Stenography: Or, Real Journalism at Last

Just like a real fake journalist, I spent some time on a conference call this morning with some of Barack Obama's people and can now faithfully recount to you, the audience, what they told me. One, by way of prebuttal to a foreign policy speech Hillary Clinton will deliver today, Susan Rice outlined three key missteps of judgment she said Clinton had made:

  • Supporting the invasion of Iraq, support that Rice emphasized was not limited to 2002 but extended for several additional years.
  • "Voting to give the president the benefit of the doubt on Iran by voting for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment"
  • Agreeing with Bush and McCain on a Musharraf-centric approach to Pakistan "that short-cited point of view which underplayed the importance of the democracy movement in Pakistan backfired and has left us scrambling to convince the Pakistani people that our interests in Pakistan extend beyond one man."

Scott Gration then said a bunch of stuff that I didn't think was very interesting. Then Richard Danzig emphasized that the Obama campaign's theme of change "extends not just to the domestic world but also very strikingly to the foreign policy world." He alleged that "Senator Clinton is trapped within an establishment view of the world" at a time when "we hugely need to present a new face to the world." But not just a new face in the superficial sense, Danzig said we need to present a new face to the world through some dramatic new substantive policies. He highlighted, in particular, Obama's focus on non-proliferation issues and willingness to support dramatic multi-lateral arsenal cuts and specifically commit to a long-range goal of zero nuclear weapons.

This last bit had resonance for me because I think it's been one of the big under-reported issue arguments of the campaign. Barack Obama and John Edwards both specifically endorsed the Kissinger/Nunn/Perry/Shultz call for a zero nukes policy. Clinton neither embraced nor rejected that view, instead choosing to mischaracterize the issue by writing that "former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have called on the United States to 'rekindle the vision,' shared by every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons." That's just not what they called on us to do, and I'd sort of like to know what Clinton thinks about the issue at hand. And, yes, it's weird to cite agreeing with these four very establishmentarian figures as an example of Obama being willing to buck the establishment.

In other news, I felt that Rice was using a sarcastic tone of voice to convey frustration with the fact that Clinton's campaign has been allowed to get away with waiting until very late in the game to deliver her Major Foreign Policy Address while also billing herself the candidate of substance. Rice also emphasized the idea that Clinton is trying to have it both ways on the experience issue, claiming full partnership in her husband's presidency as a sign of readiness to be commander in chief while also wanting to distance herself from things like NAFTA that may be unpopular today. I thought the hypocrisy allegation sort of lacked bite. Rice and several other Obama advisors worked in the Clinton administration. If they want to say that, in their experience, Clinton didn't play the sort of substantive role she's now saying she played, they ought to come out and say so directly. They were there and we weren't and there's no contradiction between having been involved and sometimes losing a policy argument.

Nota Bene: This sort of big time journalism talking to important people on the phone can be done while wearing pajamas from the privacy of your own home.