It's a pity that the Sunday shows don't just do a pool report on days like today, because the variety of questions that Susan Rice is likely to the peppered with is likely to be rather small, and chances are, each ensuing Sunday show will just ask the same ones, as if they were the first.
Anyway, here's Susan Rice, to begin her grim Sunday show march. Wallace wants to know if she "actually believes" the contention that all this anger is not being directed at the White House's policies, btu she says, "absolutely I believe that because in fact that's the case," and she goes on to describe the weird, hateful little video that apparently ginned up, or provided a convenient excuse, for this anger. Rice says that "our partners and allies" have responded sufficiently to these problems, which I do not thing is true, based on the evidence. But Rice says that in Egypt, when President Obama called President Morsi (who I always hear as "President Morrissey"), the embassy there got what it needed in terms of protection. (But it would be nice to not have to ask, right?)
Wallace is all, "Then why are you pulling personnel ot of the Sudan?" And Rice is all, "Yo, Sudan be cray!" Kidding. She says that they have "on a selective basis" asked family members and non-essential personnel to get the heck on up out of Sudan and Tunisia as soon as humanly possible. These conditions, she says, are only temporary. Which is good news for everyone who is non-essential and looking to get back to the Sudan!
Who wouldn't like to have "non-essential" stamped on their business card, along with the address of some historically dangerous international hotbed? "Don't worry, mom, I'll be okay in Somalia. I'm totally non-essential...yes, yes, they call me the most unneeded man in Mogadishu. My whole existence here is a mystery that have puzzled the seers for generations. Basically I make copies. Yes, mom, I know that I could be making copies in Duluth. Sure. Let's just say I've made some odd life choices. Zigged when I should have zagged, as it were. Let's just try to see the upside to my non-essentialness, okay. Bob, who runs the embassy's NCAA brackets? He has to stay when everything goes sideways."
Rice underscores that all this anger is totally not being directed at the United States, and its proximate cause is definitely the dumb little video, don't worry about it! You should have seen the Egyptians when Ryan Reynolds "GREEN LANTERN" movie failed to deliver!
Meanwhile, what about Israel? Bibi Netanyahu is getting more hot and bothered by the day over Iran, and now President Obama won't sit down for finger sandwiches with him, and have another session where they get to dispense platitudes afterwards. Rice insists that the U.S.-Israeli relations in the area of security and bomb-lovin' have never been stronger. "And that's in their words," Rice says, referring to Ehud Barak's comments from July, which he probably made on a brief break he took from hugging all the bunker-busters we sent them, which he likes to hug, I am imagining.
"The overall nature of our relationship is very strong, stronger than ever," Rice says. And we still have "everything on the table" as far as stopping Iran goes, she says, and what's more, we have "time and space" to let the sanctions work. But, she says, "the only way to permanently end Iran's nuclear threat is for Iran to give that up." She is sort of against the notion of rushing off to war with Iran, saying that probably every other non-war option is exhausted.
Also, on the whole Bibi-meets-with-Obama tip, apparently their schedules don't match, oooh, sorry about that, only probably someone could move something around to make it happen? Of course, we are just talking about two leaders coming together to have some brief discussion, the content of which we'll never hear, anyway. But that's "international relations" -- rich dudes from all over the world coming together to eat crudites for a few minutes in exchange for goofy platitudes about "friendship" and "special relationships."
Rice says that Obama and Netanyahu are totally friends and that "when friends need to say something to each other, they pick up the phone and talk." SO NOT TRUE. In fact, in 2012, I think that one of the last things that actual friends do anymore is pick up the phone and talk to each other. Friends send text messages like, "OMG I can't believe RG3 is so dope, HTTR!!" or "Check out this amazingly cute puppy I just saw," or "Here are thirteen Instagrams of the entree I just had." And you sit back and you get these texts and you think, "God, I have the best friends in the world, friends that recognize that one of the last things I want to do right now is talk on the mother-licking telephone right now."
You know who calls you up on the phone? People who want your money or attention. People who want you to vote for them. Evan Bayh's publicist, who wants to complain that it was totally unfair for you to refer to him as a lobbyist, but strangely doesn't object to where you called him a "clapped-out syphilitic jerk." People of authority, who are always riding you about how you were "supposed to show up at county lockup" that morning to begin your "thirty day sentence" for "public indecency" and "where are you?" These are the people who call you on the phone.
Also, your very old parents and grandparents. You should forgive them for this, they love you very much.
Anyway, Rice says there is "no daylight between" us and Iran when it comes to keeping Iran from having a nuclear weapon.
As for the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Rice says that, contra earlier reports, this "was not a pre-planned attack" on the facility. It was a gathering of protestors that escalated when people with heavy weaponry showed up and things got out of control. Rice says that people walking around with heavy weaponry is just something that's happening in "post-revolution Libya," which we would probably already know if we'd been reading TIME OUT: BENGHAZI all this time.
Now here is Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, three words that are traditionally a mash-up of fourth-dimensional oxymoronism. What does he think about all the anger? Was it policy-based or based on the dumb little video? Rogers says that the prudent thing to do is to weigh all the evidence when it comes in. He is not as confident, however, that the attack in Benghazi was not something planned in advance -- he says that there is evidence of coordination, and the attackers that gathered were able to hold off a significant countering force.
Rogers says, "We know that there is some strong interest to attack Western targets...we can't say for certain that it was an al Qaeda event, it just has all the hallmarks" of one. He says that the Libyan consulate effort in Benghazi was "expeditionary" and now needs to be re-evaluated in terms of the needed security. He is pretty confident that they will collect the needed forensic evidence to get a clear picture of what happened.
What of Rice's contention that these attacks are inspired solely by the video and not by larger administration policies? Rogers says that he doesn't believe it was inspired solely by the video: "I think that this a convenient effort by all the groups who have ulterior motives." He says that in Egypt, a lot of the people who showed up to protest "hadn't even seen the video," rather, a lot of grievances, from economic to sectarian, are "simmering," and that "our lack of leadership, or at least clarity is causing problems." He recommends that we not "rally around" the notion that this video is the whole of our problems, and that our "policies have consequences." Rogers says we have to "be a part of it," but that it doesn't mean "miltary" stuff or "spending billions of billions of dollars." "You need very direct conversations and public conversations." On the phone, I guess!
Anyway, Rogers would prefer that this matter be tended to without regard for the 2012 horse race.
Should aid to these countries be cut off until such time as it's demonstrated that our embassies can be protected? Rogers says that protecting embassies are an obligation that's not tied to foreign aid. That said, "aid should be conditioned," he says, and that "it should be okay to ask for something that's in our best interest." I had no idea anyone was arguing otherwise? The good news about our embassy in Strawmanistan is that the arsonists burn down more quickly than the facility.
Now we'll have a roundtable discussion that will solve everything forever with Brit Hume and Liz Marlantes and Bill Kristol and Jeff Zeleny. Juan Williams has the weekend off, which he is probably spending at home, being ridiculed behind his back by his family.
Brit Hume, he HATES the President's policies in the Middle East. "It looks a litte ragged," he says. "I think we're seeing this week the further education of a President who is a foreign policy novice." Marlantes says, simply, that the "reset" between us and the Middle East, has been "hard-going." She doesn't think that Obama was necessarily projecting an easy-peasiness over U.S. relations with that region, but agrees with Hume that there were, certainly, some "inflated expectations," that a page could simply be turned and fresh start achieved.
Kristol says that yes, Obama's policies have contributed to the unrest, and that he "wishes it was not the case" because boy howdy, for a while there it sure looked like the administration was doing what he wanted in Afghanistan and such (bombing, bloodletting), but now it's reverted back to something more wish-wash, and it's just terrible to see people criticizing this anti-Muslim video at all.
"It's like a parody of going back to the 1990s," he says. I liked the 1990s, frankly.
Jeff Zeleny has a halting monologue about how if the things we think we know turn out to be wrong and we end up knowing other stuff that we don't already know, we're gonna be like, "Whoa, check it out," depending on how whoa-worthy the stuff we don't know ends up being compared to the stuff we know now.
He also humblebrags that he was at the Cairo speech, and boy does it seem "quaint" now, because all this other stuff happened. "I think there's time for a reset of that reset," he says, apparently.
Hume says that the White House's approach to the Arab Spring got a "mixed set of results." He also says that "militants" only respect "power and force" and that our pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan probably looks like opportunities to them. We should totally stay in these countries, engendering the antipathy of non-militants, spending all of our money, and getting the wheels of our industry and thrift choked in the quicksand of the graveyard of empires, because that's how you teach the weird death-cultists of al Qaeda to "respect" you.
Let me just print this whole section from a 2001 interview with Robert Fisk (hat tip: Gawker):
Fisk: If it is bin Laden, he's a very intelligent guy. He's been planning his war for a long time. I remember the last time I met him in 1997 in Afghanistan. It was so cold. When I awoke in the morning in the tent, I had frost in my hair. We were in a twenty-five-foot-wide and twenty-five-foot-high air raid shelter built into the solid rock of the mountain by bin Laden during the war against the Russians. And bin Laden said to me (he was being very careful, watching me writing it down), "From this mountain, Mr. Robert, upon which you are sitting, we beat the Russian army and helped break the Soviet Union. And I pray to God that he allows us to turn America into a shadow of itself." When I saw the pictures of New York without the World Trade Center, New York looked like a shadow of itself.
Bin Laden is not well read and he's not sophisticated, but he will have worked out very coldly what America would do in response to this. I'm sure he wanted America to attack Afghanistan. Once you do what your enemy wants, you are walking into a trap, whether you think it's the right thing to do or not.
Q: And what is that trap?
Fisk: To bring the Americans in, to strike so brutally and with so much blood at an innocent Muslim people that an explosion comes throughout the Middle East. Bin Laden was constantly revolving in his mind the fact that he had got rid of the Russians; therefore, the Americans can be got rid of, too. And where better than in the country where he knows how to fight?
As things continue, it will be more and more difficult for the dictators, kings, and princes in the Middle East to go on justifying this. They are going to have to start saying, "No, stop." When they do that, the United States is going to have to ignore them. Once they are ignored, they lose the last element of respect. The longer this war goes on, the better for bin Laden.
We put bin Laden on the bottom of the ocean. Hume seems to want us to join him there. Because: RESPECT, BLARGLE.
Anyway, some horsey-race stuff, maybe? Hume says that Romney's response to the embassy attacks was "correct but clumsy" and the media was just terrible for making a bigger deal out of his response to the crisis than the crisis itself. Hume hasn't seemed to have grokked that Romney summoned the media and specifically requested that they make a huge deal out of his response! It just turned out that his response was pretty daft, and people noticed it, but the larger intent, from Romney, was to get his "No Apology" line out there, as a dominant part of the narrative.
What Hume is complaining about is a play that Team Romney drew up on the whiteboard, and they more or less got the result they wanted.
It's all still insufficient, from Kristol's perspective, who still wants Romney to not be "timid and silent" about "laying out their foreign policy agenda." He says that the "Romney people" he's talked to are "very spooked" about talking about war, and that they're likely to be exceedingly cautious, and Kristol wants none of that. "Which convention did they talk more about war and Afghanistan?" he asks. "The Democratic one." And that's to what Kristol attributes Obama's sudden bounce -- the nation is now terribly thrilled by the thought of John Kerry slaking his metaphorical thirst in the metaphorical blood of our enemies at a fancy party for rich donors in downtown Charlotte.
Wallace notes that the last bold thing the Romney camp did was pick Paul Ryan. Zeleny says that Romney's camp has been frustrated, but they aren't of the mind that they are "losing." Rather, they are dismayed that nothing they do seems to allow them to take advantage of the moment. Romney's team, for example, thought that the jobs report would reset the race. I'd say that maybe the problem the Romney camp is having is that they are not telling an affirmative story about why their candidate is awesome, they seem to think that the race is one that can be one with nothing but day-to-day political tactics. Hume agrees: "If he hasn't stepped up as a plausible alternative, he'll lose."
THIS WEEK WITH PRESUMABLY GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS BUT YOU NEVER REALLY KNOW
Wow, did my TiVo even record THIS WEEK this week? Oh, yes, it did. I just missed part of ABC's long, silly introductory package, with action shots of their roundtablers walking around the Newseum. And yes, no Stephanopoulos here, today. Jake Tapper is here. He tells us, once again, that Stephanopoulos "has the morning off," but we are no longer even pretending that his day off is "much deserved." Because how can we go on believing that? It is impossible. No one deserves that many days off.
Anyway, we'll begin with Susan Rice, again. She says that "our current best assessment" is that the events in Libya "began as a spontaneous, not pre-planned, response" to what was going on in Cairo, and "as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked by clusters of extremists." Or security "didn't prove sufficient" and that's why our security at embassies "has been reinforced."
Tapper asks why not have Marines at the Embassy in Tripoli to begin with, to which Rice responds, "our presence in Libya is relatively new." Which would tend to be the sort of condition you might bring a few Marines along for the ride, in order to stave off the sort of things that happen when you are "new to Libya."
Tapper asks why the U.S. is "more impotent" and "less popular" than we were four years ago. Rice says neither is true. "I don't know on what basis you make that assessment," she says. Tapper responds, "It just seems that we're powerless as this maelstrom erupts." Rice says that "what happened this week" was "a direct result of a heinous and offensive video." Tapper and Rice spar over President Morsi's response to the crisis, which Rice depicts as adequate but Tapper notes took two days to come.
Rice says that the counter-demonstrations, in which Libyans expressed regret over the Benghazi attacks with homemade, are far more reflective of sentiment towards the United States in the Middle East. (I don't see many signs like that in Syria or Bahrain, though!)
Is Egypt currently an ally? Because we have sent them a bunch of cash. So why did President Obama call them "not an ally, not an enemy, not a girl, not yet a woman?" Rice says that Obama has been "clear" that Egypt is "a very critical partner of the United States" and that "everybody understands that." Which...does not seem to be the case? Also, he was not "signalling a change in the nature of our relationship"...but he said that Egypt was a new government sort of finding its way, so clearly the idea was that there was a change in our relationship? Anyway, I guess the salient point is that the Obama administration is surprised that anyone was watching Telemundo.
Anyway, we are frenemies with Egypt, I guess. We, like, don't have to invite them to our wedding but they show up in our Facebook comments from time to time and we just have to deal. Also, sometimes, someone's stuff gets burned to the ground. This is, in many ways, not that different than the conditions that currently exist in most tony New York City private schools.
Was Obama trying to "nudge" Morsi? Rice says there was no nudge. We'll see Rice again, when we start watching FACE THE NATION. In the meantime, POWERHOUSE ROUNDTABLE TIME, Y'ALL!
Oh, no! Sorry. It's like, ABC reporter hang-out time! We have Martha Raddatz and Christiane Amanpour. We also have Brian Ross, who is "America's Wrongest Reporter." So, while Amanpour has met with and interviewed just about every key regional power-player at the center of the crisis, Ross probably is following up on some hot rumors that he picked up on the Craigslist BDSM personals page.
Amanpour says that the governments in Egypt are saying that they don't support the disruptions and are desirous of having their relationship with the United States back on the right track. But the governments of Egypt and Libya do not have sufficient control -- and this especially true in Libya, where everyone seems to be armed to the eye-teeth.
Ross tells Tapper that there's total concern that these attacks could come "to the homeland," but that the recent weird spate of bomb threats are not part of some organized effort to create a disruption here.
Raddatz says that Tapper asked Rice a good question about why there weren't Marines in Tripoli: "I'm pretty sure there are Marines in Paris, so why not Tripoli." (I'm guessing because Paris is awesome, and that you can get killed in Tripoli?)
Ross says that the guy who made the weird video that's at the center of this was "trying to stir things up" and was seeking to "create a hate film." Amanpour says that one of the more "dastardly" things about the filmmaker is that he pretended to be Jewish, in order (it is presumed) to maximize the rabid response. As it happens, the guy behind the video is a Coptic Christian. Many, many Copts live in Egypt -- Amanpour says that her government sources are expressing a fervently trying to tamp down tensions.
Tapper asks Raddatz what message the U.S. is sending the Middle East by staging the largest naval exercise in history near its shores. Raddatz says that "it's a pretty obvious message to Iran...don't even try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz."
Amanpour says that her sources indicate that Israel, internally, is starting to "walk-back the idea of a unilateral attack on Iran." This, she says, doesn't necessarily mean that there is a heightened prospect for "proper negotiations" that could end up resolving some of the tensions. But, hey, we may make it to New Years without being face-down in a bunch of new wars.
Brian Ross says that Iran is "four to six weeks away from having a nuclear weapon" if they "choose that path," and Raddatz and Amanpour immediately jump in and assert much longer timetables for such an event, leaving Ross to circle back and say, "Well, that's the latest claim."
Okay, well, we have survived Brian Ross, anyway.
Okay, so, it's now time to have a Roundtable Discussion that will be a Powerhouse, according to ABC News, who insist I capitalize all of those words. Providing the talkholes today are George Will and Liz Cheney and Jonathan Karl and Gwen Ifill and Wesley Clark, who will come in fouth today, because that's what he does -- come in fourth in things.
Tapper asks if the Romney camp's contention that there would be a significantly different situation in the Middle East right now if there was a President Romney, and Will says, "No," attributing that sort of claim to "superstitions" about the nature of "presidential power" that gets exacerbated during an election year to the point of narcissism. George Will, I guess, does not go in for a lot of Green Lantern theory.
Cheney is pretty sure that Romney's response to the crisis was super awesome and that the President's statement is the one that should be getting criticized -- because he failed to mention Cairo in a statement about the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Anyway, Cheney blathers through a wonderment of Romney talking points, up to and including blaming the President for the Budget Control Act sequestration cuts to the defense department, which Romney's own running mate, Paul Ryan, praised to the skies as a vital demonstration of bipartisanship and a "huge cultural change" for Congress.
Clark disagrees, and insists that Obama has "taken the argument away from the other side," and has been "strong and visionary and tough and decisive" and "other nations seem to be happy" and we have "the strongest relationship with Israel that, like, we've ever had." And so Wesley Clark is convinced, okay!
And polls, for what it's worth, agree. Currently, Obama leads Romney on handling foreign policy and terrorism by double digits. But things could change, as Jonathan Karl points out. "Liz, despite what you're saying," Karl says, "I don't think the Romney campaign thinks they got their response right."
Karl says that trouble in the Middle East could "erode the President's numbers," which has still got to be low on the list of "Stuff I Am Worried That Trouble In The Middle East May Have An Effect On."
Ha, ha. Liz Cheney says, "I want to clarify, I think that the Governor went out and handled it right when he condemned the Embassy statement." That was, like, the one thing you didn't need to clarify, Liz! She and Wesley Clark argue about whether or not we're weaker with Obama in office.
Karl asks Wesley Clark, "Aren't you uncomfortable that at a political convention, a military operation was used as a talking point?" I mean, perhaps Jonathan Karl was born yesterday, and has grown to be a bespectacled man-child who missed the whole "2004 GOP 9/11 Convention in New York City, Sponsored By 9/11 at Madison Square Garden, Near Where 9/11 Happened 9/11 9/11, OMFG!"
Anyway, Wesley Clark isn't so much "making the case for Obama's foreign policy" as he is "deploying the best and most awesome adjectives he can think of as modifiers to the noun 'Obama's foreign policy.'" So it's "robust and big and muscular" and I'm like, "Dude, if Obama's foreign policy was a cabernet sauvignon I would drink the bejeezus out of it."
Will tries to calm everybody down by pointing out that despite the ability of the mass media to get chaotic pictures into the slipstream, the world's always been a generically dangerous place and the truth is you have a lower chance of "getting killed as a result of organized state violence" now than at "any time since the 1920s." Which is awesome, so long as you aren't born in Syria tomorrow!
There might be a delicious tension to be had between Cheney's histrionics and Will's calm reserve but Clark is stepping in to Galahad his Obama surrogacy, so the conversation is tilting, inevitably, into the horse-race quicksand.
Will says that he's not sure where Netanyahu wants the "red line" drawn with Israel, just because it's so hard to have total confidence in the intelligence gathering that's ongoing where Iran's nuclear developments are concerned. In the case of the Obama administration, they've placed a faith in the intelligence community's ability to give them a "long lead time" in determining how far along Iran is, a faith that Will believes is misplaced.
There is a longer conversation about "red lines" and "markers" and "indicators" and Clark says that no President will publicly state a "red line" that "surrenders their decision-making." These red lines, I think, are drawn with crayons.
It's amusing to hear Cheney talk about the limits of our intelligence-gathering ability and how Israel had better intelligence on Iraq's WMD program than we did, and aw shucks, you know? (The larger point, of course, is that the only people with the wrong idea on Iraq-related intelligence were the losers her dad was listening to. Nevertheless: LOL.)
Horsey-race time. Obama's been pulling away in various polls, especially in swing state polls. Will notes that in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, there are GOP governors that are "bragging" about the economy getting better, and maybe that's not helping Romney -- it's a "disconnect" between the "interests of the GOP governors and the Romney campaign."
Karl says that the Obama campaign is outspending Romney in Ohio, and battering Romney over the auto bailout.
Clark and Cheney seem to want to litigate the political arguments that were ongoing two weeks before anyone decamped to Charlotte and Tampa, with Cheney saying that the Obama administration won't run on its record and Clark pointing out that everytime the Obama administration points out that they created 6.4 private sector jobs, they are running on their record. (Clark points out that this record includes public sector job loss -- the words "private sector" do a lot of heavy lifting! But the Romney campaign is clearly not going to bemoan the fact that public sector jobs were lost. If anything, not enough public servants ended up on the street to Romney's liking.)
Will is not a fan of quantative easing, in case you've not been paying attention to George Will, and, indeed, woke up this morning wondering who this George Will fellow is.
Argh, Jonathan Karl...he is all, "I think that this is an extraordinary move before an election, and I think there will be a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about clipping the Fed's wings and getting them back to their original purpose of fighting inflation." Dude. The move coming before the election is purely co-in-ci-dental. The move comes because people are all unemployed, up in this piece. And, in fact, the Fed's original purpose is adual mandate -- price stability and full employment, brah.
You think the Fed needs to get back down to fighting inflation? That's like saying the Air Force needs to start fighting the frigging Hittites. There is tolerable level of both inflation and Hittites, as far as the Federal Reserve and the USAF are concerned. Good God, man. Let's not be silly!
Gwen Ifill, bless her, says that everyone putting these events through a political lens is stupid and, in fact, there's nothing the Fed has done that will impact anything over the next seven weeks. Liz Cheney pushes back, essentially saying, "Politics, politics, horse race, neigh neigh, whinny, bag of oats."
FACE THE NATION
Bob Schieffer talked with Mohammed El-Magariaf, the President of Libya's National Congress, who says about fifty people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, most affiliated in some way with al Qaeda, and most of foreign origin (Mali and Algeria). He says that "these ugly deeds...do not resemble in any way, in any sense, the aspirations of Libyans towards the United States and its citizens." He says there "is no doubt that the attack was pre-planned," and "definitely planned by foreigners."
"The security situation," he says, "is difficult, not only for Americans, but for Libyans as well." Will it be safe for the FBI investigators? He says, "Maybe it will be best for them to stay away for a little while." (The problem with that is that the FBI team is there to collect forensic evidence and conduct investigations.)
Once more with Susan Rice. She says, once again, that the violence was not pre-planned, but was a spontaneous demonstration that was joined by militants and spun into something more violent. She does not agree with El-Magariaf's conclusions, in that regard. She won't definitively rule out the possibility of al Qaeda/foreign involvement.
As before, Rice dismisses Romney's charges of administration weakness as "baseless."
GOOD NEWS FOR JOHN MCCAIN. He was booked on this show. He says that the attack was an "act of terror" and that "there's no doubt the attackers were extremists" and well organized, so he doesn't think that this was spontaneous. He also says that America is weakened and we need to stop telling the Afghan people that we aren't willing to stay in their country forever, and on top of that we should expand our wars to Syria, etc., etc. McCain wishes we were not leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, and beseeches us to remain continually engaged with our own slow-motion gravediggers.
This goes on for a while. Schieffer asks what the "red line" should be with Iran. McCain says that the "red line" should be when the Iranians are capable of assembling a nuclear weapon, and that the administration's "red line" is when they have a nuclear weapon. McCain says, "Do you think that the Israeli government would readily rely on us at the moment? I don't think so."
"We should be assisting these countries," McCain says. Were we not assisting Libyans?
Did Romney speak inappapropriately? McCain says that the Embassy in Cairo made a "semi-apology" so of course Romney was right to criticize it, as are all fat and happy people sitting in comfortable offices on cushioned chairs thousands of miles removed from even the slightest worry or care. Let the safest among us judge the actions of those who stand surrounded by angry mobs, of course.
Apparently, the "Arab world will be celebrating if we deal this blow to the Iranians," according to McCain. Maybe getting the region to calm down and love us really just is knowing what combination of Middle Eastern people to kill, and in what order. It's like Guitar Hero, or something! If we just get the bass line for "Barracuda" down, people will stop setting our embassies on fire.
Oh, boy. I think I am going to end up burning some effigies because of this ensuing chat panel, which includes Martin Indyk, Richard Haass, and Thomas Friedman. Know what? Nope. Nope. Not going to subject myself to this. Sorry. SHUTTING THIS DOWN.
Just get me to the part where John Dickerson is on the teevee, please.
Ahh, here we go, David Sanger and Bobby Ghosh and John Dickerson, but they have opted to not fumigate the room of the Tom Friedman infestation, on the grounds that "he qualifies as a reporter" because of his courageous cab-driver and hotel-concierge journalism that he has spent several minutes of his life conducting.
So, more about "red lines." Where will they be drawn, and who will draw them. Romney's "red line," Sanger says, seems to be "we can't let Iran get a screwdriver turn away" from a weapon, which is "pretty close to what Israel's red line" is. But in another interview, Romney, "forgot his own position" and instead drew it where Obama does, which is "we can't let Iran get a weapon." Which...doesn't sound much different than "one screwdriver turn away," except for the fact that the latter makes me feel like adding vodka to orange juice, in sufficient quantity to stop worrying about Iran.
Dickerson says that Romney could have held off this week, and done the whole 'politics stops at the water's edge' thing, but he opted instead to "jump at the moment" and accuse the president of weakness, in order to "attach a longer critique" to the situation. That's a risk, in Dickerson's estimation, but it comes from knowing that the Obama administration is not "in a strong horse mood," and would like to get through the next few weeks without a big foreign policy challenge. The reality, as Dickerson points out, is that in a period of ongoing foreign policy challenges, there is a greater chance for Obama to make "unforced errors."
Friedman says that we've "gone from a connected world to an interconnected world to an interdependent world" and did this moment call for a recitation of Friedman's ur-thesis from every single one of this books? Anyway, he has to be sad that they are torching the Krispy Kremes on the Arab peninsula.
Ghosh notes that there is a healthy, organized relationship between "outrage makers" and "outrage takers," and the machine gets ginned up quicker and more irrationally than local leaders can cope with at the moment. He says, all the same, that the U.S. has a role to engage in, in the region, and the case for engagement has only gotten more persuasive, with the advent of these new democracies. "The problem is finding the language...how they can talk with us, how we can talk with them." And the tragedy is that a guy like Ambassador Stevens is dead, while the outrage-cycle, fueled by crackpots on YouTube, cycles on.
Sanger says that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo's statement was, to his mind, a bog-standard missive intended to urge calm and restraint that became a stupid "political football" in an election year. Bingo. Cut it, print it.
Dickerson, on that horse race, says that Obama's "fought Romney to a draw" on the public perception of who is better suited to manage the economy. Moreover, Romney didn't get a tremendous bounce out of the conventions, but the good news is that he's definitely not lost independent voters yet. Lastly, a wise warning -- there's nothing that says elite polling opinion eight weeks out from an election is a mortal lock on anything.