Coming after China “jammed” Pres. Obama with the “press conference” anything but a press conference, no questions, just monologues, James Fallows offers his continuing rebuttal of Obama’s “manufactured failure,” which is now in part 5. Meanwhile, Afghanistan questions continue, with a 9th meeting on AfPak scheduled for tonight in the Situation Room.
Pres. Obama is under more pressure now than he has been since taking office. Political pressure on the left, with others working hard to concoct a “Carteresque” theme on the right, as one of his most ardent fans, Chris Matthews, predictably loses that tingle even before the Christmas jingles in Obama’s first year have begun. For Pres. Obama, winter’s already here.
Rep. Obey fires the first serious shot from a friendly. From ABC News:
“There ain’t going to be no money for nothing if we pour it all into Afghanistan,” House Appropriations Chairman David Obey told ABC News in an exclusive interview. “If they ask for an increased troop commitment in Afghanistan, I am going to ask them to pay for it.”
Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, made it clear that he is absolutely opposed to sending any more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and says if Obama decides to do that, he’ll demand a new tax — what he calls a “war surtax” — to pay for it.
Politically, this is going to get very tough for Obama, as the right takes advantage of the optics, to use the word of the moment, where Obama and leading as commander in chief are concerned.
Enter Liz Cheney on “This Week” yesterday, someone who touts her former State Department creds, but obviously has not one clue that Afghanistan and Iraq are completely different situations. Yesterday she went on about how McChrystal can do the same thing for Afghanistan he did in Iraq, if we but give him what he needs. This is patently absurd. First, Iraq has always had a functioning centralized government, while Afghanistan has not. The terrain is also completely different, with Afghanistan relying on tribal leaders and jirgas to keep order and hold their people together. The country has never had a centralized government, so because we want to make it so doesn’t mean it can be, should be, or can hold together if that’s what we concoct. It goes with the other nonsensical notion that we can “defeat the Taliban,” an indigenous group that is part of Afghanistan’s consciousness, as experts like Peter Bergen, David Loyn and many others have stated. Don’t try telling that to Ms. Cheney, or giving her numbers on al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Cheney lets ideology be her guide. In politics that’s fine, but it’s a disaster where foreign policy is concerned. See Iraq, or for that matter anything having to do with Iran or Israel where the right is concerned.
And I say this as someone who believes in what our involvement in Afghanistan can ultimately manifest, though right now it’s clear we’re at cross-purposes with no strategy and too many casualties to show for no progress. Couple that with the civilian aid corruption, and you’ve got a recipe for failure. In that, waiting for Pres. Obama’s decision is indeed torturous.
However, I think Pres. Obama is getting undo blame on Afghanistan from Democrats pushing a sur-tax or withdrawal from the left, just as he is from his critics on the right. I also think it’s unfair to think the President should not be allowed to alter his thinking from this past spring after the Afghanistan election where it was clear Karzai had help manipulating the election. A “good war” can turn bad quickly when the people have their country hijacked by a leader they don’t trust.
Are people actually positing that a president shouldn’t reverse himself if he sees something that requires rethinking strategy, including the need to redraw expectations and goals? That would simply render us all in the third term of George W. Bush.
But Obama’s deliberations are clearly now hurting him politically, if only temporarily, even if people like Liz Cheney don’t understand winter’s come to Afghanistan so the President has time to be sure about what he wants to do. In today’s political pace, however, thinking and contemplation are not seen as positive signs of leadership. There are many facets to presidential effectiveness, not the least of which is perception, with Pres. Obama now suffering from an expectations gap, where so much was promised, but little has yet been manifested.
Of course, this can all change back as fast as Chris Matthews’ lost tingle. A win on health care would help, though there is rising doubt if what will finally pass has been worth a whole year’s work. Another problem amassing.