneously claims that Carney doesn’t work at the White House. Shipman’s bio reads: “Shipman, a Columbus, Ohio, native, now resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Time magazine White House correspondent Jay Carney.” Not disclosing their reporters’ relationships with Obama Administration officials is clearly not an issue for ABC News.
There is also Christiane Amanpour, host of ABC News’ ‘This Week’ Sunday Show who is married to former Clinton State Department spokesman and Democratic activist Jamie Rubin. There is also no mention of Rubin on Amanpour’s ABC News’ website bio.
And there is former ABC News Congressional Reporter Linda Douglass who was the 2008 Obama campaign spokeswoman and now works in the Obama Administration.
And there’s former ABC News reporters Geoff Morrell and David Ensor who currently work in the Obama Administration as spokespeople.
And ABC News reporter Chris Cuomo, who’s brother is New York Democratic
Governor Andrew Cuomo – again, no mention in Cuomo’s bio.
ABC News also has as its Political Director an out-and-proud partisan liberal named Amy Walters. Walters’ bias is legendary and her associates don’t even challenge the claim that she is a partisan liberal Democrat. “She actually owns it, there is no pretense,” said one ABC News producer.
While the hiring of George Stephanopoulos as a legitimate and impartial journalist was laughable in itself, ABC News top brass actually think they have a balanced team. One current ABC News employee said to me last week, “George was seen by David and Diane as unbiased and Ben has accepted that premise. Nobody talks about Claire’s conflicts of interest and Chris has been here long enough that nobody cares.” The employee was referring to former ABC News President David Westin, Diane Sawyer and current President Ben Sherwood. “Ben needs to look no further than George’s Bottom Line (on ABCNews.com) to understand the enormity of our morning problem,” she added.
But imagine the rage from liberals and the main stream media if NBC hired Karl Rove to replace Matt Lauer?
While some outsiders expected early on that new executive Ben Sherwood would make the necessary corrections to ABC News’ bias trouble, Sherwood has been criticized internally with making the situation worse by avoiding the bias issue altogether.
It’s telling how Stephanopoulos is consistently compelled to defend Democrats rather than ask probing questions that are fair and balanced. Instead of asking follow up questions to understand the issue, as normal journalists do, he makes statements. And his statements always defend the Democrats. Always. And why not? He is, after all, a Democratic political operative that has for years worked to elect liberals to elective office. He now gets to do it from the perch of the Good Morning America anchor chair surrounded by ABC News producers and reporters who don’t question his journalistic integrity or his bias.
ABC News and Sherwood must make changes to the ABC News team if they are ever going to convince conservatives that both sides of issues are well represented on their network. At the very least, Sherwood needs to fire Amy Walters, stop Stephanopoulos from interviewing his friends, bar Shipman from reporting on any political issues, be transparent and honest about reporters’ connections to Democratic political operatives and hire conservatives to balance their coverage. Sherwood, by the way, has a sister, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, who works for Obama at the White House too.
It doesn’t seem like a gutsy call to put sanctions on a head of state who has jailed protesters and shot peaceful demonstrators since early March. President Barack Obama’s overdue call to add Bashar al-Assad to a sanctions list restricting his travel outside of Syria is a slow start to one of the greatest U.S. foreign policy opportunities of our generation. And today’s Middle East Speech did nothing more to push Assad.
The end of Assad’s regime would be a blow to Iran and help isolate Ahmedinejad’s government in the region by removing its main ally and partner in crime. Isolating Iran, especially right now, could have profound consequences for Americans’ security, too, since the Iranian government announced it has mastered the technology needed to make a nuclear weapon. The Iranian leader also said that Israel should be wiped off the map.
But the Obama team either believes it can charm Assad into ending his relationship with Iran or doesn’t see the strategic importance of ending the Assad-Iran partnership. Obama’s engagement policy with Syria and his decision to send a U.S. Ambassador into Damascus normalized relations with a man Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “a reformer.” Assad responded to Obama’s overtures and acquiescence with more violence and terror and less reform. But Obama is unfazed. Syria has strengthened its ties with Iran and has continued to send and support terrorists into Iraq, Israel and Lebanon; And Obama can only muster enough outrage to say that Assad must stop using violence against his people.
Syria has allowed Iraqi Sunni insurgents to mobilize and plan attacks from its territory, has been accused by the United Nations of planning and assassinating Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and has supported Hezbollah and Hamas efforts to destabilize Israel and Lebanon. The reluctance by Obama and Clinton to act decisively on the Syrian government’s brutal actions against its people allows Syria to maintain its position as a legitimate member of the international community. Obama’s Middle East missteps have also encouraged neighbors like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to abandon his normally pro-western positions in favor of his comfortable relationship with Assad and Ahmedinejad.
Obama’s refusal to call for an end to the Assad regime is consistent with U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s trip in 2007 to Damascus to meet with the Syrian President despite pleas from the Bush Administration to not legitimize the dictator and Vice President Joe Biden’s refusal to call for Egypt’s Hosni Mubarrak to step down or characterize him as a dictator.
The recent evidence of brutality by Assad’s government is undeniable. More than 10,000 people have been arrested, 800 protesters killed and 120 government security forces killed since the protests began. Opposition forces are calling for an end to President Assad’s regime and an expansion of economic and civil liberties; a goal Obama should wholeheartedly support.
An April 4th crack-down by government forces was caught on tape and posted on YouTube showing Syrian protesters shot outside a mosque and lying in the street – some dying on camera:
(Warning: This video is very graphic)
Images like these have rallied hundreds of thousands of people throughout Syria to continue fighting for their rights. These compelling stories have also prompted
human rights activists to call for more direct action from the White House.
For an Administration that criticized the international community’s slow response to Darfur and committed to utilize the United Nations more, little has been done to rally the world to support an obvious U.S. priority. Obama and his Ambassador to
the UN Susan Rice haven’t forced a vote of the UN Security Council on Syria nor
put the UN members on record to either support the protesters or the dictators
in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia. While the Arab revolution has unfolded over the last several months, Rice has failed to even offer draft resolutions for discussion.
Instead, Rice has allowed Russia and China to dictate the non-agenda.
It’s clear from Obama’s Middle East speech today that he has sidelined the UN. Team Obama should be applauded for realizing their previous commitments to utilize the UN for all international issues was a foolish campaign promise to look un-Bush (see also: Iraq pullout in one year, closing GITMO, enhanced interrogations, military tribunals).
Obama should speak more forcefully about Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and call for him to step down. He should also immediately withdraw the U.S. Ambassador from Damascus, kick out the Syrian Ambassador in Washington and call upon Europeans to do the same. If Obama believes that the status quo is unsustainable then he should stop supporting it. Timidity is exactly what Assad and Ahmedinejad are looking for.
The revolution sweeping across the Middle East started in Beirut shortly after the February 14, 2005, assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. The ensuing Cedar Revolution, launched by Lebanese pro-democracy supporters, targeted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime and demanded an end to Syria’s 30 year occupation of Lebanon. The Lebanese revolution succeeded in ousting Assad’s military and intelligence officials from Lebanon and driving them back into Syria by the end of April 2005. It was an incredible moment celebrated by pro-democracy supporters throughout Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and ignited the reform efforts we see in Syria today. The United States, too, celebrated the expulsion of Assad’s militiamen because of the message it sent not only to Syria but Iran.
Syria’s defeat in 2005 was a moment of opportunity for the U.S. and our allies that has since been squandered. The U.S. government’s efforts to build on the Cedar Revolutions’ successes faded over the years and altogether stopped with the election of President Barack Obama. Today, Syria and Hezbollah are in control of Lebanon again with Iran calling the shots.
But the Syrian uprisings of the last week give Obama another rare opportunity to push for greater democracy in Syria and send a powerful message to Iran that it could be next. He should seize the moment quickly.
In 2009, after a year of ignoring the signs of Syrian and Iranian growing influence, President Obama naively ordered the return of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria after a six-year hiatus – a punishment for bad behavior. Obama’s diplomatic gift and peace offering gave the brutal regime — controlled by Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran — the instant credibility it desired.
Nothing has been gained by Obama’s concession to Assad and much has been lost. As moderate regimes throughout the Arab world begin to fall, the most repressive Arab governments are reaping the benefits of weaker neighbors and moving to take more ground. The Obama Administration meanwhile struggles to understand who our friends and enemies are. It was more aggressive with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak than with the much more repressive Bashar al-Assad. The inconsistent Obama strategy has been called “selective” by the U.S. media and hypocritical and foolish by the Arab street.
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seem to not be able to do diplomacy and chew gum. The Administration has struggled to find a coherent policy and failed to articulate its goals. When Yemen and Bahrain launched bloody attacks on peaceful protesters, the U.S. botched an opportunity to stand firm on our values against an ally’s repressive actions. Instead, Clinton defaulted to the tried and true talking point about our interests and how helpful those governments have historically been to our military and the support they have given to our anti-terrorism efforts.
But why not push our friends toward reform and our enemies toward regime change? White House and State Department officials should be able to have adult conversations with our allies that include multi-faceted approaches to the policies we disagree with. Certainly U.S. allies that receive vast amounts of US taxpayer dollars are able to accept our aid but stand strongly against some of our policies (Pakistan comes to mind).
For Obama, chastising brutal regimes has proven to be much harder than calling out House Republicans. Syrian President Assad, for instance, has consistently supported Hezbollah and Hamas at Iran’s asking with little consequence from Obama and Clinton. If we want to pressure Iran to give up its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons then we better find enough resolve to support the overthrow of Iran’s closest ally, Syria.
Over the last month, hundreds of protesters have turned into thousands and then tens of thousands of voices throughout Syria calling for more freedoms and an end to Assad’s reign. What started in Dara’a as a student protest has morphed into tens of thousands in Damascus demanding democratic reforms. A simple look at Twitter shows incredible enthusiasm from Arab youth and democracy supporters for ending Assad’s government.
While much as been written by the U.S. media that the intelligence community didn’t connect the dots in the lead up to Sept. 11, very little has been said of the State Department’s failure to recognize the intensity of Arab reform efforts. Clinton missed the changes afoot in Syria even after opening up a new Embassy in Damascus last year, and she has chosen to stay behind the region’s news by stating the obvious and usually waiting to speak for two or three days after most everyone knows what has developed. Clinton’s me-too message of greater political participation for women in the Arab world seems like stale and recycled talking points from former First Lady Laura Bush’s and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s efforts. And there have been longer readouts for journalists on the president’s NCAA tournament picks than for his meetings on Libya or Syria.
The U.S. mainstream media’s protection of Clinton’s slow response peaked with Anna Wintour’s Vogue Magazine profile of Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, last month. While Syrian democracy reformers organized, an embarrassingly naïve and apologetic piece about the Syrian first lady by writer Joan Juliet Buck was released weeks before the Assads’ government started killing protesters. To be sure, Vogue would have never produced such a ridiculous piece if its’ it-girl Hillary Clinton, instead of calling Assad a “reformer,” had been speaking out more forcefully against a regime that has supported the killing of Americans. Buck’s piece has since been used by Arab bloggers to show the arrogance of the Syrian regime and the cluelessness of the U.S. media.
Obama now has a rare historical chance to make progress on U.S. interests and values by speaking clearly and forcefully against a brutal regime that has worked against American policy in Iraq, Iran, Israel and Lebanon. If the president squanders that opportunity, it would be fair to conclude that the Obama Administration is strategically uninterested in changing Syrian and Iranian behavior.
Now is not the time to back off supporting the Arab street and its march towards greater democracy and free markets. Syria could be next; and the protesters need to know that President Obama stands with them in toppling their leader. This isn’t a call for use of U.S. military force but it is a call to de-mask Damascus and speak out for U.S. interests at the same time.
From the moment Moammar Gaddafi started his vicious military campaign against his people, French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of confronting the Libyan madman. While President Obama thought about what to do, Sarkozy met with members of the Libyan opposition at the Elysee Palace on March 10 to support an overthrow of the Libyan leader. Soon thereafter, France became the first country to formally recognize the Libyan opposition group “The Interim Transitional National Council.”
Sarkozy’s government started planning for a No Fly Zone over Libya before the thought of a UN resolution or NATO endorsement was pushed upon the world stage.
While the French were leading the world to confront Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi’s brutal air and ground attacks, the indecisive Obama Administration was “weighing their options and discussing the issue” as one official said.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were surprised when British Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed Sarkozy’s No Fly Zone on March 11. And the White House had still not decided what to do about Libya when the Arab League endorsed the idea on March 12.
America’s sidelined spectator status during a developing foreign policy crisis highlighted Obama’s strategy to make the United States equal among many and not unique within the international community. Obama blinked and democracy seekers around the world have taken note of America’s timidity. The U.S. inaction in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia will surely encourage despots and may even send the unfortunate message to human rights activists that America will not support their bravery.
Sarkozy and the Arab League took control of the world stage after watching the indecisive Obama Administration hem and haw over what to do about a madman shelling his people. Obama met with his national security team multiple times only to disclose more meetings and deliberation. Sarkozy had promised to formally establish diplomatic relations by exchanging ambassadors between Paris and Benghazi before Obama decided what to do. And Britain’s Cameron seemingly left the United States out of his planning when he proclaimed, “It’s important that the countries of Europe show political will, show ambition and show unity in being clear that Col. Gaddafi must go. His regime is illegitimate.” World leaders were reading the clues coming from Washington and deciding to act without the U.S.
By the time Obama decided to seek support from the United Nations, our Ambassador Susan Rice was left on the sidelines because the French, British and Arab League had already written a draft resolution. When the votes were finally called in the Security Council, Susan Rice and the Obama team had failed to convince India, Germany and Brazil to support the No Fly Zone Resolution. So much for an administration that had promised to lead the world.
“The turning point was really the Arab League statement on Saturday (March 12),” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on March 16. “That was an extraordinary statement in which the Arab League asked for Security Council action against one of its own members.” But the Obama team had still not acted a full week after the Arab League statement. State Department officials say Hillary Clinton was pushing President Obama to do something but was being told to slow down. “S was frustrated and embarrassed” by the lack of U.S. action, one official told me using the lingo S for Secretary of State.
While some Obama supporters defend the President’s delay by saying that a President must “take their time and be deliberate” about military decision making of this magnitude, it was an uneasy President Obama that was left to read a teleprompter statement voicing support for the Libyan opposition a full 7 days after the Arab League had done it. Unlike Obama’s base of support in the U.S., the French centre-left opposition is largely supportive of Sarkozy’s leadership on Libya. Jake Tapper of ABC News tweeted that protesters were already gathering at the White House to demand that Obama stop any U.S. military involvement in Libya.
Obama’s indecisiveness and lack of resolve infuriated the right and his decision to follow the Europeans and the Arab League into a No Fly Zone has angered the left. The President and his team must decide if they will retreat in the face of our international obligations or live up to his promise that “The U.S. will not sit idly by”. The simple fact is that the U.S. did sit idly by while a madman attacked his people with military aircraft. Obama either is strategically withdrawing America from the world stage or crippled with indecision. Vacillation and fear are terrible messages to send to our enemies.
It’s ironic that PJ Crowley went to MIT to talk about the power of new media on foreign policy issues only to find that a blog posting of his remarks ended his career as America’s top foreign policy spokesman. It’s also ironic that although Crowley’s comments were immediately reported via twitter, Facebook and several foreign policy blogs, his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t immediately mind. It was only when the new White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley learned about Crowley’s comments that the trouble began.
State Department insiders say Crowley’s MIT comments and his tweets comparing the “Middle East tsunami” over the last several weeks with Japan’s earthquake and tsunami were emailed around Foggy Bottom and the subject of many water-cooler conversations. “Nobody thought he would be fired over this,” one State Department official told me. But when ABC News’ Jake Tapper asked President Obama about Crowley’s comments during the President’s press availability on Friday, Obama said, “(I) asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards…(they) assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.” President Obama was being asked about inconsistent messages coming from his team and Daley was not happy about it. Daley was upset that while the Pentagon was saying that Manning was being treated fairly in response to claims from the liberal left, State’s chief spokesman was questioning DoD’s truthfulness.
The conflicting and ambiguous messaging from the White House and its’ agency heads has up until now been part of the Obama Administration’s playbook. The President has time after time used contradictory statements to at once please his democratic base and the far-left progressives that are growing increasingly disenchanted with Obama’s rhetoric. Just last week, Hollywood actor Matt Damon spoke out about his frustration with Obama’s hope and change message saying, “I’m disappointed in the health care plan and in the troop build-up in Afghanistan.” And Damon is certainly not alone in his irritation with the President’s action-deficit. The left is filled with frustration for the President because he has turned out to be nothing like they hoped. Barbara Streisand, Jane Lynch, Jon Stewart and MoveOn.org are all let down. Obama has consistently been inconsistent on healthcare reform, taxes, the budget and most recently on the military’s Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy, the Egyptian President’s future, support for the opposition in Libya, a Libyan no fly zone, off-shore oil drilling, Israel, jobs, the UN and even on being President of the United States (see “it would be easier to be President of China”).
But now comes new White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley who is in-charge of making progress. And getting anything done in Washington means getting comfortable with disappointing someone. Daley wants to stop the Obama Administrations’ conflicting messages, empty rhetoric and personal opinion giving from staff members. Crowley, a career foreign service officer who served President Bill Clinton at the NSC, has been allowed to give his own opinions without repercussions from his boss, Secretary Hillary Clinton, since he started as State Department spokesman at the beginning of the Obama Administration. He was shocked to learn that there were new rules this week. Crowley serves as an example of the new kind of White House we are getting with Daley in charge.
At the same MIT discussion where Crowley’s “stupid” comment got him fired, he also said, “But the most important thing I do every day is read the New York Times – it’s the national paper of record.” It’s no wonder Crowley thinks punishing the Wikileaker was “stupid”. The most important part of his day has been spent reading New York Times stories on leaked cables and where Julian Assange is considered a hero. But thanks to Bill Daley, Crowley will now have lots of important things to do.
The Advocate’s cover story by Kerry Eleveld on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is riddled with inaccuracies, hype and spin. Eleveld’s piece and The Advocate’s continuous partisan political coverage contributes to the erroneous and dangerous assumption that all Democrats are good and all Republicans are bad on LGBT issues. Eleveld failed to quote one single dissenting opinion from the spin Clinton staffers spun her. While there is no question that Clinton has built on the changes made by Secretary Condi Rice for LGBT staffers at State (and should be applauded for that progress), the premise that the Bush State Department team was hostile and the Clinton team has done all it can do is flat wrong. A more nuanced and balanced piece would have given it greater credibility.
Here are a few of the facts you didn’t get from Eleveld. I feel compelled to correct the record:
- Clinton has the same stance on gay marriage as Rice and Dick Cheney. Eleveld’s excuse-making for Clinton’s stance by saying “she wasn’t taking any political bait” or was trying not to cross her boss is ironic given that Bush Administration officials were not allowed the same courtesy or treatment for their differing views.
- Changes to passport regulations for transgendered people were designed and begun under Bush and Rice. DAS Brenda Sprague says it but Eleveld gives Clinton the credit. Eleveld’s use of the word “apparently” to refer to this fact is offensive to those of us who worked at State under Bush and made progress on LGBT issues. Give credit where credit is due.
- Mark Bromley is a Democrat who worked for liberal Senator Russ Feingold. His characterization of his conversation with an unnamed Bush Administration official three years ago is presented without evidence because it isn’t true. Eleveld failed to check the facts on his assertions.
- Pat Kennedy is a friend of mine whom I have worked closely with for several years. While I fought to make changes at State during the Bush years to extend certain rights and privileges for my partner, Kennedy was part of the team that stonewalled and ultimately denied my repeated demands and ignored my follow–up requests. It’s also important to note that neither Bromley nor any other LGBT activist helped my cause at the time.
- Eleveld’s characterization of Clinton’s weak Ugandan response is laughable and defies logic. Clinton’s State Department handled the Ugandan situation as Rice’s State Department handled most every LGBT issue that arose in Africa – through quiet diplomacy as not to offend another government. To subscribe pure motives to Clinton’s hushed strategy but not to Rice’s is fantasy and beguiles decades of State Department practices. Cheryl Mills may think back-channeling is something new but I can assure you it is not.
- Highlighting the fact that Clinton knew a staffer’s name carrying her bags for a week hardly seems remarkable or note worthy. The story was gratuitous.
- Claiming that the highest ranking openly gay official under Clinton is a deputy assistant secretary level employee is embarrassing given the premise of the article and the excuse making Eleveld does for Clinton’s failed promise to appoint one person to her senior team to cover LGBT issues. Rice’s State Department had higher ranking openly gay officials than this State Department has. They were just never highlighted by The Advocate.
Over the last months, conservatives have complained to The Advocate for its inaccurate and glowing coverage of Obama Administration official Susan Rice, its lack of coverage of John Bolton’s support for DADT and gay marriage, and it’s whitewashing of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s failed 2 years of dominance. The Advocate has never responded to the questions raised.
This past week, singer/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins three times reached out to The Advocate to highlight the gay conservative group GOProud’s event in Washington, DC where Hawkins performed. All phone calls and emails from Hawkins and her team were systematically and completely ignored. This disregard for conservative activism by Advocate staffers has sadly been the norm and only further distorts the political problems LGBT people face. It’s time The Advocate stop painting Democrats with a perfect brush and start highlighting the efforts of gay conservatives working to limit government’s involvement in LGBT people’s lives. Haven’t the last 2 years of total Democratic domination in Washington proven that the recycled stories and tired headlines of how wonderful Democrats have been on LGBT issues are wrong?
It sounds as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had enough. Her new strong tone on North Korea is a welcome, albeit overdue, shift. The Obama Administration’s North Korea policy for the past 18 months has consisted of public relations ploys of pretending to get tough on the rogue state and a propensity to re-package the hard work of the Bush team and call it something new and improved. Her announcement that the Obama Administration will enforce the existing sanctions on nuclear related materials and luxury goods going in and out of North Korea is yet another example. While many members of the mainstream media have fallen for the Obama team’s marketing efforts, veteran North Korea experts and UN observers aren’t fooled. Still, Clinton’s new forceful language signaled that even she believes the current policy isn’t working and more must be done. She, seemingly alone among the Obama Administration foreign policy team, is aware that success in North Korea requires more than just talking.
What Secretary Clinton really said is that the Obama Administration will finally start enforcing the demands placed on North Korea during the Bush Administration. Although the announcement claims to be fresh and innovative, the only thing new and improved is that the Obama team is admitting that its global celebrity status isn’t enough to convince other countries to actually act on their international obligations.
Even South Korea, who has the most to lose from a provocative North Korea, isn’t buying the “new” argument from the Administration. “I don’t really think there’s anything new,” Han Sung-joo, a former South Korean foreign minister, told the Christian Science Monitor. And he is correct.
In 2006, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton led the UN Security Council to unanimously pass an unequivocal resolution, number 1718, stating that all UN members must inspect all cargo going in and out of North Korea to ensure that there is no transfer of any nuclear related products or luxury goods. The language is absolute and written under the strongest possible terms – that is to say it acts under Chapter 7 of the UN’s charter which allows countries to use legal force to restore international peace and security. It was also passed just 5 days after North Korea conducted a nuclear test.
In 2009, 18 days after yet another North Korea nuclear test, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and her team re-packaged resolution 1718 into their own UN resolution with the same mandates but different language in an effort to look like they were doing something new. While many in the media took the bait, analysts who took the time to look at the language of both resolutions concluded there was nothing in Rice’s resolution that wasn’t already barred in the original Bush Administration resolution. With inspections required on every ship and plane going in and out of North Korea, it’s impossible to suggest that searches are somehow new. The only thing that may be new is that the Obama team is consistently leaking the details of vessel seizures to David Sanger of The New York Times. And in return, Sanger has been all too willing to act like something is actually new with their North Korean policy.
The hard work the Bush team did in passing unanimous Security Council resolutions and the ridicule from Obama and Rice at the time now seems ironic given the poor performance the current Administration has in passing strong resolutions. Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues. When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she avoids confrontation. It took Rice 103 days to move the Security Council to issue a statement after North Korea sank a South Korean ship that killed 46 sailors. And on Iran, Rice was only able to get 12 countries to support new sanctions compared to the Bush team’s unanimous support for three separate resolutions. Secretary Clinton seems all too willing to let Rice’s failed record stand alone. Clinton has done little to help her fellow cabinet member with international negotiations and State Department insiders say that the two seldom speak or coordinate directly.
While Obama has long believed that his personal story alone would compel leaders to follow him, Clinton’s frustration with the Administration’s lack of progress on issues like North Korea and Iran is beginning to bubble up. Today’s tough talk of enforcing previous international obligations is the first sign Clinton has given that she is irritated with the weak Obama policies. But it isn’t the first time Hillary Clinton disagreed with Barack Obama’s foreign policy vision. During the 2008 campaign, candidate Clinton called candidate Obama’s ideas on rogue nations “naïve”. Clinton also criticized Obama as someone that “wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world’s most intractable problems and advocating rash unilateral military action”. Clinton went on to say, “We need a president who understands there is a time for force, a time for diplomacy and a time for both.” But in perhaps her strongest criticism of Obama, she said he would need “a foreign policy instruction manual” if elected.
Obama’s foreign policy weakness and acquiescence has made him an international celebrity, but he isn’t producing the promised results on our international priorities. The Obama team’s poor performance calls into question its overly diplomatic approach and its fixation with trying to lead the world through excessive talk. But Clinton signaled that she is frustrated with just talk and wants action. Clinton’s reference to the Bush Administration’s North Korea sanctions resolution is a sure sign she wants more than a PR strategy to deal with rogue nations. It remains to be seen if the Secretary of State has enough capital inside the Administration to start teaching the President a few things about being tough with dictators.