President Barack Obama's interview this week with Arab news network Al-Arabiya appears to have been a success. The president's first interview since taking office, his appearance with the network's Washington bureau chief Hisham Melhem was an effort to extend a hand of friendship to the Arab and Muslim world, and included Obama's acknowledgment that Americans "have not been perfect" in their dealings with that world:
"My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives...," Obama told Melhem in the interview, "...My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as twenty or thirty years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task."
Obama's interview included a re-statement of his committments both to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to follow through on his promise to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital during his first months in office. It also included an aknowledgment of his own personal connections to the Muslim world -- connections for which Republican bigots viciously attacked Obama during the 2008 campaign, but which can hardly hurt him now as he begins the work of repairing US relations with the Muslim world:
"My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.... And so what I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith -- and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams."
Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya comes as his new Mideast envoy, former senator George Mitchell, heads to the region to restart a peace process long neglected by Obama's predecessor, and follows his contact with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas immediately after his inauguration Jan. 20. Obama's overtures to the Muslim world are certain to offend many conservatives, who regard Arabs and Muslims with extreme hostility and suspicion, and who think that the only people in the Middle East we ought to be talking with are the Israelis. Many of these were deeply offended when Obama's first call to a foreign leader was to the Palestinian president instead of his Israeli counterpart, and are likely to be equally offended that his first interview was with Al-Arabiya instead of the Jerusalem Post.
I say tough cookies for them. Elections have consequences. While President Obama has neither said nor done anything to suggest that he is about to "abandon" Israel (as I'm certain his conservative critics would love to charge), he clearly recognizes that a Mideast policy based on an exclusive relationship with Israel and on callous disregard of Arab concerns has not worked. The time for change has come, and from where I sit it looks like President Obama is off to a damn good start.
The head of John McCain's presidential transition team, Washington lobbyist William Timmons, was involved in lobbying efforts for the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein according to a report by Murray Waas in the Huffington Post. Over a five-year period beginning in 1992, according to Waas, Timmons worked closely with two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, in efforts on behalf of Saddam to ease international sanctions against his regime following the Gulf War of 1990-1991.
In close communication with top Iraqi aides Tariq Aziz and Nizar Hamdoon, Timmons, Vincent, and Park worked a deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract worth at least $45 million to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. While Vincent and Park later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein's government, Timmons escaped prosecution claiming ignorance of the others' ties to Iraq while federal investigators lacked evidence to contradict him. Court records researched by Waas, however, indicate that Timmons was in fact far more aware of an Iraqi connection than he had admitted to investigators, as Waas discusses in detail.
At the time of Timmons' work with Vincent and Park on behalf of Saddam, Iraq was classified as a rogue enemy state and a sponsor of terrorism, and John McCain was a strong supporter of both military action and tough sanctions against Iraq. Timmons was directly involved in illegal lobbying efforts on behalf of Saddam's Iraq during this period, and now heads up John McCain's presidential transition team. Given his recent efforts to tie Barack Obama to terrorists even by the weakest of links, McCain may have a hard time wiggling out of this one.
There is a bright side to all of this for McCain and Timmons, however: In the event that Timmons is fired or forced to resign, McCain will have little need to hire a replacement, and Timmons won't miss much by not being around, since in all likelihood there will be no McCain presidential transition to worry about.
Pundits will say what they will, but the hard numbers from polls taken immediately after last night's debate between Barack Obama and John McCain show Obama the clear winner. A CNN/Research Corporation poll showed 51% of viewers thought Obama performed better in the debate overall while 38% thought McCain performed better, with higher marks for Obama also on the war Iraq, the economy, and the current financial crisis. Women in the CNN poll showed a particular preference for Obama, voting 59% for Obama to 41% for McCain. Meanwhile, a CBS News poll of uncommitted voters shows Obama won 39% to McCain's 24% with 37% saying the debate was a draw. On the economy, Obama led McCain in the CBS poll 66% to 42%. A Media Curves poll shows independent voters favoring Obama in the debate 61% to 39% overall, with independents giving Obama significantly higher marks also on foreign policy and national security as well as on the economy. An Insider Advantage poll showed a more narrow win for Obama over McCain, 42% to 41% with 17% undecided. Focus groups by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg both also declared Obama the winner.
Many prominent political pundits have also called the debate for Obama. The New York Times editiorial board named Obama the winner particularly on the economy and wrote that McCain seemed out of step with the times. "Mr. McCain fumbled his way through the economic portion of the debate, while Mr. Obama seemed clear and confident," the Times observes, noting also that "McCain's talk of experience too often made him sound like a tinny echo of the 20th century." At ABC News, liberal pundit George Stephanopoulos and conservative pundit George Will both called the debate a win for Obama, as did Time's Joe Klein. "On this night," Klein writes, "Obama emerged as a candidate who was at least as knowledgeable, judicious and unflappable as McCain on foreign policy ... and more knowledgeable, and better suited to deal with the economic crisis and domestic problems the country faces." Pundits took particular issue with McCain's manner during the debate, noting his unwillingness to look Obama in the eye; a sneering, smirking attitude of apparent anger and disdain toward Obama; and a lack of grace or presidential bearing on McCain's part which contrasted sharply with the grace and bearing shown by Obama (see Washington Post, Huffington Post, BarackObama.com).
Sarah Palin's stage-managed "meetings with world leaders" at the UN are nothing more than a ridiculous attempt to weave foreign-policy credentials out of thin air. What of any substance are we supposed to believe Palin discussed or negotiated in her brief photo ops with these leaders over two days at the UN? Are we really supposed to think that anything substantive took place as Palin rushed around Lower Manhattan posing for snapshots? Does the McCain campaign really expect anyone to take this nonsense seriously?
Unfortunately for McCain and Palin, this charade appears to have blown up right in their stupid Republican faces, highlighting nothing so much as Palin's inexperience and unpreparedness. First thing yesterday, Palin's photo op with Afghan president Hamid Karzai was spoiled by a press revolt over access to the meeting. It seems the McCain campaign initially allowed reporters into the meeting only for the polite preliminaries between Palin and Karzai, kicking them out after a 29-second exchange on the topic of children, and moving to limit coverage to brief photo ops for a still photographer and a TV camera. Obviously, Camp McCain was hoping to use the media to circulate some nice images of Palin "meeting with world leaders" while denying any substantive access to the meetings themselves. A full-on press revolt quickly ensued, however, as news agencies told the McCain campaign that they would broadcast no images of the meeting unless a reporter was also allowed in to observe. At this point the McCain campaign partly relented, allowing one CNN producer into the room while yet denying access to print reporters and wire services. Later, McCain press representatives claimed that the restrictions were the result of a "mix-up, a miscommunication among staff." A pool of reporters was then allowed to observe Palin's meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for 15-20 seconds (see New York Times, CNN, Huffington Post).
Republicans have suggested that Palin's two days of "meetings with world leaders" at the UN are comparable to Obama's summer tour of Europe, the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The two are hardly comparable, however: Obama's summer tour was far from being his first-ever foreign affairs experience; and from his summer tour we have a substantive record of speeches, interviews, and press conferences to demonstrate that it was far more than a mere photo op or a game of catch-up. From Palin's "meetings" we have nothing but smiling snapshots and pleasantries.
The Republicans are trying to put one over on us, and I for one won't be taking the bait.
Mark C. Eades
It's Biden Late Tonight CNN and the LA Times Report Obama has picked Joe Biden to be his Running mate. I called it in a recent post. I feel Biden is the Most qualified and the Best man for the job.
John Zogby, Whom I have always considered the best pollster in America, has just released some new numbers. His electoral count is Obama 273 McCain 160 with 105 to close to call. of the 32 states he polled McCain only has a 10+ point lead in one state: Alabama. Obama has a 10 point lead in every Kerry State Except New Hampshire (3 Points) as well as in New Mexico. These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but also may be the most accurate polling of the election so far. Here is the link If you like Numbers your going to want to see this.