Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Candidates' Response to Bhutto Assassination

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto presented a pop quiz for the candidates on the subjects of foreign policy and "acting presidential." Here are their grades, starting with the key Dems:

Hillary Clinton: B. Worthy of an A was Hillary's quick, thorough and strong response, post on her Web site. But a big negative was Clinton's continued deceitful grandstanding on her relationship with Bhutto.

Her website promptly posted a lengthy statement on the assassination in the form of a Wolf Blitzer interview and summarized her position as follows:
... Hillary Clinton outlined five steps she believes must be taken to address Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Clinton called for an independent, international investigation, reiterated the need for free and fair elections, proposed the appointment of a special envoy, discussed revamping U.S. foreign aid, and a renewed commitment to a stabilized India-Pakistan relationship.
Her call for an independent international investigation was politically astute for a Dem, but problematic. The Rafiki assissination investigation in Lebanon has gone on interminably, and has yet to yield an indictment; the course of events in Pakistan is likely to sweep by such a lengthy investigation. Further, it would have been diplomatically more tactful to call on Musharraf to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation and suggest that he request the assistance of Interpol and others.

Barack Obama: F. His Web site reveals only a brief statement that is cursory, revealing neither depth of analysis nor understanding of the complexities:
"I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world."
WaPo found just how abysmal Obama's response was:
Then Mr. Obama committed his foul -- a far-fetched attempt to connect the killing of Ms. Bhutto with Ms. Clinton's vote on the war in Iraq. After the candidate made the debatable assertion that the Iraq invasion strengthened al-Qaeda in Pakistan, his spokesman, David Axelrod, said Ms. Clinton "was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in the event today."
It's not unexpected for a politician to respond to news politically, but low-blowing Hillary is not the response the American public wants when critical issues burst forth in the War on Terror, putting peace and the lives of our soldiers at greater risk.

John Edwards. A. His Web site statement is brief and quick to condemn Bush:
Benazir Bhutton [a big, nasty sic], the former Prime Minister of Pakistan was assassinated a number of hours ago. Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister, was right when he said it was a tragedy for her party and Pakistan. I submit that it is also a tragedy for the whole world and another powerful symbol of the total failure of the President's Global War on Terror.
Since bashing Bush at least hints at a foreign policy statement, Edwards' statement is way ahead of Obama's. It also shows he knows who he's playing to and is keeping his eye on the ball -- no matter how much I may disagree with him.

Then, according to the same WaPo story linked above, Edwards did something presidential: He picked up the phone and called Musharraf. WaPo describes the call:
The candidate said he had encouraged Mr. Musharraf "to continue on the path to democratization [and] to allow international investigators to come in and determine what happened, what the facts were."
Edwards not only showed a boldness none of the other candidates replicated, he was more diplomatic than Hillary, encouraging Musharraf to bring in international investigators, rather than demanding it.

Now the GOP biggies, none of whom performed as well as Hillary or Edwards:

Mitt Romney. C. Romney's Web site promptly posted the transcripts of numerous media interviews given following Bhutto's assassination. They show a clear understanding of the threats radical Islamism poses:
"This really underscores the fact, of course, that what's occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan is not unique to those areas alone, that there is a radical, violent Jihadist effort throughout the world that's trying to topple not just Western governments but moderate governments in the world of Islam. We as a nation are going to have to work together with other nations to help moderate voices within the world of Islam with a wide array of support. But this is something we're going to have to do not just in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq, but everywhere from Indonesia to Nigeria. There's a big amount of work ahead to help Muslims become strong enough to reject the extreme within them." (Hannity and Combes)
None of Romney's posted statements, however, spell out any specific action he'd take or conversation he'd have with Musharraf -- a missed opportunity.

Rudy Giuliani -- D+. Giuliani's posted response was not quite as strong as Romney's, and showed the same weaknesses:
“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”
Another missed opportunity, although HuffPo reports that Rudy's new ad, which in their Lib words "finally -- and unsurprisingly -- plays the 9/11 card," may give him a bit of a Bhutto-boost.

Mike Huckabee: F. The Huckabee Web site news room has nothing at all posted on the assassination. The Swamp posted an interview with Huckabee where he clumsily over-plays the fear card:

DES MOINES -- The day after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Republican Mike Huckabee said Friday that the killing “changes the world” by adding a new level or turmoil to the Middle East and raises concerns about terrorist attacks on America.

“The assassination of Bhutto I think creates not only new heightened tensions there but it reminds us just how delicate that situation is,” the former Arkansas governor said during an interview Friday morning on KCCI-TV. “If you think about Pakistan, that’s where if we have another terrorist attack, it’s going to be postmarked: Pakistan. That’s where Osama bin Laden is most likely hiding.”

Then Huckabee focuses his attention on Pakistan's frontier with Afghanistan, "where the terrorists are hiding." This continues Huckabee's string of foreign policy gaffes, since concerns about Islamism in Pakistan go far beyond what's happening in the frontier.

John McCain: B-. McCain's statement was fairly lengthy and played to his foreign policy strengths. After a paragraph of condolences, he said:

"The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

"Given Pakistan's strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.

"In my numerous visits to Pakistan - to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan - I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today's tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them."

McCain appropriately touted his experience and put the right foreign policy perspective on the assassination, and was the only GOP candidate to mention Pakistan's nukes. But like all the GOP candidates, he just analyzed the situation and said nothing about what he would actually do. Good swing, but the ball went just foul.

Once again, Edwards shows himself to be, if nothing else, a masterful campaigner. And the GOP candidates continue to fail to stand out from one another -- except Huckabee, who's standing out in all the wrong ways.

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