Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disturbing

Last week, Amir Taheri reported in the New York Post that Senator Obama had sought to negotiate his own foreign policy with the Iraqi government on his last visit there this summer, allegedly urging the Iraqis to hold off on the Strategic Framework Agreement until the next (presumably meaning his) administration. Here's the crux:

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

It's disturbing (and as far as I know, unprecedented) for a candidate to be out making foreign policy as self-assumed president-in-waiting. He's actively undermining the legitimacy of a sitting president, with a key foreign government, no less. Obama has apparently decided it's not enough to already act like president, he needs to prevent anything out of his power from happening in the meantime.

Now, this story been sitting quietly in an open browser window for a few days because I didn't want to blog on it until we got some verification. That came today with the Obama campaign's masterful non-denial:

But Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Taheri's article bore "as much resemblance to the truth as a McCain campaign commercial." In fact, Obama had told the Iraqis that they should not rush through a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office, she said.

Which is completely different from "[asking] why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington". That's quite a denial: "It's all dirty lies. Our candidate most certainly did not do x. Rather, he did x." Huh? The only difference is in the wording, which sounds even worse in Morigi's account. At least Zebari had Obama making a suggestion; Morigi says he simply told them what to do.

3 comments:

elephantschild said...

It's disturbing (and as far as I know, unprecedented) for a candidate to be out making foreign policy as self-assumed president-in-waiting.

It's also illegal for a person not a member of the federal government to engage in foreign policy negotiations.

Shane said...

First things first - Taheri indicates that Obama called the Iraq occupation "illegal," complete with scare quotes. 5 minutes with the Google turn up nothing but this article (and other people cutting and pasting from this article). Doesn't sound like something Obama has ever said, but then that pesky assymetry between absence of proof and proof of absence is getting in my way here.

To me, sounds like Obama got played. Maliki pretty much straight up endorsed the Obama plan for withdrawal in July, probably as a negotiation ploy with the Bush Administration to get a new Status of Forces Agreement more favorable to Iraqi interests. Maliki pretty much got what he wanted, the US and Iraq agreed on a plan similar to what Obama had been advocating for some time, and sounds like Obama might be a little butt-hurt because he won't get credit for it. Boo hoo.

Whatever. The Bush Administration has moved towards the sane in its foreign policy over the last year or so, which I welcome.

Also, elephantschild, while I'm not familiar with the law you're citing, it sounds more like lobbying than foreign policy negotiations. Also, Obama is a member of the federal government anyway. It's not constitutionally required, but it's not unheard of for Senators to be invited by the President to negotiate with foreign powers. It's a practical matter for ensuring that a treaty passes the Senate - nobody wants to pour their heart and soul into negotiating a complex treaty only to have your Senate reject it (like the Versailles Treaty in 1919). And I know Obama wasn't invited to, but I don't think this kind of move is unprecedented, as the post says.

Evan said...

That law would be the Logan Act of 1799, which targeted at precisely this sort of activity (Representative Logan tried to negotiate with Britain regarding the issues that eventually led to the war of 1812). It has, however, never seen a prosecution or conviction, and the last indictment was in 1803. See Wikipedia for exciting turn-of-the-19th-century geopolitical intrigue! HT: The Jawa Report.