Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama/Zebari/Taheri scandal simplified -- Taheri reappears -- 9/27/08

Melanie Philips in the above article reports on some interesting additions to our supply of information about the subject scandal. The first is a New York Times article that quotes Zebari as saying on July 3rd 2008, “He said that Mr. Obama had asked him: “ ‘Why is the Iraqi government in a rush, in a hurry? This administration has only a few more months in office.’ ”

“Mr. Zebari said he told Mr. Obama that even a Democratic administration would be better off having something “concrete in front of them to take a hard look at.”

This article adds a little to what we knew. We hear a bit of Zebari’s reaction to the phone conversation of June 16th that Obama refers to in some detail:

What Obama said over the phone to Zebari on June 16th provides evidence that he violated the Logan Act and it provides evidence that Obama held certain opinions – opinions he later said he didn’t actually express to Zebari later on at his actual meeting with him.

Melanie Phillips has been in contact with Taheri. He told her the conversation he referred to in his 9/15/08 article ( ) was a private one between Zebari and Obama: Phillips writes, “He has told me that Obama made these comments at a meeting in Baghdad with Foreign Minister Zebari before the meeting with al Maliki and the cast of thousands referred to in Tapper’s article. Dismayed by what he knew Obama had said to Zebari, Maliki actually tried to pre-empt Obama from saying the same thing to him – which would have put him in a difficult position by undermining his negotiations with the US government . . .”

One may recall that I wrote on 9/20/08 after reading Tapper’s article, “Of course the attendance at a meeting by these other people wouldn’t preclude Obama’s being able to buttonhole Zebari privately. I’ve been to a zillion meetings and it is always possible to speak privately to someone while you are milling around before the meeting, during meeting breaks, or afterwards; so Tapper’s comment sounds shocking at first, but it is no smoking gun. Taheri doesn’t mention the other people, but they are really irrelevant – unless Tapper were to state that these other people say that Obama and Zebari never spoke privately together, and Tapper doesn’t say that.”

Most interesting, perhaps, is that Taheri is working on a “put-down (not yet published) of the mounting attacks on the integrity of his reporting.” Phillips quotes Taheri summing up the “nub of this whole affair.” For the entire “nub” go to the Phillips article referenced at the top of this note. I will quote but two elements:

From Point 2: “Senator Obama opposes these negotiations and urges an alternative set of talks in which the Congress is involved (That would be a novel way of doing business in a system based on separation of powers.) He then tells the Iraqi Foreign Minister in private that his government had better postpone the agreements until there is a new administration in Washington.”

From Point 4: “. . . the issue here is not who said what to whom and where and when. The issue is that Obama intervened in a process of negotiations between his government and a foreign power. He admits it himself as do all media accounts of the episode, although Senator Hagel, more royalist than the king, does not. My article was not a news story. It was an op-ed. The opinion I wanted to express was simple: no one would trust the United States if the leader of its opposition rejected agreements negotiated by its government in advance and without knowing what they looked like. The issue is that Obama has done, and admits that he has done, something that he should not have done: trying to second-guess an incumbent president.”

To some extent this will put the ball back in the Obama/Tapper court. To counter what Taheri is writing, Obama would have to deny that a private meeting with Zebari ever took place.

I suspect, however, that the Obama camp will not reply to Taheri’s new article unless a great hue and cry rises up from the blogosphere and demands it. Yes, Wendy Morigi admitted everything, but then clever Tapper tapped out an excellent spin which has been supported in large part by Hagel. Taheri was thereby discredited and several long days went by without Taheri responding. He has yet to respond, although Phillips article bridges the gap a bit.

I have tried to simplify this matter as much as possible. Is it too late and still too complicated for many to want to revisit this scandal? I suspect the Obama camp sincerely hopes so.

Lawrence Helm

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