Other Voices | Wednesdays Wars: Iran Deal – Better than 50-50

Published on May 13, 2015

Congress will get its say, and it will get ugly, but the Iran Deal will make it across the finish line … as it should.

The way things stand now, President Obama will only need one-third plus one vote in one of the Houses of Congress to avoid Congressional rejection of the Iran Deal. We can assume that whatever is in the final product will be disapproved by the Republican-controlled Congress. That’s what they do.

The fun starts when the President vetoes the Congressional Resolution of Disapproval. The Senate will then vote on a Motion to Override the President’s Veto. If all 100 Senators are present and voting, the motion would require 67 votes to succeed. That could happen. Who, amongst the Democratic minority, is going to stand up and fight for their President? Fight like they meant it, and want to win.

Pretty slim pickings, indeed. Minority Leader Harry Reid has announced his retirement and, therefore, has less influence. Likely incoming Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York takes pride in calling himself “Israel’s Protector”.

OK. One would hope he also has some warm feelings towards the USA and its President … we’ll see.

If the Senate were to vote to override the President’s Veto, the matter would go to the House of Representatives.

Thank goodness for the People’s House and for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in particular. Continue Reading……………..

Other Voices | Wednesdays Wars – Dealing with Iran: Not a Walk in the Park

Published on Apr 1, 2015

If you can imagine trying to do two complicated math problems simultaneously while a rabid dog gnaws on one ankle and a furry animal pees on the other, you’ve got a good idea of the task before Secretary of State John Kerry and his team, working with five other countries to get a framework agreement with Iran on their nuclear program and relief from sanctions.

Here are my observations on the process so far. You’ll be happy to know that I have nothing to add on the technical topics … I wouldn’t know a centrifuge from a woodchipper.

Iran. Iran is benefiting simply by being at the table. Their people appear reasonable and likable. Plus, they speak English. It will be increasingly difficult to demonize them and their country.

Obama. President Obama is paying the price for his failure to cultivate good friends in Congress. There have been times when a supportive word for the process of engaging Iran from well-respected people with strong ties to the Jewish community like Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, or Chuck Schumer, would have been helpful. It’s not the Obama way. He doesn’t do the little relationship-building gestures that are the stock and trade of most politicians.

Netanyahu. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a force … there’s no doubt about it. He won his election by doing what he had to do. It wasn’t pretty, but he won. Just this week, he will be hosting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner for separate makeout sessions in Israel.

Netanyahu is the beneficiary of a pathetically docile American press on Israel and the Middle East, and the strongest lobby in Washington … the recently-concluded AIPAC convention drew 16,000 knowledgeable and committed attendees who are willing to put their money where their mouths are. Netanyahu is fond of saying that, “It’s easy to move America.” So far, he’s proven himself right. On the issue of Iran, he has control of the Republican Caucuses in both the House and the Senate. Continue Reading………..

Other Voices | Wednesdays Wars: Netanyahu: Again and Again and Again

Each time it’s pretty much the same.

We’re an ancient people; we’re always threatened; Iran is bad; the US should attack them; never again.

Is the Prime Minister totally unaware of the universal truism: familiarity breeds contempt?

Sometimes a new wrinkle finds its way into a Netanyahu speech.

At his first address to a Joint Meeting of Congress, Netanyahu talked about the generous financial support Israel received from the United States. He went on to volunteer that Israel was on its way to “achieve economic independence” and “total self-reliance”.

That was 1996. He’s still in our pocket for about four billion dollars per year.

So much for self-reliance. So much for independence. So much for credibility.

In his March 3, 2015 speech, his third before a Joint Meeting of Congress, it was the same paint by the numbers formula, but with extra emphasis on blowing up President Obama’s efforts to reach an acceptable deal with Iran that would give that country relief from sanctions in return for keeping their existing nuclear capacity well short of the level necessary to make a bomb.

The fact that Netanyahu got to deliver a speech undermining the President of the United States in the Chamber of the United States House of Representatives is totally unprecedented and, for lack of a better word, creepy.

That’s history. The damage is done. Let me focus on one line in Netanyahu’s speech that hasn’t received attention from commentators. About two-thirds of the way through his presentation, Netanyahu makes the following statement: Continue Reading………..

Wednesdays Wars | Tom Callaghan: A truthful Netanyahu would rip Congress. Like this

Published on Feb 9, 2015

Members of the Congress, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It’s good to be with you for this my third address to a Joint Meeting of Congress. I’m well aware that it is a distinct honor and a rare privilege to address the two houses of Congress in Joint Meeting.


On the plane from Israel, I spent a bit of time studying the history of Joint Meetings, and the people who have spoken before them. The first to speak to a Joint Meeting of Congress was the Marquis de Lafayette of France back in 1824.

He earned the honor of an address to Congress in your Revolutionary War. He fought and was injured at the Battle of Brandywine; spent the brutal winter of 1777-78 with Washington at Valley Forge; and fought alongside Hamilton and Washington at the decisive battle of Yorktown.

Charles Krauthammer and his neo con friends hate it when I speak well of somebody from France. Poor babies. Any student of American history knows the affection the American people had for Lafayette in the early years of the American Republic.

Nelson Mandela has also spoken before you in Joint Meeting. He earned that right by spending 28 years in a South African prison … punishment for his efforts to end the despicable apartheid regime in that country. Mr. Mandela spoke to a Joint Meeting shortly after getting out of prison, and again as President of South Africa.

Mandela’s ability to rise above bitterness and resist the urge to seek revenge on his former tormentors made him one of the giants of the twentieth century. We can all learn a lot from the life of Nelson Mandela.

A number of very distinguished Americans have stood at this rostrum to address prior Joint Meetings of Congress. General Dwight David Eisenhower received the honor twice before being elected president. General Douglas MacArthur, who served with great distinction in World War I, World War II, and Korea, spoke once, as did Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who, on September 2, 1945, accepted and signed for The Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

These five men earned the right to appear before you by decades of selfless service to causes greater than themselves.


Other Voices | Wednesdays Wars: Netanyahu and Boehner – The Unctuous Manipulator and the Useful Idiot

Published on Jan 26, 2015

These two were made for each other. Yiddish describes them best. Netanyahu is a schnorrer, the perpetually uninvited guest that always wants more. Boehner is a schnook, the not-so-bright dupe. Skulking around in the shadows for six weeks, Boehner and Netanyahu hit upon a scheme to benefit each other individually and undermine American foreign policy.

The vehicle: an invitation from Boehner to Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress on February 11. Netanyahu said, “Make it March 3.” Boehner, the perfect schnook, dutifully complied. No heads up was given to the Democratic leadership in Congress or to the White House. Legal? Yes, but absolutely unprecedented.

Netanyahu has an election in Israel on March 17. It’s going to be close. A high-profile speech and a poke in Obama’s eye helps him with his base back home. Why not weasel an invitation out of Boehner to address a Joint Session of Congress where he can insert himself into American foreign policy and try to queer any possibility of peace breaking out with Iran? Plus, the timing is elegant … two weeks before the election back home.

In Netanyahu’s mind, isn’t that what people like Boehner are supposed to do for people like him. Serve Netanyahu’s needs as directed. No need to worry about Obama. He’s already given Netanyahu all he could and, he’s so yesterday. Right, Bibi?

We’ll see.

Boehner is a completely incompetent Speaker of the House. Continue Reading…………

Other Voices | Wednesdays Wars: Barack Obama – Two years to go

Published on Jan 7, 2015

I liked Obama from the beginning. I thought he was, to use the words of the late Stuart Scott of ESPN, cool as the other side of the pillow.

I still like him.

I’m fascinated by the way he goes about the business of being President. Stylistically, he’s no drama Obama. In Obama’s world, things are never as good as they look in the best of times, nor as bad as they seem in the worst of times. Substantively, he is guided by the belief that good policies ultimately make good politics.

His working style is deliberative. He takes his time. He’s from Hawaii. He’s on Island Time. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who worked for Obama and seven of his predecessors, called Obama, “The most deliberative President I’ve worked for.”

Deliberation, however, is not to suggest paralysis. In his book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates reflected on his work with Obama in the planning and execution of the takedown of Osama bin Laden: “I was so proud to work for a President who made one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed at the White House.” Continue Reading………

Wednesdays Wars | Tom Callaghan: Impeachment? Obama Should be so Lucky

Published on Nov 12, 2014

With 36% of those eligible voting, an older, whiter, less-gay electorate than the one that re-elected Obama in 2012 delivered both houses of Congress to Republican control. In other words, the people who watch FOX beat the heck out of the people who watch MSNBC.

The low turnout and the composition of the electorate are typical for off-year elections. Democrats seem to need a visionary-type figure at the top of the ticket (Kennedy, Obama) to drive turnout in elections. Republicans turnout all the time.

The difference between the two parties is amply illustrated by a couple of old adages, possibly attributable to Chris Matthews: 1. Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line. 2. Republicans want a leader; Democrats want to have a meeting.

The challenge for Republicans in the legislative branch will be discipline. They showed good discipline in terms of candidate selection in the last election. Very few, if any, of their candidates were so heavily laden with baggage that they were uncompetitive from the start. Continue Reading………..

Wednesdays Wars | Tom Callaghan: Barack Obama Not a Natural Born Killer

Published on Oct 8, 2014

There’s no doubt about it, Barack Obama is a reluctant warrior. He’s cautious about committing American forces to battle, and equally cautious about ordering military actions that are likely to result in substantial civilian casualties for the other side.

In other words, he brings a pro-life point of view to the table when assessing the efficacy of military action. That should meet with the approval of those on the right, who call themselves pro-life.

But, alas, such is not the case. Their interest in life peaks between conception and birth. Thereafter, it tanks precipitously.

The right equates leadership with a strong jaw, a steady gaze, and a good-looking suit. A strong leader identifies forces of evil, and calls them out.

Reagan was perfect. He identified the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire”. He stood in front of the Berlin Wall and told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. When Reagan left office, the wall was standing.

When our embassies in Beirut, Lebanon were hit in April of 1983 and 69 people were killed, Reagan was resolute. Four months later, the Marine Barracks, also in Beirut, was hit with the loss of 244 American service personnel. Reagan vowed not to be “cowed by terrorists”. Four months later, we were out of Lebanon with no retaliatory response.

We’re talking Benghazi 78 times over. Could you imagine if that had happened on Jimmy Carter’s watch, or Barack Obama’s? A strong jaw and a steady gaze forgives a lot of sins. Continue Reading…………..

Wednesdays Wars | Tom Callaghan: Obama stops the bleeding

Published on Sep 11, 2014

In the wake of an assortment of self-inflicted wounds that left many wondering whether he was on top of the ISIS challenge, President Obama needed to communicate some clarity to the country. He did so last night in a 15-minute prime-time address.

It was crisp, concise and compelling. It should leave the average American … someone who is neither gung-ho Obama nor an Obama-basher … with the feeling that they have a President who is on the case and has a plan that makes sense.

Now that he’s caught up to the power curve, he’s got to get ahead of it. If we have intelligence capabilities that allow our people to listen in on Angela Merkel’s private telephone conversations, we should be able to get some good intel on what’s going on with al-Baghdadi, the boss of ISIS, and some of his top people. A successful hit on the top of the ISIS organization would go a long way towards rebuilding the critical mass of support Obama will need for the remainder of his presidency.

Obama can make it tough on those of us who like him. Who can forget the first debate with Romney in the 2012 campaign? If it was a boxing match, they would have stopped it, and someone would have had to carry Obama out. Almost as bad was a listless press briefing Obama gave about two weeks ago in which he admitted that he didn’t have “a strategy” to deal with ISIS. To add to the weirdness of that statement, Obama was wearing a strange tan suit that didn’t seem to fit him. Continue Reading…………

Wednesdays Wars | Tom Callaghan: Gaza – Who are the Terrorists….Israel or Hamas?

Before this, Israel’s third slaughter operation in Gaza in six years, the average American accepted Israel’s propaganda line that, “Hamas terrorists in Gaza are raining down missiles on Israel, which is only exercising its legitimate rights of self-defense.”

They accepted this explanation because the pathetically timid American press was afraid to ask logical follow-up questions, like:

1. Does Israel’s practice of regularly executing Gaza citizens by bomb or missile attack confer any self-defense rights on the citizens of Gaza? Or …
2. Does Israel’s practice of blockading Gaza and strangling its economy create circumstances under which the citizens of Gaza are allowed to indicate their displeasure with Israel in any way?

Apparently, this kind of follow-up was beyond the capability of most members of the American press.

Thanks, however, to the courage of some on the scene reporting from people like Ayman Mohyeldin of MSNBC, and Nic Robertson and Karl Penhaul of CNN, plus the online activism of Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, and the people at Mondoweiss.net, a more complete picture of Israel’s action in Gaza is emerging.

A few relevant facts: Continue Reading……………