According to a news report released Wednesday morning, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon has announced his resignation and is to be replaced by US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Susan Rice in what is bound to be a controversial appointment. Replacing Susan Rice will be author and foreign policy expert Samantha Powers—another interesting selection on behalf of the Obama administration.
Nation editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel joins Nation national security correspondent and author of the recently-released book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield on MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss President Obama's selection and national security policies such as the drone wars that are being waged in many countries that, as Joe points out, we haven't even declared we are officially at war with.
The Senate Redistricting committee listens to public speakers during a hearing, Thursday, May 30, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The last time Texas redrew its political maps in the middle of the decade, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to protest Tom DeLay’s unprecedented power grab in 2003.
Now Texas Republicans are at it again, with Governor Rick Perry calling a special session of the legislature to certify redistricting maps that were deemed intentionally discriminatory by a federal court in Washington and modified, with modest improvements, by a district court in San Antonio last year. Republicans want to quickly ratify the interim maps drawn for 2012 by the court in San Antonio before the court has a chance to improve them for 2014 and future elections. “Republicans figured out that if the courts rule on these maps, they’re going to make them better for Latinos and African-Americans,” says Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust.
The maps originally passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 personified how Republicans were responding to demographic change by trying to limit the power of an increasingly diverse electorate. Here’s the backstory, which I reported last year:
One of four majority-minority states, Texas grew by 4.3 million people between 2000 and 2010, two-thirds of them Hispanics and 11 percent black. As a result, the state gained four Congressional seats this cycle. Yet the number of seats to which minority voters could elect a candidate declined, from eleven to ten. As a result, Republicans will pick up three of the four new seats. “The Texas plan is by far the most extreme example of racial gerrymandering among all the redistricting proposals passed by lawmakers so far this year,” says Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters.
As in the rest of the South, the new lines were drawn by white Republicans with no minority input. As the maps were drafted, Eric Opiela, counsel to the state’s Congressional Republicans, referred to key sections of the Voting Rights Act as “hocus-pocus.” Last year the Justice Department found that the state’s Congressional and Statehouse plans violated Section 5 of the VRA by “diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice.” (Texas has lost more Section 5 enforcement suits than any other state.)
Only by reading the voluminous lawsuits filed against the state can one appreciate just how creative Texas Republicans had to be to so successfully dilute and suppress the state’s minority vote. According to a lawsuit filed by a host of civil rights groups, “even though Whites’ share of the population declined from 52 percent to 45 percent, they remain the majority in 70 percent of Congressional Districts.” To cite just one of many examples: in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Hispanic population increased by 440,898, the African-American population grew by 152,825 and the white population fell by 156,742. Yet white Republicans, a minority in the metropolis, control four of five Congressional seats. Despite declining in population, white Republicans managed to pick up two Congressional seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. In fact, whites are the minority in the state’s five largest counties but control twelve of nineteen Congressional districts.
On August 28, 2012, a federal court in Washington found that Texas’s redistricting maps were “enacted with discriminatory purpose” and violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Texas Republicans not only failed to grant new power to minority voters in the state, the court found, they also took away vital economic resources from minority Democratic members of Congress.
From the opinion:
Congressman Al Green, who represents CD 9, testified that “substantial surgery” was done to his district that could not have happened by accident. The Medical Center, Astrodome, rail line, and Houston Baptist University — the “economic engines” of the district — were all removed in the enacted plan. The enacted plan also removed from CD 9 the area where Representative Green had established his district office. Likewise, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents CD 18, testified that the plan removed from her district key economic generators as well as her district office. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of CD 30 also testified that the plan removed the American Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks), the arts district, her district office, and her home from CD 30. The mapdrawers also removed the district office, the Alamo, and the Convention Center (named after the incumbent’s father), from CD 20, a Hispanic ability district.
No such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents. In fact, every Anglo member of Congress retained his or her district office. Anglo district boundaries were redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren. And Texas never challenged evidence that only minority districts lost their economic centers by showing, for example, that the same types of changes had been made in Anglo districts.
The only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is “coincidence.” But if this was coincidence, it was a striking one indeed. It is difficult to believe that pure chance would lead to such results. The State also argues that it “attempted to accommodate unsolicited requests from a bipartisan group of lawmakers,” and that “[w]ithout hearing from the members, the mapdrawers did not know where district offices were located.” But we find this hard to believe as well. We are confident that the mapdrawers can not only draw maps but read them, and the locations of these district offices were not secret. The improbability of these events alone could well qualify as a “clear pattern, unexplainable on grounds other than race,” and lead us to infer a discriminatory purpose behind the Congressional Plan.
The interim maps drawn by three judges in San Antonio in March 2012 rectified some of the worst injustices in the legislature’s maps. The court restored a majority-minority Congressional district in South Texas and created a new one in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area. It also moved Congressional offices and major landmarks back into the districts of Democratic members of Congress, and created three additional majority-Hispanic districts in the Texas House. But the interim maps were based largely on the state’s discriminatory original maps and were drawn before the DC court had a chance to weigh in.
“There’s no question the interim maps are an improvement,” says Michael Li, a Texas redistricting expert who runs the invaluable blog txredistricting.org. “But there still are a lot of open issues that need a hard look because the maps were hastily drawn and designed to be interim, and the San Antonio court didn’t have the benefit of the DC court’s ruling, including its finding of intentional discrimination.”
Li says that based on the state’s rapid population growth, legislators should have drawn an additional majority-Hispanic Congressional seat in North Texas and a Democratic-leaning district in Austin’s Travis County, along with six to seven more state House seats with a higher minority population that are more favorable to Democrats. Between 2010 and 2011, Texas gained 687,305 new eligible voters, 83 percent of them non-white, a trend that has political analysts speculating that Texas will turn purple in the not-so-distant future. But instead of accounting for this population growth and the DC court’s findings of discrimination, Texas Republicans want to make the interim maps permanent before the San Antonio court has a chance to act in order to fortify their majorities.
Every Democrat in the state House and eleven of twelve Democrats in the Senate signed a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott opposing adoption of the interim maps. “When you overlay the evidence presented at trial with the demographic explosion that’s happened in this state and the fact that minorities are unaccountable for at significant levels, it tells me we have a lot of work to do,” says Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Perhaps to appease its critics, the legislature has scheduled a series of field hearings on the redistricting maps, starting this week in Dallas. “I believe that there is the capacity to make changes to the maps,” says Martinez Fischer. “There doesn’t appear to this rampant resistance that existed two years ago in what was a hyper-partisan environment. There seems to be reasonable minds who think we should make some changes, but I’m not sure that folks have been able to come to terms with it politically.” But Matt Angle says Texas Republicans are only holding hearings now, two years after passage of the original maps, in an attempt to convince the court in any future lawsuit that they’ve complied with the Voting Rights Act. “They’re clearly sham hearings,” he says. “They made it clear, when it’s all over, that they just intend to pass the interim maps.”
The San Antonio court signaled, in a hearing last week, that the interim maps needed further review, especially in light of the DC court’s finding of intentional discrimination, which has put Republicans on the defensive. “Whether these [legislative] hearings are a façade or we’re really going to work in a meaningful way to adopt a resolution, the court is paying close attention,” says Martinez Fischer.
Texas has joined a lawsuit before the Supreme Court arguing that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. In reality, the state is the perfect case study for why Section 5 is still badly needed. Without Section 5, there would have been no finding of intentional discrimination from the DC court and no modified interim maps drawn quickly by the San Antonio court. Instead, the discriminatory maps enacted by the legislature in 2011 would’ve immediately become law, the court in San Antonio might’ve taken years to get involved and members of Congress would have been elected under maps that would’ve otherwise been declared unconstitutional. (Texas’s voter ID law, which was similarly blocked by a federal court, would also be in effect right now.) “Anybody who says that Section 5 has outlived its utility hasn’t looked at Texas,” says Nina Perales, director of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “It has played an extraordinary role in protecting minority voters.”
UPDATE: At a Texas Republican Party meeting in Dallas on May 20, Ken Emanuelson, a local Tea Party leader, was asked, "what can Republicans do to get black people to vote?" He responded, "I’m going to be real honest with you, the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.” Comments like these don't bode well for the party's minority outreach.
Tom Donilon, President Obama’s national security adviser, is out, and Susan Rice is in. Along with Samantha Power, who’s taking over at the United Nations, the new Rice-Power axis will likely mean a much greater emphasis on human rights in foreign policy—which could vastly complicate US relations with Russia, China and Iran.
Serving in that post since October 2010, when he replaced former General Jim Jones, Donilon has played a critical role in shaping Obama’s foreign policy since then, usually joining Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on the relatively dovish, anti-interventionist side of the fence—often ranged against the Pentagon, the military brass, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the hawkish end. Bob Gates, the Republican centrist-hawk who was Obama’s secretary of defense—a carryover from the George W. Bush administration—famously said that Donilon would be a “disaster” if he were elevated to the post of national security adviser, because Donilon wasn’t echoing the military’s view about continually escalating the war in Afghanistan.
More recently, Donilon lined up with Obama and Biden in opposition to direct US involvement in the civil war in Syria, and Donilon reportedly backed Obama’s decision to speed the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in 2013–14 and to minimize the US presence there beyond 2014.
Among Donilon’s recent important efforts have been his travels to Russia, where he tried to rebuild ties with Moscow, and China, where he helped to arrange the critical summit between Obama and President Xi Jinping of China this weekend in California.
Perhaps Donilon’s biggest blunder—or at least, his worst move—was to bring Dennis Ross, a strongly pro-Israeli hawk and ally of neoconservatives, into the White House. Several years ago, I listened to Donilon as he spoke to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Israel lobby’s chief Washington thinktank, as he praised Ross—who’s now a WINEP official, once again—and boasted that he’d helped bring Ross into Obama’s inner circle. No wonder, perhaps, that the Israel-Palestine problem is where Obama has made the least progress in any of the foreign policy challenges he faces.
But now it’s worrying, to say the least, that Susan Rice is taking over at the NSC. That’s made worse by recent reports that Obama will name Samantha Power as Rice’s successor as US ambassador to the United Nations. Both Rice and Power, though they lean liberal, are humanitarian, interventionist hawks. Both Rice and Power backed Clinton two years ago in supporting the months-long American bombardment of Libya, an action that toppled Muammar Qaddafi but ushered in chaos and a militia-dominated, semi-failed state there. They represent a dangerous flank of the liberal establishment in American foreign policy circles, interventionists who believe that every mass killing, or threatened mass killing, borders on potential genocide a la Rwanda. Both supported US bombing of Sudan during the much-inflated crisis in the western Sudanese province of Darfur, for instance, and they claimed that the military assault that Qaddafi planned against Benghazi in eastern Libya was impending genocide, when there was no evidence whatsoever that the Libyan forces were planning to anything more than recapture a city that had been seized by rebels.
Power, who wrote A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is a staunch advocate for using American military power abroad in defense of human rights. She served on the NSC staff until earlier this year, as Obama’s chief human right aide.
Chris Christie. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
The last time that New Jersey voters elected a Republican to the United States Senate, Richard Nixon topped the party ticket and the winning Senate candidate was Clifford Case, a proudly liberal Republican who opposed the war in Vietnam, embraced civil rights and environmental protection and frequently ran with the backing of the AFL-CIO.
Since 1972, thirteen Republicans have been nominated in thirteen elections for Senate seats—four of which had no incumbent on the November ballot—and thirteen Republicans have been defeated.
In recognition of that reality, a typically cynical Republican governor might have taken advantage of the state’s confusing and contradictory statutes to appoint a Republican successor to Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died Monday. An appointed senator could have served through the end of 2014. With Senate deliberations so shaped by arcane rules, partisan divisions and ideological positioning, an appointed rather than elected senator would have provided a boost to the Senate Republican Caucus at a potentially definitional stage in Barack Obama’s second term.
But Chris Christie is not a typically cynical Republican governor.
Chris Christie is a supremely cynical Republican governor.
How cynical? Try this:
Christie has chosen to schedule the special election to fill Lautenberg’s seat on October 16—twenty days before the regularly scheduled state election. And he’s still going to send an unelected Republican-selected senator to Washington during a critical stage in congressional deliberations.
The governor wants New Jersey, and America, to think that his scheduling of the special election is a nobly nonpartisan gesture. There is, after all, a very real prospect that come October another Democrat—perhaps Newark Mayor Cory Booker, perhaps Congressman Frank Pallone, perhaps someone else—will win another New Jersey Senate election. “I’ve decided on a special election because I firmly believe we must allow the citizens of this state to have their say,” he piously announced on Tuesday.
But don’t confuse Christie with a small “d” democrat.
He’s twisting the process to his own advantage.
The governor could have scheduled the special election on a timeline that paralleled New Jersey’s November 5 election—in which polls peg Christie as a favorite to be re-elected. That would have saved taxpayers at least $24 million dollars and a lot of confusion. Instead, notes New Jersey Working Families Alliance executive director Bill Holland, Christie has chosen to hold two general elections in a one-month period—an approach that is all but certain to confuse the electorate and suppress turnout.
“What the governor’s done will disenfranchises voters,” says Holland. “It guarantees that turnout will be low, and that those whose voices are not being heard in Washington will be heard even less.”
Christie’s move—which has angered Senate Republicans in Washington, as well as Democrats in New Jersey—was entirely self-serving.
By gaming the ill-defined process, the governor has protected himself from the prospect that Democratic voters—mobilized by the Senate contest—might stick around to vote for his determined, yet underfunded, Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono. Were Cory Booker, the most prominent African-American political figure in the state and a popular figure with young voters, on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for the Senate, the boost in turnout might well change the dynamics up and down the ballot.
Christie wasn’t willing to take that risk.
And tailoring the election schedule to his advantage is just one of Christie’s offenses against democracy.
The governor—despite his declaration that “decisions that need to be made in Washington are too great to be determined by an appointee”—still plans to appoint an interim senator to fill the seat until after the October special election.
That appointee is likely to serve as a reliable member of the Senate Republican Caucus when the chamber addresses key issues ranging from the debt ceiling to trade policy to the future of Social Security and Medicare to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, if Christie chooses to play to the conservative base that will play an outsized role in selecting the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, his pick could make a dysfunctional Senate that much more dysfunctional.
But the worst thing about an interim senator is not the partisanship. It is the anti-democratic nature of the selection. For 120 of the most important days in the legislative calendar—perhaps more—New Jersey will be “represented” not by a senator selected by the voters but by a senator selected by one man, Chris Christie.
This is not what democracy looks like.
The Constitution absolutely bars anyone from sitting in the US House of Representatives by appointment. No seat can be filled except by a regular election or, when a vacancy occurs, by a special election. When the Constitution was amended 100 years ago this spring to establish a directly elected Senate—ending the former practice of choosing senators in the backroom legislative deals of the Gilded Age—the intention of progressive reformers was that Senate seats would be filled in the same manner as House seats.
Unfortunately, the Gilded Age hangers on identified a loophole that allowed governors to make appointments to finish the terms of senators who die or resign. Some states, such as Wisconsin, moved quickly to establish a clear system of special elections to fill vacancies. But most allowed governors to take advantage of the appointment power. And they have abused it ever since.
Dozens of senators have taken office via appointment rather than election over the past century, including ten currently sitting senators. Three senators have been appointed since the 2012 election, and Christie’s “interim” pick will push the number to four.
The appointment process is disorganized and inconsistent. Some governors appoint placeholders, others position allies—or even themselves—to run in upcoming elections. Some governors have to follow rules (in a few states they are required to appoint a member of the party of the departed senator), while others can make up the rules as they go along.
Five years ago, Senator Russ Feingold, the Democrat who then chaired the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined with then–House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers to propose a constitutional amendment to require that all senators be elected. Under the Feingold-Conyers proposal, vacancies in the US Senate would be filled in the same manner as vacancies in the US House—by the voters in quickly called and organized special elections.
With Feingold out of the Senate, and with Conyers now in the minority in the House, there is less discussion of this reform—although some of us have raised the issue consistently since 2008, when Democratic and Republican seats have come open. The inconvenient truth is that both parties take advantage of the loophole. In February, after former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry quit to become President Obama’s secretary of state, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick selected a longtime aide and ally, William “Mo” Cowan, as Kerry’s interim successor.
Cowan has served ably, and he is a Democrat filling a Democratic seat until a new senator is elected June 25. Two other appointees, South Carolina Republican Tim Scott and Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz, will serve until after the 2014 election as unelected senators. That’s the problem that Feingold and Conyers have highlighted: as appointed senators, they have the exact same ability to advance or obstruct legislation and presidential nominations as senators who fought and won elections. And in the case of Scott and Schatz, they will do so for the better part of two years.
Appointed senators are throwbacks to a less democratic time, when the economic and political elites disregarded and disrespected the will of the people. The same goes for the gaming of election schedules to benefit governors who are seeking re-election.
Chris Christie is practicing the politics of the Gilded Age, when powerful executives dismissed electoral niceties and did as they chose.
“This governor isn’t making decisions based on what’s best for New Jersey,” says Bill Holland. “This governor has got the power, and he’s using it to take care of himself. That’s all there is to it.”
John Nichols is the author (with Robert W. McChesney) of the upcoming book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America, which outlines a reform agenda that calls for establishing a guaranteed right to vote, getting corporate money out of politics and electing—rather than appointing—all senators.
Riot police use teargas to disperse the crowd during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in central Istanbul. (REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Thousands of demonstrators in Turkey today vowed to press on with their campaign after clashing with police around Istanbul’s central Taksim Square into the early hours of the day, the fifth straight day of protests. They were joined by the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions, which is staging a two-day strike to show solidarity with the protesters and to demand better workplace safety and higher wages.
Turkish protesters have now taken to the popular non-profit fundraising site Indiegogo with a new campaign to build momentum on what some are calling the start of a revolution.
What if we felt the same way about Turkey as we feel about Game of Thrones? Read Michelle Dean on revolution on television and in real life.
What are the consequences of lifting financial regulations and allowing big businesses to accumulate power without limits? What about launching a full-scale invasion that leads to years of endless war? Some pundits echo the voices of their governments, egging them on towards their special interests. Others dissent—and later say, “I told you so.”
Former presidential candidate and Nation contributer Ralph Nader joins Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss his new book, Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns, a compilation of his columns from over the years and the social marginalization of those who predict catastrophes from the beginning.
After Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the NBA slapped a $75,000 fine on Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert for homophobic comments made to the press. “I think anybody who thinks that it’s no big deal should be cognizant of the company they’re keeping right now,” says Nation sports editor Dave Zirin, who blogged about the comments prior to Hibbert’s penalization. “I wrote the column because what I wanted to do was start a discussion that just said, this matters.” Zirin joins The Dan Patrick Show to discuss homophobia in sports, the context of Hibbert’s comments and how much the NBA thought they mattered.
How much longer will British companies get away without paying interns? Read Jon Wiener’s take.
An anti-government protester raises her fist during a demonstration in central Ankara June 3, 2013. Reuters/Umit Bektas
There ought to be a word for the kind of irony that attends a culture convulsing over the massacre on the latest episode of Game of Thrones just as a blossom of real-life political dissent is appearing in Turkey, don’t you think? (Which isn’t even to mention that yesterday and today are the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.) One doesn’t want to scold people for paying attention to pop culture—as a person who writes about it, I would be a giant hypocrite if I did. But the way these two things have met in time at the very least raises the question: Why don’t we care, in quite the same way? I somehow doubt it’s because Americans haven’t the heart for real political conflict. Nor do I think the whole explanation is that Americans feel powerless. It’s not like any of us could have stepped in front of the sword that ran through Robb’s gullet on Sunday night.
Rather, I suspect it’s mostly the power of narrative that’s missing here. The truth is that most people have no idea what the story of Turkey is, and only the vaguest sense of Erdogan’s failings. This seems to go for the leftist friends we all have posting links to Occupy Gezi on Facebook; they see the word Occupy and know they support it, but called upon to articulate the precise problem, they refer to the link. By contrast, the ten or twelve episodes a year of Game of Thrones make Robb and Catelyn Stark practically our next-door neighbors. They get the advantage of names and faces and histories. It’s more affecting than the aerial shorts we get of crowds of protesters, who lack much impact other than their large, anonymous character.
Narrative reporting on foreign affairs—i.e., the kind of long-form piece that identifies characters and histories in the crowd—is awful slim in the US at the best of times. Instead we have the citizen journalism of Twitter and Facebook, which has its advantages in volume, and in the slightly more democratic makeup of the people who are bringing the news to us. But what it seems to lack is anyone drawing it together in a coherent whole, making it clear what all the human costs are.
Perhaps it’s never possible to do this at the same time that the “revolution” is ongoing. Elif Batuman, at The New Yorker, points out that even within Turkey itself, the television is ignoring the matter. And yet: In Tiananmen, we had that iconic photo of the man in front of the tank to do it. It said: watch and learn. At the moment, I’d be happy if I could better accomplish the “watch” part.
Fuck the high road, Jessica Valenti writes. Sometimes, you’ve got to feed the trolls.
It has been three years since US Private Bradley Manning was arrested—and today is the first day of his court-martial in which, in addition to the charges he has already plead guilty to which will result in as much as twenty years in prison, he will be faced with other charges that could result in life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Chase Madar, a civil rights attorney and recent author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower , who will be blogging the trial for The Nation, joined Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman to discuss the significance of the case and seeking justice for Bradley Manning.
A woman fills in her ballot for the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
With ten days to go before Iran’s presidential election, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and US neoconservatives are on opposite sides of the regime-change question, as one might expect.
Here’s the reality of Iran’s presidential vote: there isn’t going to be any regime change, despite Khamenei’s fears and the hopes of right-wingers such as Robert Joseph, a former George W. Bush official. The next president of Iran, whoever he is, will settle into a working relationship with Khamenei, and President Obama will have to deal with the actual Iranian government, do business with it, and seek an accord over Iran’s nuclear program. And, because President Ahmadinejad of Iran has been so belligerent and thus so demonized in the United States, Obama will find it a lot easier to sell a deal to the American public that he makes with a president whose name isn’t Ahmadinejad.
Khamenei, widely vilified by outside critics for endorsing the Guardian Council’s decision to ban an Ahmadinejad aide and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running for president, gave an important speech yesterday—with both Rafsanjani and the Ahmadinejad aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, sitting on the stage with him! Apparently, neither man was so miffed by Guardian Council’s decision that he’d refuse to sit with Khamenei, yet another signal that the Islamic Republic’s political system is staying intact.
In his speech, according to The Washington Post:
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused foreign and domestic critics Tuesday of attempting to undermine the country’s June 14 presidential election…. Khamenei dismissed these criticisms as misguided plots to undermine Iran’s political system.
And he added:
“A vote for any of these eight candidates is a vote for the Islamic Republic and a vote of confidence in the system and our electoral process.”
So it is. That hasn’t stopped the neoconservatives from demanding that Obama abandon his policy of engagement with Iran and, instead, seek precisely the regime change policy that Khamenei is talking about. Writing for National Review, Joseph says:
Tinkering with current policies will not achieve a non-nuclear and democratic Iran. Instead, it is time to “reset” U.S. policy and recognize the need for regime change. This change must come from within Iran and be led by Iranians, but the United States and the international community can provide essential support to encourage and strengthen the opposition inside and outside of Iran.
Weirdly, Joseph goes on to endorse the activities of the cult-like People’s Mujaheddin (PMOI) and its front group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), which is apparently holding a big rally of its cult member in Paris on June 22, the day after the possible run-off in the election, whose first round in June 14 and second round, if needed, will be June 21. Joseph says that the NCRI rally “is expected to be one of the largest gatherings of the Iranian opposition to date.”
In reality, the NCRI and the PMOI have zero influence and support inside Iran, little backing outside Iran, and rag-tag army of sorts—whose terrorist designation was recently lifted by the United States and which has lucrative ties to former top US officials—that is being shipped out of Iraq by Prime Minister Maliki’s security service.
Intelligently enough, Secretary of State John Kerry says that whoever wins Iran’s presidential election, it won’t affect the Obama administration’s policy of seeking a diplomatic solution. From the Los Angeles Times:
“I do not have high expectations that the election is going to change the fundamental calculus of Iran,” Kerry told reporters during a joint appearance at the State Department with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “The supreme leader will ultimately make that decision.”
He said the United States would “continue to pursue every effort to have a peaceful resolution” of the dispute.
To be successful, the United States will have to make concessions to Iran that it has been unwilling to make so far, including a decision to state forthrightly that, at the end of the talks, Iran will be able to enrich uranium, on its own soil, under tighter international supervision. But at least Kerry is committed to continuing the talks, despite the pressure from the hawks. Talking with Iran, of course, was a key plank in Obama’s 2008 election campaign.
Read more from Bob Dreyfuss on Iran’s critical elections.