January 29, 2009
Remember that entertaining confrontation last May between Joe Klein and John McCain over who truly dictates Iranian foreign policy? McCain insisted it was Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Klein noted (persuasively) that the really important shots--including those related to grand strategy and the country's nuclear program--are called by Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Waiting For Dennis Ross
It's a popular diversion in foreign-policy circles right now to speculate about why Dennis Ross, who is reportedly set to be the State Department's lead official on Iran, has not yet been officially announced as part of the new Obama-Clinton team (even though Ross has already started showing up for work at Foggy Bottom). I'm told the holdup has nothing to do with Ross--but rather the fact that the administration hasn't quite decided on its early public positioning and rhetoric towards Iran.
About That White House Chef
Chait's right, that Lisa Schiffren post about Sam Kass as a new White House chef is absurd. That said, Schiffren has a shred of a point when it comes to the annoyingness of Alice Waters. After the election, Waters was pushing Obama to can the current White House executive chef, Cristeta Comerford, who'd gotten that job under President Bush, and replace her with someone more in tune with Waters's ideas about local and organic food.
Lisa Schiffren, writing at the Corner, manages to be outraged over the fact that Barack Obama has hired his own White House chef. I'm not quite sure how to sum up her argument. The main thrust is that Michelle Obama is a hypocrite for not cooking the family meals. You just have to read it to believe it. --Jonathan Chait
Waxman: Health Care Reform This Year
Barack Obama has said he wants to pursue major health care reform this year. Two key committee chairmen in the Senate, Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy, have said they watn to pursue health care this year. But what about the House? The leadership has been strangely silent on the question, except for some recent statements by James Clyburn, the Majority Whip, that it might be better to move slowly and expand coverage incrementally. A few minutes ago, Congressman Henry Waxman made his feelings known--and did so with no ambiguity.
How To End The Culture War
This item about whether Obama will bring the culture war to an end has inspired two thoughtful posts -- one by Tim Fernholz at Tapped, and another by Ed Kilgore at the Democratic Strategist. Tim's post concludes by posing the following question: "So, Damon, how does one end the culture wars?" Good question. One option is to demoralize the other side to such an extent that they effectively give up and go home. This is pretty much what fundamentalists did after the humiliation of the Scopes Trial in 1925.
January 28, 2009
Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell's appointment as the latest U.S. Presidential envoy to the Middle East is meant to serve as proof that, after eight years of disengagement, the United States is ready to make a renewed, determined push for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. And who better than Mitchell, the man who brokered the "peace process" in Northern Ireland, to lead the effort? As President Obama put it in his interview with Al Arabiya, "George Mitchell is somebody of enormous stature.
Struck Out Looking
President Obama is hoping former Senator George Mitchell will bring the same sort of patient, tough diligence to his role as special envoy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he did with the crisis in Northern Ireland more than ten years ago. Let’s hope so. And, more to the point: Let’s hope he does a better job than he did with Major League Baseball’s Mitchell Report, the “investigation” into steroid abuse that came out in December 2007.
The Two Americas
WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama will meet his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts in April at the Summit of the Americas. They expect much from him--never a good sign. What approach should he bring to the table?The most important thing the United States can do is to fix its own economy.
Les Gelb looks at the new administration's second-tier foreign policy players--people like Donilon, Steinberg, Flournoy, Blinken--and concludes: [A]ll are middle-of-the-roaders who are somewhat to the right or conservative side of the Democratic Party as a whole on foreign and national-security policy. They are all pragmatists and problem-solvers by intellectual temperament, and they are not political risk-takers. They will handle most hard problems with consummate skill, but will be reluctant to seek high-risk policy solutions.