Ben Rhodes On Obama’s Decision To Disarm, Not Bomb, Syria

President Barack Obama’s statements and decisions around responses to Bashar al-Assad’s use of Sarin against Syrian opposition provide a test case for three issues: Intervening in conflicts that have only indirectly to do with US interests, assumptions about the use of force that have gendered aspects, and how a president communicates. If we are to end our forever wars and avoid stumbling into more, we need to understand these issues.

Some time ago, I wrote up an analysis focusing on the gendered assumptions about the use of force and struggled with an editor over it for several months, until Jeffrey Goldberg published his interview with President Obama in The Atlantic. I had predicted some of the new information in that interview in my analysis, but of course the interview precluded the use of that analysis. So I never published it. But the fact that the interview supported my analysis has kept me watching for more information about presidential decisions in August and September of 2013.

Ben Rhodes has provided more information in an Atlantic article taken from his forthcoming book. The Obama interview is a useful companion read. In this post, I’d like to work through my three issues in relation to Rhodes’s article. Read more



Monday Afternoon Open Thread

Okay, the thread below got so damn ugly, I am deliberately squashing it! Here’s a controversial topic that hopefully won’t devolve into a Game of Thrones-style bloodbath — the Obamas’ official portraits for the National Portrait Gallery were unveiled today:

My first reaction was, “What the hell?!?,” especially in response to Michelle Obama’s portrait. But the Obamas themselves seem happy with them, so who cares what I think?

Also, it’s possible the WaPo art critic was right when he said, “The Obamas’ portraits are not what you’d expect and that’s why they’re great.”

I’ll go along with that. What say you?

Open thread!



Must Have Been The Brown Acid…

ETA: Given Betty’s post immediately below, this should settle any last doubts that this blog is not a member of any organized political party…(a gazillion quatloos to all those (many here) who nod to the illustrious forebear who put that opening to such good use).  I’ll leave this one up for the Rose-Mary Woods photo, which is worth the price of admission. But Betty got there first in all the relevant detail, so that’s where I’m heading for the fun of the discussion.)

———————————–

…the flashbacks seem so real.

At 8:32 this morning, the usurper occupying the Oval Office tweeted this:

I have several reactions.

First, this:

(For all you kids out there, that’s Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, demonstrating how she managed to “accidentally” create an eighteen minute gap in the Oval Office tapes, perfectly placed to eliminate some very interesting discussion of Watergate matters.)*

Second: A question for the legal minds here:  Bob Bauer has an interesting piece over at the Lawfare Blog assessing where Trump has reached on the obstruction of justice spectrum, clearly written before the shitgibbon released the tweet at the top of this post.  He argues (as I, a non-lawyer, read him) that there is an emerging fact pattern consistent with obstruction, but further focused inquiry would be needed to generate an actual case.  So, does this new tweet, explicitly threatening a potential witness in such an obstruction, advance the argument that the president is engaged in an actual, legally-jeopardizing attempt at obstruction?

Third: “Subpoena” has such a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it.  I shouldn’t still be surprised, but I am: how dumb do you have to be to announce the possibility of evidence that one had no prior reason to suspect might exist?  This tweet from Garry Kasparov is so spot on:

And with that, it’s back to the 18th century for me! (Isaac Newton, musing on the virtues of government debt…)  Have at it, y’all.

*Ancient tech nerd that I am, I am totally grooving on the IBM Selectric there. What fabulous machines… ETA: So — you can retire my tech-nerd creds. That’s not a Selectric. Ahh well….

 



President Obama’s Farewell Address: Livestream


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If the YouTube embed doesn’t work for you, here’s the official White House livestream link.



Obama Ices Issa

Some of y’all mentioned this in earlier threads, but additional details about the Obama-on-Issa smack-down make it all the more delicious. Via Jezebel:

California Rep. and wheezing obstructionist Rep. Darrell Issa (R), locked in the closest race of his congressional career thanks to the half-melted pile of candy corn from Halloween ‘83 that he endorsed for president, has proven himself rather immune to irony; most recently, Issa tried to praise President Obama, the man he’s spent 8 years demonizing, in a campaign mailer. Unfortunately for Issa, Obama is about to leave office and has nothing to lose.

Last week, Issa sent out a mailer that included, according to the Los Angeles Times, “a nice photo of Obama at his desk” and a quote from Issa saying he was “very pleased” that Obama signed the Survivors Bill of Rights into law. At a fundraiser on Sunday night for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Obama praised Issa’s opponent, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, and called Issa “shameless.”

“Let me just point out that as far as I can tell, Issa’s primary contribution to the United States Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped up investigations that have led nowhere,” Obama said, referring to Issa’s use of his image as “the definition of chutzpah.”

THWACK! I hadn’t realized the smarmy car thief was trying to hide behind PBO’s coattails. Yeah, “chutzpah” is the word, alright.

Issa was reduced to bleating about Benghazi in a follow-up statement, a sure sign that President Obama’s haymaker floored the slimy congressman. It would be great to see that sanctimonious, hypocritical prick Issa hit the bricks. C’mon California!



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Stay Proud

Only Tim Kaine, harmonica enthusiast, would consider this song liable to inspire people. I chose to find Kaine’s choice endearing, because there’s a lot of ‘basic‘ in my genome too.

For Obama-maniacs, NYMag devoted most of its Oct.3-16 issue to “Hope, And What Came After“:

All presidencies are historic. But no president since at least LBJ, and probably FDR, has arrived in Washington at a moment of greater historic urgency than Barack Obama. The man who took that oath of office seemed cut from American folklore — a neophyte politician elected senator only four years before, a prodigious and preacherly orator from the “Land of Lincoln” and the South Side of Chicago of the Great Migration. An embodiment not just of the American Dream as it had been imagined by the Greatest Generation of his own maternal grandparents but of a new version, too, one that might be embraced by his daughters — global, utopian-ish, post-boomer, “post-racial.”

More than “hope,” Obama’s candidacy promised “one America.” It is the deep irony of his presidency, and for Obama himself probably the tragedy, that the past eight years saw the country fiercely divided against itself. The president still managed to get a ridiculous amount done, advancing an unusually progressive agenda. But however Americans end up remembering the Obama years decades from now, one thing we can say for sure is that it did not feel, at the time, like an unmitigated liberal triumph. It felt like a cold civil war….

As an online supplement, they’ve posted Jon Chait’s “Five Days That Shaped a Presidency“:

On August 25, after a short trip to Baton Rouge to assess flooding in Louisiana and before what will likely be his last visit to China on Air Force One, Barack Obama sat down at the White House to reflect on the past eight years. He led America through a period of dramatic, convulsive change — an era that New York Magazine explores this week in its cover story. Before his conversation with Jonathan Chait, he chose five moments that, he believes, will have outsized historical impact…

… which I’m not even going to try to extract, but trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this and read it later.

Apart from ongoing GOTV efforts, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Goal Thermometer


Obama’s Statement on “Radical Islam” and “Politicians Who Tweet”

President Obama gave a lengthy statement to the media in which he excoriated the idiot Trump without mentioning his name once and hung that bloated orange albatross around the necks of Republican officials. The section on the idiotic “radical Islam” controversy begins at approximately 1:05:

The whole thing is worth hearing; PBO also provides updates on the fight against ISIS and calls for reinstating the ban on assault weapons, framing it as a way to get tough on terrorism. Choice excerpts on the “Radical Islam” thing via Buzzfeed [full transcript here — thanks, Tractarian]:

“What exactly will using this label [radical Islam] accomplish?” Obama said. “What will it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring us more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above.”

He went on to say that there has never been a moment in his time as president that he has not been able to pursue a strategy because he did not use the label “radical Islam.”

“Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really used that phrase, would we turn this around,’” Obama said. “Not once.”

President Obama blasted Trump’s proposal of barring all Muslims from coming to the United States.

“Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently?” Obama said. “Do Republican officials actually agree with this?”

Obama concluded that history has shown “when we acted out of fear … we came to regret it.”

“We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens and it has been a shameful part of our history,” he said.

Boom. Grenade’s in your court, Combover Caligula.