"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," - Hillary Clinton
Here is a short assessment of her visit from an LA Times editorial: "In her role as diplomat in chief, Clinton clarified that the Obama administration does not hold the position that our next-door neighbor is about to collapse into chaos. Clinton is right that the Mexican state and civil society remain strong, and certainly Mexico is able to send the army into any municipalityto calm the drug violence, as it has done recently in Ciudad Juarez. But in scores of towns, the civil government and local police are not able to confront the traffickers without the help of the army. The drug cartels have killed thousands and control many more through threats, bribes and taxes. No matter what you call it, that's a problem that both countries must resolve together, as the violence is seeping across the border. "
The Bush administration just threw cash their way instead of fixing the underlying problems. Hillary is offering helicopters, too. A Texas blog, Grits for Breakfast, offers this analysis: "Black Hawk helicopters, for example, will not solve what's essentially an economic and political corruption problem in Mexico, but that's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered them on her first trip down there this week. In many border cities, it's police officers helping smuggle the drugs. Who are you going to use the Black Hawks on, the local police station in Juarez?
Here's a prediction for you: Within the next ten years these helicopters will be used to suppress indigenous uprisings in Mexico's southern states, but they won't put a noticeable dent into drug trafficking. Why would Clinton and Obama want to put themselves in a position of being responsible for that entirely predictable result? Bad idea." We can't solve Mexico's long tradition of police and military corruption, and I'm not sure what they plan on doing to stop the cartel's movements in the USA; probably more border cops focusing on college kids trying to cross back over from Spring Break... It will be interesting when our drug policies are finally confronted, what dialogue might then occur, hand in hand with Jim Webb's prison reform study proposal...
This morning Barack Obama unveiled his plan for Afghanistan. People are now calling it his war, as if he started it. Jon Soltz, founder of VoteVets.org, has this to say: "For those of us who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was extremely important that the new president get the situation in Afghanistan right. Not just for America's security, but for those troops still in Afghanistan, and those heading to Afghanistan to put their lives on the line in the war. With today's announcement, President Obama has shown that he "gets it."
There's a lot to like about the plan. But, there are three key things I'm particularly focused on, that represent a stark departure from the previous administration. They show that this president not only has reasonable goals in the region, but a good idea of what it will take to get there.
Point One: The Military Can't Do It All
The president said today, "To advance security, opportunity, and justice - not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces - we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers.... These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run - because it is far cheaper to train a policeman to secure their village or to help a farmer seed a crop, than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility."
This is key, and something that was lacking in the region for a long time. Those hardline radicals who want to take control thrive on poverty and misery of the people. The single best thing we can do to ensure that the Afghan people aren't so destitute and broken that they're tempted to join these radicals, is to send civilian training and humanitarian aid.
Point Two: Though it's the "War in Afghanistan," we need to treat it like a region
President Obama understands to get the support of the Pakistani people, which will make it easier to get the help we need from the Pakistani government, it takes carrots. And his plan focuses squarely on that. His support for legislation sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years, along with another bill that creates opportunity zones in the border region will go a long way towards getting the cooperation we need to really focus in on al Qaeda, and close in on them from the Pakistani and Afghan sides of the border region.
Point Three: There is a tighter focus, open to reaching out to some of the enemy
Maybe most importantly, this president has given up the pipe dream of setting up a European-style democracy in Afghanistan, and instead has refocused our goals on a more urgent mission - protecting America and the world from terrorism.
We've finally left fantasy-land, where America can simply go somewhere, topple a government, and western-style democracies will pop up and thrive. Afghanistan is a very different beast. And, while the president committed to helping build out infrastructure for the Afghan people, and improve the lives of the Pakistani people, he's not letting dreams of a grand new western democracy get in the way of more practical and tighter goals - namely, fighting al Qaeda and taking the region away as a home base for the terror network, forever.
Now, will everything go exactly according to plan? Of course not. Nor is this going to be quick. But with the points above, and the rest that the President laid out, those of us who served finally have confidence that this President gets it, and will keep us on the right course - the reasonable and practical course. That's something we veterans have been waiting for.
It's sad, really, the state our Congressional Republicans have been reduced to, a gibbering pack of cards. TPM reports on their latest effort to mimic Democratic strategy: "Stung by their stereotyping as the "party of no," House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama's budget today -- but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where's the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?
There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: "The Republican Road to Recovery." When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be -- President Obama aims to halve the nation's spending imbalance within five years -- Boehner responded simply: "To do better [than Obama]."
Glenn Thrush from Politico adds fuel to the fire: “In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.
"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.
"It's categorically untrue," said Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd. "Cantor as well as Ryan and the rest of the leadership have been part of this process for weeks. They not only signed off on it, but their staffs helped edit it."
Cantor and Ryan were reportedly "embarrassed" by the document -- believing it was better to absorb a week of hits from Democrats than to be slammed for failing to produce a thoughtful and detailed alternative. The goal, aides say, was to make Obama's team eat their words by producing a "killer" alternative with far less spending and greater tax cuts." I'm so depressed, I have to finish this and go make myself another cup of coffee... or maybe go out and score some Columbian crank or Mexican heroin...
Late night jokes:
"You can tell it's tourism season in Iraq because today an American had to duck a pair of flip-flops." --David Letterman
"But I was thinking about this. If you want to take a trip, a vacation, to some place where they've got sniper fire, dangerous streets, a lot of goat-based food, and random violence, just come to New York City." --David Letterman
"People were mad that the President preempted 'American Idol.' I mean, halfway into the news conference, fans called in and tried to vote him off." --Jay Leno
"How many watched the President's news conference last night? He got a little testy there, you know. When he was asked why he waited three days to speak out against the AIG bonuses, President Obama said he likes to know what he's talking about before he speaks. So, yet another reversal of the Bush policies." --Jay Leno
"President Obama also announced a major faith-based program. His budget." --Jay Leno
"President Obama held his second primetime press conference last night. He said we're seeing definite signs of progress and that a better day will come. And then he stopped and said, 'Sorry, we're talking about the Knicks, right?'" --Jimmy Fallon
"Many people are complaining, though, that Obama is becoming too scripted. Last night, he was having an intimate moment with Michelle, and she said, 'Wait, are you reading the teleprompter?'" --Jimmy Fallon
"Did you hear about this? Nickelodeon's asking all children to unplug electronic devices for one minute on Earth Day to teach the importance of respecting the environment. I think it's a great idea, unless the kids are visiting their grandmother in a nursing home. Then that one minute is pretty rough. 'SpongeBob killed Nana. What happened?'" --Jimmy Fallon
"In Saudi Arabia, radical clerics want to ban all women from appearing on television. This is really bad news for fans of the hit comedy, 'How I Met Your Mullah.'" --Jimmy Fallon
"Today was the first day of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's two-day trip. She spent the day with President Felipe Calderon discussing the drug violence that's been spilling over from Mexico into the United States, and then flew to Cancun to look for Bill. He's been missing." --Jimmy Kimmel
David Letterman's Top Ten Signs You Work For a Bad Company
10. Workday begins with a pledge of loyalty to Kim Jong Il.
9. If you haven't used your sick days, they infect you with tuberculosis.
8. They claim an excellent rating from the "Better Bidness Bureau."
7. Only office perk is the free oxygen.
6. Instead of raises, everyone is given raisins.
5. CEO recently advised employees to fake their deaths and move to Costa Rica.
4. Blew $40 billion in government bailout funds on a state-of-the-art taco bar.
3. You spend a lot of time opening for Deep Purple (sorry, that's a sign you work for the band Bad Company).
2. Corporate logo is a handcuffed executive being put in a police cruiser.
1. Company gave George W. Bush $7 million for his memoirs