April 7: Celebrate passage of health reform

As you may have read here and here, last week's passage of health reform victory is also a victory for US foreign policy.  It's time to celebrate!

America’s Impact is joining with the DC Democratic Party, DC for Democracy, DC for Obama, DC Latino caucus, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Organizing for America, South Asians for Opportunity, Young Lawyers for Obama, and others for the party of the Spring:

Wednesday, April 7
6:30pm - until we drop

LOCAL 16   
1602 U Street, NW, Washington, DC  (16th and U Streets NW)
U Street Metro Stop (Green/Yellow line)

Expect happy hour specials, music, invited health care reform leaders, and lots of appreciation for all of the hard work put in to achieve a tremendous legislative victory.


State's Global Pulse 2010 - online NOW through March 31!

Want more input in US foreign policy?  Check out the Global Pulse initiative at USAID - it's a legit initiative to involve the public and interested professionals in the shaping the future of US foreign policy.  

More info here:   www.globalpulse2010.gov

“There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from one another; and to seek common ground.“  ~ President Barack Obama

What is the value of Global Pulse 2010?

Global Pulse 2010 will provide an opportunity to voice opinions, share ideas, and create innovative solutions to social issues facing the global community within the fields of science and technology, entrepreneurship, and human development. This is a unique opportunity to influence a global conversation that will build partnerships across borders, strengthen understanding among cultures, and unite the human race in an effort to create innovative solutions to the most pressing social issues of our time.


Health care win good for US foreign policy

Link to original article

Obama's Health care win could boost foreign policy
Jeff Mason, Friday, March 26, 2010

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama's domestic success on healthcare reform may pay dividends abroad as the strengthened U.S. leader taps his momentum to take on international issues with allies and adversaries.

More than a dozen foreign leaders have congratulated Obama on the new healthcare law in letters and phone calls, a sign of how much attention the fight for his top domestic policy priority received in capitals around the world.

Analysts and administration officials were cautious about the bump Obama could get from such a win: Iran is not going to rethink its nuclear program and North Korea is not going to return to the negotiating table simply because more Americans will get health insurance in the coming years, they said.

But the perception of increased clout, after a rocky first year that produced few major domestic or foreign policy victories, could generate momentum for Obama's agenda at home and in his talks on a host of issues abroad.

"It helps him domestically and I also think it helps him internationally that he was able to win and get through a major piece of legislation," said Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to Republican President George W. Bush.

"It shows political strength, and that counts when dealing with foreign leaders."

Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the Democratic president's persistence in the long healthcare battle added credibility to his rhetoric on climate change, nuclear nonproliferation and other foreign policy goals.

"It sends a very important message about President Obama as a leader," Rhodes told Reuters during an interview in his West Wing office.

"The criticism has been: (He) sets big goals but doesn't close the deal. So, there's no more affirmative answer to that criticism than closing the biggest deal you have going."

Foreign policy dividends have been minimal in the short amount of time since he signed the healthcare bill into law on Tuesday.

Exhibit A: a one-on-one meeting this week between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, a country that closely tracks U.S. domestic policy, yielded little sign of a breakthrough in a dispute over Jewish housing construction on occupied land in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.


Still, some specific foreign policy successes are looming.

U.S. and Russian officials say Washington and Moscow are close to announcing an agreement on a nuclear arms reduction treaty, which would require a two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate for ratification.

Some analysts said Russia was watching Obama's domestic successes and failures throughout the process.

"I think there were some in the Kremlin saying, 'how strong is he? If he can't get some of these things through, does that give us more leverage to push him on arms control?'" said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Administration officials played down a connection between healthcare and talks with Russia on the START nuclear arms treaty, though Rhodes said the processes that led to success on both issues were similar.
"Like healthcare, the START treaty has been a negotiation where at times we seemed very close to getting a deal done and then there were huge roadblocks," Rhodes said, crediting Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for sticking it out.

"So, it was a similar narrative of persistence, of refusing to throw in the towel at times when he could have."
Foreign leaders have noted the persistence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were among the leaders who congratulated Obama, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said the healthcare win would have a positive impact abroad, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Analysts said the bill's passage showed Obama could deliver votes for domestic legislation with foreign policy components, such as rules to fight climate change, currently stalled in the Senate, which European leaders are eager to see advance.

James Lindsay, senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, who was skeptical that Obama's healthcare win would have a huge foreign policy benefit, said the law did free up the president to focus less on purely domestic issues.

"If the president had lost on healthcare, it would have further sapped his popularity as president, requiring him to spend even more time on domestic affairs and left him with less time to devote to foreign policy," he said.
"That's not the same as saying that because the healthcare bill has passed that the Iranians are going to be more pliable in their nuclear program, that the Israelis are going to rethink their settlement policy or the Chinese are going to become more agreeable on currency issues."


Neocons no longer welcome in the GOP?

Politico article here.

Republicans scold Liz Cheney
By: Ben Smith
March 8, 2010 06:19 AM EST
A group that includes leading conservative lawyers and policy experts, former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and several senior officials of the last Bush administration is denouncing as “shameful” Republican attacks on lawyers who came to the Obama Justice Department after representing suspected terrorists.

Senate Republicans have demanded details of the lawyers' past work and Liz Cheney’s group “Keep America Safe” has questioned their “values." A drumbeat of Republican criticism forced the Justice Department reluctantly to identify seven of them last week. But the harshness of the criticism – Keep America Safe labeled a group of them the “Al Qaeda Seven” — has provoked a backlash from across the legal establishment.

“We consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications,” wrote the 19 lawyers whose names were attached to the statement as of early Monday.

The statement cited John Adams’s defense of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre to argue that “zealous representation of unpopular clients” is an important American tradition.

The attacks on the lawyers “undermine the Justice system more broadly,” they wrote, by “delegitimizing” any system in which accused terrorists have lawyers, whether civilian courts of military tribunals.

The letter’s signers include some of the top officials of a Bush Justice Department that wrestled at length with the legal questions surrounding terrorist detentions.

The Bush officials clashed repeatedly with some of the detainee lawyers, such as the current deputy Solicitor General, Neal Katyal, whom they are now defending. The signers include former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, John Ashcroft’s No. 2, and Peter Keisler, who served as acting attorney general during President Bush’s second term. They also include several lawyers who dealt directly with detainee policy: Matthew Waxman and Charles “Cully” Stimson, who each served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs; Daniel Dell’Orto, who was acting general counsel for the Department of Defense; and Bradford Berenson, a prominent Washington lawyer who worked on the issues as an associate White House counsel during President Bush’s first term.
In 2007, Stimson resigned as the Bush administration’s top detainee affairs official after suggesting on a radio show that companies not hire law firms providing pro bono services to detainees. He later apologized.

The lawyers’ sharp criticism of the Democratic appointees reflects, in part, a rift that deepened late in President George W. Bush’s term, in which allies of Vice President Dick Cheney fought pitched battles over the treatment of detainees with lawyers throughout the government seeking to bring terror suspects into a more familiar legal framework.
The letter’s other signatories include Philip Zelikow and John Bellinger III, who were top advisers to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, .
Also signing were David Rivkin and Lee Casey, officials in the Justice Department in the first George W. Bush administration. Rivkin and Casey ‘s participation underscores the depth of discomfort with the attacks, as they have been among the most vocal defenders of Bush Administration detainee practices. Last April, for example, they wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the controversial Department of Justice memos widely viewed as justifying harsh treatment in fact “detail the actual techniques used and many measures taken to ensure that interrogations did not cause severe pain or degradation.”

Separately, former Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson rose to the defense of lawyers representing detainees. He noted, however, that some of those now defending current Justice Department lawyers were “completely silent” in the face of “vicious attacks” on Bush administration lawyers handling terrorism issues.
“I of course think it’s entirely appropriate for members of the legal profession to have provided legal services to detainees,” Olson told POLITICO. “It is a part of the responsibility of lawyers and in the finest tradition of the profession to represent unpopular persons who are caught up in the criminal justice system or even in the military justice system. I think that people who do so, do so honorably,” said Olson, whose arguments before the Supreme Court helped win the presidency for George W. Bush in 2000.

“But I also think that some of the people being highly critical now of the criticism of the lawyers in the Justice Department, have been completely silent when it came to attacks — vicious attacks — on lawyers in the Department of Justice and the Defense Department who were providing legal assistance and advice to the United States of America during the last administration in connection with the attacks on the United States by terrorists.

“So lawyers should be encouraged to provide legal advice conscientiously to their clients. And that goes for people in the Bush administration and the Obama administration.”

In 2007, Olson co-authored an article in Legal Times in 2007 expressing similar sentiments about representation of detainees. His co-author was Neal Katyal, one of the current Justice Department lawyers attacked by Cheney.

Liz Cheney’s partner in Keep America Safe, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, wrote Sunday to dispute the notion that his group’s sharp-edged ad constituted an “attack” on the lawyers. His aim, he wrote, was to push for Justice to release their names and to raise “the question of whether former pro bono lawyers for terrorists should be working on detainee policy for the Justice Department.”

Other critics have compared the Justice Department appointees to mob lawyers, and argued that while they have a right to defend their clients, they don’t belong in government.

Keep America Safe is not alone in raising the issue. And Republican leaders on Capitol Hill believe the attacks are politically effective, exposing what they see as concern for the rights of alleged terrorists outweighing the security of Americans. A senior Republican congressional aide said that the line of attack is likely to broaden as the midterm elections approach. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ipwa) has taken the lead in pressing the Justice Department first to reveal the number of its appointees who represented or advocated for detainees and then to confirm their names to Fox News.

Fox reported that most of the nine were big-firm lawyers who “played only minor or short-lived roles in advocating for detainees,” a popular pro bono cause at more than half of the country’s large law firms. A few were more prominent. Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Justice Department’s Civil Division represented John Walker Lindh, the young California man captured among the Taliban early in the war in Afghanistan. Jennifer Daskal, another political appointee at Justice, worked on detainee issues at Human Rights Watch, opposing the Bush Administration’s policies. But the highest profile attorney among the group is Katyal, who represented Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, in the case in which the Supreme Court declared President Bush’s military tribunals unconstitutional.

“The fact that he got 5 votes on the Supreme Court has to count for something,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who drafted the letter.

“There has to be some space to disagree without someone running an ad suggesting you’re an Al Qaeda agent,” he said.
Here is the full statement and signatories as of early Monday:
The past several days have seen a shameful series of attacks on attorneys in the Department of Justice who, in previous legal practice, either represented Guantanamo detainees or advocated for changes to detention policy. As attorneys, former officials and policy specialists who have worked on detention issues, we consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications.

The past several days have seen a shameful series of attacks on attorneys in the Department of Justice who, in previous legal practice, either represented Guantanamo detainees or advocated for changes to detention policy. As attorneys, former officials and policy specialists who have worked on detention issues, we consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications. The past several days have seen a shameful series of attacks on attorneys in the Department of Justice who, in previous legal practice, either represented Guantanamo detainees or advocated for changes to detention policy. As attorneys, former officials, and policy specialists who have worked on detention issues, we consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications.

The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams’s representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre. People come to serve in the Justice Department with a diverse array of prior private clients; that is one of the department’s strengths. The War on Terror raised any number of novel legal questions, which collectively created a significant role in judicial, executive and legislative forums alike for honorable advocacy on behalf of detainees. In several key cases, detainee advocates prevailed before the Supreme Court. To suggest that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees maligns the patriotism of people who have taken honorable positions on contested questions and demands a uniformity of background and view in government service from which no administration would benefit.

Such attacks also undermine the Justice system more broadly. In terrorism detentions and trials alike, defense lawyers are playing, and will continue to play, a key role. Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. Guantanamo detainees likewise have access to lawyers for purposes of habeas review, and the reach of that habeas corpus could eventually extend beyond this population. Good defense counsel is thus key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests. To delegitimize the role detainee counsel play is to demand adjudications and policymaking stripped of a full record. Whatever systems America develops to handle difficult detention questions will rely, at least some of the time, on an aggressive defense bar; those who take up that function do a service to the system.

Benjamin Wittes
Robert Chesney
Matthew Waxman
David Rivkin
Lee Casey
Philip Bobbitt
Peter Keisler
Bradford Berenson
Kenneth Anderson
John Bellinger III
Philip Zelikow
Kenneth W. Starr
Larry Thompson
Charles "Cully" D. Stimson
Chuck Rosenberg
Harvey Rishikoff
Orin Kerr
Daniel Dell’Orto


Umm, we tried that: Mitt Romney wants a confrontational, "no apologies" foreign policy

In a book that mirrors the GOP's talking point criticism of President Obama's foreign policy initiatives, Mitt Romney is pushing a new book that criticizes the Administration for "apologizing" to the world.  I haven't read it, but Spencer Ackerman has an incisive and critical review:
Mitt Romney’s just-published book, “No Apology: The Case For American Greatness,” is a bid to bolster the former Massachusetts governor’s nonexistent national-security and foreign policy portfolio ahead of a possible 2012 presidential run. But a glance through the remarkable conflation of conservative shibboleths, paranoid global fantasies and deterministic myopia in “No Apology” makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the perennial GOP candidate might have been better off saying nothing at all.
Full review available here at the Washington Independent.

Liz Cheney's neo-con group adopts McCarthyism?

Politico reports today that unrepentant neo-conservatives are now targeting the patriotism of public servants working on Guantanamo issues.  The move has been criticized as a McCarthyist tactic to put them at personal risk for their work.