Bush Said Bolton Not Credible By 2008; Jimmy Carter Calls His Appointment The Worst Mistake Trump Has Made

While George W. Bush initially promoted the career of John Bolton, over time his opinion became closer to Jimmy Carter’s view of him. Max Boot points out that by 2008, George Bush no longer trusted Bolton, pointing to this article from 2008 after Bolton criticized Bush for lifting some of the sanctions on North Korea:

“Let me just say from the outset that I don’t consider Bolton credible,” the president said bitterly. Bush had brought Bolton into the top ranks of his administration, fought for Senate confirmation and, when lawmakers balked, defied critics to give the hawkish aide a recess appointment. “I spent political capital for him,” Bush said, and look what he got in return.

Jimmy Carter calls the appointment of Bolton as National Security Adviser as “the worst mistake” Trump has made:

“I have been concerned at some of the things he’s decided. I think his last choice for national security adviser was very ill-advised. I think John Bolton has been the worst mistake he’s made,” Carter told “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell Monday. Bolton will be Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser since taking office.

Considering all the mistakes Trump has made, that says a lot.

I recently cited Reason magazine’s 5 Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria. They have another good five entry list this week too, 5 Things About John Bolton That Are Worse Than His Mustache:

  1. Bolton supported the 2002 invasion of Iraq and still thinks it was a dandy idea
  2. Bolton supported the U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war.
  3. Bolton thinks the U.S. should have intervened in the Syrian civil war sooner and more aggressively.
  4. Bolton agitated for war with Iran.
  5. Bolton favors attacking North Korea

The irony is that these positions differ from many of the statements Donald Trump made on foreign policy during the campaign, although contradictions from Trump occur frequently. Bolton’s record is also more similar to that of Hillary Clinton, who supported the invasion of Iraq, orchestrated the intervention in Libya as Secretary of State, has criticized Obama for not intervening in the Syrian war as she advised, and has threatened to obliterate Iran. While I’m not aware of her outright promoting an attack on North Korea, her actions as Secretary of State have exacerbated the crisis in North Korea.

Trump Brings Ultra-Warmonger Into Administration. How Much Should We Worry?

Donald Trump’s choice of John Bolton to be National Security Adviser greatly diminishes any hopes that Donald Trump actually meant it when he (sometimes) spoke out against war as a candidate. Perhaps it is possible that Trump just likes to bring in people from Fox and does not realize that Bolton’s views differ sharply from some of the views he has promoted. Considering how inconsistent and incoherent he was on foreign policy, it is also possible that his opposition to the Iraq war was primarily an attack on Jeb Bush via his family, and his criticism of regime change in Libya was also based more on a desire to attack Hillary Clinton than any real understanding of the situation.

With the range of views on Bolton ranging as to how much to panic, Andrew Sullivan predicts the worst case scenario:

This is the second phase of tyranny, after the more benign settling-in: the purge. Any constraints that had been in place to moderate the tyrant’s whims are set aside; no advice that counters his own gut impulses can be tolerated. And so, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the president fire Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe, two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well…

No one with these instincts for total domination over others is likely to moderate the longer he is in power. Au contraire. It always gets worse. And so Tillerson has been replaced by a fawning toady, Mike Pompeo, a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders. Pompeo has been replaced in turn by a war criminal, who authorized brutal torture and illegally destroyed the evidence, Gina Haspel. Whatever else we know about Haspel, we know she follows orders.

Gary Cohn has been replaced by Larry Kudlow — a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox, who instantly thought up ways for the president to cut taxes further without congressional approval. And the State Department, indeed the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.

Then the president’s legal team was shaken up — in order to purge those few who retain some appreciation for the rule of law in a constitutional republic and to replace them with conspiracy theorists, thugs, and the kind of combative, asshole lawyers Trump has always employed in his private capacity. Trump is self-evidently — obviously— preparing to fire Mueller, and the GOP’s complete acquiescence to the firing of McCabe is just a taste of the surrender to come. “Now I’m fucking doing it my own way!” was how he allegedly expressed his satisfaction at the purge, as his approval ratings from Republicans increase, and as the GOP’s evolution into a full-fledged cult gathers pace.

And then last night, we saw McMaster fall on his sword, replaced by John Bolton, an unrepentant architect of the most disastrous war since Vietnam, a fanatical advocate for regime change in Iran, an anti-Muslim extremist, and a believer in the use of military force as if it were a religion. And this, of course, is also part of the second phase for Plato’s tyrant: war. “As his first step, he is always setting some war in motion, so that people will be in need of a leader,” Plato explains. In fact, “it’s necessary for a tyrant always to be stirring up war.”

…I worry that the more Trump is opposed and even cornered — especially if he loses the House this fall — the more dangerous he will become. If Mueller really does have the goods, and if the Democrats storm back into congressional power, then Trump may well lash out to protect himself at all costs. We know he has no concern for the collateral damage his self-advancement has long caused in his private and public life. We know he has contempt for and boundless ignorance of liberal democracy. We know he is capable of anything — of immense cruelty and callousness, of petty revenge and reckless rhetoric, of sudden impulses and a quick temper. We also know he is commander-in-chief, who may soon need the greatest distraction of all.

War is coming. And there will be nothing and no one to stop him.

With establishment Democrats having also adopted neoconservativeism and abandoned standing up to warmongers (having even nominated one of the worst in 2016) I’ll turn to another conservative critic of Trump, and someone I rarely quote or agree with. Jennifer Rubin described the horrors of having Bolton in this position, but left more room for hope than Sullivan:

Bolton frequently advocates use of military power, specifically against Iran and North Korea. With regard to North Korea, he believes diplomacy is useless and the only “solution” is reunification of the Korean Peninsula — as a free and democratic country. If that is a short-term goal rather than a long-term aspiration, a massive war almost certainly would be necessary. On Iran, he has declared the deal unfixable and advocated for military strikes on Iran.

The question of the moment is whether the John Bolton we read in print and see on TV will be the same John Bolton who is charged with coordinating foreign policy. Advocating in print a position a Democratic president will never undertake is one thing; presenting to your boss a viable plan for military action that may result in mass casualties is quite another. In other words, we’re about to find out if Bolton is really serious about all his views or has simply enjoyed the role of gadfly…

Where Sullivan sees nobody who could stop him, Rubin has a suggestion which is more grounded in the Constitution than recent precedent:

The Bolton pick should be a wake-up call to Republicans who always assumed wise, calm advisers would be there to constrain Trump. It should motivate both Republicans and Democrats to start reclaiming Congress’s power, for example, by declaring that congressional authorization is required for a first strike on either Iran or North Korea. They cannot prevent Bolton from assuming his job, but together with Republican colleagues can begin to exercise more restraint on the use of force and, as Menendez suggested, to conduct robust oversight.

As for outside foreign policy gurus who have advocated high-stakes strategies (e.g., threatening to pull out of the JCPOA and use military force against Iran), they would do well to realize this is no academic exercise. In Bolton, the president has someone who may well encourage his most outlandish ideas.

It could be a favorable “legacy” of Donald Trump, even if not what he desires, if the outcome of his presidency is greater constraint on presidential power, as well as corruption.

Meanwhile Guardian editor David Shariatmadari, after writing of the risk of war, concluded with, “Help us Mad Dog Mattis, you’re our only hope.” It is scary that the most sane foreign policy voice left is someone called Mad Dog.

Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

Clinton Attacks Sanders With Series Of Bogus Sound Bites At MSNBC Democratic Debate

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,  stand together before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C.  The Democratic presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders reached an agreement in principle on Saturday to hold another presidential debate next week in New Hampshire and three more later this spring.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Wednesday’s one-on-one debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (transcript here) was probably the best debate yet, and unfortunately the lowest rated. Unlike the CNN Town Hall the previous day, Clinton did not struggle to come up with answers. Instead she repeated a serious of prepared sound bites which made her seem ingenuous.

Clinton, an old DLC Democrat, is making a huge mistake in getting into a debate she cannot win when she claims to be a progressive. She has already admitted to being a centrist, and she just shows her propensity for changing her views based upon political expediency when she claims otherwise. She also opens herself up for mocking by actual progressives, such as at Common Dreams, when she claims to be a progressive. As I recently pointed out with this graph, Clinton is much closer to the Republicans ideologically than Sanders and his supporters:

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

If Sanders made any mistake on this line of attack, it was to give the impression that holding certain views are a litmus test of whether one is a progressive. Certain individual progressives might disagree on one or more positions. It is the overall world view which counts, with Clinton opposing progressive viewpoints on a wide range of issues.

Clinton is also fighting a losing battle when claiming not to be part of the establishment because she is a woman. By that logic do we vote for Carly Fiorina? Citing support from Howard Dean does not also help her considering how Dean has sold out to be a lobbyist for they pharmaceutical industry.

Clinton’s sound bites on so many issues are total nonsense. Despite what she claimed, HillaryCare was not ObamaCare. HillaryCare was a highly flawed plan which failed both due to its flaws and her unwillingness to compromise on the details.  Her bungling of health care reform was the first sign that she is a progressive who gets things done. She also got far less done in the Senate compared to Sanders who was influential on passing many amendments.

Clinton repeated her nonsensical attack on Sanders’ proposal for free public universities in saying, “What I want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump’s kids, get to be able to afford college.” Donald Trump’s kids are not going to go to free public universities.

In attacking Medicare for All, she falsely claimed, “Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again.” Expanding Medicare, a highly successful program we have now, is not starting all over again. And, in any event, Sanders is not going to take away ObamaCare before Medicare for All is available as the Clinton camp has suggested. Meanwhile, Clinton has no serious proposals to handle the high costs of health care which persist under ObamaCare, despite its improvements to the system, while Medicare for All would provide a solution.

Clinton continued to distort Bernie Sanders’ record on guns, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA. She now claims to be more liberal, despite having described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton was put on the defensive regarding her ties to Wall Street and the speaking fees she received from Goldman Sachs. Back when it was seen as a race between Clinton and Jeb Bush, leaders of Goldman Sachs made it clear that they saw Clinton as being on their side. She evaded a question as to whether the transcripts of her highly-paid speeches to them will be released to the public.

Clinton denied that payouts from Wall Street affect her views. Elizabeth Warren has disagreed.

I would also caution Clinton from repeating the phrase, “I have a record” while the FBI investigation of her email is in progress. She also repeated one of her dishonest sound bites here in claiming, “They are retroactively classifying it.” As Reuters described months ago, some of the email was “born classified” and as Secretary of State Clinton should have known the material was classified at the time. Further email releases have only made matters look worse for Clinton since this article was posted.

Clinton tried to excuse her actions by bringing up Colin Powell and Condalisa Rice. What they did does not excuse any violations of the law by Clinton.  Plus stricter rules were put into place in 2009 in response to the abuses under the Bush administration which Clinton violated.

Clinton brags that Obama made her Secretary of State, but that was a political decision. He had rejected Clinton’s views, such as her talk of obliterating Iran, during the campaign. Obama ran foreign policy from the White House, and the Obama administration usually rejected Clinton’s more hawkish, neoconservative advice. Sanders pointed out how he was right on the Iraq war, and warned of the perpetual warfare we are likely to see if Clinton is elected. Unfortunately Clinton’s hawkish views on Libya and Syria were not discussed during the debate. Sometimes I wish Sanders would also move further beyond his usual sound bites.

The issue of electability came up with Sanders pointing out how well he does in head to head match-ups against republicans. Old left versus right arguments re electability no longer apply. These days elections are won by getting out the base. Bernie can do that better than Clinton. Plus Sanders does better with independents while Clinton does poorly in the battleground states. Voters are looking for a candidate with integrity, and a reformer who who fix the system Clinton is too close to, not where a candidate falls on the flawed right to left spectrum.

Sanders is working towards improving his support among minorities (with news coming out earlier in the day that a former NAACP head is planning to endorse Sanders.) He was smart to bring up the impact on minorities when opposing the death penalty. He pointed out that, “too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. That’s number one. We have to be very careful about making sure about that.”

Sanders also discussed the water situation in Flint, Michigan. When he spoke of the children being poisoned, an issue where both Democratic candidates agree, I quipped on Facebook that Republicans do not agree–they think that the poisoning of children is an issue which should be left up to the states. (My blow by blow account of the debate on Facebook has been left public for now.)

Besides the issue of whether Clinton is a progressive and a member of the establishment, another topic which came up during the debate was a faux complaint from Clinton that Sanders was waging a negative campaign on her.

The Clinton machine is probably the dirtiest machine in all of politics, yet when someone presents an accurate criticism of Clinton’s record she cries about how she is being smeared. The Clinton machine spread the Reverend Wright and Birther smears against Obama eight years ago. This year we have seen twisting of Sanders’ words to claim sexism, a distortion of his position on guns, and claims that Sanders is going to take Medicare, Medicaid, and even ObamaCare away from people.

Slate called Sanders the winner but did have some criticism of his performance, while others called it for Clinton. David Graham at The Atlantic called Sanders the winner but was reluctant to call Clinton a loser. He highlighted Sanders’ concentration on limited issues, which I think is largely part of his strategy to take on Clinton and build a winning general election coalition. Google showed that there was more interest in Sanders than Clinton during the debate. More importantly, the types of search queries look more like those who are looking to become engaged with the campaign:

Hillary Clinton

  1. How old is Hillary Clinton?
  2. Who can beat Hillary?
  3. Where is Hillary Clinton today?
  4. Will Hillary win?
  5. How much is Hillary Clinton worth?

Bernie Sanders

  1. Where will Bernie Sanders be speaking?
  2. Why Bernie Sanders?
  3. Who would be Bernie Sanders’ VP?
  4. How to donate to Bernie Sanders
  5. Where can I see Bernie Sanders in NH?

The Nation Gives Rare Endorsement To Sanders As He Surges In The Polls

Bernie Sanders Endorsement The Nation

On top of the favorable news for Sanders we have already seen this week, yet another poll shows that Clinton has lost most of her lead over Sanders. The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll found that Clinton’s lead is down to two points, within the margin of error. Other polls this week have showed the race close, with Sanders leading in some. There has been a similar tightening in the national polls and Sanders maintains his lead in New Hampshire. While either candidate can still win, this is feeling increasingly like 2008.

In addition, Sanders received a rare endorsement from The Nation. The last time they endorsed a candidate in a primary battle was in 2008 when they endorsed Obama over Clinton. The full editorial includes praise for Sanders and a comparison of their economic views,  but the most important considerations are the warnings they give about Clinton’s record and their differences on foreign policy:

the limits of a Clinton presidency are clear. Her talk of seeking common ground with Republicans and making deals to “get things done” in Washington will not bring the change that is so desperately needed. Clinton has not ruled out raising the Social Security retirement age, and her plan falls short of increasing benefits for all. She rejects single-payer healthcare and refuses to consider breaking up the big banks. We also fear that she might accept a budgetary “grand bargain” with the Republicans that would lock in austerity for decades to come.

On foreign policy, Clinton is certainly seasoned, but her experience hasn’t prevented her from getting things wrong. Clinton now says that her 2002 vote to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but she apparently learned little from it. Clinton was a leading advocate for overthrowing Moammar El-Gadhafi in Libya, leaving behind a failed state that provides ISIS with an alternative base. She supported calls for the United States to help oust Bashar al-Assad in Syria, an approach that has added fuel to a horrific civil war. She now advocates a confrontation with Russia in Syria by calling for a no-fly zone. Her support for President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran was marred by an explicit rejection of better relations with that country and bellicose pledges to provide Israel with more arms. If elected, Clinton will be another “war president” at a time when America desperately needs peace.

Sanders’s approach is different and better. The senator hasn’t talked as much as we would like about global challenges and opportunities, and we urge him to focus more on foreign policy. But what he has said (and done) inspires confidence. An opponent of the Iraq War from the start, he criticizes the notion of “regime change” and the presumption that America alone must police the world. He rejects a new Cold War with Russia. He supports the nuclear-weapons agreement with Iran, and he would devote new energy to dismantling nuclear arsenals and pursuing nonproliferation. He has long been an advocate for normalizing relations with Cuba and for reviving a good-neighbor policy in the hemisphere. Sanders’s foreign policy would also create conditions for rebuilding a broadly shared prosperity at home. He would lead an international effort to end the crippling austerity that threatens to create another global recession, and he would champion a green New Deal to combat climate change. And as a leader of the opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he would undo the corporate-defined trade regime that has devastated America’s middle class.

Critics of Bernie Sanders dismiss him as an idealist (he is!) on a quixotic crusade. Meanwhile, the corporate media has paid shamefully little attention to his campaign’s achievements, instead lavishing attention on the latest outrageous pronouncements by Donald Trump and the Republican candidates struggling to compete with him. Nonetheless, polls show that Sanders—even as he still introduces himself to many voters—is well poised to take on the eventual GOP nominee, frequently doing better than Clinton in these matchups. Moreover, in contrast to the modest audiences at Clinton’s campaign stops, the huge crowds at Sanders’s grassroots rallies indicate that he’ll be able to boost turnout in November.

Whether his candidacy, and the inspired campaign it fuels, will spark a “political revolution” sufficient to win the Democratic nomination and the White House this year remains to be seen. We do know that his run has already created the space for a more powerful progressive movement and demonstrated that a different kind of politics is possible. This is a revolution that should live on, no matter who wins the nomination.

Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse.

 

Terrorist Attack In Paris To Impact Tonight’s Debate: Anti-War Candidate Sanders vs. Neocon Candidate Clinton

Paris Terrorist Attack

The terrorist attack in Paris, which ISIS has taken credit for, has led CBS to alter the emphasis of the second Democratic debate. When news was received of the attack, CBS decided to “focus more on issues of terrorism, national security and foreign relations.”

While the campaign this year has centered more around economic policy, this debate should emphasize another major difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This discussion is likely to bring out Clinton’s hawkish views and  how they differ from the views of Bernie Sanders.  The terrorist attack might help Clinton in appealing to those who respond to terrorist attacks with more fear and mistakingly respond with a desire for greater military force. NPR points out that, “Clinton has always been seen as more hawkish than President Obama, and that’s something that hurt her in 2008, especially in a state like Iowa, which has its caucus roots in the anti-war movement.”

USA Today also noted this could present a challenge to Clinton:

The debate creates a challenge for Clinton, as it magnifies her public split with Obama on his approach to Syria. Several weeks ago, she was critical of Obama by saying there should be a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors in Syria, something Obama’s rejected.

Clinton has long advocated for a more robust approach in the Middle East to thwart the Islamic State, including when she was a member of Obama’s administration. As a U.S. senator she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, though she has since called that decision a mistake.

Though Sanders voted for the war in Afghanistan, he opposed Iraq and has highlighted that difference with Clinton. Sanders, who believes the Islamic State must be defeated primarily by Muslim nations in the region, opposed Obama’s recent decision to put Special Operations boots on the ground in Syria while a Clinton spokesman said she “sees merit” in the approach.

The challenge for Sanders is to make it clear that he will do what is necessary to defend the country, but that it is the neoconservative views on foreign policy from both most Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton which are largely responsible for the problem.There is a growing consensus in the foreign policy community that the creation of ISIS was a direct response to the US invasion of Iraq.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Clinton was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion, going beyond most supporters in making false claims of an association between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s hawkishness extends beyond her support for the Iraq war. Besides Iraq, Clinton differed from Obama and most Democrats in her hard line approach to Iran (including opposing Obama’s plans for talks with Iran during the 2008 campaign), and in her support for greater intervention in Syria. Her approach to Libya, which unfortunately Obama did go along with, has been a disaster.

Rand Paul made a point of how both most of his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton have had the same approach to Syria both in the last debate and on the campaign trail, with Truth-Out explaining why he was right. Discussion of Clinton holding neoconservative views is hardly new, with The Week asking in 2014, Will neocons ditch the GOP for Hillary Clinton? This was based upon a longer story in The New York Times on Clinton’s neoconservative views. Neoconservative Robert Kagan was a key Clinton adviser at the State Department. Clinton has also attacked Obama’s foreign policy after leaving the State Department, echoing (as The Nation pointed out) the far right and neocons. Steve Clemons, Washington editor of The Atlantic, described how Clinton gave “a very neoconservative sounding speech” at the Brookings Institute in September, showing a sharp contrast with Obama’s views. Joe Scarborough has said that Clinton will be “more of a Neocon” than the 2016 Republican nominee.

The debate will also present a challenge for Martin O’Malley to show that he is capable of responding to foreign policy issues.

The debate might also will touch on the vast differences of opinion between Clinton and Sanders on civil liberties as well as foreign policy. Sanders differers from Clinton in having opposed the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance. Beyond her supporting George Bush’s approach to terrorism,  Clinton’s poor record on civil liberties also includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony.Having criticized George Bush in the previous sentence, it is only fair to point out that Bill Clinton also had a  poor record on civil liberties, with Hillary likely to continue this dubious part of his legacy if elected.

Report Clinton To Oppose Iran Deal & The Politics Of Tipping

Clinton Iran

The Hill is running a story that major Clinton contributor Haim Saban is hinting that Hillary Clinton will come out against the Iran deal. Clinton was often more hawkish than others in the Obama administration, and had criticized Obama for his plans to negotiate with Iran during the 2008 campaign. She had claimed that the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran.

Clinton’s views on Iran have remained unclear. Clinton’s 2014 book, Hard Choices, claimed that she helped initiate the negotiations, but this was a ghost written campaign book and might not be a very reliable account. Obama has said that Clinton was wary of the negotiations, but interested. Since the agreement was announced, Clinton has been supportive, but has left herself some wiggle room.

With all the mixed signals about her position on Iran, it would be helpful if Clinton faced press interviews to clarify her views–ideally with follow-up questions allowed. Instead Clinton has avoided the press since announcing her candidacy, rather than allowing interviews and having the press along on a campaign trip, as is generally seen in such a political campaign. Her campaign aides have instead held off-the-record dinners to attempt to woo the press which Clinton did not attend. She held a single press conference about a week after the email scandal broke in which she took limited questions, and fact-checkers found her to be lying on multiple points.

The other campaign controversy today was far less serious than this matter of war and peace. Clinton has come under criticism for failing to leave a tip when she ate at Chipotle. I see no fault in Clinton’s actual actions. While it is customary to leave a tip for servers, it is far less usual to leave a tip for counter service. The bigger issue is one of understanding how campaigns work. Politicians generally understand that every act is scrutinized, and know it is better to always tip, and tip generously. For example, The Hill contrasted Clinton and Obama:

President Obama has gained a reputation as a big tipper dating back to his first presidential campaign in 2008.

One month before Clinton conceded the nomination to Obama, he stopped at The Raleigh Times Bar in North Carolina, where he reportedly left an $18 tip on a $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Obama and Vice President Biden lunched at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. in 2009, and the president left $5 in the tip jar.

And during the government shutdown in Oct. 2013, Obama and Biden walked to the Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop on Pennsylvania Ave., which was giving a 10 percent discount to furloughed government workers.

The president paid a $21.56 lunch tab and left a tip of $18.44.

This does not necessarily mean that Obama is a better person than Clinton or even more generous. It does show that Obama was better at campaigning, at least in this type of situation:

The majority of Democrats do favor a primary opponent, whether because of opposition to Clinton or believing it will make her a better candidate in the general election. Personally I think that if Clinton doesn’t have this down by now, she probably never will. The Democratic National Committee aims to please. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says this will be a contested primary and has scheduled a series of debates. She named the same potential candidates who have often been mentioned:

Wasserman Schultz said she has been talking about the planned debate series with both official candidates (so far, there’s only one) and potential entrants. She mentioned Vice President Joe Biden, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, former Senator (and Governor) Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Senator Bernie Sanders—although she noted that Sanders, a Vermont independent, would have to change parties to qualify for a Democratic primary.

 

Tom Cotton Thinks War With Iran Would Be Quick And Easy

Tom Cotton

After the Cotton letter, which undermines the ability of any American president to negotiate on the behalf of the United States, was written and signed by 47 Republicans, the question raised was whether Republicans really want to see a war with Iran. The same question was raised again with Republicans opposing the deal reached with Iran. Tom Cotton now shows  how delusional he is on war with Iran:

Sen. Tom Cotton says bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would take several days and be nothing like Iraq War.

The Arkansas Republican, who earlier this year upset Democrats and the White House by sending a letter warning the Iranian government to think twice about entering into a deal on its nuclear program with President Obama, said President Obama offered a “false choice” by saying it was his deal with Iran or war…

Cotton said any military action against Iran would not be like the Iraq War and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.

“Even if military action were required — and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy — the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”

It reminds me of the view held by those in the Bush administration who claimed that the Iraq war would be quick while we would be greeted as liberators.

Even some conservatives are horrified by Cotton’s remarks. Daniel Larison responded at The American Conservative:

One couldn’t ask for a more misleading presentation of the costs and dangers of military action against Iran. First, no one seriously believes that a bombing campaign against Iran would take only a few days. It would very likely take several weeks at least, and that probably underestimates the difficulty. Starting a war with Iran will last longer and cost more than anyone anticipates. That has been true of all other U.S. wars of choice over the last two decades, and there’s no reason to think that a war with Iran would be easier or less dangerous than any of those. Assuming that Iran retaliates, the conflict would escalate and go on much longer than Iran hawks are claiming.

All that Iran hawks promise is that the nuclear program would be set back by a few years. However, the attack would push Iran to acquire the weapons that the hawks don’t want them to have, and it would drive them to make the nuclear program less vulnerable to future attacks. If Iran hawks were intent on destroying Iran’s nuclear program permanently through military action, they probably would have to argue for an invasion of Iran at some point. When the time came, Cotton would probably be among the first to tell us how cheap, quick, and easy that would be, too.

Like most hawks, Cotton minimizes the costs and duration of military action, he ignores the likely consequences, and he treats an attack on Iran as cavalierly as possible. The comparison with Desert Fox is laughable. That operation took place years after the U.S. had already destroyed Iraqi defenses, which clearly isn’t the case with Iran. Cotton further misleads the public to think that the only thing that can qualify as war with Iran is a scenario involving “150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground.” It is the Iran hawks that want the public to think that a major ground invasion is the only thing that can be called war, which allows them to advocate for a different kind of war against Iran while pretending that they don’t favor war. They don’t want to face the potential political cost of warmongering, so they pretend that they are advocating for something that isn’t “really” war. But, of course, war is exactly what they’re demanding.

Senator Stabenow Takes Legislative Action Against Cotton Letters

debbie-stabenow

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is taking legislative action to prevent a repeat of the type of letter sent by Senator Tom Cotton, attempting to sabotage diplomatic talks regarding nuclear energy in Iran. She introduced an amendment (pdf here) which would defund “the purchase of stationary [sic] or electronic devices for the purpose of members of Congress or congressional staff communicating with foreign governments and undermining the role of the President as Head of State in international nuclear negotiations on behalf of the United States.”

The letter signed by 47 Republican Senators was highly irresponsible, and it is understandable why Senator Stabenow would like to defund any future such letters. The letter not only interferes with efforts to attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it undermines the ability of the current and every future president to negotiate on behalf of the United States.

Of course Democrats might also like to keep this issue alive considering how unpopular the letter was with voters. It never hurts to remind the voters of how utterly irresponsible and bat-shit crazy the Republican Party has become.

Calls For War With Iran From The Right

Washington Post War with Iran

There is no question that the letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican Senators was irresponsible. I will leave it to others to argue whether it breaks the law or constitutes treason, but it definitely ignores how foreign policy is conducted in the United States. At very least this was a curious move from the party which claims to be such strict backers of a Constitution which in reality they cite only when convenient. My initial reaction was more basic–why would anyone, regardless of party, want to derail an effort to negotiate a peaceful solution to having nuclear weapons in Iran? Yes, there is another election in two years and the United States could change course, but don’t undermine the ability of the current, and every future, president to negotiate on behalf of the United States by suggesting that agreements with the President of the United States are meaningless.

There are many possible explanations, ranging from incompetence (the signers didn’t read the letter) to the theory of many on the left, including Bernie Sanders, that Republicans want to go to war. I certainly would not accuse all Republicans of desiring war. They might even have legitimate concerns, even if this was the wrong way to express them. Fred Hiatt has added considerable credence to the belief that the right desires to go to war in publishing an op-ed from Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Muravchik argues that War with Iran is probably our best option:

What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality. Ideology is the raison d’etre of Iran’s regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond. A nuclear arsenal, even if it is only brandished, would vastly enhance Iran’s power to achieve that goal…

Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary.

James Fallows responded:

Right, repeated bombing raids “as necessary.” What could possibly go wrong with that approach? Yes, “surely the United States could best Iran.” Surely we could polish off those backward Viet Cong. Surely invading Iraq would work out great. (I haven’t taken the time to see if the author was a fan of invading Iraq, but I have a guess.) Surely the operational details of these engagements are a concern only for the small-minded among us.

How would we think about a “scholar” in some other major-power capital who cavalierly recommended war? How would we think about some other capital-city newspaper that decided to publish it? The Post’s owners (like those of the NYT and other majors papers) have traditionally had a free hand in choosing the paper’s editorial-page policy and leaders, while maintaining some distance from too-direct involvement in news coverage. Jeff Bezos, behold your newspaper.

While not all have explicitly called for war as Muravchik has, opposition to a negotiated settlement is becoming a wide-spread view among Republicans. This includes Mitt Romney:

I say courage because signing an agreement — any agreement — would undoubtedly be a political home run. The news media would repeatedly feature the signing ceremony. The coverage would rehearse the long and tortured history between our two countries and exalt at the dawn of a new era. The Iranian pooh-bahs would appear tame and responsible. The president would look, well, presidential.An agreement would also boost the prospects for Hillary Clinton: achievement by association.

Walking away from all that would be courageous. It would also be right.

As I noted yesterday, this is starting to become an issue going into the 2016 elections. This country rushed into a disastrous war with Iraq based upon the emotions following the 9/11 attack and lies from the Bush administration. During the 2016 election we need to carefully examine the views of the candidates regarding war and peace. This is not limited to the Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s views also need to be reviewed. While she has correctly criticized the Republicans for this letter, her views regarding use of military force must be questioned. Not only was she often among the most hawkish voices in the Obama administration, she was in the Joe Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party in urging war with Iraq based upon non-existent ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.