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Friday, July 25, 2008

Questions about Obama as a foreign affairs rock-star versus subcommittee chairman

When the Democrats gained majority control of the U.S. Senate in January 2007 based on the results of the 2006 elections, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was named chairman of the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its jurisdiction is formally defined to include the following matters (boldface mine):

The subcommittee deals with all matters concerning U.S. relations with the countries on the continent of Europe (except the states of Central Asia that are within the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs), and with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Matters relating to Greenland and the northern polar region are also the responsibility of this subcommittee.

This subcommittee's responsibilities include all matters within the geographic region relating to: (1) terrorism and non-proliferation; (2) crime and illicit narcotics; (3) U.S. foreign assistance programs; and (4) the promotion of U.S. trade and exports.

Yesterday, Sen. Obama spoke at length in prepared remarks to an enormous crowd in Berlin. No less than eight paragraphs in the speech, each beginning with the phrase "This is the moment,"  contained exhortations to America's European allies to cooperate with America — specifically, an America soon to be led (he presumes) by Barack Obama as its president — in achieving a broad range of important goals. For example:

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets.  No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan.  But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done.  America cannot do this alone.  The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation.  We have too much at stake to turn back now.

Besides our joint anti-terrorist efforts through NATO in Afghanistan, Sen. Obama's exhortations included strengthening global institutions; fighting terrorism elsewhere in the world; promoting nuclear nonproliferation; promoting the European Union and its cooperation with Russia; promoting "free and fair" international trade; promoting peace between Israel and Palestinians and among Iraqis; stopping global warming; and giving hope to those "left behind" by globalization. The subjects addressed in Obama's Berlin speech, in fact, closely paralleled the all of the subjects for which his Senate subcommittee has been given specific responsibilities.

So why has Sen. Obama presided over only one subcommittee meeting since he became chairman — and that one not until April 8, 2008, over fifteen months later? And why was that meeting limited to discussion of the pending nominations of five ambassadors (to Finland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and NATO)?

Does anyone seriously doubt that Obama's main reason for presiding over even this one hearing was in an attempt to shut up those of his critics (including Hillary Clinton) who'd been harping for months and months over his apparent stupor as chairman? Once Obama had wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination and he'd obtained, via the April 8th hearing, some fig-leaf he could point to as evidence of his work as a subcommittee chair, then Obama went back to AWOL status, and thereafter even the routine business of considering more European ambassadorial nominations had to be shunted back to the full committee level.

Given this history: Why, besides his rock-star charisma, should our European Allies take Sen. Obama as being remotely serious about, or competent to deal with, any of these matters? He's paid no substantive attention to them in his real job as a U.S. Senator, despite these matters having been explicitly placed within his senatorial responsibility at the beginning of January in 2007.

Why should American voters consider Obama's spewing of paragraph after paragraph of platitudes while campaigning for president of the United States in Berlin, Germany, to be an indication of his fitness to deal with foreign affairs as POTUS? Shouldn't they look instead to the real work — or rather, the utter absence of any real work — he's done on foreign affairs as a U.S. Senator with a seat and an important subcommittee chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee?

Let's be charitable to Sen. Obama and assume that there might be other members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee who've been as negligent and inattentive as he's been. Doesn't that still mean that Sen. Obama is, at best, tied for last place as the very worst and most irresponsible member of the U.S. Senate in dealing with foreign affairs?

Posted by Beldar at 01:39 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink


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(1) BT made the following comment | Jul 27, 2008 5:24:20 AM | Permalink

My guess is that he has been too busy running for office and preening on a national and international level (remember his trip to Africa two years ago or so?)to do much of anything else. In the last five or six years BO has run for the US Senate while a sitting state senator and then once elected in 2004, started running for president about a year into his first term. The only good news to this is that he has not had the time to carry out any of his the foolish policy positions.

(2) Leif made the following comment | Jul 27, 2008 6:14:15 PM | Permalink

Didn't Pharaoh complain, "Who's this stutterer from Midian, who's never run anything bigger that his herd of sheep, telling me how to run my country?"

Didn't Saul complain, "Who's this lute-playing shepherd, who's famous only because of the tasks I've given him, challenging me to rule over Israel?"

Didn't the Sanhedrin complain, "Who's this uneducated carpenter, who's never studied the Scrolls or had charge of a temple, telling us how to save our people?"

I mean, really, Beldar.

(3) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jul 28, 2008 4:32:03 PM | Permalink

Dear Leif: Since when do Obama supporters, even when being elaborately sarcastic, beleive in the Judeo-Christian God? Doing so would diminish The One's role, a sure sign of the Infidel at work. Are you saying that The One's superior wisdom is sufficient to have all the answers to the world's problems without doing any of the grinding prep the rest of us sweating mortals must do to learn? Kindly dispense the Sacraments to the rest of us so we, too, may be full of superior wisdom, and in Harmony with The One.

(Thirty six hours later after a trip to rehab to recover from that last interaction with an Obama supporter:)

Dear Mr. Dyer: Excellent. It is characteristic that eleaborate sarcasm is the only defense the Obama ochlocracy has to your point. Can't blame his lack of meetings on racism. Also excellent to point out that the point of subcommittees is to take the burden off the parent committee. The One's favorite indoor sport of kissing a mirror is getting in the way of serious business, but that's fine. He's The One, and all must kowtow to The One's ceaseless ambition. Bah. I would add to your indictment the witlessness of choosing the European subcommittee instead of, say, The Near Eastern and Central Asian Subcommittee. I fyou are interested in terrorism, that's the subcommittee to join. Europe's weight is steadily diminishing compared to China or India if it is power politics that you are interested in.

The comparisons to Kennedy are more apt than the Obama gang realizes. Kennedy brushed aside Eisenhower's chain of command, seeing himself as the hub of the wheel, where it all came together. Not surprisingly, when the Bay of Pigs tested Kennedy's notion, it failed spectacularly. So too, with Obama, who values his charm far too highly, and is much too arrogant to be persuaded otherwise. He will learn, but it will be the nation that will pay the tuition.

As to why the Europeans are fawning on Obama, that is easy: he is the Not Bush of 2008. All else is carried away. Get Rid of Bush is the one overarching goal. What happens next---who cares? Thus European thinking, strengthened by the conviction that Obama is really just a social democrat, much like themselves, who will be so absorbed by fastening European style "safety nets" (that resemble chains to the poor economies they are strapped onto) that he won't have much energy for foreign affairs, and will follow the European way.

Ha. Obama will learn, as Kennedy did, that foreign affairs is far more attractive to Presidents, particularly flash-in-the-pan Presidents as he will be. The Europeans will be paying some of Obama's tuition, but at the moment, they are in the same state as all those ninnies who bought $750,000 homes in California --- no money down, interest only, rates reset in two years ---were in 2004. The morning after will come.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

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