May 22, 2008
Obama, Kennedy, and the Disturbing Matter of a Dog
One item that has received much play in the media is George Bush's recent speech to the Israeli Knesset in which he made statements Barack Obama found convenient to seize upon as an "unprecedented personal attack":
"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided. We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
It's hard to decide what is more amusing: the oily retorts of Obama's would-be defenders (So Hitler's demands were "not unreasonable"? Viewed in that light, we could strike a deal with Satan himself without calling it appeasement) or the almost Kama Sutra-esque manipulations of history and semantics demonstrated by the Democratic forerunner himself. Caroline Glick illustrates how Obama has twisted both history and meaning to convince voters he won't be an appeaser. The first dishonest deconstruction is that of history. Notice that at no time do Barack's fingers leave his hands:
Obama recalls that US presidents have often conducted negotiations with their country's enemies and done so to the US's advantage. And this is true enough. President John F. Kennedy essentially appeased the Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when he offered to remove US nuclear warheads from Turkey in exchange for the removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.
But there are many differences between what Kennedy did and what Obama is proposing. Kennedy's offer to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was made secretly. And the terms of the deal stipulated that if its existence was revealed, the US offer would be cancelled. More importantly, Khrushchev was open to a deal and was ready to give up the Cuban nuclear program. And - most importantly of all - Kennedy deployed military forces and went to the brink of war to make the alternatives to negotiation credible.
Obama has repeatedly stated that unlike Kennedy, if he is elected president, he will not openly threaten war while being open to private talks. Instead, Obama intends to surrender the war option while conducting direct, public negotiations with the mullahs. So from the very beginning, he wants to undermine US credibility while giving Ahmadinejad and his murderous ilk the legitimacy that Kennedy refused to give Khrushchev.
Far from exerting force to strengthen his diplomatic position, Obama has pledged to withdraw US forces from Iraq where they are fighting Iranian proxies, cut military spending and shrink the size of the US nuclear arsenal.
As if this weren't bad enough, the Krushchev/Kennedy analogy is, itself highly misleading. Contrary to Obama's hype, their talks were far from the success Obama would have us believe they were:
Kennedy’s one presidential meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, suggests that there are legitimate reasons to fear negotiating with one’s adversaries. Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings — his Harvard thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich” — he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.
Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”
But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. Despite his eloquence, Kennedy was no match as a sparring partner, and offered only token resistance as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, cautioned America against supporting “old, moribund, reactionary regimes” and asserted that the United States, which had valiantly risen against the British, now stood “against other peoples following its suit.” Khrushchev used the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting to warn Kennedy that his country could not be intimidated and that it was “very unwise” for the United States to surround the Soviet Union with military bases.
Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.
Kennedy’s assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the “roughest thing in my life.” Kennedy went on: “He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him.”
A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.
If Barack Obama wants to follow in Kennedy’s footsteps, he should heed the lesson that Kennedy learned in his first year in office: sometimes there is good reason to fear to negotiate.
But history is not the only thing distorted by Barack Obama in his dishonest rebuttal to George Bush. Like another charismatic Democrat who once had the temerity to argue the meaning of the word "is", Barack Obama not only counts on ignorant voters to forget their modern history, but to be ignorant of the meaning of commonly understood words like "appeasement" and "negotiation". One cannot negotiate unless one is willing to give something up in return for something of value. This begs the question: what would Barack Obama be willing to give Iran? And more importantly, what are they willing to give us in return? It appears that Iran has already answered that question:
SINCE THE definition of appeasement is to reward others for their bad behavior, and since the US has refused for 29 years to reward the Iranians for their bad behavior by having presidential summits with Iranian leaders, Obama's pledge represents a massive act of appeasement. And since it is Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program that would bring a President Barack Obama to the table, his policy would invite nuclear blackmail by other countries by signaling to them that the US rewards nuclear proliferators.
But even if Obama and his supporters were right and negotiating with the ayatollahs was not by its nature an act of appeasement, the question remains whether it would be possible to reach a deal with them that would not endanger US interests or US allies a la Neville Chamberlain at Munich.
Since the EU-3 began negotiating with the Iranians four years ago, the Iranians have made clear at every opportunity that while they welcome negotiations, they will never give up their nuclear program. Over the weekend, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei again repeated that there is no deal that anyone can offer Iran that would move the regime to give up its nuclear aspirations and nascent arsenal. So there is no deal to be had.
So much for negotiations. One wonders, in any event, how successful a man who cannot even win an argument with his wife over a dog will be at the negotiation table with a far more ruthless adversary?
Michelle Obama actually overruled her husband while on "GMA" when they were asked whether their two daughters had yet to get the dog they were promised.
She said they had agreed to get the dog a year from now, while her husband said they will have "a year to test whether they are sufficiently responsible..."
But Michelle Obama cut him off, sayingy, "They are responsible."
He tried again by saying "Whether they are going to be responsible in the middle of winter to go walk that dog."
"We're getting a dog," his wife said flatly.
"When it's cold outside," Obama persisted.
His wife looked into the camera and said to their kids, "You guys are getting a dog."
When the presidential candidate again asked who would be walking the dog, the potential first lady replied, "You will. You will all be walking the dog."
"OK. All right," Obama conceded.
His negotiation skills are something Barack Obama may not wish to call attention to during the race for the Presidency.
Update: Karl Rove has more along the same lines:
Reagan knew he must not squander the prestige of the American presidency and the authority of the United States by meaningless meetings that serve only as propaganda victories for our adversaries. Mr. Obama seems to believe charisma and smooth talk can fundamentally alter the behavior of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.
But what might work on the primary campaign trail doesn't work nearly as well in Tehran. What, for example, does Mr. Obama think he can offer the Iranians to get them to become a less pernicious and destabilizing force? One of Iran's top foreign policy goals is a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. This happens to be Mr. Obama's top foreign policy goal, too. Why should Iran or other rogue states alter their behavior if Mr. Obama gives them what they want, without preconditions?
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama said in Florida that in a meeting with the Iranians he'd make it clear their behavior is unacceptable. That message has been delivered clearly by Republican and Democratic administrations in public and private diplomacy over the past 16 years. Is he so naïve to think he has a unique ability to make this even clearer?
If Mr. Obama believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility. He also needs to explain why unconditional, unilateral meetings with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea's Kim Jong Il will not deeply unsettle our allies.
If Mr. Obama fails to do so, voters may come to believe that he is asking them to accept that he has a "Secret Plan," and that he is hopelessly out of his depth on national security.
Posted by Cassandra at May 22, 2008 08:12 AM
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Khrushchev used the same arguments against Averill Harriman a few years earlier, and Harriman deftly deflated his arguments, then they proceeded to talk like "reasonable" adversaries. (recalling reading this from "The Best and the Brightest", about 20 years ago). Kennedy allowed himself to be buffaloed.
Kennedy was so green and egotistical in his notion of his own abilities (hubris? what's that?), that he couldn't be disuaded from a summit with K.
Obama is even less well prepared than Kennedy was (both intellectually and philosophically), and can't even stand up to Michelle (or keep her from embarrassing him) on TV. I don't think that Kennedy would have ever consciously sold American interests down the river. Obama, I'm not so sure about.
I'm sure he's a nice guy and pretty intelligent, but the thought of him at the top is pretty scary; plus the notion of who he will surround himself with. At least Kennedy had some strong players on his team to support him. Obama shows no such indications. Samantha Power?
Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 22, 2008 09:50 AM
If she thinks Hillary is a monster, how is she ever going to deal with a man who wants Israel wiped off the planet?
Posted by: Jessica Rabbit at May 22, 2008 10:34 AM
Correct me if I am wrong (and you Bible thumpin' types better correct me, so help me), but isn't there something in the New Testament about a bishop having order in his house?
What kind of a woman emascultes her husband in public? Especially when he is running for leader of the free world? The agreement was to wait for a year to see if they are responsible.
Should the Obamas wait a year before airing the family dirty linen in public?
Posted by: Cricket at May 22, 2008 11:39 AM
What kind of a woman emasculates her husband in public?
Hey - she's cheeky, she's sexy, whatever...
Posted by: Cassandra at May 22, 2008 11:55 AM
I can sympathize. I once had an arguement with my wife about getting a dog. I did not want one, and I won. And now we have a dog.
Perhaps we need a LolCat caption "Can I haz prezident now?"
Posted by: Georg Felis at May 22, 2008 12:57 PM
I like that :p
I can totally understand that families have their quirks. What I don't get is that she wouldn't understand that it is not such a good idea to make her husband look weak on national TV, or that he would allow that to happen. That is just bizarre. He didn't need to slap her down, but the unconditional surrender doesn't bode well for the next four years if he's elected.
Posted by: Cassandra at May 22, 2008 01:07 PM
Perhaps we need a LolCat caption "Can I haz prezident now?"Yes, on a photo of a snarling pack of wolves.
Posted by: diane at May 22, 2008 01:13 PM
Michelle makes Hillary look like Mother Teresa...
that really takes some doing, doncha think?
Posted by: Carrie at May 22, 2008 02:27 PM
The bit about Kennedy giving up our MRBMs in Europe of something of a red herring. Fact is that the MRBMs were much more vulnerable to attack than US-based ICBMs. Security was expensive too. The Minuteman was coming on line at the end of 1962 and the Titan I heavy ICBM was already on alert too. The Titan II would be fully operational by the end of 1964. Bottom line: we didn't really need to have those MRBMs in Europe and Turkey.
Posted by: George at May 22, 2008 04:45 PM
but, but, whatever Michelle says is "the message". O scares the crap out of me...on many levels, especially with that revelation.
Posted by: punkindrublic at May 22, 2008 05:05 PM
That is very astute. The Atlas and Jupiter -C IRBM's (in Turkey, of all places) were liquid fueled and not as reliable as the new Minutemen I solid fuel ICBM's. We were probably going to withdraw them (IRBM's)anyways, once the Minuteman began deployment. So it was all rather a shadow play, but it was often the perception, not the reality that was in play.
Who was winning the Cold War? Who was making who back down and make concessions? Also worthwhile remembering that the Politburo deposed Krushchev in 1964, because, as we later learned, they thought he took too many chances with security for the Motherland in his confrontations with the US over Berlin, Cuba, etc.
Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 22, 2008 05:27 PM
Peeepuls. Don't you remember when the Clintons were campaigning and Hitlery said that she and Bill were a package deal, a 'blue plate special?' I think this has gone to Michelle's head. She wants us to know that even though her man is in charge of the free world, she's the one who wears the pants at home.
So, is she the one we need to deal with?
Posted by: Cricket at May 22, 2008 06:54 PM
Indiana Jones is back. Despite getting a tad older, he was fantastic. Yes, we saw the new Indy movie.
It was scary, fun and actually kind of good.
Posted by: Cricket at May 23, 2008 12:59 AM
Okay - I admit it - this is the first election I don't hold any hope for any of the candidates. I don't like any of the people running and I don't like their spouses. Am I the only one who feels that way?
I hate to feel so negative but I just do. I mean it is just like government took a final leave of it's senses. It is a cult of bad personalities. Is there no hope? Are we all doomed? Will this be the end of the Superpower we once were? are we our own worst enemy?
Thank God for Indiana Jones. I wish he would run for office.
Whatever happened to comedy sit coms? Don't we already have enough reality without having to watch it on TV?
I am just sitting here waiting for my tax refund maybe I will feel better then.
Sorry to vent. It has been a super long day in a place I don't want to be. I miss Wings....
Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at May 23, 2008 04:40 AM
"OK. All right," Obama conceded.
Which will be the closing line for each and every "negotiation" Barry undertakes.
And I *purposely* used that verb...
Posted by: BillT at May 23, 2008 06:39 AM
Good grief! Doc, Bill you guys make it sound like the leadership wants to socializ... er... ahhhh... take over the country or something...
Now that you mention it, I'm not feeling so well either.
Posted by: bthun at May 23, 2008 09:54 AM
I am writing in the candidate of my choice. He is not on the ballot but I will put him there. I am sick and tired of 'holding my nose' and putting my mark beside the name of the Least Odious and Oppressive.
I did that when we voted in the recall election for Gray Davis. I did NOT vote for the Governator and I am glad I didn't. I voted for his Republican opposition.
I am writing in Mitt Romney's name. Yeah, I know he doesn't have any money to campaign.
I have seen him pull off miracles in his dealings, and he managed to do it without losing his soul or alienating everyone. I am sure that Mr. Romney Sr. was an inspiration to many and taught Mitt well.
Posted by: Cricket at May 23, 2008 12:04 PM
Harrison Ford is an actor, good at pretending to be a hero...he's another hollywood lefty.
See here: http://www.nndb.com/people/812/000022746/
"He sidestepped the military draft -- and the Vietnam war -- by filing as a conscientious objector. When he was required to appear before the draft board and explain his stance, he instead feigned general nuttiness in a performance that convinced his interrogators he was not military material."
and "He is a longtime supporter of liberal and environmental causes, and testified before the Senate in a failed attempt to prevent Communist China from being granted "Most Favored Nation" status. In honor of his work for conservation causes, two species of animals have been named for Ford, a Central American ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) and an eight-eyed spider (Calponia harrisonfordi)."
Harrison Ford is def not Indy.
Posted by: doug in colorado at May 23, 2008 05:24 PM
> Mr. Obama said in Florida that in a meeting with the Iranians he'd make it clear their behavior is unacceptable.
"Bad dog!! BAD!! BAD!! .... 'Walkies' ! "
Posted by: obloodyhell at May 26, 2008 09:08 AM
EXCELLENT piece, BTW, cass!
One of the best I've read recently.
Posted by: obloodyhell at May 26, 2008 09:09 AM
> If she thinks Hillary is a monster, how is she ever going to deal with a man who wants Israel wiped off the planet?
With open arms?
Posted by: obloodyhell at May 26, 2008 01:06 PM