Tuesday ReadsPosted: March 29, 2011
Good morning, political junkies!! Let’s get right to the news.
President Obama gave a speech last night in which he made a pretty good case (IMO) for U.S. limited intervention in Libya. He stated that there were not going to be American boots on the ground and that the U.S. is essentially finished with its part of the operation–it will be up to the UK, France, and Italy to police the no-fly zone and to the Libyan people to depose Gaddafi and decide what comes next.
Surprisingly, Obama was a bit more animated than usual–actually emphasizing points with his voice and at times appearing almost passionate. At least the speech didn’t start to put me to sleep until the last several minutes.
Obama indicated that the U.S. will continue to support efforts to set up a functioning government in Libya, but that will be a non-military effort. If he stands strong with that, I think he’s finally done something I agree with and can support.
Obama also argued that just because we can’t intervene in every conflict doesn’t mean that we should never intervene at all. We have to choose our battles, and in the case of Libya we had a dictator who was using his military–and his air power to kill his own citizens indiscriminately. If he had managed to attack Benghazi he might have murdered hundreds of thousands of people.
Furthermore, Libyans had asked for our help, and our action was supported by other Arab countries and by the Arab League. For once the U.S. was doing something that most Arabs wanted us to do. If we had not acted, we would have seen an atrocity take place, and that would have encouraged dictators in other Arab countries to crack down violently on protesters.
Here is the full text of the speech, if you are interested. I do think Obama went on too long after making the case for Libya. The speech would have been much better if he had done that and then wrapped it up.
I must say, I do not understand the criticisms of this Libya policy that I’m seeing in the progosphere, and from some people here at Sky Dancing. Maybe I’m nuts, but I think the U.S. finally had a chance to do something good with its massive military power and at the same time we get some good PR in a part of the world that has long hated us–with justification because we have enabled most of the tyrants in the region. I’m glad Hillary was able to convince her boss to do the right thing.
I want to call attention to some very knowledgeable people who agree with my assessment–and we do appear to be in the minority.
Thomas Ricks was on Monday’s edition of NPR’s Talk of the Nation. He said that he was struck by how many people either aren’t listening to what Obama, Clinton, and Gates are saying or they are discounting it out of hand.
Ricks said that these three are saying that the U.S. goals in Libya have already been achieved. The rebel forces are knocking on the door of Tripoli, thanks to the no-fly zone and some strategic bombing by the coalition countries. As Obama said last night, it is now up to Libyans to decide what to do with Gaddafi. We aren’t going to try to take him out.
Here’s what Ricks wrote on his blog after his appearance on Meet the Press with Gates and Clinton:
I was on Meet the Press yesterday, following Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates. I was struck at how frequently they emphasized the short-term, limited nature of the U.S. action in Libya, and how they used the past tense to discuss it:
Gates: “I think that the no fly zone aspect of the mission has been accomplished.”
Clinton: “I think we’ve prevented a great humanitarian disaster.”
Gates: “we see our commitment of resources actually beginning to — to decline.”
Gates: “in terms of the military commitment, the president has put some very strict limitations in terms of what we are prepared to do.”
Gates: “I don’t think it’s [Libya] a vital interest for the United States. But we clearly have interests there. And it’s a part of the region, which is a vital interest for the United States.”
I also was struck at how much more assertive Clinton seemed than Gates. A friend of mine calls this “State’s War.”
Ricks also blogged about his take on Obama’s speech: Obama on Libya: Watch out, Saudi Arabia
What we saw in the NDU speech was a logical defense of what the president has ordered the military to do and an exposition of what the limits of the action will be. The cost of inaction threatened to be greater than the cost of action, but now we have done our part. Next role for the U.S. military is best supporting actor, providing electronic jammers, combat search and rescue, logistics and intelligence. That was all necessary, and pretty much as expected.
But I was most struck by the last few minutes of the speech, when Obama sought to put the Libyan intervention in the context of the regional Arab uprising. He firmly embraced the forces of change, saying that history is on their side, not on the side of the oppressors. In doing so he deftly evoked two moments in our own history-first, explicitly, the American Revolution, and second, more slyly, abolitionism, with a reference to “the North Star,” which happened to be the name of Frederick Douglass’s newspaper. If you think that was unintentional, read this.
Hmmm…I totally missed that. Follow me below the fold…
Fareed Zakaria (video) basically liked the speech, but said that Obama needs to further define what he means by “success” in Libya. I thought Obama did that: to him success was stopping the massacre in Benghazi and giving the “rebels” a chance to succeed.
Juan Cole doesn’t have a reaction on his blog yet, but here is his “Open Letter to the Left on Libya,” in case you haven’t read it yet.
At TNR, Tom Malinowsky asks, “Why isn’t Obama getting credit for stopping an atrocity?”
Here is one lesson we can draw from the mostly negative media commentary about the Obama administration’s actions in Libya: Presidents get more credit for stopping atrocities after they begin than for preventing them before they get out of hand.
The U.S.-led NATO intervention that stopped mass killing in Bosnia in 1995, for example, came only after 200,000 people had already been killed. But because we had witnessed massacre after massacre after massacre over three years of fighting in Bosnia, the difference NATO made when it ended the carnage was palpable, and Bill Clinton’s achievement in mobilizing the intervention and then negotiating a peace accord was broadly recognized.
Four years later, NATO acted more quickly to stop atrocities in Kosovo, but still not fast enough to prevent Serbian troops from driving nearly a million Kosovar civilians from their homes. When NATO’s military intervention eventually allowed those people to return to their homes, most deemed it a success. We had seen horrifying crimes unfold before our eyes, and then those crimes ceased; again we could see and feel the difference Clinton and NATO had made.
In Libya, many people (we don’t yet know how many) were arrested, forcibly disappeared and possibly executed as the Qaddafi government consolidated its control over Tripoli and rebel-held enclaves, like Zawiyah, in the country’s west. But the Obama administration and its international allies did act soon enough to prevent the much larger-scale atrocities that would likely have followed Qaddafi’s reconquest of eastern Libya and especially the city of Benghazi….
But precisely because the international community acted in time—before Qaddafi retook Benghazi—we never saw what might have happened had they not acted. Today in eastern Libya, there are no columns of refugees marching home to reclaim their lives; no mass graves testifying to the gravity of the crisis; no moment that symbolizes a passing from horror to hope. The sacking of Benghazi was the proverbial dog that didn’t bark.
In other news–stupid, ridiculous, nutty Republican news–Donald Trump is very concerned about President Obama’s birth certificate.
“I am really concerned,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox News. “You have no doctors, you have no nurses … that remember.”
“I brought it up just routinely, and all of the sudden a lot of facts are emerging, and I am starting to wonder myself whether he was born in this country,” he exclaimed.
In an interview with ABC last week, Trump claimed that nobody remembered Obama as a child in Hawaii – a statement that was categorically false. His kindergarten teachers and others have previously given interviews with local Hawaii papers detailing their memory of Obama at that time.
Trump did not repeat that claim Monday, but brushed off past statements from current Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie that he remembers Obama being born.
“I doubt it,” Trump said of Abercrombie’s contentions. “I think this guy should be investigated. He remembers when Obama was born? Give me a break. He’s just trying to do something for his party.”
So he doesn’t understand why no one remembers Obama (not true), but when someone does say he remembers Obama’s birth, Trump says he’s lying. We need this guy as president like we need a hole in the head. On top of that, Trump promised to produce his own birth certificate, and then failed to do it!
Donald Trump made headlines earlier today when he provided what he said was a copy of his birth certificate — but a quick check reveals it’s actually not an official document.
The paper that Trump released says “Jamaica Hospital” on top and lists the date and time of what he says was his birth to “Mr. and Mrs. Fred C. Trump.” The piece of paper has a seal at the bottom.
But after several New York City-based readers contacted POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman, her call to city officials revealed that an actual birth certificate, which is issued by the Department of Health, would have the agency’s seal and also a signature of the city registrar – neither of which the Trump document has. Officials said the city Health Department is the “sole issuing authority” of official birth certificates in New York, and that the document would clearly say so, and “city officials said it’s not an official document.”
I mentioned this morning that radioactive iodine from the Fukushima plant in Japan has been found in rainwater in Boston, and officials are testing all the reservoirs in the state to make sure drinking water isn’t radioactive. No one seemed too worked up about that. I thought it was kind of disturbing, even if the levels of radiation are very low for now. USA Today has a map up that shows all the states where Fukushima radiation has been detected so far. If you’re like me and you tend to question authority, you might want to see if your state is one of them.
The plant’s owner disclosed that small amounts of plutonium had been found among contaminants around the facility late Monday as Japanese authorities struggled to explain how radioactive water was leaking into maintenance tunnels and possibly, into the Pacific Ocean.
Edano told reporters Monday afternoon that “there may be a leak” from the containment vessel surrounding the No. 2 reactor. He said experts were still trying to determine the condition of the reactor’s pressure vessel, which sits inside the containment vessel and immediately surrounds the radioactive fuel rods at the reactor’s core.
Tokyo Electric announced late Monday that plutonium — a reactor byproduct that is also part of the fuel mix in the No. 3 reactor — had turned up in soil on the plant grounds in tests taken last week. However, the company said it was equivalent to the amounts that fell on Japan following above-ground nuclear weapons tests by other countries in past decades, and posed no health risk to humans.
Three plutonium isotopes — Pu-238, -239 and -240 — were found in soil at five different points inside the plant grounds, Tokyo Electric reported. The element can be a serious health hazard if inhaled or ingested, but external exposure poses little health risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Pu-238 has a half-life of 87.7 years. Pu-239 has a half-life of 24,200 years. Pu-240’s half-life is 6,563 years. I really don’t want this stuff in my backyard or my drinking water–even if the “experts” say is isn’t harmful to humans. Call me crazy, but I just don’t trust these “experts.”
Ex-Obama press secretary, the very obnoxious Robert Gibbs might go to work for Facebook instead of working in the 2012 Obama campaign.
Mark Zuckerberg’s next friend request may be to someone with deep Washington connections. Facebook, of which Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO, is talking to former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about joining its communications team, The New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources.
Gibbs, who left the White House last month, could help communicate the company’s messages about its products and policies ahead of a planned public offering, the Times’ report said. Some valuations have pegged Facebook’s worth at more than $50 billion amid Securities and Exchange Commission concerns, complaints about user privacy and the scathing portrayal of Zuckerberg in last year’s film “The Social Network.”
Finally, here’s a good news story: Indiana House Democrats halt GOP anti-union agenda
Indiana House Democrats who fled to Urbana, Illinois nearly six weeks ago in protest of Republican anti-union legislation will be returning to their state after successfully winning concessions.
“Today we can announce compromises that are great steps forward for working Hoosiers,” Indiana House Democratic Leader B. Patrick Bauer said Monday in a statement. “The principled stand by House Democrats forced concessions by the House Republicans that reflected the concerns expressed by so many people who came to the Statehouse in recent weeks.”
Republicans have agreed to take “right-to-work” legislation that would prohibit union-representation fees from being a condition of employment and a permanent ban on public employee bargaining off the table in the Indiana House. GOP state lawmakers also killed legislation for a private takeover of public schools and an outright ban of Project Labor Agreements.
“The compromise reached by the Party leaders in the House is a significant retreat from the radical right-wing agenda the Republicans sought to advance a month ago,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Michael Sargeant said. “House Democrats secured an important victory in their efforts to protect public education and workers’ rights.”
I’m very proud to call myself a Hoosier today. (Of course I also grew up in North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Ohio, but I spend the longest time in Indiana).
That’s about it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?