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29 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:15 am

Citizen of the World? No, Debtor of the Chinese


Okay, I know that it’s been like a month since Obama was in Berlin and all, and blah blah blah enough already.  But given that everyone else — particularly John McCain — continues to yammer about it incessantly, I thought I’d pay at least one more visit.

On the day of the speech, the nutroots went absolutely bananas over the fact that Barack Obama said he was a “citizen of the world,” like he was a World Federalist or something, plotting to have the UN send in the black helicopters and steal our sovereignty.

As if mortgaging our economy to the Chinese, recklessly spending our blood and treasure in Iraq, letting Albania into NATO, and jettisoning our nation’s core values so as to torture people wasn’t sovereignty-sucking enough.

So I was thinking of creating a new bumper sticker over at Café Press:

Because you know, I loves the black helicopters.

| posted in none of the above | 0 Comments

25 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:55 am

“First You Eat the Banana, Disarming Him…”


With the global food crisis and everything, it’s good to know that we can stop worrying about misshapen fruit:

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in globalization, pop culture | 0 Comments

24 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:24 pm

Heute sind wir alle Amerikaner (Obama in Berlin)


I’ve spent a good part of the afternoon watching, listening to, reading, digesting, and reviewing other responses to Obama’s speech in Berlin today.  Not surprisingly, almost every commentator has reached a different conclusion, from “a stupendous ride” to “cliché[d], from “liberal internationalism” to “neoconservativsm with a human face.”

It was not his best speech, but it was a good one. And it was great to watch.  I loved hearing an American stand before Europeans and express clearly and concisely the idea that American values are global values, and vice versa.  I was thrilled to watch the crowd react so joyously.  I was delighted to hear him challenge Europeans on issues ranging from xenophobia to Afghanistan.  And after reading the text of the speech, I was pleased to see such a concrete expression of my own foreign policy views — what I would call either hard-headed internationalism or realistic globalism.

Someday, future historians may write that Obama’s speech marked the rebirth of good feelings between America and Europe, that it helped bring to an end to five-plus years of European anger towards and resentment of the United States.  Perhaps Obama’s speech will be remembered as the moment when the sentiments of Jean Marie Colombani’s famous editorial in the September 13, 2001 issue of Le Monde (”Nous Sommes Tous Americains”) returned, albeit as “Heute sind wir alle Amerikaner.”

And yet this afternoon, my main emotion is disquiet.  I find my hopes not nearly as strong as my fears.  I know neither I nor the rest of the pundit class were Obama’s target audience.  But the problem is, neither were the 200,000 Berliners who flocked to see him today. The people who really matter are the ones who will only see short clips of the speech on television, or who will only hear about it from their favorite talk radio mandarins:  average Americans, most of whom not only haven’t been to Europe, but also have no desire to go there.

What scares me is that the Berlin speech hurt Obama far more than it helped him, and that since it was the last event of his trip, it will overshadow his very real triumphs in Afghanistan and Iraq.  As I’ve noted before, most Americans view Europeans with a mix of suspicion and resentment.  There’s a reason that “cheese eating surrender monkeys” has become part of our popular lexicon.  And I have to think that the recent precipitous fall of the dollar against the Euro hasn’t helped matters.

But what worries me the most is that as Obama wowed the world, John McCain was sitting pretty in Ohio.  Since Obama left the States, McCain has grown increasingly bitter and nasty.  And now, much like Hillary Clinton before him, he appears increasingly willing to appeal to the worst devils of our nature.

This is what his campaign had to say today in response to Obama’s speech:

While Barack Obama took a premature victory lap today in the heart of Berlin, proclaiming himself a ‘citizen of the world,’ John McCain continued to make his case to the American citizens who will decide this election. Barack Obama offered eloquent praise for this country, but the contrast is clear. John McCain has dedicated his life to serving, improving and protecting America. Barack Obama spent an afternoon talking about it.

In less than three weeks, John McCain has transformed himself from an international statesman to an angry white male.  He has gone from desiring a debate on the issues to mounting a wholesale attack on Obama’s character.  He sounds increasingly desperate, which I find odd, given that the national polls have him only two to six points behind and many battleground state polls have him gaining.

I’m beginning to wonder whether the right word isn’t desperate, but rather cunning.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this turn began largely after Steve Schmidt took over as McCain’s chief strategist.  Schmidt is a Rovian through and through; he believes that, as a Wall Street Journal profile of him put it recently, “a campaign needs one positive message about its own candidate, and one negative message about the opponent.”  It’s becoming increasingly evident that for Schmidt (and by extension McCain), the combination that’s working best is McCain as a prototypical American hero and Obama as the “other.”  It is, to paraphrase Rick Perlstein, straight out of Nixon’s “silent majority” playbook.

Just look at some of the moves we’ve seen since Obama clinched the nomination:  a commercial that describes McCain as “The American President Americans have been waiting for;” online ads that place photos of Obama side-by-side with Castro and Ahmadinejad; statements from campaign surrogates (too numerous to link to) questioning Obama’s priorities and even his patriotism; and McCain himself, in a statement that more than one commentator called unprecedented in the recent political history, suggesting that Obama is willing to lose a war to win a campaign.

I keep hoping that this is a temporary manifestation of McCain’s legendary temper.  I keep thinking that once McCain calms down about Maliki’s endorsement of the Obama timetable, we’ll see a return to the principled politician that so many Americans came to know and love.

But the more he and his campaign pursue this line of argument, the more I am convinced  that this is the real McCain, and that the happy warrior of the Straight Talk Express is nothing but a myth.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics, world at home | 5 Comments

21 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:00 pm

41 Shows Some Class (Vandy Prize Winner)


George H.W. Bush.  Yes, he “strongly support[s]” McCain, which does not exactly sound like bipartisanship.  But in a joint appearance today, he avoided several opportunities to bash Obama.  He deferred to McCain on the issue of Iraq and said the following when asked about Obama’s trip to Europe:

When asked if he was bothered that Obama plans to hold such large events overseas, Bush smiled. “A little jealous is all,” he said, adding that he thought the Democratic candidate would receive a “warm welcome” in Germany.

That is a model for how former Presidents should handle themselves in a general election.  You can’t expect them to stay out of it, but after so many months of listening to Bill stick his foot in his mouth, it’s nice to see Bush show some reserve and frankly, a great deal of class.  There’s a reason Obama ciets him so often as a role model on foreign policy.

For new readers:  The Arthur Vandenberg Prize, (the “Vandy“) is for those who embrace bipartisanship in foreign policy, even when doing so might not be popular with or politically convenient for their own side. Named for the late Michigan Republican Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, best known for his support for the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan in the face of pressure from the isolationist wing of his own party.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

19 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:34 pm

More on “The 300″ and Obama’s Experience


So I’ve gotten some interesting feedback, mainly via email, about last night’s post on The 300.  My good friend Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, agrees with me that the Times piece is a misfire. Not sure I agree with him, however, that Obama is “colonizing” the DC foreign policy community.  If he were, I doubt he would have only 300 folks in the network.  Or consciously exclude people like Richard Holbrooke and Zbigniew Brzezinski even if the former is Tony Lake’s rival and the latter has some outside-the-mainstream ideas on Middle East peace.

I know that to some of you, this may seem like little more than inside baseball.  Who really cares how many people are advising Obama?  Shouldn’t it matter more what kind of advice he’s getting?  To which I can only offer one response:

Exactly.

But the problem is that the mainstream media — and to a lesser degree some of my friends in the blogosphere — seem determined to portray Obama as “inexperienced” on foreign policy.  Just today, The Washington Post has a front page story with the following headline and sub-head:

Obama Going Abroad with World Watching
Foreign Policy Credentials Are At Stake

Huh?  Obama’s future credibility will be determined by what he does on a single week-long trip to Europe and the Middle East?  A trip that doesn’t include China, India, Japan, Latin America, Africa, or a whole bunch of other important places?  A trip that his opponent kept criticizing him for not taking until he started criticizing him for taking it?

Let’s acknowledge the reality here.  The trip is window-dressing.  Yes, it is designed to show Americans that Obama knows something about foreign policy.  But the only reason it’s getting this kind of coverage is that it’s late July and the media doesn’t have anything better to do than speculate on whether Obama’s entire candidacy will hinge on a few photo-ops.

The real story here is that the media continue to embrace a deeply corrosive — and oh yeah, completely wrong — meme that is, after all, little more than a a set of McCain campaign talking points.  “Obama is over his head.” “Obama doesn’t have the experience to be commander in chief.”  “Obama doesn’t know anything about foreign policy.”  “Obama is a rookie and we can’t have a rookie in charge right now.” “Obama is very very scaaaaary.”

What utter nonsense.  On issue after issue — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and more — Obama has taken positions that have proven to be far more sensible and realistic than those taken by either McCain or Bush.  He is more thoughtful, more realistic, more pragmatic, and perhaps most importantly, more often right than John McCain.  The only thing he isn’t is more experienced.

But if “experience” were the only prerequisite for the presidency, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney (ARGH! MY EYES!), Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson would be our candidates.

So instead of asking who is more experienced, maybe the media should ask who has the better ideas.  Maybe they should look at who has been more adaptive in responding to changing conditions on the ground.  And maybe they should stop mislabeling flexibility as flip-flops.

Nah.  That would require reporters to think.  Wouldn’t want that.  Making stuff up is a lot more fun.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics | 2 Comments

4 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:06 pm

Good News for My Diet


Turns out Pringles are not potato chips after all.  On behalf of my diet, I would like to thank the British tax courts for this momentous decision.

| posted in pop culture | 0 Comments

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