Monday, April 28, 2008

Outfoxed By Obama & The Twelve Unasked Questions

Yesterday, Fox’s Chris Wallace interviewed Barack Obama. It was an interesting interview, and Obama came off well overall. But Chris Wallace did a very poor job of asking probing questions on the major issues of Iraq, the War on Terror, and Rev. Wright.


You can find the transcript of the Obama interview here. After watching the interview twice, my impression was that Obama came off well. Part of that is that Obama is both likable and highly intelligent. Part is that, unless pushed, he will always dance past the tough questions with the liquid grace of a Fred Astaire.

On several of the issues raised by Chris Wallace, such as the issue of his appeal across the spectrum of voters, Obama defended his position well. And Obama did change his tune from last week and now agrees that his relationsip with Rev. Wright and Trinity United does reflect on his character and that it is a legitimate political issue. Obama did not do so well when Wallace questioned Obama on the fact that, while Obama claims to be able to heal the partisan divide, his record is extremely liberal and that he has never attempted to reach across the aisle on a single controversial issue. Obama’s response to that question was very muddled, at one point attempting to claim that he somehow met this criteria in regards to the confirmation hearings for John Roberts:

WALLACE: But, Senator, if I may, I think one of the concerns that some people have is that you talk a good game about, let’s be post-partisan, let’s all come together . . . The gang of 14, which was a group — a bipartisan coalition to try to resolve the nomination — the issue of judicial nominations. Fourteen senators came together, you weren’t part of it. On some issues where Democrats have moved to the center, partial-birth abortion, Defense of Marriage Act, you stay on the left and you are against both. And so people say, do you really want a partnership with Republicans or do you really want unconditional surrender from them?

OBAMA: No, look, I think this is fair. . . During the Roberts –

WALLACE: John Roberts, Supreme Court.

OBAMA: John Roberts nomination, although I voted against him, I strongly defended some of my colleagues who had voted for him on the Daily Kos, and was fiercely attacked as somebody who is, you know, caving in to Republicans on these fights. . . .

That's not quite a profile in courage. At any rate, Instapundit has a round up some of the commentary on the interview.

. . . Via MyDD, where Jerome Armstrong observes: "Obama is trying to separate himself from the most strident parts of his base, and he does this pretty effectively throughout the interview." . . .

UPDATE: A more critical take at No Quarter. "The truly scary part is that Obama stands for, essentially, nothing. Obama stands for Obama." More discussion at TalkLeft.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reviews from the Rightosphere aren't much better: "I supported Roberts when I opposed him." Plus this: "He called Wright a 'legitimate' campaign issue, which will seem rather shocking to the New York Times, the McCain campaign, and others who have demanded an end to the North Carolina GOP’s television ad.. . . . Obama sounded a lot less convincing when it came to responding to the William Ayers controversy."

For my part, I thought Chris Wallace completely failed to ask anything other than puffball questions on Iraq, the war on terror, Afghanistan and Rev. Wright. Here are the questions that I think should have been asked on those issues:

1. Whether or not invading Iraq was a good decision, the fact is we are there, and so is al Qaeda and Iran. You can’t un-ring the bell. You have made the centerpiece of your campaign the fact that you are against the war in Iraq and said unconditionally that you will draw out our combat troops within 16 months after becoming President. The other day, during the Senate Hearings, you had the opportunity to question General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker about Iraq. You had the chance to ask them to evaluate the likely outcome of your plan to withdraw the vast majority U.S. forces over a sixteen month period. That would have informed America as to the costs and benefits of your proposal. Yet you chose not to ask them that. Why not?

2. We know from testimony General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker gave to other Senators, that they believe a drawdown such as you have proposed would likely be fatal to all the gains we have made in Iraq. It would reopen Iraq to infiltration again by al Qaeda and Iran would seek to dominate Iraq much as it has Lebanon, using militias to create a "Hezbollah" - something which it is trying to do now. Do you agree that all of these things would be incredibly harmful to our efforts to defeat Islamic radicalism and stop expansionist Iran? And if so, how do you possibly justify your plans to pull us out of Iraq before we have that nation stabilized and able to control its internal and external security?

3. Ambassador Crocker has clearly stated that attempting to pressure Iraq with threats of pulling out our soldiers is counterproductive because it puts Iraq’s political groups in the position of looking at their interests when the U.S. is gone rather than having enough feeling of security to make concessions. It makes political progress far less likely. Members of the Iraqi government have made significant concessions over the past several months. Those concessions have resulted in the Iraqi government, at this point, meeting the vast majority of the bench marks we had set out for Iraq to mark political progress. In light of that and Ambassador Crocker’s testimony, how do you justify pulling out of Iraq before the country is stabilized?

4. Both bin Laden and Zawahiri, in public and private correspondence and speeches, have always stressed that Iraq is the central front in al Qaeda’s war against the West. Indeed, al Qaeda’s number two expressed it again in a speech to the world wide umma just the other day. Both Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus said that they had every reason to believe those statements, and evaluated suggestions to the contrary as ridiculous. Moreover, they see the Anbar Awakening movement as having huge ramifications for the world-wide fight against Islamic extremism. And indeed, al Qaeda’s number two has been explicit in saying that destroying the Anbar Awakening movements is one of his top priorities. With those facts in mind, how do you justify pulling out of Iraq, particularly when we have all but defeated al Qaeda in Iraq as of today?

5. You say that we need much more effort in Afghanistan, and much of what we have tried to do is to get NATO to play a much larger role. Indeed, Afghanistan is a NATO mission. Yet far too many of the European NATO nations are, in many ways, not supporting the action in Afghanistan. You have been the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for Europe since the 2006 election, and thus have had significant power of oversight for our relations with NATO nations. Can you explain why you have not held a single hearing to bring pressure on our European NATO allies to fully support the Afghan mission since the 2006 election? And if your answer is because you have been busy with this election, can you tell us why, throughout 2007, you could not forgo your interests for a week to put the interests of our nation in the forefront?

6. We can agree that intelligence is our single most important line of defense in stopping plots of murder and mayhem planned against our country. In the wake of 9-11, when over 3,000 Americans died in attacks on our soil by the acts of an enemy few of us even knew about, U.S. intelligence agencies approached the telecom industry and asked for their voluntary cooperation with intelligence gathering. The companies did not get paid a single dime for their help deemed critical to the defense of our nation. Moreover, the head of our intelligence organizations, Mike McConnell, has since explained on several occasions how vital it is that we continue to get voluntary cooperation across the spectrum of intelligence gathering operations from telecom companies. The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, agrees and that is why both fully support granting the companies immunity from the class action lawsuits that these companies are now facing. These class action law suits are all brought by a Democrat special interest group, the tort bar. The tort bar stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars in their law suits while we, as a nation, risk losing the the very critical voluntary cooperation of the telecom industry in intelligence gathering. You recently voted in favor of the tort bar, to strip immunity provisions for telecommunications companies from the Protect America Act. Could you please tell us why you are supporting a Democratic special interest group over the vital needs of our national security?

7. Iran has been a rogue nation ever since the theocracy was imposed in 1979. That theocracy has a long history of acts of war, directly or by proxy, against the United States. They have been responsible for kidnapping Americans, the torture and murder of CIA agents, the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon and Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. They are an incredibly destabilizing force in the mid-East, essentially controlling Hamas – an organization you said you would not meet with – and Hezbollah. They have supported coups in several neighboring countries. They call for the destruction of Israel and years of talks have not dissuaded them from pursuing nuclear weapons, which now threatens to create a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East. Yet you voted against anything that would even allow the U.S. to use even a threat of force against Iran, and have stated that you will, as President, meet unconditionally with your Iranian counterpart. Iran's goal is very clear - to expand its revolution beyond its borders. What could you possibly offer Iran that would change the inherent nature of the theocracy and move them from their current course?

8. You routinely quote JFK who said that while we should not negotiate out of fear, we should not fear to negotiate. You seem to take that quote out of context. JFK certainly never met with Cuba, nor with North Vietnam, both of whom we had ongoing hostilities with at the time. To the contrary, JFK tried to foster a coup in Cuba and he drastically increased our military involvement in South Vietnam. With those things in mind, many people feel that meeting within the Iranian government for unconditional talks is naive and would be very counterproductive. It would give legitimacy to a government that is responsible for killing American soldiers as we speak and it would give legitimacy to a government that does not have the support of its people. Further, talks with an expansionist enemy have historically proven disasterous. For example, had Europe taken a stand against Hitler in the mid '30's, as Churchill argued, WWII may have been aborted. Instead, Chamberlin held talks with Hitler. That merely emboldened Hitler and, in part, led to World War II, with a loss of lives estimated at close to sixty million people. What makes you think your plans to hold talks with Iran under the current circumstances are, one, justified, and two, would be any less ill advised, counterproductive and disasterous than the attempts to find a middle ground with Hitler in the 30's?

9. We’ve been treated to some of the sermons from your pastor, Rev. Wright. They show a man who appears virulently racist and anti-American. That is buttressed by a number of other facts that we know, such as the Church’s black liberation manifesto reviling "middle-classness," Rev. Wright's close relationship to the racist Louis Farrakhan and, frankly, how in your book, Audacity of Hope, you were moved by a semon which included the assertion that "white folks greed runs a world in need." This raises several questions. Many people are concerned at the incredible dissonance between the sermon’s we’ve heard by Rev. Wright, your supporting his message with large donations to the Church, and yet your claim to be a post racial candidate who can somehow heal partisan and racial divides. We’ve heard you say that you didn’t hear anything like what we are hearing from Rev. Wright while you sat in his pews every Sunday for twenty years. And indeed, you say that the clips the press is playing are taken out of context. Let's take just one of many examples. I find it hard to put into context Rev. Wright's claim that the HIV virus was created by the white government in order to conduct a genocidal attack against African Americans. Can you explain how such an incredible statement by Rev. Wright can be contextualized as anything other than virulently racist and anti-American?

10. It is beyond argument that if a white candidate, such as John McCain, had a close relationship with a virulently racist preacher for over twenty years, and that he described him as his spiritual mentor, that it would raise very serious questions about Mr. McCain’s character and judgment. Is there any reason why, when its you instead of John McCain, a different standard should apply?

11. The sermons we are seeing on the news were not taken by hidden camera. They were recorded by Trinity United and sold on DVD through your Church’s bookstore. They are the "best of" moments. Clearly, the Church was quite proud of these sermons. This would indicate that these sermons were part of Rev. Wright’s mainstream message. That could lead some to wonder if you are being honest in your claims to the contrary and what that says about your veracity, your character and your judgment. In order to resolve these issues, would you make available all recordings you have of Rev. Wright’s sermons and ask Rev. Wright to make his unedited sermons available for the period of time you have been in his church?

12. On the basis of far less provocative speech than Rev. Wright's, you were one of the first people to come out and seek the ouster of Don Imus from his radio program. How do you square this with what appears to be a grossly hyocritical double standard - and by that I mean your twenty years of support for Rev. Wright and Trinity United?


Anonymous said...

That's a great set of question, GW. Too bad they'll never be asked. I'd like to hear the answer.

GW said...

Thanks, Dave. I actually expected some of these from Fox. They need to get their Middle East correspondent, Reena Ninan, and bring her into the inner circle. Her interview of Carter a few weeks ago was superb. I think Wallace and Garrett, both of whom have given soft ball interviews to Obama, are simply afraid of pushing him and possibly burning their bridges. Yet it comes off as craven, to me at least.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Great questions. Submit them to McCain's campaign. They might be used in the debates, should Obama win the nomination.