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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

Here We Go Again

Friday, June 14th, 2013

belle syria

Once again, politicians demanding austerity for the American public are leading us—and other people’s children—into war

“Just providing arms is not enough.”John McCain

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This should be the mother of all cakewalks. The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. will begin arming certain groups of Syrian rebels because the Bashar al-Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people in the two-year-old civil war. The New York Times reports that the U.S. will “begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition,” according to government officials. Some 90,000 civilians (likely an underestimate) have died in the fighting. Note: This is a public announcement, making official what has been in effect, covertly and surreptitiously and otherwise, for some time (see below).

Click here for the text of the White House Statement on Chemical Weapons in Syria.

Just yesterday, Politico and TalkingPointsMemo reported that former president Bill Clinton, in an appearance at the John McCain Institute for International Leadership (why?), said he now agrees with McCain that the U.S. should do more to aid the rebels. McCain has been saying the same thing for over a year, every Sunday-bloody-Sunday morning. Clinton opined that Obama risks looking like a “total fool” if he allows public opinion polls to guide U.S. policy on the matter. Our first reaction yesterday was, And who axed you? This morning we suspect that, given Clinton’s good standing among Obama’s base, he had clearance, if not encouragement, from the White House to say what he said; thus TPM’s headline, “Politico: Bill Clinton Breaks with Obama on Syria,” was perhaps not entirely accurate, unless “breaks with” means “serves as trial balloon mouthpiece for”.

And then, says Andrea Mitchell on The Rachel Maddow Show, after pointing out that in fighting Hezbollah in Syria, the West is effectively in a proxy war with Iran, McCain goes out onto the Senate floor to preempt the White House’s announcement (“In just a couple of minutes, the president of the United States will be announcing that it is now conclusive that Bashar Assad and the Syrian butchers have used chemical weapons.”). But now McCain says that the aid he’s been clamoring for is not enough; the president “had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation . . .” The U.S. should also establish a no-fly zone. If a no-fly zone were to be established, then the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has offered to sell—or has already delivered—to Assad could be used against the U.S. Air Force. Then what? And if one of those missiles hits an Israeli airliner? (Russia’s offer, or threat, is at least partly in response to the European Union’s allowing its arms embargo to Syria to expire effective June 1.)

It’s not as though the U.S. has not already been aiding the opposition to Assad. In a May 5 Guardian opinion piece titled “The West and Its Allies Cynically Bleed Syria to Weaken Iran” (source of the illustration above), Seumas Milne wrote:

Airlifts of arms to the Syrian rebels, co-ordinated by the CIA, have increased sharply in recent months to become what one former US official calls a “cataract of weaponry“. British and American forces are training rebel fighters in Jordan. The worth of US aid to the Syrian opposition has doubled to $250m, while the EU has now lifted its oil embargo to allow exports from rebel-held areas.

But John McCain, who assured us in 2002 and 2003 that a conflict with Iraq would be short and sweet, argues that this must be done. And the government, without offering proof, is telling us that chemical weapons were used—haven’t we heard this before?—so the United States, which is a peace-loving nation and a protector of human rights, cannot “stand idly by.” And the governments of the United Kingdom and France, who also support aid to the Syrian rebels, also have not put forth evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But what have these nations done to negotiate a diplomatic solution? What persuasive force have the U.S., France, or the U.K. applied upon the United Nations, upon Russia and other friends of Bashar al-Assad? France was prepared to take the lead against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya; why not now? (Because Syria is so freaking complicated and fraught with uncontrollable consequences, maybe?) And what part does Iran play in the government’s strategy? And Israel? Is this part of a deal to keep Tel Aviv from pulling the trigger on Tehran’s nuclear program (whatever that may be)?

Syria@EBDid we mention that Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia? And that the Assad regime is backed by and receiving anti-aircraft weapons from, Russia? Or did we mention that, according to recent reports from the BBC (or was it NBC’s Richard Engel?), there are some fourteen different “rebel groups” constituting the opposition in Syria? Or that, as we reported in May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, says that Syria is viewed by the same neocons who brought us the Iraq war as “a back door to get us in a war with Iran”?

What could possibly go wrong?

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(Weren’t we saying just days ago that austerity economics is prescribed for the public but seems never to apply to the Defense department [¶8]? Who has paid for the weapons that will be supplied to the Syrian rebels? American taxpayers—individuals, mostly. But Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid benefits, they tell us, need to be curved downward—even Obama suggests so.)

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See also:

How Many Wars? After Libya . . . ? (LNW 3/26/11)



The Big Hug

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

 Clinton Wows Dems, Urges 2nd Term for Obama

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In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s reelection . . . went something like this: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

Listen to me now. No president, no president—not me, not any of my predecessors—no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.

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For 45 minutes last night in Charlotte, Bill Clinton explained in plain language why Barack Obama should be reelected—what he has accomplished against nearly impossible odds—and why the Republican attacks against Obama and the Democrats are not to be believed. Following strong speeches by women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren, Clinton drew sharp, clear distinctions between the Democrats and the GOP: “We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.'”

In what Talking Points Memo calls an “explano-smackdown,” Clinton methodically took head-on and demolished the GOP’s main lines of attack on President Obama. He set the record straight on the Recovery Act (stimulus); the Affordable Care Act; the so-called $716 million “robbing” of Medicare; the auto industry restructuring; job creation; the smear that Obama is weakening work requirements in the welfare reform bill; and the federal debt. As Slate’s John Dickerson notes, “Clinton’s speech had several parts: an answer to the question ‘Are you better off?,’ a shaming of the modern GOP with the example set by past Republican presidents, and a deeper attempt to tie Obama’s policies to bedrock American values, a job Michelle Obama had begun the night before.”

Charles Blow of the New York Times observes, “the masterful Bill Clinton wrapped the evening up as only he could: delivering a wonky speech with the passion of a southern preacher and keeping the crowd rapt the whole way through.” Clinton also answered quite convincingly, repeatedly, the question “Are we better off now than we were four years ago?” One of our favorite comments was a tweet by Ben Greenman, an editor at The New Yorker, posted on DailyKos: “Bill Clinton should be the Secretary of Explaining Things.”

There were so many lines to love in Bill Clinton’s speech last night. And his were not the sniping personal-attack zingers that swarmed like mosquitoes in Tampa—they delighted because they were true, based in fact. And he had facts by the handful (transcript here).

The Quotable Explainer in Chief

We are here to nominate a president . . . I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.

We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that “We’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “You’re on your own.”

So who’s right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what’s the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two. [confirmed by PolitiFact]

Now, . . . there’s a reason for this. It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics. Why? Because poverty, discrimination, and ignorance restrict growth.

What works in the real world is cooperation, business and government, foundations and universities. Ask the mayors who are here. Los Angeles is getting green and Chicago is getting an infrastructure bank because Republicans and Democrats are working together to get it. They didn’t check their brains at the door. They didn’t stop disagreeing. But their purpose was to get something done.

Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true. Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, “the biggest, coldest power play,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget! You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did. . . .

In 2010, as the president’s recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around. The Recovery Act saved or created millions of jobs and cut taxes—let me say this again—cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. And in the last 29 months, our economy has produced about 4.5 million private-sector jobs. We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another job score. President Obama: plus 4.5 million. Congressional Republicans: zero. . . .

We all know that Governor Romney opposed the plan to save G.M. and Chrysler. So here’s another job score. Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country? Here—here’s another job score. Obama: 250,000. Romney: zero.

 

Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.

Don’t you ever forget, when you hear them talking about this, that Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office, in the 12 years before I took office . . . and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left, because it defied arithmetic.

We simply can’t afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle-down.

My fellow Americans, all of us in this grand hall and everybody watching at home, when we vote in this election, we’ll be deciding what kind of country we want to live in. If you want a winner-take- all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

If you want—if you want America—if you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures [applause] just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority, and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.

“For the last five minutes of the speech, everyone in the auditorium stood to let his words fall on their faces,” writes Slate’s John Dickerson. And, as Clinton ended his remarks to joyous applause, from within the Time Warner Cable Arena and beyond (didn’t we hear shouts of “four more hours!”?), Barack Obama walked onstage. Clinton gave a slight bow as the president approached, and they embraced, then turned to face the energized crowd, partners joined in a common cause for a stronger, more perfect union.

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We have been yearning and starving for years to hear this kind of spirited and hard-hitting defense of Democratic priorities and this president’s efforts. It’s not as though Obama has not spoken up for himself—he just hasn’t done it enough, and not with the warmth and good cheer and mastery of the podium that Bill Clinton brings. And, too, it makes a difference when the defense and the case for Four More Years is coming from a popular two-term president of a more-than-successful economy who also endured obstructionism and even impeachment from the opposition party. There is a hard-earned authoritativeness in Clinton’s voice, and the people were lovin’ it. We just pray that millions of independents and those elusive white male voters remember the Better Times of the late 1990s and vote as directed by the Big Dog.

Clinton’s arguments were all the more persuasive, observes The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, because Clinton and Obama are not personally close. Everyone knows this. But their “fraught history,” he says,

“makes [Clinton] the ideal spokesman to appeal to those skeptical former Obama voters that his campaign is trying to win back. . . .  it was exactly their lack of personal chemistry and failure to become ‘close friends’ that gave Clinton’s speech its lift. A subtext of the address was that, just like Bill Clinton, wavering voters need not love Obama to understand that he’s a better choice than Romney. When the two Presidents came together and hugged after the speech was (finally) over, the distance between them made their embrace all the more powerful.”

For more about the warming relationship between Obama and Clinton, read Ryan Lizza’s “Let’s Be Friends” (New Yorker 9/10/12).

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Obama Sends Wall Streeters to “Reform School”

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

[ Ed. note: The following account of President Obama’s remarks on Wall Street reform yesterday are not, strictly speaking, part of Levees Not War’s usual portfolio (we do have many interests!), but then again it’s not every day that we get to personally attend a presidential address. A variant of this post appears at Daily Kos. ]

President Obama came within a few zip codes of Wall Street yesterday to speak to a gathering of prominent banking executives (including Lloyd “I’m Doing God’s Work” Blankfein of Goldman Sachs) and illustrious Empire State politicos at the fabled Great Hall of Manhattan’s Cooper Union. It was a privilege to sit in the Great Hall where over the last 150 years audiences have gathered to hear Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists; Susan B. Anthony and other advocates for woman suffrage; speakers for the NAACP and the American labor movement; and eight presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton; and another illustrious (former) congressman from Illinois: Senator Obama the presidential candidate spoke at Cooper Union on “Renewing the American Economy” in March 2008, a half year before the crash.

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