Tag Archives: State Department

Ted Cruz: Texas-sized embarrassment

Ted Cruz is my senator. I accept that he’s one of two men who serve in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Texas.

I didn’t vote for him in 2012. I likely never will vote for him for anything. Still, he’s my senator.

And that gives me the right to declare that I am ashamed of him. Deeply so, in fact. His latest shameful attack has been leveled at the State Department, the Federal Aviation Administration and the president of the United States over his idiotic suggestion that the FAA ban on U.S. flights to Israel is somehow intended to do actual harm to our strong ally in the Middle East.


This guy is a Harvard-educated lawyer, right? He’s supposed to be a bright guy, correct? What on God’s Earth is he suggesting here? It cannot possibly be that President Barack Obama actually wants Israel to be wiped off the map, which is what the Hamas terrorists want to happen.

Hamas launched the conflict in Gaza by firing rockets into Israel. The Israelis have responded with tremendous force to put down the uprising. The terrorists have ratcheted up their own response by landing a rocket near the major international airport outside of Tel Aviv.

The FAA suspended U.S.-carrier flights for less than two days. The ban has been lifted. Cruz, though, has suggested the FAA, the State Department and the White House are politically motivated, that they want to harm Israel.

Commentators on the left have compared Cruz’s fire-breathing rhetoric to the stuff that came out of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s mouth in the 1950s, when he accused the State Department of hiring communists.

I’m wondering now if Ted Cruz’s reckless implications today will produce the kind of response that McCarthy drew from his critics.

'Incomprehensible' to leave soldier behind

Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t be more correct in validating the decision to bring Bowe Bergdahl home from his Taliban captivity.

“What I know today is what the president of the United States knows, that it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what, to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut of his head, do any number of things,” he said in an interview with CNN. “And we would consciously choose to do that? That’s the other side of this equation. I don’t think anybody would think that’s an appropriate thing to do.”


The debate over Sgt. Bergdahl’s release is raging. I, too, have questions about it. I want to know if he deserted his post. I want to understand the circumstances surrounding his captivity.

We’ll get those answers in due course.

However, the notion that Americans might consciously leave someone behind as we wind down our war effort in Afghanistan chills me to the bone. Yet some of Bergdahl’s harshest critics have pronounced him guilty of treason — without due process — and said that a traitor should be left to rot.

It’s clear the Obama administration mishandled many aspects of this matter. It’s been a public relations nightmare.

The bottom line, though, is that an American soldier is safe.

If he did something wrong, then let the military adjudicate it.

Rice has it right on Benghazi hearings

Susan Rice said a lot of wrong things in the hours and days right after the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

At the time she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and was thrust into the Sunday news talk-show limelight without knowing all the facts that led to the uprising that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

She blew it, got it wrong — and helped ignite a firestorm that still raging to this day.

Rice is now the national security adviser to President Obama and she said something quite correct about the upcoming congressional hearings on the Benghazi tragedy.

“You know, House and Senate committees have pronounced on this repeatedly. So it’s hard to imagine what further will come of yet another committee,” she said.


House Speaker John Boehner recently named a select House committee chaired by tea party back bencher Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to examine the Benghazi matter.

We’ve already had hearings. We’ve heard testimony from key players, such as then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Members of Congress have had their say; Republican critics have been loud in their condemnation of Clinton, as have Democratic supporters of the administration.

What is to be gained from what well could shape up as another partisan circus?

Rice’s answer? “Dang if I know.”

She’s not alone in wondering what a select committee is going to learn that other congressional panels haven’t already uncovered.

Hillary not 'formidable'?

George Will said over the weekend that Hillary Rodham Clinton could be a damaged presidential candidate if she runs in 2016.

He said she is “not formidable.”

Interesting, don’t you think?


Will took note of what he said was the “last time” a major party had a coronation for its presidential nominee. He mentioned Adlai Stevenson’s nomination in 1956. The Democrat then went on to suffer his second consecutive landslide loss to Republican Dwight Eisenhower, who himself was “crowned” by his own party in 1952.

My own memory provides another example of a political coronation. In 1964, the country was reeling from the death of President Kennedy. The man who succeeded him, Lyndon Johnson, began pushing through much of JFK’s unfinished legislative agenda, including the Civil Rights Act.

Democrats were in no mood to fight over that nomination, so they crowned LBJ as their nominee and he then went on to trample GOP nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater in a historic landslide.

It is highly unlikely that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in two years in such a fashion. It will be competitive, hard-fought and — I hope — edifying for voters.

However, to say the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is “not formidable” is to suggest George Will has been listening too intently to Republican hacks who keep looking for scandals where none exists.

Deal struck in Ukraine?

Winston Churchill once said it was better to “jaw, jaw than to war, war.”

The great British statesman was right then, and he would be right now. Ukraine and Russian diplomats today announced a potential breakthrough in the standoff between the countries that well could have led to open warfare in eastern Europe.


The Hill reports, “Secretary of State John Kerry said the framework hashed out by foreign ministers meeting in Geneva would disarm separatist militants in eastern Ukraine and have them vacate the government buildings, streets and squares they have occupied. In return, the Ukrainian government has offered amnesty to all pro-Russian militants who lay down their arms, with the exception of those who committed capital crimes.”

The agreement comes after diplomats from the European Union, NATO, the United States, Russia and Ukraine haggled over a way out of the standoff that seemed to bring Russia and Ukraine to the brink of war.

Will it be implemented? Will the deal hold? Will both sides back off? Will there be an end to what’s been called the worst crisis since the end of the Cold War?

This is a potentially huge deal that strikes a blow for the power of diplomacy.

It remains to be determined what impact the economic sanctions may have played in bringing the Russians to the bargaining table.

The United States doesn’t want war. The Russians don’t want it. All that’s left is to talk to each other … and to keep talking until you get a deal done.

No visa for Iranian U.N. envoy

Hamid Aboutalebi is Iran’s latest pariah in the eyes of the U.S. State Department.

He is the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations and the United States has denied him a visa to enter this country, which is headquarters for the U.N. The reason for his banishment? He was part of the gang of thugs that took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and began a 444-day hostage crisis 35 years ago.

Iran says it will appeal the ban.

Let the Iranians complain all they want.

The State Department is acting within its rights.

That crisis, which erupted in November 1979, still sticks in the craw of many Americans. Aboutalebi supposedly was one of the “students” who stormed the embassy and took 53 Americans captive. The crisis ended U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations, although likely not forever.

The hostage-taking was part of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah of Iran earlier that year and reportedly was in response to this country’s long-standing support of the shah’s regime.

Civilized countries, though, do not allow for the takeover of another nation’s sovereign territory, which is what describes embassy compounds.

This visa denial, of course, does complicate the on-going negotiations between Iran and six industrialized nations that are seeking to persuade the Iranians to abandon its nuclear program – which many governments around the world believe is intended to develop an atomic bomb. Iran insists its nuke program is meant for “peaceful” means.

Sure thing, Tehran.

One diplomatic action need not relate to another.

The Iranians ought to propose someone else to represent their country at the United Nations. Surely they can find someone whose hands aren’t stained by that disgraceful deed at the U.S. Embassy in Iran.

HRC sick of the media? Duh!

Sometime around late 1999, I offered a prediction.

Hillary Rodham Clinton would not run for the U.S. Senate in New York, I said then. Why? Well, my notion was that she had grown weary of the constant battering she and her husband, President Bill Clinton, had taken from the right-wing media, not to mention the members of the Senate who voted to convict her husband of “high crimes and misdemeanors” relating to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

She ran anyway — and won handily — in 2000.

The columnist Roger Simon, one of D.C.’s smarter political analysts, writes that Clinton is sick of the media.

Will that prevent her from running for president of the United States in 2016? Part of me says “yes,” but I now know better than to suggest that HRC doesn’t have the stomach for another campaign.


I cannot quite figure Clinton out. Her husband cheated on her with a White House intern less than half his age. She forgave him — apparently. The House of Representatives impeached the president for lying to a federal grand jury about the affair. The Senate then put the president on trial, but acquitted him on all three counts relating to obstruction of justice and abuse of presidential power.

The then-first lady decided she wanted to serve with those individuals in the Senate after she and her husband vacated the White House. By all accounts, she became a stellar senator from New York and earned the respect of her colleagues. Interestingly, one of her best friends in the Senate happens to be John McCain, R-Ariz., who was among those senators who voted to convict the president. Go figure.

The media beat her up as she ran for president in 2008. Her campaign ended just before the convention that year and then — wouldn’t you know it? — she ended up serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

The media kept dogging her. She had at least one major misfire, her handling of the Benghazi consulate tragedy. Again, the media poured it on.

Now, at least one leading Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — a possible presidential candidate himself in ’16 — is dredging up the Lewinsky matter as a way to besmirch Hillary’s reputation. Give me a break.

Still, the media keep digging into all this stuff.

Why should Hillary Clinton want any part of this?

Beats me. I remain baffled that she ran for the Senate in the first place.

Syria should present unifying threat

Suppose the president of the United States orders aerial strikes against Syria.

And suppose those strikes involve manned aircraft, piloted by young American servicemen and women who are thrust into harm’s way by their commander in chief’s order.

What will be our national response? Are we going to rally behind our commander in chief or will we second-guess, armchair quarterback and be openly critical — if not hostile — toward those who issue the order?

I’m hoping for a unifying effect.


President Obama is weighing his options carefully. He’s meeting with congressional leaders, the very folks who insist that the president consult with them before taking action. He’s calling allies around the world, enlisting others to join in a coalition to strike against Syria, which used chemical weapons against its own people. Secretary of State John Kerry called it a “moral outrage,” and no national leader anywhere with a conscience can — or should — condone such an act.

It’s not yet clear whether we’re going to become involved in an all-out shooting war in Syria. Obama’s stated mission would be to punish the Syrians for violating a widely accepted tenet of international behavior. The use of chemical weapons crosses that so-called “red line” the president said exists in that conflict.

The late U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, R-Mich., once said that partisan disagreements must stop “at the water’s edge.” Will we heed the wise man’s words?

Al-Qaida threat prompts needed response

The standing down of U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East provides an example of a lesson learned from a tragic event.


I refer to Benghazi, which has become a sort of shorthand for the terrible Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in that Libyan city, which left four U.S. officials dead, including the nation’s ambassador to Libya. Benghazi also has become a prime target for right-wing conspiracy theorists who keep contending that the “scandal” is the result of gross negligence on the part of the Obama administration and the State Department.

I contend, however, that it was a tragedy brought on by the confusion of a fire fight that certainly was the result of some mistakes. Are senior administration officials to blame for purposely deceiving the public? I doubt that is the case.

But the standing down of embassy compounds shows that national security officials can learn from those mistakes and seek to prevent future tragedies.

Al-Qaida reportedly had been planning some kind of major attack on U.S. installations, which prompted the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Agency to order the closures of the embassies and the heightened alert of our military forces stationed near the trouble spots.

I, too, wish Benghazi never had happened and I wish we could bring those brave Americans back to life. What’s done is done and the nation mourns that tragedy. I am grateful, though, that our national security team can learn from — and act on — the mistakes it has made.

Kennedy is qualified to be envoy

The chattering class is yammering over whether Caroline Kennedy is qualified to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.

She’s never held elected office, or run a big public agency, or managed a political campaign, or been schooled in the details of U.S. diplomacy. That’s what they’re saying.

I’ll reiterate yet again that Kennedy is qualified by virtue of the criteria presidents of both parties set for these high-profile ambassadorial assignments. She’s a big supporter of the man who occupies the White House and that’s good enough.

Allow me this comparison: Teel Bivins’s appointment to be U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

What qualified the late Amarillo state senator? Well, he was a big fundraiser for President George W. Bush. He campaigned diligently for the then-Texas governor when he was running for president in 2000. Bivins held exactly one elected office, that of state senator, before being tapped in 2003 to present his credentials to the Swedish government in Stockholm.

By all accounts, Bivins did a fine job representing U.S. interests in the Baltic region of Europe. How did he do that? He was surrounded by a competent staff of career foreign service officers who taught everything he needed to know about Sweden, not to mention about diplomatic protocol.

I’ll concede that Sweden isn’t nearly the economic powerhouse that Japan has become. Still, Sweden is no Third World backwater. It has a vibrant automobile industry and it manufactures fighter jets that are sold to many nations around the world. It is one of he world’s most socialized countries. It taxes its citizens heavily to pay for things like medical care.

That was the environment into which Teel Bivins, a staunch conservative Texas Republican lawmaker was thrown.

He did just fine.

Kennedy has access to even more expertise than Bivins ever had. She’s a well-educated lawyer who comes from the nation’s premier political families. She could be a quick study on the complexities of Japan’s economy, its geopolitical importance and its key role in keeping the peace in east Asia.

I don’t doubt for a minute that she’s qualified.