On This Day: President Barack Obama lays a Presidential challenge coin on a grave in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 30, 2011. Section 60 is reserved for military personnel who have lost their lives while fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times Eastern)
* President Obama appears on Kelly and Michael – check your local listings here
10:15: President Obama meets with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Oval Office
11:0: The President meets with the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force
11:15 EDT: President Obama Makes a Statement
1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:15: The President attends a hurricane preparedness meeting, FEMA Headquarters
…. Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point.
A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee headed by Acheson called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”
President Obama’s speech at West Point on Wednesday morning could be called a tribute to common sense, except that the sense it made is so uncommon. The ensuing cable pundits’ complaints—that it was insufficiently “muscular” or “robust”—only proved how necessary this speech was.
Obama’s point was not (contrary to some commentators’ claims) to draw a “middle-of-the-road” line between isolationism and unilateralism. That’s a line so broad almost anyone could walk it.
The president’s main point was to emphasize that not every problem has a military solution; that the proper measure of strength and leadership is not merely the eagerness to deploy military power; that, in fact, America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures “without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”
Graduating cadets listen to President Obama deliver the commencement address at West Point, May 28, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
NPR: Transcript And Audio: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview
NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama on Wednesday about foreign policy, including his approaches to Syria, Ukraine and China, as well as his remaining White House priorities and his effort to close Guantanamo Bay prison. A full transcript of the interview follows:
STEVE INSKEEP: I want to begin this way. You’re here at this historic place, trying to speak with a sense of history. And I was thinking of past presidents that I know you have studied and commented on. And a couple came to mind who were able to express what they were trying to do in the world in about a sentence. Reagan wanted to roll back communism by whatever means. Lincoln has a famous letter in which he says, I would save the union by the shortest means under the Constitution. As you look at the moment of history that you occupy, do you think you can put into a sentence what you are trying to accomplish in the world?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not sure I can do it in a sentence because we’re fortunate in many ways. We don’t face an existential crisis. We don’t face a civil war. We don’t face a Soviet Union that is trying to rally a bloc of countries and that could threaten our way of life. Instead, what we have is, as I say in the speech, this moment in which we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong economy that is getting stronger, no military peer that threatens us, no nation-state that anytime soon intends to go to war with us. But we have a world order that is changing very rapidly and that can generate diffuse threats, all of which we have to deal with.
A new report this morning confirms that House Republicans are likely to delay plans to offer an alternative to Obamacare until after the elections; that multiple Republican candidates are retreating from repeal; and that they are increasingly mouthing support for the law’s general goals. Once again: There’s no real policy space for a meaningful alternative, but the base still sees repeal as its lodestar, yet everyone else opposes repeal, forcing Republicans to claim they’d scrap it and replace it with something or other doing all the popular things in it, without saying what.
Justin Wolfers (NYT): Deceptive Dip in G.D.P. Points to Perils of Election Forecasting
An economic report issued [yesterday] provides a good example of the hazards facing election forecasters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the first quarter of this year, Gross Domestic Product, a broad indicator of the health of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent. Even worse, an alternative and more accurate measure, called Gross Domestic Income, shrank at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. If that persisted, we’d call it a sharp recession.
But no one is using the R-word. Nor should they. Markets have taken the news in their stride, and few economists have changed their view that the economy is growing and will continue to through 2014. Likewise, consumers remain confident about their economic prospects. Their confidence rests partly on other indicators that suggested far better growth throughout the quarter, such as nonfarm payrolls, which grew by 569,000 over the same period.
The president is about to take a major step to fight global warming. Here’s what you need to know.
President Obama promised to take action on global warming with or without Congress’s permission. Next week, he’ll tell the world how he plans to do it.
The administration is preparing to release the central pillar of Obama’s climate-change agenda: a proposal for far-reaching rules that will require power companies to cut carbon emissions.
The rules will mark the most significant federal action on climate change since Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate four years ago, and they’re Obama’s best shot at adding broad action on global warming to his legacy.
The rules will also touch off a political war of the first order, offering battleground for environmentalists, industry groups, and politicians to fight over the nation’s energy future.
Here’s what to watch for when the administration pulls back the curtain.
ThinkProgress: Redskins’ Twitter Campaign To Defend Their Name Goes About As Well As You’d Expect
The Washington Redskins — desperate to defend the name that Native Americans, members of Congress, a majority of the United States Senate, religious leaders, civil rights groups, several current and former NFL players, United Nations Human Rights representatives, and even President Obama have said should be changed because it is a “dictionary-defined” racial slur — started a Twitter campaign to rally support Thursday afternoon.
It started with this tweet asking fans to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has made a habit of chiding the team over its name, how they felt:
More broadly – big picture – as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now. And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.
Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine. And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.
Here’s I think the general takeaway from this trip. Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger; I can say that unequivocally. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia has never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute. As recently as a decade ago, there were great tensions between us and Malaysia, for example. And I think you just witnessed the incredible warmth and strength of the relationship between those two countries.
We’re here in the Philippines signing a defense agreement. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago there was enormous tensions around our defense relationship with the Philippines. And so it’s hard to square whatever it is that the critics are saying with facts on the ground, events on the ground here in the Asia Pacific region. Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?
My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.
So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal. And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops. Well, what do you mean? Well, you should be assisting the opposition – well, we’re assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria. Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.
In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. Russia has never been more isolated. A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them. And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world. And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia.
Well, what else should we be doing? Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say. That’s not what we mean. Well, okay, what are you saying? Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more. Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?
The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don’t know. But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us.
But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy.
And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.
And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.