“Obama Played This Beautifully”

Michael Cohen, Democracy Now:

….At times I’ve been fairly critical of this president’s handling of foreign policy, but credit must be given – this Administration handled this situation about as deftly as possible. This was truly an American diplomatic tour de force.

From the beginning the White House was caught betwixt and between – not wanting to be seen supporting the status quo, particularly when the winds of change seemed to be blowing in the direction of reform and yet at the same time not be seen as throwing a key ally under the bus. 

And while obviously critics can point to individual mistakes (Wisner’s wandering off the reservation, Panetta’s bizarre comment yesterday in congressional testimony that Mubarak was out the door) on the whole this Administration did a really excellent job – sending public signs that a crackdown would not be acceptable, working the military behind closed doors, trying to ensure a soft landing that wouldn’t lead to violence, but still never backing down from the public position that an immediate transition to democracy (and not one in September) was the only acceptable course. (I’ll be curious to see the impact of Obama’s statement last night on Mubarak and the Egyptian military, but it was absolutely spot-on).

In a sense we helped throw Mubarak under the bus without directly delivering the push (a fact that I’m sure will leave many a non-democratic US ally a tad less secure this evening – which is good).

As Marc Lynch wisely points out the Administration basically followed the lead of the Egyptian people and didn’t try to get too far ahead of what was actually happening on the ground.

To this point they didn’t overplay their hand or overstate their own influence or demand too much from the government or the protesters. They played it about as well as can be expected, calibrating public and private pressure – and all this while being cognizant of the host of obvious constraints on US actions and words. They seemed to understand something that a lot of the armchair pundits couldn’t quite grasp; this wasn’t about us and we were, if anything, a bit player in this drama.

And then after all that, President Obama delivered a speech today that was absolutely pitch perfect – one of the best of his presidency (Ben Rhodes take a bow). Most deftly, even though we’ve supported the Egyptian regime for more than 30 years Obama was able to place the United States, rhetorically, on the same side as those in Tahrir Square – and it actually seems to ring true.


Of course, none of us know what will happen in the weeks and months to come, but for at least one day this Administration and his advisors should take a victory lap. 


“The Obama doctrine is not about brute force, but forceful beliefs”



While I wipe the tears following the president’s marvelous statement, here’s a few  thoughts:

1. Not even one anti-American sentiment during the celebrations. Tell me that this is not president Obama’s doing.

2. Look who brought Democracy to a Middle East country without firing even one bullet, without killing innocent citizens, without sacrificing young Americans lives.

3. Dear pundits, don’t you get it? You will NEVER be able to beat this man. All of your brain cells combined can’t match his. Really, stop it. It’s embarrassing.

4. How poetic it is that the history in Egypt totally killed the GOP lunatic convention?

5. To James Rubin, to the Wingnuts, the PUMAs, the PL and the rest of the bitters, here’s the *exact* quotes from president Obama’s speech in Cairo, and the full video. Watch it again, I doubt you’ll ever see such greatness in your lifetime again.

…I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq.  So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.  Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people.  America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.  But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are not just American ideas; they are human rights.  And that is why we will support them everywhere.  (Applause.)

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise.  But this much is clear:  Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure.  Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.  America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.  And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.  (Applause.) 

So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power:  You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party.  Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.) 



It’s sad that most of the best articles comes from outside of America’s MSM. Here’s Simon Tisdall of The Guardian: (It’s from this morning, BEFORE Mubarak stepped down):

Hosni Mubarak has still not grasped how fundamentally the old political order is changing in Egypt and the Arab world – but it seems Barack Obama has.

In a forceful statement after the Egyptian president’s latest exercise in reality denial, Obama came off the fence following a fortnight of humming and hawing. If the choice is revolution or repression, democratic ideals and values or hard-nosed self-interest, then the US is officially on the side of the angels.

This dramatic shift could in time have a bigger impact on the Middle East than the Egyptian uprising. In sharply criticising the Cairo government’s prevarications, demanding it respect universal values, and stressing that his administration stands shoulder to shoulder with the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, the US president dramatically changed the way his country does business in the region. This was, to all intents and purposes, the proclamation of an Obama doctrine.

This is a direct challenge not just to Mubarak and his old guard but to the legitimacy of the previously untouchable, US-allied autocrats of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Gulf. Universal values are universal after all. So what goes in Egypt will logically go, too, in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen, to name just three countries where America has largely turned a blind eye to repression in pursuit of wider security and commercial interests.

The Obama doctrine implies readiness to intervene directly in a country’s internal politics in support of broader principles. In this instance, his stinging criticism of Mubarak’s failure to make “immediate, meaningful and sufficient” reforms was tantamount to a demand that he resign.

It also risks the alienation of regional rulers and the fracturing of old alliances that have sustained US and western European policy since the cold war. The Saudis had taken a dim view of the US president’s undercutting of Mubarak; now they will wonder who might be next.

Israeli leaders, too, are alarmed. They never quite trusted Obama. And repression of the Arab masses by Arab autocrats suited them quite well for, by and large, the Arab street has always been more hostile to Israel than the Arab elites.

Israel, too, could hitherto pose as the region’s only real democracy. But that moral advantage is slipping, along with long-held strategic and defensive preconceptions. This uncertainty might yet jolt Israeli leaders out of their obstructive complacency over Palestine. Obama just accelerated this uncharted process.

Events in Tunisia and then Egypt forced the US president down this road. But his speech in Cairo in 2009, about engaging and developing the Arab and Muslim spheres, showed he was not a reluctant traveller.

Halfway through his presidency, he is finally beginning to define his own distinctive and transformational approach, after initially accepting most of the old US foreign policy shibboleths. In Afghanistan, overly influenced by his generals, he bought into the old way of doing things. Now, burned by that experience, he is forging a different path.

This is not a return to the “liberal interventionism” of the Bush-Blair era. The Obama doctrine is not about brute force, but forceful beliefs. Even so, it is winning fans on the American right, as well as among Egyptians.

// snip

in beginning to enunciate a foreign policy doctrine guided by clearly established democratic values and mutual respect, he may not only avoid more Egypt-style dilemmas, he may also be on his way to bridging the gulf between pragmatism and principle.


Friday’s mishmash

 Hi guys,

First, I want to thank all of you for flooding this place with news and information. It’s gotten to a point where almost all I need to do is collecting stuff from the comments and put it together. It’s a delight, it makes me proud and makes my life a bit easier. 🙂 Thanks.

Now, to the mishmash:

1. But why, Mr. president, why is it that so many people hates you???!!!

Detroit Free Press: Sandwich is a hit — and so is Obama

MARQUETTE — He declined the Obama burger — a third of a pound of farm-fed Escanaba beef topped with jalapeños, grilled onions and cheddar cheese — but President Barack Obama still took Donckers restaurant by storm Thursday.

He grabbed a club sandwich and some caramels before speaking at Northern Michigan University.

“It was overwhelming. I was on the verge of tears,” said Jennifer Ray, one of the owners of Donckers. “He was just so genuine.”

Obama ordered the D.J.B. — a club sandwich with three cheeses and three meats on three different types of bread — named for Danny Beck, an employee who died in a car crash last year.

Ashley Erickson, 24, of Marquette took Obama’s order and was struck by how cordial he was.

After signing some books and a few menus, the president paid for his own lunch and left for his speech.

“The suits came back and bought some chocolates,” Ray said, referring to Secret Service personnel. “They said he really liked the sandwich.”


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And, here’s PBO’s informative, optimistic and quite entertaining speech about the National Wireless Initiative, yesterday in Marquette.


2. But why, Mr. president, why is it that so many people hates you???!!!

Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh are losing fans in a key market

John Avlon on why listeners and station managers are sick of anti-Obama tirades—and who bucks the trend.


3. But why, Mr. president, why is it that so many people hates you???!!!

Fox News Poll: PBO at 51%


4. Yes we can come up with new catchy slogans:

A ‘Winning’ Slogan for the History Books?


5. No wonder that president Obama came from the “City that works”:

280 charging stations coming to Chicago

…The city has signed a $1.9 million contract with the company, 350Green LLC, to roll out the charging stations, which will give Chicago the necessary infrastructure to support automakers who want to sell their electric and plug-in hybrid cars here. Plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles include batteries that must be charged.

The cost to consumers using the stations has not been determined. 350Green will pay $8.77 million in upfront costs, and expects to receive $1.9 million of that back from grant money.

The money comes from federal stimulus dollars.


6. Perfecting our union:

Obama’s District Court Nominee to Be Sole Native American on Federal Bench


7. Please, give peace a chance:

India, Pakistan agree to resume peace talks


 8. West Wing Week:


9. Finally, non-related, but just spectacular. Enjoy the weekend!