Saturday :: Mar 22, 2008

BREAKING NEWS! Zbigniew Brzezinski's Travel Agent a Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Ran the Presidential Task Force on Health Care Reform!

by eriposte

[Among numerous and various other things....] (POST UPDATED at the bottom with additional observations).

Here's another one of Sen. Obama's Brilliant and Insightful TM foreign policy advisors - Zbigniew Brzezinski - on MSNBC (the transcript is from TGW) (bold text is my emphasis, throughout this post):

[Senator Clinton] says she’s been to 80 countries. My travel agent has been to 150 countries, that doesn’t make her qualified to be president. . Would someone say that Mamie Eisenhower is better prepared to be president than John Kennedy? Being the wife of a president doesn’t make you ready to be president.

It seems to me this is a great time for Brzezinski to write up his own diaries at Free Republic and Daily Kos. After all Hillary Clinton is just the "wife of a President". Also, didn't you know that all those reports of her being a Senator from New York are categorically false?! [Hey, Dewey Defeated Truman, you know.]

DeAnn Smith at the Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz blog adds:

The doubled-over-with-laughter MSNBC interviewers then say Clinton's top supporters must be either crimson with anger or in a fetal position after hearing those comments.

Ahhh, MSNBC. Actually, "crimson with anger" was not my first reaction. I understand that the Obama campaign is trying to paint Sen. Clinton as lacking in experience and this is part of an election campaign. What I don't get is the sexist garbage from alleged foreign policy experts like Brzezinski - the kind of garbage that is far more hurtful to Sen. Obama and his campaign than it is to Sen. Clinton's. These kinds of comments only make Sen. Obama and his advisors look completely out of touch with reality and very much in touch with the fever swamps dominating some of the internet websites where deranged haters hurl brainless insults and bile at Sen. Clinton. So, "crimson with anger" is not my reaction. Shamed into embarrassment is the right reaction considering that a key advisor to the frontrunner in the Democratic primary (the party I support) reduced himself to looking like a fever-swamp dunce.

Egalia at Tennessee Guerilla Women has a link to the video and this response:

But being a community organizer who HAS A WIFE makes you totally qualified, we're sure.

Somebody’s wife is running for president! Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and all the boys from MSNBC's Morning Joe show were having a great old time devolving into pathetic fits of good-old-boy laughter after Brzezinski's witty sexist remark. But hey, this is MSNBC, what else did you expect? But hey, the man is a Democrat, what else did you expect? But hey, this is America, what else did you expect?

Steve Clemons stepped in to set the record straight (while praising the rest of Brzezinski's appearance):

But before the serious, there was a shockingly humorous metaphor Brzezinski offered.

Brzezinski provocatively compared Hillary Clinton to Mamie Eisenhower in his commentary and suggested that despite Clinton traveling to more than 80 countries during her First Lady tenure (Brzezinski said his travel agent has been to 150), he said that it's basically like John F. Kennedy being faced by a challenge from Mamie Eisenhower.

Tucker Carlson said that he would have loved to have had a Clinton surrogate on the show to see the person's facial shade -- which he speculated would be "crimson."

I am a devoted Brzezinski fan -- and his critique of Hillary Clinton's Iraq War positions are similar to my own -- but I differ from him on the Mamie Eisenhower front. Hillary Clinton is a policy junky. Although Ike's First Lady was a well respected hostess for what was then an unprecedented number of global leaders calling on one of the great American generals turned president of the era, no one would have found Mamie Eisenhower drilling down deep into public policy complexities like Hillary Clinton is known to do.

Brzezinski also fails to note that Hillary Clinton is not only a US Senator (Liddy Dole is too after all) -- Clinton is considered by Republicans and Democrats to be one of the few who actually excel in their Senate responsibilities and Senate-craft.

Also and lastly, the role of the First Lady has been changing. Ronald Reagan's wife, Nancy, clearly had a policy impact. Hillary Clinton was given a formal role by her husband on health care policy. In a similar way, the Office of the Vice President has been changing and has statutorily acquired more power and importance because of the way in which Cheney's team -- particularly his success chiefs of staff Scooter Libby and David Addington -- have modified the explicit powers of the VP's office. No Vice President in the future will be directly comparable to the VP's of the past.

Let me also use this opportunity to add what Steve had pointed out previously:

That said, there is a great deal I do admire in Hillary Clinton -- and one of the things that simply can't be disputed is her work ethic. I've met her a number of times, usually at receptions -- and each time I decided not to waste the moment with trivial banter but to throw an idea at her or mention a person or issue that would help me understand how real, how informed, or alternatively -- how contrived -- she was.

Every single time she jumped on the issue I brought up and expressed two or three dimensions to the issue that showed she was deeply steeped in this or that policy. In my New America Foundation role, I helped build and support programs as diverse as debates about genetic scientific advancements to family work issues, health care, and wireless spectrum -- not to mention my own core interests in foreign policy, national security/defense issues, and international economic policy. Hillary Clinton and I have had quick encounters that involved her sharing incredibly diverse and serious policy commentary.

The last time I had such a discussion with her was after she had won her last Senate race in New York, and she and Bill Clinton were a bit early to a UN Foundation reception honoring Muhammad Yunus. We had a really interesting discussion about what should be on a roster of 21st century threats and how our national security and foreign policy resources should be reorganized to deal with future challenges rather than keeping vested interests tied to old threats well funded. Her quick grasp of what I was trying to get at -- and a detailed response that was serious and level-headed -- really surprised me as I'm used to politicians who typically have to fake their way through detail.

I get the sense that Barack Obama is also extremely intelligent, though I've not had the same kind of encounters with him that I have had with Hillary Clinton and thus can't give personal commentary.

But I am convinced of something about Hillary Clinton's commitment to use every lever and every aspect of government machinery to push her legislative and policy work that I'm disappointed to say that I can't find as strongly in Barack Obama's profile. My concern has to do with the fact that as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Subcommittee on Europe, Obama has held zero hearings -- at least that is how the record appears to me.

Compare this to the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe, which is having constant hearings -- or to the Senate Subcommittee's work before Obama became Chair -- or to a comparative commitment of Hillary Clinton on a Subcommittee she chairs, and the zero hearing detail is disconcerting.

By the way, I have to praise the Environment and Public Works Committee for its website. I wanted to know what role Senator Clinton had played in the Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health and not only found testimony of all involved but found photos showing who was there.

I'm not trying to find a minor, nuanced difference between Obama and Clinton and inflate that to inappropriate levels. I am a fan of some of Obama's foreign policy positions -- though I think that I tend to appreciate his speeches influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski that reflect tough-minded thinking and hard choices rather than those influenced by former Clinton National Security Adviser Anthony Lake that seem to want America to rush into every global cause without clear delineation of priorities and an accounting of potential costs and consequences to our national interest.

But the question of how a Chief Executive would utilize the machinery of government towards the public good has always been of interest to me. Senators do have the opportunity to demonstrate executive-style leadership (or not) in how they deploy the resources taxpayers provide them in pursuing or informing legislative process.


Senator Obama has a great team. Some of his staff are friends and former colleagues of mine -- though i can say the same about every one of the presidential candidates in both parties.

But his not calling any hearings in a Senate Subcommittee he chairs ought to raise some questions that he needs to respond to. His Subcommittee deals with Europe, with NATO, with various related political and security matters -- and he's got the gavel and can set the agenda.

Given the stress NATO is experiencing today on many fronts -- from the question of Europe's evolving security identity, to NATO's deployments in Afghanistan, to the evolving question of how to deal with Russia, Kosovo, and other common challenges -- it seems inconceivable that Senator Obama would not want to highlight important policy concerns by way of hearings.

It's time we get out of the fever swamps. (And it would probably help Sen. Obama more in the general election if he and his advisors are not out claiming that he and his opponents lack the experience to answer the 3 a.m. call and are not embarrassing him by responding to questions on that topic by citing his work on ethics reform.)

In the meantime, Clinton supporter/advisor and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson has a long and worth-reading post up on the topic of 3 A.M. calls and experience. Some extracts:

The Clinton campaign ad featuring a 3 a.m. telephone call as a metaphor for experienced leadership in foreign policy has generated considerable comment, but much of the reaction is from people who have never been involved in foreign policy and certainly never had to field such a call in a crisis situation. Some of the responses are from advisers to the Obama campaign who know better but are actively diminishing the importance and realities of presidential engagement for immediate political advantage.


To begin with, there are such 3 a.m. calls. During my long career as a diplomat, including crises and military actions in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, I have been on the receiving end, the sending end, and the development of options that led to some of those late night calls. The president's role in crisis management is direct, critical and reflects the exercise of leadership in its most fundamental and powerful form. That capability is not intuitive; rather, it comes from years of experience, training and exposure to the complexities that are in inherent in international relations.


In each of the three cases, there was a critical common denominator: direct presidential engagement. During the Desert Shield part of the first Gulf War, then President Bush personally chaired many of the National Security Council meetings and made nonstop calls to foreign leaders to assemble the international coalition and secure the U.N. resolutions that provided the legal underpinning for the military action.

In former Yugoslavia, President Clinton played a similar role, reaching out to friends and allies, to adversaries and belligerents, in order to reach agreements that permitted the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.

And in the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict, the aerial bombings of Addis Ababa and Asmara ceased thanks to the personal efforts of a President.

Contrast the above examples with the last seven plus years of George W. Bush and the conclusion is inescapable: presidential leadership is critical and should be tempered with experience and capability.

Senator Clinton has a long and well documented history of involvement in many of critical foreign policy issues we have confronted and will continue to confront as a nation. Critics can quibble about the details of the health plan she fought for in the 1990s, or whether hers was the decisive or merely an important voice in the Northern Ireland peace efforts, but there can be no denying that she has been in the arena for a generation fighting for what she believes in, gaining experience and developing leadership skills. She has traveled the world and met with international leaders both as the First Lady and as a respected senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee. As NSC director on Africa I experienced her direct positive involvement in U.S.-African relations; it was she, as First Lady who advanced through her own travel, then urged and made possible President Clinton's historic trip. In the Senate, she has aggressively exercised her oversight responsibility and held the Pentagon's feet to the fire on plans related to withdrawal from Iraq, shaped legislation requiring reports to Congress, and cosponsored legislation with Senator Byrd to deauthorize the war with Iraq. She has exercised the levers of power because she knows how to do so. That is not a small thing; it is not a campaign theme. It is simply true and goes to the heart of whether she, or anyone, is prepared to be the president to manage at once two wars and a global economic crisis.

Senator Obama is clearly a gifted politician and orator. I disagree profoundly with his transparently political efforts to turn George Bush's war into Hillary Clinton's responsibility. I was present in that debate, in Washington, from beginning to end, and Obama was nowhere to be seen. His current campaign aides in foreign policy, Tony Lake and Susan Rice, were also in Washington, but they chose to remain silent during that debate, when it mattered.

Claims of superior intuitive judgment by his campaign and by him are self-evidently disingenuous, especially in light of disclosures about his long associations with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko. But his assertions of advanced judgment are also ludicrous when the question of what Obama has accomplished in his four years in the Senate is considered.

As the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee on Europe, he has not chaired a single substantive oversight hearing, even though the breakdown in our relations with Europe and NATO is harming our operations in Afghanistan. Nor did he take a single official trip to Europe as chairman. This is the sum total of his actions in the most important responsibility he has had in the Senate. What are his actual experiences that reassure us that when the phone rings at 3 a.m. he will know what to do, which levers of power to pull, or which world leaders he can count on?

Obama has stated that he will rely upon his advisers. But how will he know which ones to depend upon and how will he be able to evaluate what they say? Already, one of his chief foreign policy advisers, Samantha Power, has been compelled to resign for, among other indiscretions, honestly revealing on a British television program that Obama's public position on withdrawal from Iraq is not really his true position, nor does it reflect what he would do. Her gaffe exposed a vein of cynicism on national security. How confident can we be in his judgment? In fact, the hard truth is that he has no such experience.

Obama has tried to have it both ways on the issue of national security. On the one hand, he claims his intuition somehow would make him best equipped to handle the difficult challenges that face the next president. On the other hand, he tries to ridicule and dismiss as relatively insignificant the idea that actual experience with and intimate knowledge of foreign affairs and leaders, the U.S. military, the intelligence community, and the intricacies of diplomacy matter. He has even suggested that talking about the problems of national security amounts to exploitation of "fear." One of Obama's fervent supporters, a Harvard professor named Orlando Patterson, who has no expertise in foreign policy, wrote absurdly in a New York Times op-ed that the 3 a.m. ad wasn't about national security at all, but really a subliminal racist attack. Delusions aside, sometimes a discussion about national security is about national security.


Time to move on to the next surrogate.

UPDATE: Commenter emal reminded me of something.

Susie Madrak:

Hillary Clinton was constantly attacked by the media, other Democrats and the GOP for playing too large a role in her husband’s administration.

Now that same media is falling all over itself to prove she didn’t. Funny, that.

And by the way, anyone who read Bill Clinton’s biography knows exactly how much she influenced him. And anyone with half a brain realizes that no matter what she thought, her public role was to advance her husband’s policies.

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville (emphasis in original):

And the race to the bottom continues…as the LA Times weighs in with its solid conclusions about Hillary Clinton's time as First Lady, based on 11,000 pages made public less than 36 hours ago. Diminishing the veracity of her touted experience, the writers note:

As for overseas travel, the papers show that Clinton did spend some time conferring with foreign leaders on strategic issues. But the records suggest she spent a lot more time fulfilling the traditional role of the first lady: meeting the leaders' wives and focusing on women's and children's issues.
And no one who's serious about being the American president would do something so frivolous as to focus on women's and children's issues! That's not real politics. Why, she might as well have been playing with dollies!

The contempt for "women's and children's issues" could not be more palpable.

P.S. The Clinton campaign has published this as well: Myths and Facts: First Lady Schedules.

eriposte :: 3:37 PM :: Comments (18) :: Digg It!