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September 13, 2012

Ill Advised Foreign Policy Gaffes, Double Standard Edition

How inconveeeeeeeeeeeenient!

Remember that time when a major-party presidential nominee went on television immediately after the deaths of several Americans abroad to attack the policies of the current administration and his opponent? Remember how the media repeatedly demanded to know whether he regretted the timing of that criticism, and whether he was ashamed at not providing a united political front in the face of tragedy?

Yeah, neither do I … and neither does Andrew Kaczynski at BuzzFeed. This CNN interview took place in July 2008, immediately after the deaths of nine US troops in Afghanistan...

Speaking of ill advised public comments by a presidential candidate on a delicate foreign policy situation:

The White House expressed unhappiness about Iraqi leaders' apparent public backing for Obama's troop-withdrawal plans and suggested the Iraqis may be trying to use the U.S. presidential election as leverage for negotiations on the United States' presence and future obligations in the country.

“We don't think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said after al-Maliki was quoted in a magazine article supporting Obama's proposed 16-month troop withdrawal timeline.

Apparently, it's actually a good thing when some presidential candidates publicly politicize ongoing negotiations with foreign countries:

It's not just Amir Taheri pushing the Logan Act story. Before he ever went to Iraq, Obama's bragging about his meddling in U.S. foreign policy made the pages of the NY Times:

Among the issues being discussed with the two presidential candidates is the long-term security accord between Iraq and the United States. [Ed.note, because this will become important later: this is the strategic framework agreement referred to later in the post] While the Bush administration would like to see an agreement reached before the summer’s political conventions, Mr. Obama said today that he opposed such a timetable.

So it seems The One had already commenced unsanctioned telephone negotiations with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari back in June. His goal was to prevent the White House from successfully concluding negotiations for a long term security agreement with Iraq. Bizarrely, Obama not only admitted what he was doing, but bragged about it repeatedly over the next few weeks:

“My concern is that the Bush administration, in a weakened state politically, ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it’s my administration or Senator McCain’s administration,” Mr. Obama said. “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made.”

Now *that's* real audacity - using your own illegal acts as the pretext for undermining your own government's foreign policy!

And if the press really, really like you, once you're president you can brag about having ended the war in Iraq and brought the troops home! Nevermind the fact that the whole time you were telling Americans you intended to bring the troops home, you were actually doing your damnedest to persuade the Iraqis to extend the withdrawal deadline...
...and failing:

As recently as August, Maliki's office was discussing allowing 8,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops to remain until next year, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie said in an interview with The Cable. He told us that there was widespread support in Iraq for such an extension, but the Obama administration was demanding that immunity for U.S. troops be endorsed by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which was never really possible.

Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy's diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

"An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that's done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry," said one former senior Hill staffer. "If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass."

The main Iraqi opposition party Iraqiya, led by former U.S. ally and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, decided to tie that vote to two non-related issues. It said they would not vote for the troop extension unless Maliki agreed give them control of a high-level policy council and let them choose the minister of defense from their ranks. Maliki wasn't about to do either.

"It was clear from the beginning that Maliki wasn't going to make a move without the support of the other parties behind him," Sullivan explained, adding that the Obama administration focused on Maliki and neglected other actors, such as Allawi. "There was a misunderstanding of how negotiations were unfolding in Iraq. The negotiations got started in earnest far too late."

"The actions don't match the words here," said Sullivan. "It's in the administration's interest to make this look not like they failed to reach an agreement and that they fulfilled a campaign promise. But it was very clear that Panetta and [former Defense Secretary Robert] Gates wanted an agreement."

If only this country had a professional journalistic class whose mission it was to keep the public informed and hold public servants accountable....

Posted by Cassandra at September 13, 2012 08:58 AM

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Let me see - For possibly the first time during the campaign, Obama and Romney agree about something: The Cairo Embassy screwed the pooch. Media scores the event Obama +1, Romney -1.

Nope, no media bias there.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 13, 2012 11:58 AM

Years ago, my Dad told me something I'll never forget.

He was inspecting a Navy ship while the CO was off somewhere and the ship passed with flying colors at a time when a lot of ships were failing.

He said, "You can tell an effective leader by the way his subordinates perform when he's not around. Those folks didn't need an officer to tell them exactly what to do because they had been well trained and clearly had been practicing. If your people need to clear every single action with you, you're not doing it right."

The guy can't have it both ways. He can't blame Romney for things that happened when his own campaign bundler was running Bain Capital because "it happened on Romney's watch" (even though it didn't) and then blame others when something goes wrong on his own watch.

Oh wait - yes he can, because the press have his back.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 13, 2012 12:14 PM

""You can tell an effective leader by the way his subordinates perform when he's not around. Those folks didn't need an officer to tell them exactly what to do because they had been well trained and clearly had been practicing. If your people need to clear every single action with you, you're not doing it right."

Your dad, the ship's CO, and I'd dare to venture, The Unit and his bride were/are leaders. They understand how leadership works along with the necessity of possessing the leadership character qualities like consistency, responsibility, and integrity, just to name a few.

The Rabble-rouser in Chief? At this point anyone who can not see, well, they will never see. However, that will not stop the rest of us from pointing out the obvious to the oblivious.

Posted by: bthun at September 13, 2012 12:40 PM

You know, it would be funny if someone could document all the times Obama has blamed other's for the failures "under his watch".

It would probably take a full time job to do it, though.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 13, 2012 12:59 PM