Clinton Confirmation & Tibet

Over the last week or so Students for a Free Tibet has been conducting an advocacy campaign on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calling on the Committee to verbally ask Senator Clinton about Tibet. Today, the New York Times published a list of questions from foreign policy experts they hoped the FRC would ask Clinton. Shi Yinhong, “a professor of international relations and the director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing,” asks:

Tibet may prove to be the most divisive issue between China and the West. There is a real possibility that China and the Obama administration will have friction or even a temporary diplomatic clash over Tibet. How will you treat this possibility? If Barack Obama is inclined to meet with the Dalai Lama, what will be your attitude? Might you or other senior members in the State Department meet with the Dalai Lama or other leaders of the Tibetan exile government?

This is a great question. I have personally been asking a number of Senate staffers ask:

“What concrete steps will you commit your office to take to support the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination, including steps to press the Chinese government to negotiate substantively with the Dalai Lama and concrete steps that the US government can take of its own accord?”

Either of these questions would be a great step forward in the treatment of Tibet as a critical issue for US-Sino relations.

Stop Projecting

Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times does some serious drama-projection in this piece on the nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Here’s a snippet of the wankery:

Presentations of presidential appointees can be important, but they are rarely interesting. Usually, the men and women chosen for top cabinet roles are not well known to the public; if there is drama behind the scenes, most in the audience are blind to it.

That was hardly the case on Monday when President-elect Barack Obama introduced his national security team. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech was no ordinary public-service pledge; for plenty of viewers, it was the moment when Mrs. Clinton finally conceded the election for real.

The occasion was solemn, but like a wedding where the parents are divorced, the ceremony was carefully choreographed to avert awkward moments and camouflage past unpleasantness.

When Mr. Obama unveiled his economic team last week, he alone made a speech. In this more delicate selection, it was decided that Mrs. Clinton, his pick for secretary of state, should also speak. But that might look suspect — or too political — unless the five other appointees also said a word, and that, in turn, required a few words from Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who had yet to make public statements of any consequence since the election. (He spoke last, spiritedly, and at some length.)

Not all the staging was designed to address Mrs. Clinton’s sensibilities. She and the five other appointees walked out on stage and stood in line, almost as if at attention, waiting for the president-elect to walk in. He did so briskly, with Mr. Biden at his heels. [Emphasis added]

Look, it’s clear that the press wants there to be Obama-Clinton drama. They love the old storylines and they love creating a storyline that wedges Democrats apart. This is exactly that sort of story: Clinton v. Obama, Can He Trust Her? Will She Go Rogue???

But it’s 100% B.S. Nowhere in the press conference is it apparent that any of it was “designed to address Mrs. Clinton’s sensibilities.” Stanley is projecting, plain and simple. Moreover, at no point in the time since June 7, 2008, has Hillary Clinton ever suggested that her concession of the Democratic nomination for the presidency was not “for real.” Again, Stanley is making things up.

I have no doubt that the good people of the Obama Transition Team carefully choreographed yesterday’s press conference. It was likely on par with the roll-out of the Obama administration’s economic team for importance. So yes, there was surely a schedule of who spoke when and who stood next to whom. It’s even conceivable that the speeches of all of President-Elect Obama’s appointments were written and/or vetted by members of the transition team. This is not news. The professionalism and orderliness seen in the Obama press conference yesterday was not done out of a desire “to avert awkward moments and camouflage past unpleasantness.” It was “carefully choreographed” to be presidential.

Alessandra Stanley and her editors need to stop projecting their desired story lines onto the Obama administration (viz. making things up) and start reporting the news like professionals. Unfortunately, my guess is that as long as Hillary Clinton (let alone Bill) is in the picture, this will not happen. This is no fault of Senator and soon-to-be Secretary of State Clinton; the blame lies with petty and trite fiction writers like Alessandra Stanley.

Dodd on Ending the Primary and the Media’s Role In Prolonging It

Via TRex, my guy Chris Dodd is speaking out with an eye towards resolving the Democratic nominating process.

Look, we’ve got five more months to go before the Democratic convention at the end of August and, candidly, we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that’s going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention. My hope is that it will be Barack Obama, but if it’s Hillary Clinton, she too will suffer, in my view, from this kind of a campaign that I think is undermining the credibility and the quality of the two candidates that we have. We have two very strong candidates. So I’m worried about this going on endlessly and to a large extent, Linda, the media, a lot of these cable networks, are enjoying this. It’s what is keeping them alive financially. The fact that this thing is going on forever, back and forth every day, all night — I don’t think it’s really helping the candidates or the political institutions.

Asked about the solution to ending the race:

Dodd: Well, the solution is — look, we’ve got a contest coming up in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and Indiana very quickly afterwards. In my view, the outcome of those three races will determine — I think the race has been determined, anyway, at this point. I think it’s very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can’t be the nominee of the party. I think that’s a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are.

But certainly over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion. And in the absence of doing that — and that’s not easy, and I realize it’s painful. But the alternatives, allowing this sort of to fester over the months of June, and July and August, I think, are irresponsible. I think you have to make a decision, and hopefully the candidates will respect it and people will rally behind a nominee that, I think, emerges from these contests over the next month. That’s my suggestion. That’s what I would do. [Emphasis added]

Dodd has endorsed Obama and though he’s honest about that support here, I think he’s also recognizing a reality of the numbers that the Clinton campaign has largely resisted. I agree with Dodd that if there is a way for the Democratic Party’s national leaders – Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Chris Van Hollen – to step into the process and bring it to a resolution that gives clarity as to who our nominee is based on the results of the primaries, they do have an obligation to do so and failing to do so would be “irresponsible.” Keep in mind that Dodd was the DNC Chair from 1995-1997, so he knows what he’s asking of the Party’s leadership and I am certain that he does not take this challenge lightly.

I also think Dodd’s media analysis here is incredibly sharp. Here it is again:

the media, a lot of these cable networks, are enjoying this. It’s what is keeping them alive financially. The fact that this thing is going on forever, back and forth every day, all night — I don’t think it’s really helping the candidates or the political institutions.

I don’t recall any elected Democrat putting this sort of argument forward. It sounds more like Digby or Eric Boehlert than, say, the final two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. If more Democrats had this sort of analysis, what campaigns choose to make issues with each other (such as who must be fired today and who must be denounced) might look different than the way things currently work. Kudos for your sharp analysis Senator Dodd.

No, Not Really

Marc Ambinder asks:

Can you imagine, or envision, a Democratic/Netroots’ based Senate challenge to Clinton in four years?

No, not really. For there to be a primary challenge of Hillary Clinton, there would have to be a Democrat willing to run against her. Hillary Clinton probably has the highest name ID of any Democrat in America not named Bill Clinton. She has near-complete institutional support in the New York State Democratic Party. I think we can safely rule out all current members of the NY House delegation. I’d also guess that any netroots back House challengers this cycle (people like Jon Powers or Eric Massa) would, if they win, not likely challenge her.

Who does that leave? People not holding federal office and vain and/or rich people. I can’t comfortably speak about the vain/rich people (though I doubt the netroots would support Tasini, The Remix), but here are the non-federal office holders that come to mind:

  • Eliot Spitzer: Ha, right.
  • David Patterson: I doubt a Governor would take out a Senator from his own party.
  • Tom Suozzi: I think his future is probably brighter in Albany than in Wshington.
  • Andrew Cuomo: He served in the Clinton administration and I don’t think he’d show that kind of disloyalty.

Not sure who else would be on this list, but perhaps some NY bloggers will weigh in.

The reality is that while some Democrats don’t want Clinton to be President, most New Yorkers (not just Democrats) think she’s a very good Senator. While I don’t always agree with her tactics and I wish she would take a more vocal role in fighting for change within the Senate, I think she generally votes well. She would have to do something along the lines of voting for war with Iran or voting for telecom immunity for me to even consider supporting a primary challenge to her in 2012 – and I don’t see her being so politically blind to do either.

Calls on Clinton Beginning…

I’m sure it’s happened elsewhere before this, but my RSS reader has produced two  calls for Hillary Clinton to drop out, in the interest of her inability to surpass Obama’s pledged delegate lead, likely inability to pass Obama with super delegates, and a desire to focus on defeating John W. McSame.

Bob Cesca is a big Obama supporter, but he makes passing recognition that Clinton won’t be the nominee.

Jesus’ General is a free agent, having endorsed Dodd during the primary, but since been critical of both candidates. He makes a thoughtful, passionate plea for moving forward on a unified front to defeat McCain. Gen. JC Christian writes:

I think Obama should offer Clinton whatever it takes to accept the vice presidential nomination. If she wants health care, give it to her.

And Clinton needs to to take it and strike her deal soon. Her bargaining power is strong now. She can demand concessions that will give her tremendous advantages in 2016. More importantly, she does not want to become the person whose blind ambition gave the White House to McCain. That’s how she will be perceived if she continues to push the superdelegate strategy.

I think we’re going to see more neutral bloggers write posts like this in coming days and weeks, as it becomes clear that the contest is becoming more of a knife fight than a thoughtful discussion of the future of the country. I also think the idea of a unity ticket will be seen as a bandage to heal the wounds inflicted in this primary. I don’t know whether or not that’s necessary – I don’t see either candidates’ supporters bolting in wide numbers at the end of a prolonged nominating process – but I think the unity ticket will continue to get play.

While I would love to see this primary resolved, I think it’s continuation (for now) is fine if (1) it does not continue to devolve into the nastiness that has defined it the last few weeks and (2) both Clinton and Obama regularly focus their attacks on John McCain. I don’t know how likely these scenarios are and the extend to which they’re not realized, I’ll change my willingness to support a long primary.

Answers Needed

Scarecrow at FireDogLake wants Obama and Clinton to answer some important questions before they take office.

1. Given that the Bush/Cheney regime has been the most lawless and destructive of Constitutional safeguards in our lifetimes, what do you intend to do to bring those who flouted the law to justice? If nothing, how do you expect to restore respect for the Constitution and the rule of law and restore confidence in the Department of Justice?

2. On repeated occasions, far too many Democrats have voted in Congress to enable or immunize lawless actions by the Bush/Cheney regime. What would you do as President to restore respect for the Constitution within your own party?

6. How do you intend to pay for the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and prepare the country to fund the public investments you think vital to our economic interests?

7. How do you propose to change the attitudes and mindset that led us into aggressive wars?

I think the first two questions are likely the most important for the health of our country.  I do not want to have a Democratic administration continue to use the powers the Bush administration has illegally seized simply because Congress has failed to repudiate Bush’s actions. Bush may not have succeeded in expanding the powers of the executive branch to the point of complete dictatorship, but he has undoubtedly moved our country away from the rule of law and from the checks and balances set forth in our Constitution. We need Clinton and Obama to confront these issues before either takes office. Not only would it serve assuage fears I have about the health of our democracy, it would provide a marked contrast with anti-Constitution John W. McCain, who offers only a third term for the Bush administration.

The questions Scarecrow poses on war policy play into the health of our nation as well. War and terrorism was the excuse that has shielded most of the Bush administrations expansions of executive power. The shadow of future aggressive wars still hangs over this country, as we’re seeing with the treatment of Admiral Fallon. Beyond timid promises to end the war in Iraq, Clinton and Obama need to speak directly to how they change conventional wisdom on the US of American power. In Obama’s case, this should stem from an explanation as to how he had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq and what structural similarities he sees in the country’s attitudes in 2002 and now. In Clinton’s case, she would have to frame an explanation around what she has learned since voting for war in Iraq.

I do not expect answers to these questions to be forthcoming, which is a sad statement on the health of our democracy, our democratic process, and our capacity for thoughtful engagement of challenging, if unpleasant, questions.