Saturday, May 30, 2009

No Change: Obama Appoints Big Donors as Ambassadors
Friday, May 29, 2009 8:20 AM

WASHINGTON – Despite his promises of change, President Barack Obama has kept tradition by naming top donors to plum ambassador posts, drawing fire from career US diplomats and causing dismay among some US allies.

Obama has been criticized for naming fund raisers with no diplomatic experience - and who together drummed up well over a million dollars for his record-shattering campaign - to be ambassadors to Britain, France and Japan.

"It's an 18th-century practice we are continuing which no other major democratic country does," said Ronald Neumann, a veteran ambassador and head of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a lobby of former senior diplomats. "It's not 'change you can believe in,' but it's not terribly surprising," said Neumann, referring to Obama's campaign slogan.

Obama named Louis Susman, a former Citigroup banker in Chicago once dubbed the "vacuum cleaner" for his prowess sucking up money, as ambassador to London. Obama also tapped two major California fund raisers - naming Charles Rivkin, the former producer of "The Muppets" children show, to Paris and Silicon Valley lawyer John Roos to Tokyo.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday defended the picks, noting that Obama also
appointed respected figures such as former congressman Timothy Roemer as ambassador to India.

"It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that there are not going to be some excellent public
servants ... who haven't come through the ranks of civil service," Gibbs said.

British newspapers described Obama's appointment to London as "cronyism." Some dailies had
speculated hopefully that the US president would pick one of his more glamorous friends - Oprah Winfrey.

While US ambassador residences in London and Paris have long been retreats for presidents' wealthy friends, Tokyo has been used to heavy hitters including former vice president Walter Mondale, former Senate majority leaders Mike Mansfield and Howard Baker and ex-House speaker Tom Foley. Many Japanese are nervous that the United States will ignore its longstanding Asian ally as it builds ties with a rapidly growing China.

While Tokyo publicly welcomed Roos' appointment, one Japanese magazine worried that Obama was "Japan-passing" - opposed to US "Japan-bashing" during the 1980s trade wars.

Tokyo-based analyst Robert Dujarric said Japanese worry that Roos is "lightweight" compared with Obama's pick for Beijing, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman - a Mandarin speaker who some eye as a future president himself.

"It's a symptom of Japan's anxiety over its future, its ties with America and being overshadowed by China," said Dujarric, director of Temple University's Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies.

"Hence the trauma of a senior politician going to Beijing compared with a guy in Tokyo who no one has ever heard of with no political or Asian expertise -- although to be fair, I assume as a Silicon Valley player he knows a thing or two about Japanese high-tech," Dujarric said.

But Dujarric said Japan put too much emphasis on the US ambassador, who has far less influence than US cabinet members who meet regularly with Japanese counterparts through the Group of Seven and other forums.

Obama worked early to show his commitment to the Japan relationship by inviting Prime Minister Taro Aso as his first foreign guest at the White House. Morton Abramowitz, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who has served as ambassador to Thailand and Turkey, said that while it was deplorable to give positions based on money, some Obama fund raisers could make solid diplomats.

"Despite the rhetoric, this administration is no different than previous administrations, expect it looks like their appointments might be better," Abramowitz said. "Diplomacy has to be much more creative and much more dynamic these days as we're not the big power we once were. It's important to have people as good as we can get," he said.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

Bush Calls Bill Clinton 'Brother'
Friday, May 29, 2009 7:55 PM

Former President George W. Bush has defended former President Bill Clinton and called him his
"brother" in their first ever appearance together on stage.

Bush said in their Friday appearance at a Toronto forum that he never liked it when previous
administration officials criticized his government but says Clinton was respectful and never did.

Bush declined to criticize the Obama administration. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been a very vocal critic of Obama.

Bush says his mother, Barbara Bush "said president Clinton and Father (former President George W. Bush) share the stage so much, he's like a son to her." He says, "So, brother, it's good to see you."

They faced questions from moderator Frank McKenna, Canada's former ambassador to the United States.

© 2009 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Republican Donors Hit by Chrysler Closings
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 5:04 PM

By: Kenneth R. Timmerman

Increasing numbers of Chrysler dealers are disputing the bankrupt automaker’s claim that it selected dealerships for closure on purely economic grounds, and they have filed a suit against the automaker in U.S. bankruptcy court.

"My business is being stolen from me under the guise of the bankruptcy laws [and] given to another dealer down the street," Jim Anderer, owner of Island Jeep in Lindenhurst, N.Y., told Reuters.

Like many of the 789 Chrysler dealerships slated for closure, Anderer claims his retail outlet was
profitable. Many of the closed dealers were also major donors to Republican candidates and political action committees, a review of campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission shows.

This has led to accusations, which Rush Limbaugh aired last week, that President Obama's auto task force has been playing political favorites, first by forcing Chrysler into bankruptcy, and then by targeting dealerships for closure that funded the president’s political enemies.

An attorney representing some of the dealers, Leonard Bellavia, came close to supporting those
allegations himself after deposing Chrysler President Jim Press on Tuesday. “It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers," Bellavia said. "It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous pressure from the president's automotive task force."

Among the most prominent Republicans who stands to lose his business as a result of the Chrysler bankruptcy is Vernon G. Buchanan, owner of Venice Dodge in Venice, Fla.
Buchanan gave $2,300 to John McCain in last year’s election, and has given a whopping $5.3 million to Republicans since the 2000 election cycle, according to FEC records Newsmax examined. He spent nearly $4.5 million of that amount to get himself elected to Congress in 2006 in the 13th District of Florida, where incumbent Republican Katherine Harris resigned that year to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate.

Buchanan won the 2006 election with just 50 percent of the vote but came back in 2008 and won a more comfortable victory with 56 percent of the vote, and voted against Obama’s budget this year. But he has crossed aisles occasionally, notably voting in favor of an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that President Bush vetoed in 2007.

Other prominent Republican donors whose successful Chrysler dealerships will be shut down include Russ Darrow, owner of Darrow Chrysler Jeep of Menomenee Falls, Wis. Darrow spent $2.7 million of his own money to finance an unsuccessful challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin in 2004.

Many dealers, however, gave to both political parties; some, such as Alan Spitzer, owner of Spitzer Dodge in Elyria, Ohio, gave only to Democrats.

Blogger Doug Ross ( has begun posting lists of Republican donors whose Chrysler dealerships have been targeted for closure. The most complete list of Republican victims of the Chrysler bankruptcy was compiled by an anonymous blogger at, which identified 165 Republican donors out of 595 examined, or just over 27.7 percent.

One blogger, who claimed to work for one of the soon-to-be closed dealerships, reported on the blog that his dealership was “in the top 125 out of the 3,500 dealerships nationwide . . . yet we are on the list. We are not small nor are we rural. We are in a large major metropolitan area. Our new vehicle inventory alone is well over $4 million.”

In addition, “Chrysler is already 'shopping' for dealers to take over the open 'points' (another name for franchise) left by closed dealership,” he added. “This is so much more than 'just business.' This is about control and power by our present administration in Washington.”

Auto-dealers as an industry tend to give more to Republican causes than to Democrats, according to an analysis done by Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit organization that compiles FEC data and operates the Open Secrets Web site.

During the 2008 election cycle, the center found that auto dealers and their associated political action committees made a total of $9 million in campaign contributions, giving by a 3-to-1 margin to Republicans. The automobile industry as a whole made $18.5 million in donations in 2008, also breaking roughly 3-to-1 in favor of Republican candidates and causes. But it ranked way behind lawyers, civil servants, hedge fund managers, teacher’s unions, and the entertainment industry, which were large Democrat donors.

One company that stands to benefit in a major way from the Chrysler restructuring is called RLJMcLarty-Landers, a start-up owned by Democratic Party insiders that operates six Chrysler dealerships throughout the South. Co-owners Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, and Mack McLarty, chief of staff to president Bill Clinton, provided capital and political clout to the partnership, which they formed in September 2007.

Johnson is a major donor to Democrat party causes but sharply criticized Obama during the primaries for his admitted drug use as a young man. He later apologized to Obama for the personal attack.

According to another blog, RLJ-McCarty-Landers will retain all of its six dealerships, while “eight competing dealerships [will be] totally eliminated from three of their markets.”

© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Nader: McAuliffe Offered Me Money to Pull Out in 04

Thursday, May 28, 2009 10:26 PM

Consumer activist Ralph Nader accused Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe Thursday of trying to buy him off from running in the 2004 election.

Nader said McAuliffe, who was then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, orchestrated an elaborate effort to keep him off the ballot. McAuliffe offered him an unspecified amount of money to campaign in 31 states if Nader would agree to pull his campaign in 19 battleground states, Nader said.

"When you get a call like that, first of all it's inappropriate,'' Nader said in an interview. "The other thing is if you don't immediately say no, it's like taffy, you get stuck with it."

McAuliffe, in a hotly-contested three-way Democratic primary for governor, is facing several charges about his colorful past as a political fixer. And he isn’t denying this latest charge, according to The Washington Post.

His spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith said in a statement McAuliffe "was concerned that Ralph Nader would cost John Kerry the election as he did Al Gore in 2000 and give us another four years of George W. Bush," according to the Post.

"It looks like Ralph Nader misses seeing his name in the press,'' Smith said. "Terry's focused on talking with Virginians about jobs, not feeding Ralph Nader's ego."

The accusations are outlined in a new book, Grand Illusion, The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, by Theresa Amato, Nader's national campaign manager in 2000 and 2004, who writes about the barriers to third-party candidates.

"This seemed to be a very undemocratic kind of thing to do,'' Amato said. "The head of the Democratic party was telling Ralph where he could or not could run."
© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Failed 2-State Solution

Israel: Yaalon: Israel Must Free Itself from Failed '2-State' Paradigm by Maayana Miskin

Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon believes that the time has come for Israel to “free itself from the failed paradigm” of the “two-state solution.”

Yaalon spoke Tuesday at a meeting of MKs dedicated to finding an alternative to the creation of a Palestinian Authority-led Arab state.

While the creation of a PA-led state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is perceived as a necessity both in Israel and worldwide, such a state would not solve the Israel-PA conflict, said Yaalon. In fact, he said, it is doubtful that the possibility of creating such a state exists, due to Arab and Muslim reluctance to take any step that would imply recognition of Israel or compromise on Arab claims to the entire Land of Israel.

Israel's Mistakes Israel's mistake lies in accepting a-symmetrical talks with the PA, Yaalon said. From the beginning of talks, he explained, Israel has accepted the idea of a Palestinian national movement with the PA as its representative, while the PA has resolutely refused to accept the Jewish national movement of Zionism or the idea of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel.

Furthermore, while the PA demands that Arabs and Muslims be allowed to live in Israel, Israel accepts that a PA state would not have Jewish citizens, he said. And while Israel gives in on crucial issues such as the status of Jerusalem or the borders of a PA state, the PA refuses to bend in the slightest.

Israel has also been mistaken in assuming that the Israeli presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is the cause of Israel-Arab tension, he said. Arab attacks on Israel began well before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel gained control of those areas, he said, and the Arab world's real goal is not a state in those areas, but rather, on the ruins of the State of Israel.

For this reason, he said, the PA is actually uninterested in a “two-state solution.” Former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat waged war on Israel in order to avoid the creation of a PA state, he argued.

"There are those who will argue that the PA wanted to establish a state in the 1967 borders but was unable to do so,” he said. “I say the problem was not one of ability, but of desire.”

If the PA does not desire an independent state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and will not accept such a state as the fulfillment of its national goals, the “two-state solution” has no chance to bring peace, he concluded.

The Solution Israel must give up on seeking to fully solve its conflict with the PA and the Arab world as a whole, Yaalon said. “I believe we should not approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the phrase 'solution' in the foreseeable future,” he told his audience. “Instead, we should seek 'crisis management' or long-term coping strategies.”

Israel should still seek a solution in the long term, he added. However, the process of seeking a solution should be “bottom-up,” and not “top-down.” Instead of hoping that a diplomatic agreement with the PA will lead to peace and security, the PA should prove that it is capable of self-rule prior to the signing of a diplomatic agreement, he argued.

Yaalon presented five crucial elements of the “bottom-up” process:

Educational Reform: The PA currently teaches Arab children that the entirety of Israel is an illegal colonialist entity, Yaalon said, and denies any historic Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. In addition, the PA teaches Jihad (holy war) against Israel and honors suicide bombers.

Changing the PA school system to teach the value of life, not of death, and to accurately portray Jewish history is crucial, he said.

Economic Reform: In order to create a viable economy, the PA must strengthen small businesses and create a stable middle class, Yaalon said. Attempts to create a PA economy through international aid have failed due to a corrupt PA leadership that misappropriates funds, and terrorist groups that attempt to keep PA Arabs living in poverty, he said. To avoid the problems posed by corrupt leadership, the world should focus on PA businessmen and support their initiatives.

Political Reform: Beyond creating a political entity, the PA must allow for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and protect human rights. Yaalon referred to “the American mistake” of supporting strong dictators over true democratic activists. Activists who seek true democracy and freedom should win encouragement from the West, he said.

Legal Reform: The goal should be “One authority, one law, one weapon,” Yaalon said, referring to the disarming of rogue terrorist groups and the enforcement of law throughout the PA territories.

Security Reform: The PA must begin to truly fight terrorism, Yaalon said. Among other things, the PA must rid itself of the “revolving door” by which terrorists serve only light sentences, and the sentencing of terrorists who murdered Israelis for “harming the public interest” instead of “murder.” These things encourage terrorism, he said.

The PA must be able to fight terrorism properly on multiple levels, he said, from gathering intelligence information to putting terrorists on trial.

No Guarantees: There is no guarantee that the “bottom-up” proposal can be put into effect, Yaalon said, because it relies on the Palestinian Authority to take the necessary action. In order to increase the chances that the PA will do what is necessary, Israel must make it clear that the PA has no chance of defeating Israel, he said, or of forcing further Israeli concessions and withdrawals without making concessions of its own.

"The Palestinians' extreme violence does not stem from despair over their situation, as the West tends to assume, but rather from hope – hope that the State of Israel will disappear,” he said. “Destroying the hope of defeating Israel will encourage new ideas.”