Saturday, September 20, 2008

Status of the Obama/Zebari scandal -- the plot thickening

Here is an interesting article from The American Spectator’s “Washington Prowler”

It notes that Obama is standing by his story and that his campaign “spent more than five hours on Monday [9/15/08] attempting to figure out the best refutation” of Taheri’s New York Post article, quoting Hoshyar Zebari as saying that “Barack Obama during his July visit to Baghdad demanded that Iraq not negotiate with the Bush Administration on the withdrawal of American troops. Instead, he asked that they delay such negotiations until after the presidential handover at the end of January.”

The “Prowler” would seem to have some inside sources. They say, “The three problems, according to campaign sources: The report was true, there were at least three other people in the room with Obama and Zebari to confirm the conversation, and there was concern that there were enough aggressive reporters based in Baghdad with the sources to confirm the conversation that to deny the comments would create a bigger problem.

“Instead, Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi told reporters that Obama told the Iraqis that they should not rush through what she termed a "Strategic Framework Agreement" governing the future of U.S. forces until after President Bush left office. In other words, the Iraqis should not negotiate an American troop withdrawal.

“According to a Senate staffer working for Sen. Joseph Biden, Biden himself got involved in the shaping of the statement. "The whole reason he's on the ticket is the foreign policy insight," explained the staffer.”

The above Prowler article is dated 9/17/2008, 12:08 am My guess is that the “prowler” was running a little late. On 9/15 Wendy Morigi’s article was posted and everyone saw that it confirmed what Taheri said. It was followed by the Tapper article on 9/16/08 which was much better.

Note that the Prowler refers to “at least three other people in the room” as proof against Obama denying the whole episode.

The next day (9/16/08), Tapper posted his superior spin saying that at least one of the people in the room Chuck Hagel backed up Obama. That surprised me, frankly. I’ve been in a lot of meetings, and it just doesn’t seem possible to say that X never said Y to Z. There is too much milling around. There could be exceptions, I will grant. If there was no milling about, no coffee breaks, no talking before or after the meeting, then yes, Hagel could say definitely that “during the meeting, Obama never said what Zebari said he said.” Perhaps Hagel’s spokesman Mike Buttry got it wrong. But time has passed and Hagel hasn’t denied what Buttry said. Note that Hagel doesn’t call Zebari a liar. He just says, according to the Tapper article, that he “agrees with the Obama account of the meeting.”

If Obama was going to say something “inappropriate” to Zebari and had to have a Republican witness, he couldn’t have chosen a better one than Hagel from what I’ve read. Hagel’s wife contributed to the Obama campaign and Hagel and Obama agree on quite a bit. For awhile Hagel was considered (so it was rumored) as a vice presidential candidate for Obama. Would Hagel lie for Obama? I don’t know, but I would be more willing to credit something more cautious coming from him, like “as far as I know, Obama never said anything inappropriate,” or “I never heard Obama say anything like that.” But to say that he “agrees with Obama’s account of the meeting” makes me squirm. It gives me visions of Hagel joining in the conversation and agreeing with Obama.

This could be another case of Taheri being in trouble over one of his stories. Everything he says may be true, but Hagel is backing up Obama. Also, Taheri can have no confidence that Zebari will back him up. Zebari is Foreign Minister of Iraq. His job isn’t to back up Taheri but to get the best for his country. He may very well have said everything Taheri said he said, but Zebari may be wishing he hadn’t said it about now. This would not be a good time for him to play hard ball with Obama. He’s got to be worrying about repercussions if Obama becomes president. He can always clear things up in his memoirs 30 years from now.

Zebari’s concern had to be to get Obama to back away from trying to force Iraq to delay approvals of the Iraq Strategic Framework and Status of Forces Agreement, and he’s done that. Mission accomplished. Thanks a lot Taheri, now you can swing in the wind – at least that would be Hans Morgenthau’s advice to Zebari. You do what is right for your country, even if it offends your morals.

Lawrence Helm

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