GOP, Can You Spare a Dime?

GOP, Can You Spare a Dime?
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The Snub

The GOP House members did it their way and snubbed President Obama's stimulus package a week and a day after the big party. Not a one voted for the popular Democrat. Some House Democrats joined the no vote.

We shouldn't be surprised. The GOP is feeling slighted these days after eight years of domination so they settled on positioning themselves as the disloyal opposition. Even Rush Limbaugh is making threats to be relevant again, he who received a dinner snub two weeks ago when Obama yucked it up with conservative journalists who really matter.

We all were hoping that Washington would change and that partisan labels would be cut out of Congressional coats, but alas, partisan lines have been turned into a Bud Light commercial: More Cut, Fewer Taxes.

If the public shows it has no stomach for opposing forces in Washington, then 2010 may look even dimmer for GOP hopes.

Let's move from "Muslim World" to Muslim Societies

Kudos to James Glassman, the outgoing undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. First, his position could use a shorter title or acronym. Image czar has been put forward, but that doesn't make sense for a democratic society. Nor does Glassman's suggestion that the public diplomacy undersecretary engage like a military commander in a war of ideas. But Glassman is correct to say that President Obama should drop the use of the phrase, "Muslim world." He used these words in his first TV interview with al-Arabiya. Glassman suggests "Muslim societies" to reflect the different faces of Islam. Says Glassman, "The implication is that all societies with Muslim populations -- from Indonesian to Yemen to India to France -- constitute a monolith. That is simply untrue, and unconstructive."

The same sentiment goes for "Arab Street." There is no equivalent "American Street" so let's drop that reference to Arab public opinion too.

The Obama Channel

Glassman suggests that President Obama should talk to a number of Middle East media, including the U.S.-government radio network Radio Sawa that targets Arab youth. Some years ago Radio Sawa was ridiculed for being the Britney Spears answer to the war on terror. The program format is mostly Western pop music, some indigenous pop, and a little public affairs, a soft sell to get others to support US interests in the region.

Glassman also touts Persian News Network (PNN), a satellite stream in Persian, which garners 28% of the Persian audience in Iran. Al Hurra and Al Jazeera interviews may then follow. So when do we expect Obama to get his work done with all the media interviews? He is no Governor Blagojevich.

Obama Foreign Policy

Today I spoke with a freelance writer for an Italian paper who asked which group of Obama supporters is bound to be the most disappointed with his first week in office. That's easy. My antiwar activist friends are furious with the business-as-usual approach to national security. As friend Leon Hadar wrote in his piece, "President Obama: A Realist Interventionist?"

Some hopes of progressive and libertarian antiwar activists were already dashed when Obama announced he would retain Robert Gates as defense secretary, and nominate Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and retired General James Jones as his national security advisor. The non-interventionists's mood was probably not improved after reading reports about the potential role that former Clinton administration aides like Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, or Richard Holbrooke--known for their pro-interventionist approaches--might play in the administration. Indeed, those of us who were hoping, wishing, and praying for the making of a new U.S. foreign policy paradigm--that would disengage militarily from the Middle East, end the special relationship with Israel, withdraw from NATO, terminate military pacts with Japan and South Korea, and take a less belligerent approach towards Russia--were bound to be disappointed by many of Obama's selections for his foreign policy team.

I've always thought that the Clintonian agenda would bode trouble for early ticket punchers to the Obama anti-war in Iraq train. The "Yes We Can" man of change is appearing to be the centrist pragmatic in office. It's not surprising, but no doubt disappointing to the idealists who imagine a world without war or intervention in Pakistan, Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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