Obama’s Foreign Policy Advisors


The video above is the most memorable portion of today’s Democratic debate. Des Moines Register Editor Carolyn Washburn asked Barack Obama how he’s going to deliver a break from the past when so many old Clinton foreign policy advisers are now advising him. Hillary received applause by saying, “I wanna hear that.” Obama won the exchange by responding, “Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me, as well. I want to gather up talent from everywhere.”

Democratic Freedom Caucus Endorses Bill Richardson

The Democratic Freedom Caucus has endorsed Bill Richardson. Following is their statement:

The Democratic Freedom Caucus (DFC) endorses Democratic candidate Bill Richardson for president.

The DFC is a caucus in the Democratic Party, and promotes the values the Democratic Party was founded upon: individual liberty, constitutional democracy, and social responsibility.

As Democrats, we see that the Republican Party has strayed far from any respect for individual freedom, or any sense of realistic, practical policies, so we recommend voting in the general election for whichever Democratic candidate wins the primary, but we are convinced that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is the candidate who would best represent the Democratic Party in the presidential election.

Richardson’s campaign platform connects with many of the basic principles of the DFC, whose policy views emphasize: promoting the public interest rather than special interests; introducing incentives and customer choice for improving the quality and efficiency of public services; and upholding civil liberties.

Foreign Policy

Regarding Iraq, Richardson advocates redeploying troops so that we can address the real security threats, including the Taliban, terrorists who are still headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and nuclear proliferation.

As Richardson points out, our courageous and dedicated troops “cannot win someone else’s civil war”, and “only when Iraqis know we are leaving will they start seeing us as partners, instead of occupiers”. In fact, “our presence fuels the insurgency”, so only when they see us moving toward a complete withdrawal will that give them “the incentive to kick out al Queda and heal their country”.

Bill Richardson also calls for engaging all of Iraq’s neighbors in stabilization, “in a regional conference modeled on the Dayton conference which ended the war in Bosnia.” “All of Iraq’s neighbors have an interest in preventing Iraq’s civil war from spiraling even further out of control….”

He advocates a new realism in foreign policy, “not unilateralist illusions”. We need to repair our alliances,which “means restoring respect and appreciation for our allies, and the democratic values which unite us.”

Richardson’s policies for healthcare, education, jobs, the economy, energy, agriculture, and education connect in several ways with the DFC’s approach of cutting subsidies to special interests, and recognizing the importance of incentives and choices in the economy, including introducing incentives and choice to public services, to improve quality and cost-efficiency. That approach is illustrated by the following examples of Richardson’s policies:|


Bill Richardson wants all Americans to “have choices of high quality, affordable care by giving every American the choice to keep their current coverage or obtain coverage through an existing, well-established program”. His plan “can be paid for without raising taxes”.

He advocates giving veterans “a choice of physicians wherever they live, rather than have to drive to the nearest VA facility just to get care”. And he would lower prescription drug costs by having the federal government negotiate prescription drug prices through Medicare.


Richardson “will oppose public tax dollars going to private schools, but will increase school choice with charter, magnet, and other public school options, as well as more flexible course options”.


Richardson points out that agriculture “has come to be dominated by a handful of massive corporate conglomerations, and the family farmer, the environment and American consumers suffer because of it.” … He would ensure that the market “functions as it is supposed to function through a new generation of antitrust legislation for the farm sector.”

Fiscal Discipline

Bill Richardson advocates fiscal discipline, to rein in wasteful, inefficient spending, “so that we may return to the budget surpluses we experienced during the Clinton Administration”. As Governor of New Mexico, Richardson consistently demonstrated fiscal responsibility.


To reduce our dependence on oil imports, Richardson would provide incentives for the electric and industrial sectors to make significant reductions in carbon emissions, and would “raise some revenue from sales of carbon permits”, as well as get out the “green scissors” to “cut back on wrongly-placed tax subsidies”. That “will create more than ten times as much value in the American economy by reducing our oil imports as we spend to make this program happen.”

Civil Liberties

Bill Richardson is a champion of civil rights, freedom, and the rule of law, including equal rights under law. For example, he supports equal rights for domestic partnerships. Richardson is for protecting the right to vote, by ensuring that every individual’s vote is counted, by such means as making the election system more transparent.

As Richardson points out, “America is too great a nation to support such retrograde measures such as torture. We should “restore American greatness by putting an end to these inappropriate (and ineffective) policies and following the Geneva Conventions”.


Bill Richardson points out that “attempting to deport 12 million illegal immigrants is not feasible or reasonable.”Instead, “a realistic immigration reform must address the problem from all sides: securing the border, penalizing employers for knowingly hiring illegal workers, offering a tough but reasonable path to legalization, engaging Mexico in the reform process, and improving our current immigration quota system.”

Richardson would restore the Clean Water Act, revive clean air standards, provide incentives for power plants to use cleaner fuels, and expand corporate reporting requirementsfor disclosure of toxic pollution. He wants the U.S. to be a clean energy nation like he made New Mexico a clean energy state. Richardson would also get back “to the international negotiating table” and support world-wide limits on global warming pollution.

Top Ten Reasons Why The Senate Should Request a Special Prosecutor in the CIA Tape Case

The American Civil Liberties Union has called for a special prosecutor to investigate the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes. The full letter is available here. The letter outlines ten reasons why the Senate should ask for an independent prosecutor. (Sorry for those going through withdrawal during the writer’s strike–this is not a Letterman-like top ten list). The ACLU’s ten reasons are:

  1. There is credible evidence of numerous federal crimes
  2. Attempts to shield government officials from criminal prosecution were pursued by the White House, including by the president and vice president
  3. Attorney General Mukasey still refuses to say whether waterboarding and other forms of torture are illegal
  4. The current head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department was in meetings on interrogations
  5. The past head of the Criminal Division reportedly advised on interrogation practices, possibly including the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah
  6. The Justice Department wrote the legal opinions authorizing torture
  7. The Justice Department has failed to bring any indictments based on twenty CIA and DOD referrals of possible crimes by civilians
  8. Military prosecutors have not gone up the chain of command
  9. Further delay in criminal investigations could put some crimes outside the statutes of limitation
  10. Congress and the agencies have failed in holding torture perpetrators accountable

The Clinton vs. Obama Student Wars

When Barack Obama encouraged college students to vote for him in the Iowa caucus it came as no surprise. Candidates who do well with college students generally do this. The Iowa Secretary of State’s web page even gives instructions for out of state students who wish to register to vote in Iowa.

The Clinton campaign tried to attack Obama over seeking the votes of college students around the same time they attacked him over a paper he wrote in kindergarten and third grade. How dare all those smart kids who weren’t even old enough to develop an antipathy towards the Clintons in the 1990’s decide Obama would make the better president? They certainly weren’t old enough to see how bad a plan HillaryCare I was.

That attack on Obama got nowhere, so the New York Post finds that Clinton has decided that if she can’t beat him by attacking his strategy she might as well see if she can pick up a few votes of her own:

After hitting Barack Obama’s campaign hard for his bid to get thousands of out-of-state college kids at Iowa colleges to vote for him, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team launched its own effort to urge students to take part in the caucus on Jan. 3.

“With the Iowa caucus just 23 days away, I want to remind all of our young supporters in Iowa how important it is to get out and caucus on January 3rd,” wrote Emily Hawkins, the director of young-voter outreach for the campaign, in an entry on Clinton’s blog posted late Tuesday.

A statement from the campaign’s communications director, Howard Wolfson, added, “Hillary wants every student who lives in Iowa and wants to caucus in Iowa and is eligible to caucus in Iowa to do so.

“We hope and trust that every campaign is making sure that potential caucus-goers have all the information they need, and in no way, explicitly or implicitly, encourage anyone to break the law by participating in two places.”

The entry alerts students to the Iowa secretary of state’s Web page, which explains how everyone – including non-Iowa residents attending college in the state – can participate.

Considering the normally low voting rates by students, and considering that the caucus takes place while many will still be away from school for the holiday break, I question how much of a difference it will make.

Will Clinton continue to take ideas from Obama? Next week I predict Hillary Clinton will pull out her own sixth grade papers in which she outlined her plans for after she becomes president. (There’s little doubt that she was intellectually behind Obama as a child and there would be just no point in pretending otherwise.) John Edwards will continue to say he wanted to be Superman or a cowboy as nobody would believe that a third grader would dream of growing up to become an ambulance chaser.

Speculation Continues That Bloomberg Might Run in 2008

The Wall Street Journal keeps alive speculation that Michael Bloomberg might still run for president as a third party candidate. They report that is advisers are planning for different scenarios:

One scenario — and the one aides are hoping for — would be a race between fellow New Yorkers Hillary Clinton and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Sen. Clinton’s negative rating is the highest in either party, while Mr. Giuliani’s is the highest among Republicans. That match-up could make what supporters see as Mr. Bloomberg’s “above the fray” image more appealing. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani are also seen as moderate on social issues, which could mute opposition to Mr. Bloomberg from the religious right. “If the parties nominate polarizing candidates…then there’s plenty of room” for Mr. Bloomberg, independent pollster John Zogby said.

Another scenario that would provide an opening would be if both parties nominate candidates from outside the center — John Edwards on the Democratic side, for example, or Republican Mike Huckabee, who leads polls in Iowa and is surging in national surveys. In such a case, Mr. Bloomberg would seek to appeal to moderates. “The terrain that he would look to run on is dead center of the highway,” said William Cunningham, Mr. Bloomberg’s first-term communications director.

Bloomberg’s best chance to actually win the election would be if John Edwards clinches the nomination early, following a win in Iowa, before Democrats really take a close look at him. In such a three way race, the Republicans would take the south and much of the west, Bloomberg would take the northeast, and the  midwest would be the remaining battleground. Bloomberg would be a long shot as a third party candidate, but he would have an excellent chance of moving into second place by next fall. In that case the dynamic could change to a race between Bloomberg and the Republican candidate with even those Democrats who would vote for Edwards switching to Bloomberg to prevent a Republican victory.

If Bloomberg has any shot of winning his greatest asset after his wealth is that he is largely a blank slate for most of the country.  As a former Democrat who was elected as a moderate Republican he could base his campaign to go after the votes of both independents and the votes of which ever party has the weaker candidate. Bloomberg could also benefit from buyer’s remorse as well as any bad news or gaffes during 2008.

With neither party offering a very good choice a well financed third party campaign could capitalize on the anti-establishment mood:

Partisan battles in Congress have already created an “anti-institutional mood” that could provide an opening for an independent candidate, Mr. Zogby said. Those urging Mr. Bloomberg to run draw comparisons to 1992, when an unsettled economy and battles between a Republican president and a Democratic Congress helped billionaire Ross Perot win 19% of the vote. Hamilton Jordan, who briefly ran Mr. Perot’s campaign and has met with Bloomberg strategist Mr. Sheekey, noted that the Texas technology entrepreneur drew nearly 20 million votes despite a disjointed campaign.

Mr. Bloomberg has also shown a greater willingness to spend his own money. Mr. Perot spent an estimated $65 million nationally in 1992 compared to the $74 million Mr. Bloomberg spent to get elected mayor in 2001 and the $84 million he spent on his re-election four years later. Mr. Sheekey has floated the notion of a “billion-dollar campaign,” and insiders said he has dedicated much of Mr. Bloomberg’s second term to figuring out how to use that money. Mr. Sheekey’s first challenge would be getting Mr. Bloomberg on the ballot in as many states as possible.

Mr. Sheekey, who ran both of Mr. Bloomberg’s mayoral campaigns, has met with Unity08, a group promoting an independent or bipartisan presidential campaign, and has his own ballot-access team ready to get to work as soon as Mr. Bloomberg decides to run. Mr. Bloomberg’s billions would also be instrumental in spreading his name and message.

Secular Europe’s Merits

Roger Cohen has an op-ed in the New York Times responding to Mitt Romney’s recent speech on religion. Following is a portion of the article, which also serves as a response to the overall trend towards ignoring our heritage of separation of church and state which the founding fathers wisely supported in the writing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Europeans still take the Enlightenment seriously enough not to put it inside quote marks. They have long found an inspiring reflection of it in the first 16 words of the American Bill of Rights of 1791: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”Thomas Jefferson saw those words as “building a wall of separation between church and state.” So, much later, did John F. Kennedy, who in a speech predating Romney’s by 47 years, declared: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

The absolute has proved porous. The U.S. culture wars have produced what David Campbell of Notre Dame University called: “the injection of religion into politics in a very overt way.”

Much too overt for Europeans, whose alarm at George W. Bush’s presidency has been fed by his allusions to divine guidance — “the hand of a just and faithful God” in shaping events, or his trust in “the ways of Providence.”

Such beliefs seem to remove decision-making from the realm of the rational at the very moment when the West’s enemy acts in the name of fanatical theocracy. At worst, they produce references to a “crusade” against those jihadist enemies. God-given knowledge is scarcely amenable to oversight.

But Bush is no transient phenomenon; he is the expression of a new American religiosity. Romney’s speech and the rapid emergence of the anti-Darwin Baptist minister Mike Huckabee as a rival suggest how estranged the American zeitgeist is from the European.

At a time when growing numbers of Americans identify themselves as born-again evangelicals, and creationism is no joke, Romney’s essentially pitted the faithful against the faithless while attempting to merge Mormonism in mainstream Christianity. Where Kennedy said he believed in a “president whose religious views are his own private affair,” Romney pledged not to “separate us from our religious heritage.”

“Religiosity now seems at least as important for public office as leadership qualities,” said Karl Kaiser, a German political scientist. “The entrance condition for the American presidential race is being religious. If you’re not, you have no chance, which troubles Europeans.”

Of course, the religious heritage of which Romney spoke is real. The Puritans’ vision of America as “a city upon a hill” was based on a covenant with God. As the Bill of Rights was formulated, George Washington alluded in his Thanksgiving Proclamation to “that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Religion informed America’s birth. But its distancing from politics was decisive to the republic’s success. Indeed, the devastating European experience of religious war influenced the founders’ thinking. That is why I find Romney’s speech and the society it reflects far more troubling than Europe’s vacant cathedrals.