Archive for the ‘diplomacy’ Category

White House, State Dept Overuse of Political Advisors, Ignoring Experts is “Crazy, Dangerous”

March 24, 2009

Both Barack Obama and his inner staff of advisors and Hillary Clinton and hers, have already exhibited a tendency to rely heavily on political advisors instead of seasoned policy professionals and staff specialized in various nuances of national and international work.

President Obama’s repeated “talking down the economy,” including stressing the word ‘crisis’ and claiming that without the stimulus the nation faced ‘catastrophe,’ drew criticism from no less than Warren Buffett.

Then he switched course and urged confidence; but then he fueled the AIG lynching by expressing “outrage” which morphed into a disastrous House effort to levy a 90% tax on the AIG bonus recipients.

Senator Judd Gregg deadpanned today, “Americans started a revolution because a far off king abused his tax authority….”

Obama’s gift to Gordon Brown of the UK, a box of CD movies including “Star Wars,” was considered an insult by many in Britain.  When the PM tried to actually watch one of the flicks, his DVD player announced “Wrong Geographic Area.”

The White House didn’t even know or care that DVDs in Europe don’t use the same format as U.S. machines….

Hillary’s “Reset” button is another example.  Her political guys translated the word and got it wrong while real language and other experts at State were not consulted.  Why?

We question the entire “reset” line of thought.  Are we resetting to the Soviet era?

So beware the leaders so focused on politics and TV and without knowledge of the finer arts that experts bring….

A friend of ours in the State Department said, “Ignoring all our experts is crazy.  It’s dangerous.  It’s crazy-dangerous.”

Was it Joe Biden, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton that thought it was a good idea to encourage Russia to just hit the “reset” button?  Well, whoever….This is why we have experts in our government….

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button marked "reset" in English and "overload" in Russian.
Coffrini/Getty

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From Politico

Hillary Clinton’s departure for the State Department was meant to end the era of Clinton drama, and to leave the turmoil of her campaign behind. But one former Clinton aide, now a senior adviser to Secretary Clinton, has brought at least some of that drama along with him.

State Department reporters and observers have been buzzing about the brewing conflict since her second foreign trip, earlier this month, to Europe and the Middle East. On that trip, her longtime Senate press secretary Philippe Reines – one of the combatants in Hillaryland’s long civil wars – took over as the political staffer charged with handling the press.

The trip was marked by tussles over information and access, but it became known for a high-profile blunder in Geneva on March 6. There, Clinton met Sergei Lavrov, the dour Russian Foreign Minister, and cheerily presented him with a large red button in a yellow case, with the words “Reset” and “Peregruzka” written on it.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked.

“You got it wrong,” said Lavrov.

The error appalled some in the State Department, because the button – which was inscribed in Latin script, not Cyrillic – hadn’t been assembled with the help of State’s cadre of Russian speakers and professional translators, but rather by Clinton’s small political team. The day of the event, people involved said, Reines showed the finished product to officials who spoke Russian, but who weren’t native, or up-to-date enough to catch the error in a word out of computer terminology.

Read the rest:
http://www.politico.com/news/st
ories/0309/20404.html

Related:
 Russia Pressing “Reset,” Medvedev Orders Military To Re-Arm

 Barack, Hillary: Moronic “Reset” Idea for Relations With Russia

 Russian Relations With U.S., Europe Improve: But Putin, Medvedev Understand Strength, Power More than Diplomacy

Obama, State Department, White House Staff, Hillary “Unaware,” “Overwhelmed” by Expectations
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Obama And The Fine Art of Political Nuances
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Fine Art Of Protocol, International Relations Lost On Obama?

Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama 

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers
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Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

 Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

March 6, 2009

For everyone working on their rsume to improve their hopes of getting a new job, take heart in the story of Hillary Clinton.

Sixteen years ago, Mrs. Clinton was made in charge of reforming health care by her husband, President Bill.

Her closed door meetings riled the opposition and her health care efforts went down in flames.

Now Hillary is reborn as America’s Secretary of State and diplomat in chief and Barack Obama has learned from Bill’s health care fiasco.  Barack is using the all inclusive hug everyone and keep the door open appraoch to health care reform.

Just to make sure health care makes it though the Congress, Barack is using the game plan so successful with the stimulus: Nanacy pelosi and her gamd will write the provisions of the new health care reform measure.

Meanwhile, the only person not under the health care tent, it seems, is Hillary Clinton.

She is in Russia dealing with what many consider a far tougher problem than health care: Russia.

Just aafter President Obama apparently promised Russia it would unilaterally disarm its missile defense efforts in Europe, in exchange for some mysterious Russian assistance to stop Iran’s nuclear program; Hillary arrived in Russia.

Hillary opened her meeting with a gift for her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The gift was supposed to reporest a “resetting” of U.S. and Russian ties.  The gift was a big red button with the word peregruzka printed on top. 

Hillary and her crack State Department team thought peregruzka meant “reset.”

Instead of “reset,” Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.” 

Go get ’em Hillary!  And kudos to the U.S. Department of State!

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By David Cloud
Politico

GENEVA—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened her first extended talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by giving him a present meant to symbolize the Obama administration’s vow to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations.

She handed a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift: a red button on a black base with a Russian word peregruzka printed on top. 

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked. 

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said. 

Instead of “reset,” Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.” 

Clinton and Lavrov laughed. 

“We won’t let you do that to us,” she said. Trying to recover, Clinton said the new administration was serious about improving relations with Moscow. “We mean it, and we’re looking forward to it.” 

Lavrov said he would put the button on his desk and he and Clinton pushed the button together, before sitting down for their meeting.

A State Department official said the misspelling on the button was being corrected, in time for the post-meeting news conference.

Related:
 Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”
(Now we can add stupid….)
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In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

A lot of people get paid a lot of money to prevent the kind of gaffe just made by Hillary Clinton.  Usually they work in an office called “protocol.”

Protocol and dacorum are the opposite of awkward and foolish rolled into disrespectful and inappropriate.
There have been awkward moments before at the White House and in presidential administrations and sometimes they cause pain and embarrassment to visiting dignitaries.  Sometimes they detract from years of great diplomacy.

Just ask Hu Jintao, President of China, after he was introduced at the White House during a Bush hosted ceremony as the President of the “Republic of China,” which most of us know as Taiwan.  President Bush added to the lack of protocol and decorum that day by manhandling President Hu toward the exit to the stage, a “touching” just not allowed  — except maybe for children.

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, is helped ... 
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, is helped down the stairs by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after a joint press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. Clinton said Friday she hopes her first discussion with her Russian counterpart will begin a new era in U.S.-Russian relations without raising doubts about American support for European allies.(AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior ... 
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior to the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, in Washington, January 20, 2009.(Jim Young – UNITED STATES/Reuters)

Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

February 13, 2009

When President Obama boarded Marine One for his first flight as commander-in-chief, he decided to break from tradition. Departing from the South Lawn of the White House for a trip to Williamsburg, Va., the new president extended his hand to a U.S. Marine standing in salute at the base of the helicopter’s steps.

The unscripted gesture forced the Marine to break his stance and shake the president’s hand before he returned to his posed position of hand at brow.

Like his predecessors, Obama must master the presidential protocol that has long ruled the White House. From military salutes to the presidential march to the customs by which foreign visitors are welcomed, every commander-in-chief must respect the traditions that have come to define the office.

“Protocol is diplomacy,” said Nancy Brinker, President George W. Bush’s former chief of protocol. “It’s about ceremony and custom and making sure the president and his office are represented properly as he travels the world.”

Related:
In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

And should the president need help, he has a full-time coach like Brinker at his disposal to teach him the rules. The State Department — which first appointed a full-time protocol officer in 1916 — established the official Office of the Chief of Protocol in 1928.

The president is briefed on proper military protocol by the White House’s military office, which includes representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

But learning the proper etiquette doesn’t always come easy, said Brinker, who described the formalities as “just patterns you have to get used to.”

Bill Clinton was often criticized for his inability to snap a crisp salute — a gesture Obama appears to have  perfected already. Bush was a stickler for punctuality, while Obama has been teased for his frequent tardiness.

“[Bush] was fastidious about meeting on time. If you were late, you got left,” Brinker told FOXNews.com.

She recalled one occasion when Bush almost left Italy without her after she arrived “only a few minutes late” to the Vatican. “No matter how well-planned the day is, anything can happen,” Brinker said.

Obama is not the first president to depart from the traditional code of behavior.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan began saluting members of the U.S. military. Such salutes had always required the wearing of a uniform, and no American president — including former five-star Gen. Dwight Eisenhower — had ever before returned a salute.It is custom not to salute enlisted personnel or officers of lower rank.

Reagan, who took special pride in setting the new standard, later advised Clinton on how to refine it.

“The president generally has the ability to make decisions on how he would like to conduct business, and certainly there are customs that can be altered,” Brinker said.

Obama appears to be doing just that.

“When the president telephones senators, he simply picks up the phone and calls them directly,” said American historian Barry H. Landau, who served in the White House protocol office for nine presidencies. “Ordinarily, the chief of staff would do it and say, ‘Senator, the president’s calling.'”

Landau recalled that Jimmy Carter broke protocol while riding in an elevator with then-protocol chief Shirley Temple Black. When the doors opened, Black turned to Carter and said, “After you, Mr. President,” as was customary. But the president refused to walk in front of Black, saying, “as a Southern gentleman, after you,” Landau said.

“It was not the protocol and she didn’t go, so I finally pushed them both off the elevator,” he quipped.

But Landau cautioned that there is some protocol that a president should never breach.

Bush was roundly criticized when he gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an impromptu back rub during the G-8 summit in 2006.

Former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller once famously touched the back of the Queen of England as she danced at the White House — an embarrassing incident of “lese majeste,” as royalty cannot be touched.

“Protocol is supposed to make people feel comfortable,” said Landau.

And with the media’s constant presence and the speed at which a gaffe can reach the Internet, presidents need to be ever mindful of proper etiquette, he said.

“The presidents are absolutely more aware that any flub — or conversely anything done well — will be noticed immediately,” Landau said.

In The White House, Protocol Not Just For Computers

January 25, 2009

When Vice President-elect Joe Biden returned from a trip to Pakistan and other points just before the inauguration, a press conference was hurridly planned to allow the President-elect to thank his number two before the media and America.  After Barack Obama’s gushing praise, the number two closed the event with words of his own.  He got the last word.

When President Obama asked Vice President Joe Biden to administer the oath of office to  members of the White House staff, the VEEP said, “Am I doing this again? Oh! For the senior staff. My memory’s not as good as Justice Roberts’ … Chief Justice Roberts.”

It was a joke or a senior moment or the combination of the two.

But the president was not amused.

Protocol and dacorum are the opposite of awkward and foolish rolled into disrespectful and inappropriate.

US Vice President Joe Biden gestures while US President Barack ... 
US Vice President Joe Biden gestures while US President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 21 in Washington, DC.(AFP/Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski)

There have been awkward moments before at the White House and in presidential administrations and sometimes they cause pain and embarrassment to visiting dignitaries.  Sometimes they detract from years of great diplomacy.

Just ask Hu Jintao, President of China, after he was introduced at the White House during a Bush hosted ceremony as the President of the “Republic of China,” which most of us know as Taiwan.  President Bush added to the lack of protocol and decorum that day by manhandling President Hu toward the exit to the stage, a “touching” just not allowed  — except maybe for children.

So there are a lot of opportunities for success when one stands in the ever present spotlight.  And there are plenty of opportunities for embarrassment….

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior ... 
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior to the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, in Washington, January 20, 2009.(Jim Young – UNITED STATES/Reuters)
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From The New York Times

By Mark Leibovich

Early this month, Barack Obama was meeting with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other lawmakers when Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, began nervously cracking a knuckle.

At which point, Mr. Emanuel held the offending knuckle up to Mr. Obama’s left ear and, like an annoying little brother, snapped off a few special cracks.

The episode, confirmed by Mr. Emanuel’s office, underscores some essential truths about Mr. Emanuel: He is brash, has a deep comfort level with his new boss, and has been ever-present at Mr. Obama’s side of late, in meetings, on podiums and in photographs.

There he was, standing at President Obama’s desk in one of the first Oval Office pictures; and again, playfully thumbing his nose at his former House colleagues during the inauguration; there he was, accompanying the president to a meeting with Congressional leaders on Friday.

Mr. Emanuel is arguably the second most powerful man in the country and….

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/us/pol
itics/25emanuel.html?_r=2&hp

On Biden:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28789980/

Iran Says, for U.S., “The circle of interference should be limited to within American borders”

January 15, 2009

Iran’s president said on Thursday the new U.S. administration must change Washington’s approach to the Islamic Republic, which is embroiled in a row with the United States over its nuclear program.

Asked about President-elect Barack Obama, who has promised to engage more with Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a news conference:

“Any administration in America that takes office should at least make two changes in its behavior, the first change is in the field of America’s interference … The circle of interference should be limited to within American borders.”

“The second change is the approach of the American government toward Iran,” he said. “If there are real and fundamental changes I think it would be welcomed by nations.”

“But, if the previous behavior continues with a change of tactic and in a new package, the trend of the world’s affairs will stay on the past trend,” Ahmadinejad added.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and President George W. Bush has spearheaded a drive to isolate Tehran internationally. Tehran denies the charge.

Obama, who takes office on January 20, has said he views Iran as a “genuine threat” but still favors initiating a dialogue.

He has said he would take a new approach emphasizing respect for the Iranian people and spelling out what Washington expects of its leaders.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would wait and see what the new administration’s approach would be. “We do not want to have a prejudgment. We will wait and we have a lot of patience,” he said.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian, Writing by Edmund Blair, editing by Mark Trevelyan from Reuters)

At Confirmation Hearing, Clinton Talks of Engagement With Iran

January 14, 2009

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday that the incoming Obama administration will seek to engage directly with Iran in an effort to persuade it to abandon its nuclear program and become “a constructive regional actor,” underscoring a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy from the Bush administration.

By Glenn Kessler
The Washington Post

In prepared testimony and remarks during her confirmation hearing — which were supplemented by 79 pages of formal answers to questions posed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Clinton was careful not to tip her hand on specific plans or policies that the new administration might pursue. But she struck a consistent theme of active engagement and unyielding diplomacy, a sharp contrast to President Bush‘s policy of refusing to deal with countries that did not first meet conditions set by the United States.

“I don’t get up every morning thinking only about the threats and dangers we face,” Clinton said. “With every challenge comes an opportunity to find promise and possibility in the face of adversity and complexity.”

Clinton also pledged greater involvement in the quest for Middle East peace but was not drawn into specific questions about how the incoming administration might handle Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte
nt/article/2009/01/13/AR2009011301145
.html?hpid=topnews

Obama Talks of ‘New Approach’ to Iran

January 12, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama addressed some of the most delicate foreign policy issues over the weekend, confirming that he intended to pursue a clear policy of engagement with Iran and to press immediately for peace in the Middle East.

By BRIAN KNOWLTON
The New York Times

Speaking on the ABC News program “This Week,” Mr. Obama reiterated that he wanted to work directly with Iran — a country whose president has called for Israel’s destruction — to improve relations and halt a nuclear program that Tehran describes as peaceful, but that the West believes is not.

“We are going to have to take a new approach,” he told the program’s host, George Stephanopoulos. “My belief is that engagement is the place to start.”

Mr. Obama said he wanted to adopt “a new emphasis on respect and a new willingness on being willing to talk” to the Iranians, while making it clear “that we also have certain expectations.”

The remarks suggested a clear departure from the often pointed and deprecatory speech that has prevailed between Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and President Bush.

Last year, President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel for specialized bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Quoting senior American and foreign officials, the article said that the president told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/1
2/us/politics/12iran.html?em

Obama: Iran a Threat To U.S., Diplomacy Needed

January 9, 2009

Iran remains a genuine threat to the United States but Washington must be “willing to initiate diplomacy” with the Islamic republic, president-elect Barack Obama said Friday.

AFP

“I have said in the past during the course of the campaign that Iran is a genuine threat to US national security,” Obama said during a press conference in which he announced his picks for the administration’s two top intelligence posts.

“But I have also said that we should be willing to initiate diplomacy as a mechanism to achieve our national security goals.”

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From The Jerusalem Post

President-elect Barack Obama on Friday repeated his campaign assertion that Teheran “is a genuine threat to US national security.”

Obama told reporters at a Washington DC news conference that he would have more to say about the Iranian nuclear program after he is inaugurated.

Obama also touted a “practical, pragmatic approach” to concerns about its nuclear development and said once more that he believes diplomacy should be put into play more than it has been in the past.

Obama also said his administration will “uphold our highest values and ideals” in its approach to fighting terrorism.

He was asked at the conference whether he would continue a policy of harsh interrogation, for instance.

Obama replied that he has told CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta and retired Adm. Dennis Blair that he expects the Geneva Conventions to be honored.

The president-elect introduced his choices for CIA chief, Panetta, and national intelligence director, Blair, earlier on Friday.

Read the rest:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=123142490
5307&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Gaza Cease-Fire: Bridging A Chasm; Is Hamas Ready To Deal?

January 6, 2009

How can men like Britain’s Tony Blair and France’s President Sarkozy possibly bridge the divide between Hamas and Israel and broker a cease fire?

Sarkozy was told by Prime Minister Olmert in Israel that “Sometimes the need to find a compromise in the UN comes at Israel’s expense.”

In Syria, Bashar Assad, did not respond to Sarkozy’s call to intercede with Hamas, instead slamming the Israeli assault on the coastal strip as a “war crime” and an “aggression” that Israel must halt.

In Iran, President Ahmadinejad doesn’t even believe the Holocaust really happened, has spoken about wiping Israel away, is working on a nuclear program and he doesn’t even recognize the Israel as a state, calling it “the Zionist regime.”

Tony Blair seems to understand that Israel has to get something from Hamas in order to even seriously consider a cease fire.
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“If there is strong action on that front, so that Israel feels it has achieved something — namely the end of the smuggling of weapons and finance to Hamas — then I think it is possible to resolve this reasonably quickly,” Blair told CNN.

“If that doesn’t happen, if we’re not in that position, then obviously it’s going to go on.”

Late Tuesday word came that Hamas just might be ready to make a deal.

“Hamas is ready to agree to peace if the Israeli army will stop military operations and withdraw from Gaza, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad told CNN Tuesday,” said a CNN report.
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“They are ready (to make a deal),” Al-Assad told CNN’s Cal Perry in an exclusive interview. “They were ready, they are ready. Today, the factors have changed so the requirement will change at the same time.

Related from CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast
/01/06/israel.gaza.diplomacy/index.html

Gaza: Sarkozy Seeks Help In Syria; Told Israel is “War Criminal”

January 6, 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Syria on Tuesday to exert pressure on its ally Hamas to help end the fighting in the Gaza Strip between the militant Palestinian group and Israeli forces.

But his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, did not respond to Sarkozy’s call to intercede with Hamas, instead slamming the Israeli assault on the coastal strip as a “war crime” and an “aggression” that Israel must halt.

By ALBERT AJI, Assocaited Press Writer

Sarkozy’s visit to the Syrian capital is part of a whirlwind Mideast tour amid European diplomatic efforts….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090106/ap_on_re_mi_ea
/ml_mideast_diplomacy;_ylt=AuU11TL1q2x5Q
P3mswVx8ANvaA8F

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) and his French counterpart ... 
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (R) and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy hold a news conference after a meeting in Damascus January 6, 2009. Sarkozy asked Syria on Tuesday to help convince Hamas to cooperate in international efforts to end the Israeli assault in the Gaza Strip.REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri (SYRIA)

Related:
Israel Sees Existential Fight: Enemies, Uncertainty All Around
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 Gaza: France’s Sarkozy Not Helping

Understanding Israel: Necessary Step in Solving Middle East Violence?