Did Rezko’s Iraq investments drive Obama’s Iraq policy?

Michael Barone notes an NRO piece about Barack Obama's shifting position on Iraq:

It has been documented in National Review Online by Peter Wehner that Barack Obama, far from always taking the same position on the war in Iraq, has in fact taken different positions at different times—don't go in, stay in, get out, roughly in order.

Now, Obama shifting his positions around is nothing new. Today it was public funding. Earlier in the week, he was slippery about Iraq. A couple of weeks ago, he slips and slides around on Jerusalem. But Barone continues with a hard allegation via Belmont Club blogger Richard Fernandez writing at Pajamas Media:

Now comes Belmont Club blogger Richard Fernandez with a Pajamas Media blog post suggesting, though not quite charging, that Obama's changes in position were prompted by concern for his longtime patron and friend Tony Rezko, who sought a contract to build a $150 million power plant in Iraqi Kurdistan with some help from a couple of Chicago-based Iraqi-Americans.

Barone says that the question is "worth the attention of investigative journalists." I concur.

Earlier this week, Obama's campaign defended his misstep on Jerusalem on the grounds that he just wasn't that familiar with the debate. Could it be that Obama's well-connected political mentor and long-time trusted friend shared his perspective on the issue. And Obama found Rezko's insights compelling? After all, Syrian born Rezko had many friends in the region like Nadhmi Auchi, who Obama does not remember meeting, even though 2 witnesses place him at a dinner in Auchi's honor.

Sounds like a serious question. Someone should ask it.

AK-AL: *Please* get rid of Don Young

It turns out that the written instruction for Don Young’s interns included directions to, basically, give free reins to certain lobbyists. From The Hill:

The guidelines designate several lobbyists as members of the “A Team.” Interns who answered the phone were instructed to let these lobbyists speak to any staff member requested. …

Members of the so-called A Team include Rick Alcalde of Potomac Partners, Colin Chapman of Chapman Capitol Consulting Group, Randy DeLay of Public/Private Strategies Consult, Billy Lee Evans of Kessler & Associates Business Services, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) of JD Consulting, C.J. Zane of Blank Rome Government Relations and Jack Ferguson of Jack Ferguson Associates. Randy DeLay is former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) brother.

TPM Muckraker, which has the original documents, notes that Rick Alcade is also "the lobbyist on the notorious Coconut Road earmark."

Great. Let’s please get rid of this guy. Go help Sean Parnell and get crooks like Don Young out of office.

Shouldn’t the Senate Banking Chair know interest rates?

Where do the Democrats find people like this? The Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee doesn't know the interest rates:

Roll Call thought this was mock worthy:

Briefly Quoted. “I don’t know what the rates are today.”

— Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), surprising reporters on Tuesday with his unfamiliarity with current mortgage rates. Dodd, who was explaining why he planned to keep his scandal-tarred Countrywide Financial home mortgages, is the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

It sounds like Dodd is either a criminal or criminally ignorant of the area he regulates. Will we ever find out which?

Crossposted from The Next Right.

Shouldn’t the Senate Banking Chair know interest rates?

Where do the Democrats find people like this? The Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee doesn’t know the interest rates:

Roll Call thought this was mock worthy:

Briefly Quoted. “I don’t know what the rates are today.”

— Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), surprising reporters on Tuesday with his unfamiliarity with current mortgage rates. Dodd, who was explaining why he planned to keep his scandal-tarred Countrywide Financial home mortgages, is the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

It sounds like Dodd is either a criminal or criminally ignorant of the area he regulates. Will we ever find out which?

TX-22: Why is Nick Lampson afraid to debate?

Why won’t Nick Lampson debate? What is he afraid of? That people find out that he is well out of step with his district?

A few days after an announcement that U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson and challenger Pete Olson would meet in a chamber-sponsored debate, Lampson’s office has indicated he might not make it.

Huh? A Chamber official is confused:

As for the debate, she added, "we’ve had that set up with him since long before" an April run-off election in which Olson was elected the GOP nominee for the CD-22 seat in the November general election.

"That’s fascinating. I didn’t know; we have not heard this directly," said Olson spokeswoman Amy Goldstein when informed of the news. "As far as we know, it was scheduled; it was a done deal; it is a surprising development."

If he is too afraid to debate, how is he as a "conservative Democrat" going to stand up to Nancy Pelosi?

Go help Pete Olson get rid of Lampson.

Who is politicizing the war now?

Over the weekend, I wrote about a Washington Post forum piece by American Security Project Senior Fellow Bernard Finel, comparing it to an Economist piece on a similar subject.

Finel, who I respect deeply, responded yesterday at the Huffington Post. He called my post "bizarre". I feel like I have to respond, but it is long. If you are interested, the rest is below the fold.

The final paragraph makes clear what his agenda in writing the piece actually is:

For too long, the Bush administration has treated the "war on terror" as a political cudgel rather than a policy challenge. And for too long, we have allowed the administration to play a shell game with this serious threat. The men who attacked us on 9/11 remain at large and continue to lead a dangerous movement that daily plots our demise. Unfortunately, rather than focus directly on this threat, the Bush administration has used it to scare Americans into supporting its policies on Iraq, Iran, and domestically on civil liberties. Worse, they have used the threat in a nakedly political manner, ratcheting up fears when convenient and soft-pedaling them when useful. This permanent campaign mentality -- of doing whatever it takes to win politically at all times -- has distracted the country and made us less safe. Unfortunately, we are now at the point where pointing out this obvious fact comes across as a political attack by "a man of the left" as Soren refers to me.

(side note: who writes at Huffington Post but denies being affiliated with the left? Very weird)

One of the tragedies of the collapse of a real foreign policy consensus is that foreign policy has become a normal political issue. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another intellectually serious man of the left, said:

The atmosphere in which social legislation is considered is not a friend of truth.

This is where we are in foreign policy now.

The left has a serious critique that the timing of the 2002 vote to authorize force was, perhaps, too politically timed. And Republican political consultants will reminisce, although not entirely comfortably, that 2006 and 2008 aren't like 2002 when ads could just bash Democrats on security. I grant all of this.

But let's return to Finel's point. Is he now saying that we shouldn't politicize Iraq? No. He is saying that we shouldn't politicize our successes. He is correct, but he doesn't stop there.

In the above paragraph, he starts talking about Bush and ends with this:

This permanent campaign mentality -- of doing whatever it takes to win politically at all times -- has distracted the country and made us less safe.

Again, he is correct. But it is a problem faced only by his ideological opponents, not his friends. Is there a comparable call about politicizing our failures? Does he offer a condemnation of anyone when any bad day is greeted with immediate calls for withdrawal? Does he condemn MoveOn for dishonest attacks on our soldiers or John McCain? Does he attack Howard Dean or Barack Obama for lying about John McCain with scare tactics about 100 years, dishonestly eliding what the 100 years would be able? Does he attack Harry Reid for politicizing the problems in Iraq? Does he attack Chuck Schumer for saying that Democrats can win seats off of Iraq?

Either Finel is ignorant of the way that policy analysis is used, and then he shouldn't comment on it, or he is being disingenuous in the way that he is addressing the issue. In the end, Finel is marrying serious policy analysis to a completely unserious political analysis.

I think that we can all agree that there are serious policy problems to be addressed here. We need to find some sort of stable situation in Iraq. (note that I don't say "endpoint" or something final. We must understand that whatever happens, we are involved for a long time. "You break it, you buy it.") We need to update Geneva to deal more centrally with the problem of non-state actors. We need to work with our allies, and in some cases, our enemies, to be better peacebuilders. (this is something that, I think, the EU is quite interested in leading) We need to figure out how our trade policy relates to our development policy and our strategies so that we can address the environment in which terrorists are created. (I am uncomfortable with the simplicity of "root causes")

Furthermore, Finel's linking of unserious political analysis with serious policy analysis makes it quite hard to build a serious policy for the future. In the 2nd Bush term, we have made progress in rebuilding our relationships with many European countries and, especially, their leaders. But structural problems remain on things like trade and some security agreements, where Barack Obama's (current?) positions are undermining our relationships with our allies. It is not an accident that David Miliband has questioned Obama's Iran policy and Peter Mandelson has questioned his trade policy.

So, Dr. Finel. Let's be serious here, please? You are unsuited to being a hack, so why go there?

Did Barack Obama not understand Zebari or is he just lying?

Reporters are beginning to notice something quite disturbing. Either Barack Obama didn't understand what Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was saying, Obama is lying about the meeting, or Zebari is lying. However, we have no reason to think that Zebari would be lying, while there is a pattern of Obama at least obscuring the truth about his Iraq position (again, think Samantha Powers), just as he is doing on trade (think Austen Goolsbee). Or he could just be ignorant about what he is talking about, which has become the Obama's campaign's defense about his Jerusalem "undivided" flip-flop under Palestinian pressure.

So which is it?

ABC's Jake Tapper, in a post entitled "Obama and Iraqi Foreign Minister Have Different Memories of their Conversation" recounts asking Obama about this:

At a press availability in Michigan, I asked Obama if Zebari had expressed any concern to him that his plans to withdrawal U.S. troops as president would undo any security advances.

"No, he did not express that," Obama said. "He did emphasize his belief that we've made real progress and I think was eager to see political accommodations between the factions follow up in the wake of this progress.

But Tapper points out ... that's not what Zebari told the Washington Post:

The foreign minister said "my message" to Mr. Obama "was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress." He said he was reassured by the candidate's response, which caused him to think that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain. Mr. Zebari said that in addition to promising a visit, Mr. Obama said that "if there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security. Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field." Certainly, it makes sense to consult with those who, like Mr. Zebari, have put their lives on the line for an Iraq that would be a democratic U.S. ally. Mr. Obama ought to listen carefully to what they are saying.

Recall that this is not all that different from what former Obama advisor Samantha Power said about Iraq in an interview with the Scotsman (via The Democratic Strategist):

“He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. senator,” she said. “He will rely upon a plan — an operational plan — that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.”

At the time, the New Democratic Network's Will Marshall said, in a post called "Political Poetic License":

But the flap obscured another, far more substantive Power utterance, namely a remark she made to the BBC in which she characterized Obama’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months as “a best case scenario.” [...] Here, Power was telling the truth, and a very reassuring truth at that. Of course, it exposed Obama to charges from the Clinton camp that he doesn’t really mean what he says about pulling out of Iraq, any more than he means what he says about renegotiating NAFTA.

So is Barack Obama planning to be responsible but lying about it for political advantage? Or is he just talking about things that he doesn't understand? Both of these have scenarios have precedents in his campaign. Hopefully the press will help us figure it out. But I kind of doubt it.

We are the party of energy

I am (a lot?) less hostile to the global warming people than a lot of other people both in the conservative blogosphere and on this blog. But it is clear that we should be the party that advocates for more energy of all sorts.  You can’t grow your economy if you cannot provide the wattage to run computers, offices, and factories. And you can’t have a high standard of living without air conditioning, small electric gadgets, and cars to take you to exotic places. And those take energy.

Today, the Senate GOP leadership made the clearest statement I’ve seen from them on this subject in a while. They support abundant energy. Good for them.

Senator Mitch McConnell:

“The Democratic nominee for president says that he’s not so troubled by $4 a gallon gas, but concerned about how quickly we got there. I think most Americans believe that $4 gas is too much, whether we got there quickly or slowly.  The gas prices are too high.”

Senator Lamar Alexander

So the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that we understand the law of supply and demand, and they don’t.  We’re ready to find more oil and to use less oil.  They’re only ready to do half of that.”

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

John McCain has come out with a balanced energy plan. … The Democrats, on the other hand, have put forward their plan in Congress and it has no energy supply increase whatsoever — none. The American people will see through this.”

Senator John Cornyn

“Why does Senator Obama refuse to allow us to develop our own domestic energy resources in a way that would reduce this dangerous dependence? That is the question that divides us and the Democrat majority, along with Senator Obama.”

Full press avail transcript after the jump.

<!–break–>

TRANSCRIPT: GOP press avail following the weekly policy lunch

(Gas prices, domestic production, taxes) June 17, 2008

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., Senate Republican Leader

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee

Senator John Cornyn, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference

 

MCCONNELL:  Let me make two observations here at the outset. Number one is I think we all certainly know that gas prices are the number one issue in the country.  The Democratic nominee for president says that he’s not so troubled by $4 a gallon gas, but concerned about how quickly we got there.

 

I think most Americans believe that $4 gas is too much, whether we got there quickly or slowly.  The gas prices are too high.  Senate Republicans intend to continue to continue to discuss this and to advocate policies that we think would have — make an extraordinary difference, in not only, some of it, in the short term, but certainly in the near future.

 

Issue number two, on the tax extenders, it remains the position of the majority of my conference that extending existing tax policy should not be used as an excuse to raise taxes on other Americans.

 

In addition to that being in the House-passed bill that we’re about to vote on for the second time, there are some rather odd riders that have been added by House Democrats.

 

One is a provision to benefit the plaintiffs’ bar by providing deductibility of advance costs in contingency fee cases, another to put in Davis-Bacon riders, and another to fund a project in New York City.  And none of that we think is appropriate for this extender package which ought to be designed to extend current tax law and not raise taxes on other Americans.

 

ALEXANDER:  Our friends on the Democratic side seem to have forgotten half of the law of supply and demand.  If we want to lower gas prices from the $4 levels, we have to honor the supply and demand law.  That means we have to find more, as well as use less.

 

Republicans are ready to do both — to find more and to use less. Democrats are not.  They’re not willing to find more oil.  We believe that it is right to allow governors and states to decide that we should have more offshore exploration, just as four states already do along the Gulf coast.

 

That would give money to the states for education, conservation, and other purposes, money to the treasury, and help — helping find more oil would help to lower the price of gasoline.

 

We believe the same with oil shale.  We could have 2 million barrels a day from oil shale.  American energy now that would help lower the price of gasoline.  We’re ready to do it.  The Democrats are not.

 

We’re also ready to use less.  We’re ready to fully support plug-in electric cars.  That’s 100 percent American energy.  That uses less oil.

 

So the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that we understand the law of supply and demand, and they don’t.  We’re ready to find more oil and to use less oil.  They’re only ready to do half of that.

 

HUTCHISON:  I think the biggest issues that this election will be decided on this year is energy, the cost of gasoline at the pump, the cost of food in the food stores.

 

It is essential that Congress and our presidential candidates state positions clearly.

 

John McCain has come out with a balanced energy plan.  It is going to have more production, conservation, renewables, environmental standards, nuclear power, the cleanest form of energy that we could possibly have.

 

All of these things are a package that Americans will be able to see would give us energy independence by the year 2025.  That is something Americans can grasp as a goal.  And John McCain is putting that forward.

 

The Democrats, on the other hand, have put forward their plan in Congress and it has no energy supply increase whatsoever — none. The American people will see through this.  They will see that you cannot have energy self-sufficiency by the year 2025, to keep our national security, to keep our economic security, without more supply.

 

A balanced approach is what Republicans are putting forward.  And I hope that the American people will study this issue and realize that we can do something.  This is America.  We can do it if we just have the will to do it.

 

CORNYN:  Let me read you a quote from Senator Obama.  He said, "Our dependence on foreign oil strains family budgets and it saps our economy.  Oil money pays for the bombs going off, from Baghdad to Beirut, and the bombasts of dictators from Caracas to Tehran."

 

He said, "Our nation will not be secure unless we take that leverage away.  And our planet will not be safe unless we move more decisively toward a clean energy future."

 

We agree with Senator Obama.  But that leads to the next question.  Why does Senator Obama refuse to allow us to develop our own domestic energy resources in a way that would reduce this dangerous dependency.

 

That is the question that divides us and the Democrat majority, along with Senator Obama.  But, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, 67 percent of the respondents believe that we should explore in the Outer Continental Shelf, in the submerged lands on our shoreline; 64 percent said they expect that that would lower gasoline prices, and I believe they’re right.

 

But that is the question really that Senator Obama and the majority need to answer and one of the big divisions that separates us.

 

Rezko lied to help Obama

Soon after Tony Rezko's indicted on 16 of 24 charges, Rezko claimed that federal prosecutors (translation: George Bush stooges and GOP operatives) pressured him to tell them things about Barack Obama:

Two months before he was convicted of federal corruption charges, political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko told his trial judge that "overzealous" prosecutors were pressuring him to tell them about any wrongdoing involving Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama or Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But in a two-page typed letter, Rezko said he was never involved in any wrongdoing with either of the Democrats and wouldn't make up stories about them in an attempt to benefit himself.

But there's a catch. Now his lawyer says that no meeting with prosecutors ever happened. Rezko said that he would make up stories about Obama to help himself. It does seem that he would make up stories about himself to help Obama though.

Obama's friends really care for him. Too bad they are so scary.