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Iraq matters

Yesterday, the President gave a speech on Iraqi reconstruction to an apparently unfriendly audience. You can read other accounts of the speech here and here. Democrats and NYT reporters didn’t like what he had to say, but electioneering proceeds apace.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jack Murtha wants us to pay attention to him because he talks to people in the military.

And the President’s polls are trending upward, including this one from the NYT, though the folks over there can’t bring themselves to admit that a documentable shift in sentiment over Iraq (still negative, but not as bad as it was) has anything to do with this.

Discussions - 20 Comments

The Council on Foreign Relations was "an apparently unfriendly audience"?

From the Post article:

"The audience interrupted Bush for applause only once during the speech and even then, many, if not most, did not clap. There was polite applause when he finished."

WOW - JUST "unfriendly"?? Why didn’t you just go whole-hog with your persecution fantasy and call them a hostile audience? Oh, the nerve of that CFR bunch! How dare they! And, conversely, the bravery, the courage under fire, of our Dear Leader for confronting such a hostile "public" group like that should be duly noted, right (although "Bush refused to honor the council tradition of taking questions from the audience" - oops!)??

And I see that you’re once again frustrated with journalists - this time those covering his speech on these Iraqi matters (this time, the NYT reporters). Good point - maybe the White House should develop a domestic equivalent of this democracy-building program in Iraq, and just BUY some obsequious "news" articles about his speech, and the subject matter thereof.

following this, but Joe was in part implicitly responding to a poster named Jean Steggan who was claiming that Clinton, unlike Bush, spoke to less-than-friendly audiences often at this point in the Clinton presidency, and then cited a speech Clinton gave at the dedication of the Bush 41 presidential library as a case in point.

I found her example rather weak, as the audience at a presidential-library dedication, pretty much like a CFR audience, is going to be an ’establishment’ crowd heavy w/ notables, etc., and where overt partisanship is little if at all in evidence.

So I think Joe’s point was, if Clinton speaking to (presumably mostly Republican) dignitaries at the dedication ceremony of a GOP president’s library counts as talking to a hostile audience, then so does Bush going in front of the decidedly Democrat-leaning but rather genteel CFR (where there is not much warmth or praise for his Administration).

Oh, I see, "Jmont, maybe you haven’t been" (Strange name! Hmmm...Dain always calls me "Jmont" - strange coincidence!). Perhaps Mr. Knippenberg should have addressed the post to Jean Steggan, then. So, even assuming he was making the obscure reference to which you refer, how does any of that provide a good reason for Bush refusing to take questions after his speech?

Yes, I did have that comment in mind when I posted about the speech, but I don’t think that the intelligibility of anything I said depended upon that bit of "inside information."

And yes, I regard an audience of establishment foreign affairs types as likely to be less than enthusiastic--polite, but cool. That they are more restrained in their response than, say, this audience, says more about their age and position than about their sentiments.

All that we learned was that they did not applaud enough for you to oonsider them friendly. Are you really attempting to draw a contrast between Bush and "establishment foreign affairs types"? Is Bush now anti-establishment?

I didn’t think it would shock anyone to regard the GWB approach to foreign policy as unsettling to the American diplomatic elite, which tends, it seems to me, to place a premium on negotiation and multilateralism. To the degree that those are "establishment" positions, and to the degree that the Bush Administration has limited patience (in a post-9/11 world) with them, GWB is at odds with "the establishment."

So, once again, I’m not surprised by the President’s cool reception at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, nor, for that matter, am I surprised by the cool reception Paul Wolfowitz received at the National Press Club.

and if "Jmont" bothers you I apologize for using it.

What difference in the world does it make whether Joe addressed Jean by name or made his point more generally?

I have firsthand familiarity w/ the CFR and a number of people associated with it. It is not, to put it mildly, an organization that much cares for George W. Bush or his policies. Pretty much the whole "inside the Beltway" permanent establishment feels that W. just "frightens the horses" too much. As I see it, this establishment is just another segment of opinion that hopes--in a way they never quite put into so many words, probably b/c they know the feeling is foolish and they don’t quite want to admit they harbor it--that things can somehow go back to September 10, that the dreamworld of the Clintonian 1990s can somehow return if we just make nice and have a president who’s more like "us" (make no mistake: either Al Gore or John Kerry would be a WAY more congenial prez to most CFR types).

That’s George W. Bush - a rebel with a cause!

Several things:

I think it’s pretty dubious to call the Council on Foreign Relations "decidedly Democrat-leaning." Who decided this? CFR members include William F. Buckley, Jr., Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich, Henry Kissinger, and Katherine Harris, as well as the current President’s father and John Bolton. I wouldn’t necessarily claim that they lean Republican, but they certainly don’t lean Democrat, either.

I believe it’s quite reasonable to consider George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and John Bolton as part of, if not leaders of, "the American diplomatic elite." The latter two are CFR members and they certainly seem to remain in the President’s good graces. True, there are likely those who disagree with the Bush administration’s foreign diplomacy among career diplomats and non-political appointees but, by definition, Bush and his foreign policy team compose some aspect of the "elite" now.

Another member of the CFR actually proved to be quite influential in the run-up to the current Iraq war. Kenneth Pollack wrote the article "Next Stop Baghdad?" for the March/April ’02 issue of Foreign Affairs, which is CFR’s house journal. Pollack was at the time the Council’s Olin Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies, leading a CFR Roundtable on Terrorism and America’s response. His article was later expanded into the book The Threatening Storm, published in Oct. ’02 as a CFR book by Random House. The tome was reviewed in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs and they called it “...exceptionally thoughtful. If any book can shape the current thinking on Iraq, this one will assuredly be it.” Pollack’s blunt conclusion in both the article and book is, “The United States should invade Iraq, eliminate the present regime, and pave the way for a successor...” I’m not sure if Pollack was in the audience at CFR for Bush’s speech or not. Unless he disapproves of Bush’s tactics in carrying out his own prescription, or has had a radical change of heart himself, I can’t imagine why he would be a less than enthusiastic listener. Perhaps if Bush had taken some questions from his audience we could know a good deal more.

Another Council member, Rachel Bronson, who is the CFR’s Director of Middle East Studies and an Olin Senior Fellow, made the following comments in a Dec. ’02 interview, regarding the launch of the war: "Yes. It is strategically sound and morally just. The Middle East is a strategic region for us. It is where oil does play into all this.... It is about stability in the region. Saddam has been very destabilizing.... Strategically trying to get rid of one of the most destabilizing forces in the Middle East is a good idea. But the moral aspect doesn’t get as much play as it should..."

Pollack also served on a 23-person team that created the report Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq, which was published by CFR in late 2002.

I too have "firsthand familiarity w/ the CFR and a number of people associated with it," - although I’m not sure how my credentials would stack up in a side-by-side with Mr. or Ms. "No, this is not Dain" - and this is why I would also not consider CFR to necessarily be an "unfriendly audience" for the president.

You said, it, J Montgomery, you said it. And we all know what that "cause" is. Now Montgomery, that’s a good American name. Why is that all the neocons around here have such foreign sounding names? "Schramm," "Knippenberg," "Moser," kinda makes you wonder don’t it?

If you go to the link below on the CFR website, you’ll see that Bush 43 has now become only the 2nd serving US president to speak to the CFR. Clinton was the first, in September 1998. From Clinton’s transcript, it appears that he took no questions either. The transcript of a talk Clinton gave to CFR in 2002 (linked on the same page) shows that he did take Q&A, but of course he was out of office by then.

Schramm is a good Germanic name from the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Knippenberg straddles the German-Dutch border. My Knippenbergs came from the Dutch side (and have only partially Anglicized the name, pronouncing both the "K" and the "n," though not clearing our throats at the end with a guttural "g"). Other Knippenbergs in the U.S., to whom we’re apparently not related, probably came from the German side of the border and now reside in western Maryland and Ohio.

Moser sounds German-Austrian to me. (My mom, for what it’s worth, hails from Salzburg.)

None of this should be surprising in connection with an institution affiliated with a denomination whose roots are in Germany.

I don’t belong to the Brethren Church, and I don’t think Herr Professor Doktor Schramm does either. John Moser will have to speak for himself.

As for me, I come from Bavarian peasant stock. And I’m an official, idolatrous, whore-of-Babylon-worshipping, fish-eating member of the Roman Catholic Church. Got my Knights of Columbus card and everything.

But guess what, Gerald--my brother-in-law’s father is Jewish! To the best of my knowledge, though, he’s not a neocon--sorry to disappoint you.

Sitting Prez - I don’t know if we should try to defend President Bush’s actions by looking at any precedent set by Clinton!

Mr. Ibold,

Thanks for letting us know that the CFR is a big tent. I wonder why, then, the audience for the President’s talk didn’t (in part, at least) display more enthusiasm. Was it because the original supporters of the war have changed their minds? Or because they weren’t in the audience? Or because the kind of applause that often interrupts presidential speeches (not just in front of, say, military audiences, but even in front of a joint session of Congress) is frowned upon at CFR events? Of course, if there were some CFR convention that required that one restrain one’s enthusiasm during speeches, shouldn’t the WaPo reporter have noted that, rather than remarking on the coolness of the reception?

Ken Pollack (a Democrat and former Clinton official) long ago joined the hand-wringer chorus regarding Iraq. I vividly recall seeing him speak in April 04, when everyone was in a panic about Fallujah and Najaf. He looked like he wanted to have a nervous breakdown. He’s had not much good to say about Bush lately, at least that I’m aware of. There was a phase of the Iraq debate when certain left or center-left types (Joshua Micah Marshall being one example) were briefly and tenuously behind the use of force to topple Saddam. But they quickly jumped ship and backflipped into the endless cavilling which has been pretty much the vein they’ve mined ever since. Generally their complaints more or less boiled down to not liking Bush’s style.

"I might add that" - How do you know that this Kenneth Pollack is a Dem, exactly? He also worked at NSC under Bush II. Does that make him a Republican?

Jmont, you really need to get over this obsession with me. I can’t be around to set you straight 24/7 -- stop making me show up on threads that don’t interest me (at least, not enough to really comment). Gets tiresome.

Pollack is identified fairly often as a Democrat. For instance, here:

Yes, there is no doubt about it. Things just keep going better and better in Iraq! Freedom and democracy are the order of the day, and the Iraqis have the Coalition of the Willing -led by the USA!- to thank for it! Everywhere you look, it’s smiling soldiers offering candy to happy children!

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