Friday, October 03, 2008

Political Leaks

What British Prime Minister Gordon Brown needs is a good plumber.

Last December, some two weeks before Christmas, the last debates of the even-then unbearably long political contest to chose the presidential standard-bearers for the Republican an d Democratic parties presented an unusual picture. The majority of the contending hopefuls (including two not permitted to participate in the Iowa debate) were veterans of the U.S Congress.

Among the Democrats, the contenders included four sitting and two former senators, one sitting Member of the House of Representatives, and one sitting governor who had also been the Secretary of a federal cabinet department in the Clinton administration .– Bill Richardson. The Republican contenders were a more diversified field: two former governors, one current and one former senator, two current and one former members of the House, one former mayor, and a conservative commentator.

At this point, one could confidently predict that the Republicans would dust off one of their favorite campaign themes: the “other candidate” is a Washington insider” who had “lost touch with the people.” Moreover, since the Democratic field featured four active and one viable former senator – and the Republicans had only one serving and one former senator in their race – the GOP might also find they could level the additional charge that the Democrat’s nominee was (assuming the winner served in the senate at some point) a self-admitted “elitist,” for senators like to refer to their chamber as “the world’s most exclusive club.”

Within five months, the December calculus was shredded. True enough, the expected winner on the Democratic ticket would be a senator but one who was still in his first term in that office. Against all odds, the Republican nominee also turned out to be a senator, one who had served more than three decades in the U.S. Senate.

Clearly, the new charge against the Democrat seemed obvious: unseasoned, untried, untested. But the GOP candidate now was the one susceptible to the “insider” charge.

Late August and early September saw the calculations change again with the choices for vice-president. The GOP nominee was the first term governor of Alaska (inexperienced in foreign affairs) while the Democrat’s pick was another sitting “insider” – and three of the four candidates current members of the senatorial elite.

So when a highly classified seven-page letter from the British ambassador in Washington to the British Prime Minister that noted the charges of elitism leveled against Senator Obama were “not entirely unfair,” it was sure to catch on in the press.

In his letter, written last summer before Obama’s highly publicized trip to Europe, the ambassador, a career British diplomat, also noted Obama’s “decidedly liberal” if short voting record. This observation was immediately followed by what appears to be a consensus view – whether the ambassador’s summary or an actual consensus of Obama’s peers is unclear – that the junior senator from Illinois was “finding his feet and then got diverted by his presidential ambitions.”

Downing Street is put on notice that should Obama become president, the Brits will have a far thinner public record to mine for insights into the foreign policy of the United States. While Obama is “solid” on climate change, the ambassador worries that an Obama administration may opt to conduct direct talks with Tehran over the latter’s nuclear enrichment program and bypass the efforts to tighten sanctions

The appearance now of a letter written last summer by Britain’s ambassador in Washington might be half of the dreaded, proverbial October surprise that seems to be a part of every modern presidential race. If so, this year’s “other half” may be another leaked diplomatic communication, this time from the French ambassador in Kabul to French President Sarkozy. But with a not-altogether unexpected diplomatic twist, the French ambassador notes that he is conveying the views of Britain’s ambassador in Kabul on the emerging U.S strategy in Afghanistan.

According to the British diplomat (as reported in French diplomatic cables), the “American strategy is destined to fail.” The envoy continues: “The security situation is getting worse. So is corruption and the Government has lost all trust….. The presence – especially the military presence of the coalition is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Were that not enough, the British diplomat‘s conclusion is that the coalition countries need to start preparing their publics for the eventual appearance of “an acceptable dictator.”

I guess that's a step up from an unacceptable dictator, but not enough of a difference to warrant the cost in lives and national treasure.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama will weather this "October upset" easily; if the Obama ticket's performance in the debates is a good barometer, people are not fooled by the circomlocution of McCain or the rehearsed folk-appeal of Palin

4:03 PM  

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