Friday, June 17, 2016

Last Call For Influence Peddling

I'm with Matt Yglesias on Bernie's speech Thursday: Bernie Sanders has specifically run against the party of Obama/Clinton and it's pissed people off in profound ways.

It’s one thing to disagree with people about policy substance or political tactics. But something Sanders has done throughout his campaign and very pointedly did here is straightforwardly challenge the good faith of the vast majority of his colleagues in Democratic Party politics. It’s worked pretty well for him on the stump, but it doesn’t win you a lot of friends. And to be honest, it’s simply wrong — you can raise a lot of objections to Obama’s approach to Wall Street or climate change, but the fact is that the financial services industry and the fossil fuel industries have been fighting him every step of the way. 
This is important to understanding why, at the end of the day, Sanders got so very little institutional support for his campaign despite a very long career in Congress that’s involved a lot of working constructively with other members and left-wing interest groups. 
Even labor unions and progressive members of Congress who share important aspects of Sanders’s worldview have also been there in the trenches and seen these things happen. They’ve fought to get the Labor Department fiduciary rule enacted,fought for net neutrality, fought to raise taxes on the rich in 2009 and again in 2013, and fought to expand Medicaid
A lot of the people who’ve fought for those things agree with Sanders that they didn’t go far enough in important ways, or even that key people in the party didn’t push hard enough or strong enough for them. But a lot of Sanders’s rhetoric seems to simply erase these battles, as if the whole party were just sitting on its hands until Bernie and his political revolution came to town.

Bernie Sanders, and increasingly over the last 12 months, his followers, have treated the Democratic party not as something that can be improved and reformed, but as something that must be destroyed as the enemy. And in the process of that erasure, Sanders has erased Democratic voters of color most of all. Obama's strongest supporters are seen as the most misguided, most corrupt, and least worthy among Sanders and his followers of conversion to Saint Bernard's teachings.

It's bad enough as a black voter that I hear "Why are you still on the Obama plantation" from the right, but getting it from the left as well is just pissing me off.

The View Of Orlando

In case there were any doubts about an event as awful as the Orlando massacre last Sunday being seen as a political act, Republicans and Democrats have starkly different views of the horrific incident.

Republicans and Democrats have starkly different interpretations of what the recent mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub represents. While 79% of Republicans view it primarily as an act of Islamic terrorism, the majority of Democrats, 60%, see it as an act of domestic gun violence. Given Republicans' more lopsided views, Americans as a whole tilt toward describing it as a terrorist act.

The results are based on a June 14-15 Gallup poll, conducted days after a Muslim U.S. citizen, Omar Mateen, perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at an Orlando nightclub. Mateen had been listed on the federal government's terrorism watch list in 2013 and 2014, but was later removed. While both President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton described the incident as an act of terror, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump went further, tying the act to radical Islam. 
Democrats' interpretation of the Orlando shooting may be influenced by Democratic leaders' calls for stricter gun laws in recent days. This was exemplified by a Democratic-led filibuster on the Senate floor Wednesday and Thursday, which ended after Republican leaders agreed to take up proposals on background checks and steps to prevent terrorists from obtaining guns. 
Trump's statements on the event may be contributing to Republicans' views of the Orlando incident as an act of Islamic terrorism, but Republicans' tendency to define it as terrorism may also stem from their greater concern about terrorism in general. 
Independents are evenly divided as to whether the Orlando shooting was an act of Islamic terrorism (44%) or domestic gun violence (42%)
Whether the Orlando incident was inspired by Islamic terrorism or the actions of a killer able to obtain guns is a debate that cannot be easily settled and, regardless, does nothing to diminish the tragedy of the event. But it is clear that Americans' political views influence how they interpret the tragedy and, by extension, shape their views of the policies leaders should pursue to prevent similar incidents.

By the way, right now the FBI isn't calling this a terror attack, and hasn't been able to substantiate Mateen's connection to ISIS.

That doesn't seem to matter to Republicans, who will be calling this an Islamic terror attack until they day they die.

In other words, this isn't "both sides view the event differently" as much as it is "Democrats are seeing one thing and Republicans are making up another out of whole cloth."  Reality's liberal bias, you see.

The Foggy Bottom Bomb Squad

Like any other workplace, the State Department isn't monolithic, and diplomats disagree on foriegn policy all the time. What is unusual is having such disagreements made glaringly public as an attack on a sitting President and his foreign policy.

More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war. 
The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.” 
Such a step would represent a radical shift in the administration’s approach to the civil war in Syria, and there is little evidence thatPresident Obama has plans to change course. Mr. Obama has emphasized the military campaign against the Islamic State over efforts to dislodge Mr. Assad. Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, have all but collapsed. 
But the memo, filed in the State Department’s “dissent channel,” underscores the deep rifts and lingering frustration within the administration over how to deal with a war that has killed more than 400,000 people. 
The State Department set up the channel during the Vietnam War as a way for employees who had disagreements with policies to register their protest with the secretary of state and other top officials, without fear of reprisal. While dissent cables are not that unusual, the number of signatures on this document, 51, is extremely large, if not unprecedented. 
The names on the memo are almost all midlevel officials — many of them careerdiplomats — who have been involved in the administration’s Syria policy over the last five years, at home or abroad. They range from a Syria desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to a former deputy to the American ambassador in Damascus.
While there are no widely recognized names, higher-level State Department officials are known to share their concerns. Mr. Kerry himself has pushed for stronger American action against Syria, in part to force a diplomatic solution on Mr. Assad. The president has resisted such pressure, and has been backed up by his military commanders, who have raised questions about what would happen in the event that Mr. Assad was forced from power — a scenario that the draft memo does not address.

This is some pretty heavy stuff  to see from career diplomats, wanting increased conflict and military action (which goes to show you that not everybody in the State Department is against military violence over diplomacy.)

And that leaves us in a quagmire: what's happening in Syria as a result of President Obama's single most enduring policy failure is clearly and not only not working in any fashion, but failing overwhelmingly.  However, nobody seems to have a better idea than what we're doing now that wouldn't turn Syria into a failed state controlled by ISIS.

It's an awful position and President Obama deserves a massive share of the blame for the situation coming to this.  Syria has been a screw-up of Dubya-sized proportions, 400,000 dead and 5 million displaced, in many ways worse than Iraq or Afgnaistan.

"Not making it any worse" will be Hillary Clinton's job in a few months, and I do not envy her. And yet that's exactly what these career State Department diplomats are proposing, to make it far, far worse.

It's depressing.


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