“This is what we said we wanted just two years ago”

Josh Greenman, NY Daily News:

Beware the clarity trap: Obama makes effective, principled case for U.S. involvement in Libya

Just a few years ago, we had a President who valued clarity so dearly that he labeled three utterly different countries, presenting drastically different security problems, an “axis of evil.” Didn’t really make sense, but lumping them together was catchy and, at least as far as it went, clear.

So, yes, everyone knew precisely where George W. Bush stood. That’s a big part of why he beat John Kerry in 2004; the chronically cautious senator got tagged as impossibly indecisive.

Barack Obama isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of commander in chief or an all-or-nothing kind of man. He gambled in pushing health care reform, but in his bones he’s a cautious leader who overcomplicates where others oversimplify. He turns bumper stickers into dissertations, not the other way around.

Those who are grousing about that fact now should count their blessings – and remember the alternative. This is what we said we wanted just two years ago, after eight years of Bush foreign policy impulsiveness, when offered a McCain-Palin ticket that promised more gut-driven decision-making. We wanted more candid discussion of risks and benefits. More sharing of responsibilities with allies. We wanted a President to think twice before playing Braveheart. Didn’t we?

But now, in the first major test of a crisis rearing its head on his watch, many have derided Obama’s approach as the professor’s way of war. So the pundits were craving clarity Monday night when he took the stage at the National Defense University in Washington, clamoring for something like an Obama Doctrine, a few snappy sentences that encapsulate his foreign policy, a formula where you plug in the variables and get your answer each and every time.

It didn’t happen. It was never going to happen. Nor should it have happened.

In typically Obamastic fashion, he rejected the arguments of those who suggested we should have allowed a humanitarian disaster to unfold while the world watched (that would have “been a betrayal of who we are”), and similarly dismantled the arguments of those who want a more aggressive, expansive, expensive campaign.

Did America dither when it should have acted, as many neoconservatives have insisted? No; as Daniel Foster, a writer on the conservative National Review Online, acknowledged, “POTUS landed at least one clean punch on his critics” when he soundly rejected that claim and said: “In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.”

To a skeptic like me, Obama made an effective and principled case.

But what about answering those broad questions to deliver that elusive “clarity” going forward? When will we as a nation lead, and when  will we support others? What, if anything, will we do in other countries where the fires are raging? Do we have a completely independent standard for intervention, or are future conflicts dependent in part on the convenience of military action and the approval of Europe and the Arab League?

The answers never came. And I for one couldn’t care less. Easy doctrines give us false comfort in an insanely complex world.

Disagree with the military action in Libya, by all means. I’m not sold. Our military is already overextended, and protesters are being suppressed from Yemen to Bahrain to Syria, which are all more critical to our national security. Congress wasn’t sufficiently consulted. We don’t know whether or how we’ll bring Moammar Khadafy down, and it’s possible we only postponed, rather than prevented, a slaughter. We know very little about the rebels, and apart from broadly lionizing the Libyan people, Obama shed no light Monday night on why they’re bound to be better than the devil we know.

This isn’t necessarily a brilliant war.

But don’t criticize the President because he’s failed some facile and arbitrary standard of perfect clarity. That would be, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, the hobgoblin of a nation that hasn’t learned its lesson.

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People walk past the Cloud Gate sculpture aka ‘The Bean’ as One Prudential Plaza towers is seen over the north end of Millennium Park on March 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The building will house President Obamas campaign headquarters for the 2012 presidential race.:

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“The ring of authenticity, a man speaking from the gut, speech full of genuine feeling”

 Hi guys,

1. Today’s schedule:

9:30 am

The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing

1:00 pm

The President departs the White House en route Andrews Air Force Base
South Lawn

1:15 pm

The President departs Andrews Air Force Base en route New York, NY
Andrews Air Force Base

2:05 pm

The President arrives in New York, NY
John F. Kennedy International Airport

4:45 pm

The President delivers remarks at the dedication of the Ronald H. Brown United States Mission to the United Nations Building
USUN Building
Open Press

7:00 pm

The President delivers remarks at a DNC event
Red Rooster Restaurant

9:05 pm

The President delivers remarks at a DNC event
The Studio Museum
Pooled Press
10:10 pm

The President departs New York, NY
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Open Press
11:00 pm

The President arrives at Andrews Air Force Base
Andrews Air Force Base

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Few morning thoughts about that speech last night:

1. Dithering, shmithering. It took PBO 31 days to do what took Clinton and the world more than a year back in the ’90s. But hey, this is Barack Obama we’re talking about. Double standards is the standard.

2. Booman pointed that “He’s so good with words that his critics like to say that “he’s just words.” – which actually is the ultimate proof to how miserably most people fail to understand the greatness if this man. His speeches are some of the greatest in history, yet his actions are even greater.  And that’s what really kills the haters. They just can’t catch him.

3. It’s obvious on the Right, but it’s more astounding when it comes to Left. The reason they’re simply against anything this man does is not because – as they disingenuously claim – he doesn’t keeps his promises. It’s because *he does*. It’s because they realize that either they never really listen to him during the campaign, or they did listen and were certain that once he’s in the WH, they will make him bend to them. And he just refuse to do so.

Maybe it’s just me, but I saw a real disdain on his face when he kicked some PL butts last night.

4. That noise you heard all night? That was Wingnuts heads explodes. He just buried the Bush-ism once and for all.

5. Who would have thought, 3 years ago, that the United Nations will be cool again?

6. Best tweet I’ve seen last night: “This is not the Nobel Pacifism Prize, it’s the Nobel PEACE Prize. Saving lives and taking down dictators is worth the prize”.

7. While I understand why the political team doesn’t want to over-expose him, I honestly believe that it’s a mistake not to send PBO out there much more often. Whenever he speaks directly to the people, they can suddenly see how smart he is and how much sense he makes. How sincere and human and full of goodness this man is. In each and every speech he expose his critics for what they really are, and I wish he would make more of these.

8. Finally, you guys are awesome. Really enjoyed the party here last night.

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Here’s as actual intelligent conversation between Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell last night.

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Jonathan Capehart

Obama makes a convincing case for action in Libya

For a man who didn’t want to elevate U.S. actions in Libya to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by delivering an Oval Office address, President Obama just delivered a speech worthy of the venue. Did it answer all of the questions asked by members of Congress on the right and the left, particularly the one about what victory would look like? Um, no. But Obama did state clearly why the United States stepped in to corral an international coalition and why it must relinquish its customary lead role.

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Joan Cole:

….

Despite the close and elegant moral reasoning tempered by a steady pragmatism, the speech was full of genuine feeling, including empathy and outrage. It strikes me as among the better speeches President Obama has given since taking office.

// much more and terrific

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Peter Beinart:

…..

Obama’s is a different version of American exceptionalism. For men like John Bolton, American virtue is a given. American presidents should never apologize because America never has anything to apologize for. Our mistakes are never crimes, and if others don’t see our moral greatness that just proves their moral cynicism.

Obama, by contrast, because he can see America through post-colonial eyes, knows this is a fable. He knows that in many places on earth, America has abetted dictatorship and corruption and slaughter. In some cases he has apologized, which has led men like Bolton to claim that he sees America as no different from any other great power.

But they don’t get it. For Obama, American exceptionalism is not a fact; it is a struggle. Bolton and company like to invoke World War II and the Cold War because in those conflicts we fought the evil that lay out there. Obama, by contrast, often invokes the civil-rights movement: a struggle against the evil within. That’s what makes his Libya decision powerful. He knows that there are good reasons for Middle Easterners to fear when they see American planes overhead. And yet he is acting to show that it does not have to be that way.

I don’t know how Obama’s Libya intervention will end; in his speech, he made it seem tidier than it really is. But the speech had something notably absent from his addresses on Afghanistan: the ring of authenticity. When he said that he refused to sit by and watch Benghazi be raped, he sounded like a man speaking from the gut. Obama does not romanticize the history of American power and yet he is wielding American power. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Kate Seelye

Obama Wins Arab Respect

It’s one of those twists of irony that the U.S.-backed no-fly zone over Libya has more support in the Arab world than in the U.S. Congress. I’m not sure if Obama’s eloquent defense of the American military mission in Libya during his address to the nation Monday night convinced a skeptical Congress of its value, but his speech certainly articulated an American role that many Arabs embrace.

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 Almost there!

Mark Ambinder: President Obama is fewer than three weeks away from formally announcing his reelection campaign

President Obama is fewer than three weeks away from formally announcing his reelection campaign, and will make it public with an online video his aides will post on his new campaign website, Democratic sources familiar with the plans said.

Obama’s team will try to keep the exact date and time a surprise, letting supporters know first by text message and e-mail. By that point, Obama would have opened his campaign account with the Federal Election Commission.

But a major Democratic National Committee fundraiser is set for April 14 in Chicago, and Democratic donors are being told that it will coincide with the announcement. Obama will attend the event.

// more and very interesting.

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Finally, this is hilarious: