President Obama nominated Massachusetts Senator John Forbes Kerry as the next secretary of state Friday, turning to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of his earliest political allies to guide American diplomacy in an “uncertain world” during the next four years.
The selection of the 69-year-old Kerry, which came after UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration last week, was heralded across the political divide as a wise choice of a fully tested player on the international stage who can dive into some of the world’s most challenging problems — from the civil war in Syria and fears of an Iranian nuclear bomb to winding down the war in Afghanistan and navigating America’s complex economic and security relations with a rising China.
If Kerry is confirmed, as expected, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick would name a temporary replacement to fill his seat and a special election would be held later next year to complete his term, which is up in 2014.
The nomination to replace Hillary Clinton is the capstone of a three-decade political career that began when Kerry, the son of a Foreign Service officer, returned from the Vietnam War a decorated veteran to become a leading voice of the antiwar movement.
James Taranto is worried about bigotry in America. Bigotry against white people. He starts his editorial with a quotation of wingnut blogger William Jacobson of legalinsurrection.com:
“Everytime [sic] I think the Democratic race card players could not get more vile, more deranged, more patronizingly demeaning to blacks, someone manages to defy even my vivid imagination,” thunders blogger William Jacobson. He’s referring to a passage in a Washington Post editorial about critics of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice—a passage that in our view is useful for its clarity.
He’s apparently a regular reader at Jacobson’s site.
Here’s the passage from the Washington Post editorial that upset Jacobson, and now Taranto:
Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.
Taranto says it’s racist of the Washington Post to suggest that white males from Confederate states might be racist. Then he says it’s racist for Obama’s campaign organization to ask, “Which constituency groups do you identify yourself with? Select all that apply.” without offering a ‘white’ option. After some snarky speculation about the reason for this, he gives the one he believes:
The reason for the absence of a “Whites” category is that white identity politics is all but nonexistent in America today. That wasn’t always the case, of course: For a century after the Civil War, Southern white supremacists were an important part of the Democratic Party coalition. They were defeated and discredited in the 1960s, and the Democrats, still the party of identity politics, switched their focus to various nonwhite minorities.
Obama’s re-election was a triumph for this new identity politics—but the Post’s nasty editorial hints at a reason to think this form of politics may have long-term costs for both the party and the country.
Among the dangers of Democratic minority outreach is inflammation of the all but nonexistent white supremacist movement:
This seems likely to weaken the taboo against white identity politics. Whites who are not old enough to remember the pre-civil-rights era—Rep. Duncan, for instance, was born in 1966—have every reason to feel aggrieved by being targeted in this way.
Ultimately the danger of minority outreach, and the reelection of our black president, is that it brings out hostility. He’s not specific about who is getting hostile, but I can read between the lines.
The danger for the country is that a racially polarized electorate will produce a hostile, balkanized culture. In 2008 Obama held out the hope of a postracial America. His re-election raises the possibility of a most-racial America.
This is one more reason I think the Republicans are doomed, even though Mr. Taranto sees it as a reason the Democrats are doomed.
The United States said Monday that Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia is stepping up support for the Syrian government and has become part of President Bashar Assad’s “killing machine.”
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the U.N. Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Mideast that Hezbollah leaders are also continuing to plot new measures with Iran to keep Assad in power.
Rice’s comments - and those of Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor - gave the clearest indication that Hezbollah, which fought a war against Israel in 2006 and is a major political and military force in Lebanon, is sending an increasing number of fighters to help the embattled Syrian regime.
Hezbollah: We sent drone into Israel airspace Has U.S. missed chance in Syria rebellion? Watch: Are Islamist militants taking over anti-Assad rebellion in Syria?
Syria’s ruling Alawite minority is an offshoot of Shiite Islam and has had close ties to Iran and Hezbollah which are Shiite-dominated. Assad has long helped Iran aid Hezbollah and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, in destabilizing Lebanon and threatening Israel’s security and U.S. interests in the Middle East.
The U.S. ambassador accused Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, of being two-faced about his claims that he is promoting Lebanon’s interests.
“Hezbollah’s active and growing support for Assad’s war exposes Hassan Nasrallah’s claims of promoting Lebanon’s national interest as nothing more than a deadly form of deception,” Rice said.
About 50 arrests have been made in connection with the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which the American Ambassador and three other consulate employees were killed, and some of the suspects involved are from outside the country, Libya’s president told CBS News.
In an interview for “Face the Nation” Sunday, President Mohamed Magariaf also said that evidence “leaves us with no doubt” that the attack was pre-planned.
“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he told Bob Schieffer.
On the same program, however, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the U.S. has no evidence proving that the attacks in Benghazi were premeditated.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is warning that the most probable outcome of the current Syrian conflict is the escalation of violence and its spread to countries in the region. The meeting of the U.N. Security Council comes as U.N. monitors say 13 bodies have been discovered in northeastern Syria. The Council discussed the latest bloodshed in the 15-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice emerged from a closed-door meeting of the Security Council Wednesday and told reporters the most probable scenario in Syria is the worst case: a major crisis in Syria and in the region. “This becomes a proxy conflict with arms flowing in from all sides. And members of this Council and members of the international community are left with the option only of having to consider whether they are prepared to take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this Council,” he said.
Ambassador Rice said that scenario is the one that the 15-member Security Council has tried to avoid by its support for the Syrian peace plan of international envoy Kofi Annan.
Maybe the murder of an American journalist in Syria last week will focus the American president’s mind. Marie Colvin was killed, along with a French photojournalist, when troops loyal to -President Bashar al-Assad shelled the opposition’s makeshift press center in Homs. This city on the western plain, -Syria’s third largest, has been the conflict’s center of gravity for almost a month now. It is where the regime means to end the nearly yearlong uprising once and for all. The siege of Homs, in Colvin’s last published words, is “merciless”—“the scale of it is just shocking.”
The death of a 56-year-old reporter who took dangerous assignments around the world might seem a small thing when more than 7,000 Syrians have been killed by their own government simply for living there. But the Damascus regime targets reporters for a reason: It is vulnerable, and its war on its own people is indefensible. To survive, Damascus needs the world to ignore what it is up to. It particularly needs indifference in Washington, where the Obama administration has seemed sadly oblivious to the fact that what a regime does at home is indicative of how it will act abroad—or, in the case of Syria, a state sponsor of terror and ally of Iran, how it has acted over the last 40 years, targeting especially American citizens, interests, and allies.
For all that, the administration just wants the Syria issue, the uprising, the opposition, to go away. It would prefer not to deal with it and thus has come up with all sorts of excuses to do just that.
It was five months, and many thousand dead, into the uprising before Obama called on Assad to step down. Instead of leading, the president tasked Syria policy out to Turkey, then to the Arab League, which sent a monitoring delegation led by a former Sudanese intelligence chief suspected of war crimes in Darfur.
Next, the administration found itself blocked at the U.N. Security Council by Russia with a veto that may have surprised U.S. ambassador Susan Rice but cannot have come as much of a shock to most observers: Moscow has made it clear that it wants to see the Assad regime survive. To Putin, Syria represents not merely a customer for Russian arms, but—much more important—a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean. He sees a Syrian port for the Russian Navy as a core interest, not to mention recently discovered energy resources in the Levant basin that he would like to control, so as to make Europe even more dependent on Russia’s natural gas industry.
A Security Council meeting ended Thursday evening with no agreement on a draft resolution intended to pressure Syria to end its months-long crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.
“We had what I would characterize as sometimes difficult but ultimately useful discussions,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters. “We’re still working. This is not done.”
She said the Moroccans, who submitted the original draft, will come back with another version as soon as Thursday night or Friday morning that could be voted on. “In any case, there are some still complicated issues that our capitals will have to deliberate on and provide each of us with instructions on.”
“We’ll see what the reaction of the capitals will be,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said of the fate of the reworked wording of the resolution. “They’re assessing the situation. We’ll see what the outcome is going to be.”
Before the talks, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said Thursday that even a watered-down resolution would pressure the Syrian government.
Meanwhile, at least 70 people were killed across Syria on Wednesday, opposition activists said, with three more deaths reported Thursday.
The draft discussed Thursday had dropped demands from an Arab League plan for Syria to form a unity government and for President Bashar al-Assad to delegate power to his deputy.
How long can al-Assad remain in power? Syria violence and sanctions UN Security Council debates over Syria UN Security Council debates over Syria
U.N. diplomats said the changes reflected a big concession to Russia, which has been reluctant to sign on to any plan that could be seen as a mandate for regime change in Damascus, as occurred in Libya after it signed a resolution calling for a no-fly zone. Russia, which has said it is concerned about the prospect of a Syrian civil war and does not want al-Assad pushed from power, has made clear it will not accept an arms embargo or economic sanctions.
A call for other nations to follow the Arab League members in adopting measures such as sanctions against Syria had also been dropped from the latest version of the draft resolution.