Debating 'The Obama Doctrine' and BokoBrainghazi-Gate



Reagan & Christie clash over whether Obama's cautious "do-no-more-harm" foreign policy fits the times and world after Bush's blunders. And does Fox have a new 2016 anti-Hillary mashup?

On grading "The Obama Doctrine". Is there an Obama Doctrine? Here's our collective version: "Do-no-more-harm after Bush and our advance interests & values without more war."

We listen to Lt. Col. Ralph Peters of Fox argue that Obama wants to be loved but a great power instead should be "trusted, respected and feared" - and we're not. While on his Asian trip two weeks ago, Obama, in effect, rebutted by wondering why success is measured by how much we use our military since that was so "costly to our economy and budget."

Q: doesn't Obama's approach make sense since he ran against "stupid wars" and Americans care more about 'nation-building' at home after Iraq and Afghanistan? Christie doesn't buy the consensus about Bush's failures, instead lauding his "with us or against us" decisiveness. He agrees with Peters that Obama's dithering in Syria and the Crimea has caused problems, something a resolute President Reagan wouldn't have done. "Sounds like my cue" says Ron Reagan, who asks what exactly the US should or could have done in the Crimea ("which was part of the Soviet Union until recently") and in Syria ("bad guys on both sides").

Christie explains that Obama could have used military strikes to take out Syria military defenses and rallied the world to use harsh sanctions to stop chemical warfare. Except, it's pointed out, "take out" means war given missiles, planes, piolets, prisoners...And indeed Obama did consider military force but the English and Congress weren't willing - also, the threat of force did pressure Syria to destroy, so far, 92.5% of its chemical stockpiles.

Reagan generally lauds Obama's restraint while noting that he's been very aggressive with drones and NSA data-gathering.

The two then agree that negotiating a nuclear arms deal with Iran is a worthwhile but difficult effort, and Putin may indeed have blinked (so far) at invading the rest of eastern Ukraine because of Obama's sanctions and promises of worse to come.

Host: do elections matter? Last week Senator McCain said that he'd go into Nigeria with assets/troops "in a New York Minute" to rescue those schoolgirls no matter what its government said. So much for the basis of the UN -- territorial sovereignty. Imagine how many wars we'd now be in if the 2008 election had gone differently?

For those who confuse caution with weakness, the Host offers two historical perspectives: First, strength can come from resisting war like President Eisenhower who well understood its costs (no American soldier died in his eight years), unlike Bush43 who didn't. Second, given the failures in Iraq & Afghanistan, it's the definition of insanity to keep pushing for more wars when we're living with the human and economic consequences of those also launched neo-cons who appear to be dinosaurs largely than the one found in Argentina.

On Rove vs. Hillary + Boko Haram. There's a rough consensus on Karl Rove's highly publicized attack on Hillary Clinton's age and health: a) a presidential candidate's health is a legitimate issue; b) he threw mud; c) he got Both Sides Now to discuss the issue.

RReagan has some personal experience with 69 year old candidates whose age and brain are questioned. He notes that his father was - like McCain later - rightly questioned about his health and that Hillary will be as well. But Rove lied about Hillary for effect (she was in a hospital for three, not 30 days and didn't suffer a "traumatic brain injury").

The Rons discuss how this early 2016 skirmish saw a pattern that will now undoubtedly recur: the GOP attacks the Democratic favorite and her popular spouse "stands by his woman". In this instance, the presumptive candidate also sets off on a month-long book tour thoughtfully explaining her record, making it likely that Rove's brickbats become boomerangs.

Relatedly, critics are now arguing that Secretary Clinton initially refused to put the organization Boko Haram on the terror list (soas not to enhance them) and then later Secretary Kerry did. Will this hurt HRC for 2016? The Rons doubt it since, after Kerry did include them, they kidnapped the school girls in any event.

Host: Rove has a Sharpton-like skill at staying one step ahead of the sheriff. Wayne Slater, author of Bush's Brain, has chapter and verse how Rove was involved with smearing Ann Richards, John Kerry, John McCain, Valerie Plame and others yet has survived to be about the most powerful Republican in the country if you add up his super-pac dollars, WSJ and Fox perches, media sway.

Here he exaggerates for effect, lights a fuse, and then watches to see who's hurt by the explosion. For now he appears to regard Hillary as a Godzilla who has to be stopped before destroying his party. But like the cinematic monster who grows more powerful with more radiation, Hillary's been through this and come out stronger.

Last: she's already using an effective metaphor as a force-field. Her speeches and presumably book argues that at State she "set the table." That's not only a home-y image but also allows her to take credit for anything good that now happens while implicitly acknowledging that there weren't any Chinese, Russian or Middle East breakthroughs on her watch.

On National Popular Vote. With NYS just signing onto the NPV interstate compact, supporters are nearly 2/3 of the way to assuring that a majority (or plurality) vote will elect presidents as they do for governors, senators, congresspeople. Christie likes the electoral college of the Constitution (he's a selective 'originalist' since it's been changed 28 times) while Reagan likes the crowd-sourcing called voting...not to mention that then every vote will count and candidates will appear in states not named Ohio and Florida.

"It's in his kiss" (Michael Sam's, not Cher's, version). Consensus that Michael Sam's natural expression of affection defeats any twitter or, ideally, on-field blowback. After "Ellen" and marriage equality, this seems more like a flare than a fire.

On Commencement cancellations. When Condi Rice withdrew as a paid commencement speaker at Rutgers following student protests, the issue was joined about who decides and are there limits? There' s an agreement that, once chosen, speakers should come and the answer to bad speech/speaker should be more speech. (See, for example, how Columbia president Lee Bollinger invited then Iranian president Ahmadinejad to speak but cross-examined him sharply in his introduction. Reagan wonders whether one limit could be the criminality and immorality of a speaker who condoned torture and misled the country into a war of choice ("we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud").

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

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