Sunday, January 31, 2010

Obama delivers the first State of the Union

Barack Obama does it again.
After one full-year of failure in almost every single policy initiatives he has taken in foreign or domestic politics, he still wins the hearts of millions by a simple speech that he made while addressing the joint session of US Congress last Wednesday. However strong arguments one might have to claim that Obama had a terrible first year in the presidency, Obama still arrived on Capitol Hill with a license given by the U.S. Constitution to tell about the state of the union – and he did it once more near flawlessly.
A year ago, Obama was elected and ushered into office to change the usual divisions in the politics of Washington. However, he has ended up achieving the exact opposite objective so far while trying to pass his health care reform package during the past year. The health care bill is still hanging in the air of Congress like a fireball and is an embarrassment to Obama himself, his administration and the still-devastated U.S. economy.
Obama followed the path of predecessor George W. Bush to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq and rapidly raised the overall number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan with a strategy that tends to change quiet often. “There has been enough fighting,” said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan in an interview with The Financial Times a few days ago.
Not only McChrystal but Bob Gates, the U.S. defense secretary, or Kai Eide, the U.N. special representative in Afghanistan, but everyone started to talk about taking the Taliban into consideration in Afghanistan while finally thinking about the big picture.
Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington who uncovered the naked torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison several years ago and played a watchdog role on his own during the Bush administration years, paying close attention to the global war on terrorism. He said during an interview for "Studio Washington" this week, which will be broadcast this coming Monday, that he sees a 180 degrees of mistaken policies when it comes to the strategy in Afghanistan.
And he adds that he could bet on every single bone in his body that the current Obama administration is probably pursuing many policies of the Bush's global war against jihadism. And again, according to Hersh, there is a lot of bad blood between some officials in the White House and the Pentagon because of what is going on in Afghanistan. However, he added, he doesn't think Obama would do anything about it.
After listening to the Obama speech carefully, one thinks how can a person who understands America's issues and explains them so well have been so useless for the past year? Still, the speech came at right about the time when the majority of the independent pundits in America, who have begun to doubt Obama for his “can do” rhetoric, were about to lose all the hope and patience they reserved for him.
Obama finally admitted how bad the first year was in terms of the Arab/Israeli peace process – a top foreign agenda of his administration – during an interview that was published in Time magazine the week before the State of the Union speech. The substance of the admittance was worse than the act itself.
In the confession, Obama said, "This is just really hard ... I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. And so what we're going to have to do – I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn't produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high."
In this testimony, Obama confesses that he had no idea what he was getting into while making that beautifully choreographed speech in Cairo. Now Obama regrets, and claims that if he had known better what was going on in the region at that time, he probably would not have chosen to utter the most courageous words that world ever heard from a U.S. president regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Contrary to the Bush-era State of the Union speeches, Obama only allocated about one-tenth of his speech to discussing foreign affairs. There was so little focus on the outside sphere; by itself, this is evidence of how much the superpower of the world is bogged down with its own domestic affairs. The urgency of the matters within the States of the Union did not permit Obama to talk about foreign affairs much.
So the question is whether this speech will bring peace and bipartisanship to the capital as Obama emphasized heavily. According to Jerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal, the latest speech by Obama, which was to give a lesson to the opposition, might just backfire.
The Republicans so far has been winning by sitting tight and fiercely opposing nearly anything. With losing the super majority in the Senate a week before the speech, the Democrats have been going through a power shortage as one commentator put it.
Therefore, as great as the speech that was delivered almost flawlessly by Obama, that might be the last grand one in which he still begs to reach a bipartisanship spirit in Washington. From now on, the sides might start learning to sharpen swords instead of pursuing what seems to be the intention of Obama’s speech.
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Guest - guest (2010-01-30 22:29:10) :
It is very clear that Obam is in the hands of the establishment. 

Guest - wolf (2010-01-30 17:38:10) :
I think we have to give the guy some time and also be realistic in our expectations. Many of the international issues are very difficult to deal with, like for example Iran and it nuclear plans (it would be a disaster if Iran gets nuclear weapons), Afganistan (do we want a civil war with the Talibans and a training camp for Islamic extemists terrorists), pulling out of Iraq (could end up with a civil war). All these are very very difficult desicions and not something you can just finish off in a second. 

Guest - Dinos Plassaras (2010-01-30 00:48:31) :
Nice opinion. I wonder if it has an expiration date. 

Guest - murat (2010-01-30 00:44:53) :
Mr. Tanir, When Bush came to the office, there was 200 bn dollar surplus in budget and another billions in the horizon for the next decade.. when obama came to the office, there were billions of dollars deficit and 2 wars and economic crises... so tell me, (not necessarily you) what can Obama do in one year?? so let s be patient! 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Robert Wexler's Ankara visit

Former U.S. congressman Robert Wexler, who recently resigned from his congressional seat, made a visit to Ankara last week. Known as both a friend of Turkey and a staunch supporter of Israel’s foreign policies, Wexler’s trip to Ankara and meeting with Turkish president Abdullah Gül was too important to overlook, according to Washington sources who followed the visit closely.
Wexler has had an important profile in Washington, especially for bringing a few specialties together. He had served in the House of Representatives since 1997, representing the important 19th district of Florida, and was selected as one of the 50 most influential names in the U.S. Congress by Congressional Quarterly in 2008. The politician’s importance to Turkey is also notable, as he was the cofounder of the Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations, which now has more than 70 members.
Last October, Wexler announced that he would retire by the new year, and did so earlier this month. Abandoning his House seat to head a think tank, the Center for Middle East Peace, which works toward reconciliation in the Middle East, was a move that perplexed some in the beginning. Many thought that since Wexler was one of the earliest supporters of the Obama campaign and was known to be close to the Obama team, especially the president’s right-hand man Rahm Emanuel, that he would take a job in the White House. Wexler’s early support for Obama in 2007 had made him another strong bridge between the Jewish community and the Obama team.
When retiring from his congressional seat, Wexler said in a statement that he regretted leaving before the end of his term, but added that “I truly believe there is no time to waste” on achieving Middle East peace. “[We] are at a unique and critically tense moment in the history of the Middle East with both significant opportunities to succeed in the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as major challenges involving Iran, Hamas and al-Qaeda,” he said.
As a co-head of the Turkish caucus in the House, Wexler’s congressional office was a constant destination for the various visiting Turkish delegations that came to Washington. As someone with proximity to both the hawkish Jewish lobby AIPAC and to Turkish officials, Wexler was able to find common ground to make gains for all fronts, including for the U.S., since the strong and unyielding alliance between the three was unquestionable until recently.
However, things started to change a while ago. Since the now-infamous Davos summit, Turkey’s criticism of Israel has become heavier. As the relationship between the two countries underwent dramatic changes during the past year, Wexler found it increasingly difficult to pick and employ those common expediencies that were once easily achievable.
For instance, when Wexler participated the inaugural three-day conference of J Street, a young liberal Jewish lobby group whose policies related to the Arab/Israel peace process mostly coincide with those of the Obama administration, he felt obliged to blast Turkey for excluding Israel from the “Anatolian Eagle” annual joint air-force exercise. In addition, Wexler argued in the same speech in Washington at the end of last October – at which I was also present, sharing my own observations of the conference in two different columns – the U.S. government had displayed its anger by withdrawing its participation from the same joint military exercise in reaction to Turkey’s attitude toward Israel.
These changing dynamics in the relationship between Turkey and Israel, however, did not necessarily extinguish Wexler’s importance in the U.S.-Turkey-Israel relationship triangle. Particularly Wexler’s proximity to the White House and chief of staff Emanuel helped keep his profile afloat. According to one Washington source, Wexler’s Ankara visit and meeting with Gül was also encouraged by Emanuel’s White House office.
So what was the reason behind the meeting? The reason was to look for ways to repair the Turkish-Israel relationship, which especially went sour after the recent Ayalon-Celikkol “low-seat crisis.” In this latest crisis, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon didn’t shake hands with Turkish Ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oguz Celikkol on-camera in their meeting, and was heard telling the Israeli media crew in Hebrew that the important thing was that people see Celikkol sitting down low “while we’re up high.” After this insult to Turkey, however, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Turkey last Sunday and both sides acted as if there was no crisis between the two countries.
Since the script of the Gül-Wexler meeting is not publicly available, it is hard to say what went on in the meeting. However, in light of the revelations of the Washington sources who follow the White House and the Turkish side closely, it seems the visit was primarily made to convince Gül to play a more positive role and view Turkey-Israel relations tenderly. With the Iranian nuclear crisis boiling, a rift between Turkey and Israel would be the last bad news that the White House could ask for.
While Obama’s foreign policies and initiatives have been tumbling into one another, and chief of staff Emanuel’s resignation is widely discussed in Washington and on TV talk shows, having Turkey and Israel on different sides right before a huge regional conflict unravels in the Middle East complicates matters even more for the White House.
It is important to watch statements coming from Turkish officials about Turkey-Israel relations from now on, lest the sides just accept that the rift between the two countries is too big to repair in the near future.
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Guest - Dinos Plassaras (2010-01-27 16:46:52) :
@Jill- I certainly can take a joke. Now here is another joke, namely Wexler is no longer an elected politician rather he is a hired gun working for a for profit organization that will do and say anything if compensated accordingly. There is no evidence in this article that Wexler is a political heavyweight and that his actions are closely followed by political elites for any particular significance. 

Guest - Jill (2010-01-27 16:03:47) :
Wexler said that on the Colbert comedy show, repeating what the host said as JOKE, to prove that Wexler has such a safe seat in his district that he can say something like that and still get elected...Seems like Dinos can't even get a joke! 

Guest - Dinos Plassaras (2010-01-26 21:28:41) :
@forwdean- Your reply is very reassuring and since you seem to be a real expert on this issue I guess we have no other choice but to take your word for it. Next time you want to fortify your case with evidence, I think you should feel free to use even more laconic statements such as "wrong" or "this is ain't so" and such similar eloquent expressions oozing with substance and undisputed logic. 

Guest - forwdean (2010-01-26 19:00:03) :
Wexler is an important figure in washington and he has been very helpful for the Turkish cause. His visit to Ankara and work on to repair Turkish/Israel relations nothing but a good work. 

Guest - Dinos Plassaras (2010-01-26 00:04:20) :
I can't believe that this the same Robert Wexler who said in the Colbert Report TV show: " I enjoy cocaine because... it's a fun thing to do. I enjoy the company of prostitutes for the following reasons: ...oh, because it's a fun thing to do. Much like cocaine. If you combine the two together, it's probably even more fun." Nice. This is really nice. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The fizzling Obama brand

One year ago this week, on a very cold Jan. 20, 2009, I, along with more than a million Americans, went to downtown Washington, D.C., to witness a historic day. That day, Barack Hussein Obama came to the helm of the United States as the first black president in American history.
I was there on the Washington Mall first as a journalist, to see the excitement of the people, many of who were black and there to be proud eyewitnesses to a post-racial America. And second, as someone who had closely followed this young president while he was a candidate during the campaigning years, someone who saw the inspiration he gave and the expectations he created and wanted to be there to share that experience.
After eight years of the Bush presidency, with a worsening image and credibility in a world filled with wars and arrogance, and amid once-in-a-lifetime economic crises, Obama was promising to the whole American nation to get back on a right track to lead the world, maybe in a different fashion this time.
Now, after one full year, it can be easily argued that Obama has failed to meet the expectations he created and fulfill the promises he made. The day before Obama’s first anniversary, another heavy blow came from the Massachusetts Senate race. The Senate seat that had been represented by Ted Kennedy for 47 years until he lost his life due to a brain tumor was taken by Scott Brown, a Republican challenger unknown until recently in one of the bluest states in America.
The event quickly became a phenomenon that seems to have changed all the political calculations in Washington, from domestic to foreign ones. What has so far come to be called a “Massachusetts miracle” has many implications to dwell on. First of all, this heavy election blow came right about the time that everybody expected the Obama White House to celebrate its first anniversary. Instead, after this political earthquake, and with many other domestic and foreign initiatives seemingly stalled, the Obama team saw no reason to celebrate its “historic anniversary.”
Even worse news from this election loss for the Obama White House was the main theme of the newly elected senator’s election campaign. Soon to be a sitting senator, Brown ran a campaign mainly in opposition to the healthcare reform that is still in the U.S. Congress, waiting to be compromised by both sides of the aisle. Therefore Obama is now in a position where he can neither ignore the election results and push ahead for compromise, nor withdraw his priority domestic reform that has been in the works for months.
While the Obama administration is already under heavy attack by the media and opposition for being slow to tackle unemployment and other urgent economic issues, and instead focusing on the healthcare overhaul, lately these attacks have become increasingly personal, directed at Obama’s personality and casting doubts on his working capability.
The pundits who have became so brutal when criticizing Obama and his policies nowadays once enthusiastically applauded everything he said during the campaign years. And in that sense, when looking at the last year, Obama truly looks like a joke these days, with the policies he has pursued being tested by tough questions.
With the legendary Ted Kennedy’s “safe” Massachusetts seat down, even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Nevada seat is shaky before the upcoming November elections, as is the Illinois seat abandoned by Obama when he moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Actually, after a powerful political earthquake such as the one that happened in Massachusetts, sending waves through the capital, none of the Democrat members in the House who are up for re-election can feel safe and sound now.
According to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC polls, American voters nationwide are evenly split over which party they hope will run Capitol Hill after the November elections – the first time Democrats haven’t had the edge on that question since December 2003.
In the same polls, just 22 percent said that they were “optimistic and confident” about Obama’s presidency – a 10-point decline from a year ago. The numbers reflect the stubborn economic slump, in which joblessness stands at 10 percent and many Americans are angry about government bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry. This anger has especially made a difference with the independents, who now, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, say they would prefer to see Republicans control Congress after the November elections.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote that he is “pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.” The Obama brand, which once represented visionary leadership and a reason to be hopeful for the future, is now about to bust. One wonders who will be crushed and left underfoot after such a catastrophic turn of events.


Guest - kwell (2010-01-23 00:39:30) :

obama is not dead yet.. he is just starting 

Monday, January 04, 2010

The ghosts of September 11 are back

America is undergoing a deja vu period of 9/11 and it seems that the ghosts of those days continue to haunt Americans. On Sept. 11, 2001, millions of Americans were shocked by one of the most innovative and brutal killing sprees in history. The horrors that occurred on that day have been followed by two wars that have been going on for eight years.

Starting on that day, the life that Americans knew changed enormously. Their perception of the Muslim world also went through a dramatic change. The Muslim minority of the country, while mostly seen before 9/11 as people with an exotic background, who are nice to have a chat with and learn from, became a somewhat “different” group of people, who have a violent holy book which stems from a brutal religion and prophet.

Leaving aside the minority of the Americans, who have enough tools, time and interest to learn about Eastern culture and the religion of Islam, the rest concluded that it is Islam and the culture that is the real problem. If they could only study their own religion in light of historic evidence with objectivity, they could have seen that the Abrahamic religions, Christianity or Islam, actually are not that different from each other, and their scriptures similarly are full of belligerent versus as well as benevolent ones.

Though one has to concede the fact that it is not fair at all to blame this ignorance on the West, as it should not be expected from average Americans to have interest in the intricacies of the other cultures and religions for they have their own jobs, families and lives to worry about. The majority of people have to classify “others” and rank them in a group to make it easier to judge them. After all, don't we all love to categorize people so that we do not need to spend much time thinking about?

Unfortunately, Islam and the image of Muslim have been getting even worse lately. Only within the last two months, there have been three incidents that have scared American society, which seemingly all stem from pure religious hostility.

Only two months ago, Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major, opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing a dozen fellow Army soldiers, and injuring tens more. Doctor Nidal Malik reportedly was against being deployed to the war theaters and when he was notified to be sent overseas to serve in a Muslim country for the American troops, he saw the mission equal to killing innocent Muslims. The later investigations so far have been proving that Nidal Malik was indeed sympathetic to al-Qaeda's vision and might even have had some links to its leadership.

In another incident in the beginning of December, five American citizens who had been reported missing from the Washington area were arrested in the eastern province of Punjab, Pakistan. According to the reports, those men were dispatched to go for training to join the ranks of al-Qaeda. According to the news reports, none of these five young men had suspicious backgrounds or any worrisome signs for possible terrorism links. On the heels of charges against them, this incident also showed once more that American soil is not immune to radicalism, and that Americans can be recruited within the United States to enlist in terrorist networks.

And finally on Christmas day, a young, 23-year-old Nigerian was caught in a plane only after he failed to detonate some form of explosive as the plane was landing. The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, an engineering student at University College London, who seemed to get in the plane regardless of his banker father's tips to the American Embassy officials in Nigeria. While Obama initially stated what happened was an “isolated” incident, he later quickly changed his position when he saw that the incident was a serious security lapse. It looks like, after eight years and spending hundreds of billions, the airport security is still just a front. Anyone who wants to get on a plane to blow himself and others up, with little imagination, can very well do so.

Obama has been hit heavily by the latest episode, which made him seem like a weak leader when it comes to national security matters. Mid-elections in 2010 could be deadly for the Democrats if the economic recovery doesn't come or comes late in 2010 and if there will be more security lapses. This deja vu of 9/11 is certainly not good news for Obama, as he increasingly finds himself in a position to prove his hawkish sensibilities lately in domestic and foreign affairs. And 2010, so far, seems to be a year that he has to resort to those sensibilities more often with the potential for more episodes like the one on Christmas Day.

Why is Namık Tan being sent to Washington?

Former Turkish Ambassador Nabi Şensoy's abrupt resignation has caused much speculation and has changed some of the dynamics in the Turkish diplomatic world during the last few weeks. It has also forced Ankara to make a more careful choice for the Washington post, taking newly emerging equations into consideration.

Şensoy felt compelled to submit his resignation following a row between him and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – an unfortunate incident that occurred in front of several people in the White House.

According to common knowledge and expectations, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leadership was already planning on sending a new appointee to Washington, D.C., after Şensoy's tenure ended during the first half of 2010.

According to one source, who is well positioned to follow the developing story, before and during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Washington visit in December, the AKP wanted to send its own political appointee to Washington because it thought the most important foreign envoy post in the world ought to be in tandem with the administration more enthusiastically than it had been in the recent past.

After Şensoy's shocking resignation, I, along with others, reported that the AKP was not happy with his service even before the incident happened, for Şensoy was viewed as a representative who wasn't particularly sensitive to the developments that were working against the AKP administration's agenda in the U.S. capital.

When one looks at some of the meetings that took place in Washington just before Erdoğan's visit, one could see that there were few episodes that really irritated the AKP's strategic team in Ankara, who are always very keen to pull strings in Washington because of their past links.

For example, the presence and presentations in Washington of a British journalist, Mr. Gareth Jenkins, who has been residing in Istanbul for the last two decades, about the Ergenekon investigation at the U.S. Congress and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advancement Studies, or SAIS, was one of those episodes that raised eyebrows among pro-AKP, conservative media and other circles close to the AKP.

In those presentations, at one of which I also was present, Jenkins painted a picture in which the Ergenekon investigation sounded almost like a fairy tale as he repeatedly pointed out the overwhelming procedural and factual mistakes of the last two years of the investigation and depicted the AKP administration as becoming more and more authoritarian.

A couple of days or so before the AKP entourage arrived at the Oval Office, a group of journalists were also invited to Congress to testify as witnesses in a hearing about Turkey. Among those present were Mr. İhsan Dağı, a columnist from daily Zaman, Mr. Hasan Bülent Kahraman, a columnist from daily Sabah, Mr. Sedat Ergin, a columnist for Hürriyet and the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, and Mr. Rıza Türmen, a columnist for daily Milliyet, who is also reputable former European Human Rights Court judge.

This hearing apparently also made the AKP’s top leadership very upset, as Erdoğan angrily referred to them during his speeches in Washington and likened them to part of a “grand campaign” against the AKP. Erdoğan was not alone; many other Turkish columnists also joined in on the act quickly.

While these various meetings were occurring – in which some of the columnists who have given staunch support to the AKP administration were also present – the AKP leadership thought the Turkish Embassy, intentionally or unintentionally, was ineffective at doing damage control.

On the contrary, as covered and reported after Erdoğan, Türmen was hosted by Şensoy at the embassy's residence, even though Türmen had heavily criticized AKP for its increasing authoritarian tendencies, especially in recent years. This latest episode, according to many, was a tipping point before Davutoğlu finally confronted Şensoy just next to the Oval Office.

Therefore, before the Turkish delegation arrived in Washington the AKP was already preparing to make a political appointment, by sending someone with much more familiarity with the AKP agenda and one who can also relentlessly ward off attacks against the administration that might come from many different fronts, including the discussions which are regularly held in various think tanks and editorials which appear in the mainstream American media. Also important in the job is maintaining good working relations with different lobby powers.

However, all those plans had to change with Şensoy’s resignation. With his resignation, the tension between the AKP administration and the career diplomats in the Foreign Ministry became more visible and made it even harder for the AKP to push for a political appointee to replace a career diplomat. Therefore, the decision was tilted to send a career diplomat to ease the already jittery relationship between the "mon chers" and the AKP.

In light of these developments, Ambassador Namık Tan, who had already served twice at the embassy in Washington in the past, suddenly seemed a much more preferable choice.

Since his past tenures, Tan has maintained special and strong relationships with many of his old colleagues in the U.S. capital and enjoyed a great working relationship with some of the most important lobbyists in Washington. In addition, Tan's good relationship with the AKP leadership got him the nod instead of other possible leading candidates, Mr. Feridun Sinirlioğlu, undersecretary of the ministry of foreign affairs, and Ünal Çeviköz, deputy undersecretary of the ministry of foreign affairs.

After the embassy was excluded from the preparations and arrangements of Erdoğan's last trip to Washington, and most programs were organized specifically by the Prime Minister’s Office, the goal was to prove that the team in Ankara is better positioned to know the capital's dynamics than the embassy in Washington, according to at least one Washington source in the U.S. capital.

However, the Erdoğan trip went rather unnoticed when the American mainstream media skipped covering it, Erdoğan's speeches mostly lacked universal tones and were filled with some of the old, harsh words.

All in all, the Washington visit did not bring any tangible results, and this time the same circles started to blame the embassy staff for this seemingly failed visit. On top of everything, the visit ended with a resignation scandal that has been long absent from the world of Turkish diplomacy.

As a result, this chain of bad incidents gave birth to one great occurrence, and that is new Ambassador Tan's arrival to Washington. He is expected to resume his mission within weeks and it seems that all of Turkey's friends in Washington are already anxiously waiting to see their old friend back.

Tan, according to the backstage talks, is already preparing a proactive team for Washington who can deal with the intricacies of the politics of the capital and who will represent Turkey adequately.

And Washington is waiting for him as well!

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Guest - clash (2009-12-30 05:57:48) :

what is beneath all this is a deep friction btw the ideas of the "elected" leaders vs. the career diplomats on how to run nitty-griddy of FP. There are always in any country some sort of discrepancy exists, but these are times for TR where the differences are too major, the parties too stubborn in their own ways, and not willing to listen or compromise. Too bad turkish FP suffers from all this beyond repair very is the depth... where is the strategy? We had higher expectations from prof. davutoglu.

Guest - Halep (2009-12-29 22:28:42) :

I agree with PINAR, we must pour millions into media all over the world so everyone we see how wonderful and amazing we are and that everyone who denies that is cursed and arrogant. We must insist that everyone agrees with us and finds us agreeable because we are the best nation in the world and follow the plan and destiny of the great Ataturk!

Guest - wolf (2009-12-29 11:04:07) :

@Pinar. Why on earth would we do that? Dont you think we have more important things to do in our own country and better ways of spending out tax payers money than trying on infiltrate the entire media of US?

Guest - PINAR (2009-12-29 06:34:05) :

Turkey needs to send 500 turkish students every year to top american universities like harvard and colombia to study american history, american politics, american law, american journalism. Turkey needs to send these turkish students to intern in american media companies like fox tv, abc tv, nbc tv. the only way to influence american policy is to flood american media with Turkey' s perspective

Washington's white Christmas with half-measured victories

Washington, D.C., received record snow last weekend. It's rare for Washington to have a white Christmas, snow covering the ground, like in so many classic holiday movies.

According to the weather reports, it was the biggest snow storm of the last 70 years, and it brought about 40-45 cm of snow to the city. As the last weekend before Christmas, while the ornaments and the trees are out there with blinking lights, this white holiday season seemed like a fairy tale to Washingtonians as they wished Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to each other.

One does not want to wake up from this holiday numbness as one can predict the coming year, 2010, will not be less difficult than 2009 for fellow Americans. In the New Year, America has to primarily deal with Iran in foreign affairs, in addition to the two wars that are going on, and the worse job market and many more domestic issues that have to be addressed urgently.

However, in the last days of this holiday season, the U.S. Senate was able to pass the sweeping health care reform, a debate that the Americans have been going to bed and waking up with since last May.

In the face of this systemic change, which affects one-sixth of the American economy, the question is, should President Barack Obama be viewed as a reformer or a politician who knows well how the system works and simply bows to it, as many in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party like to suggest.

While analyzing the bill, Carl Bernstein, a veteran American journalist, argued that the bad news about the health care legislation process is that it showed us the systemic break-down of the American Congress, one of the three branches of the American government. The good news is that Obama understands this systemic failure and tries to govern accordingly.

And until this systemic failure is repaired, Bernstein argues, both the presidency and America will be undermined. Bernstein, in a televised interview, suggested that there is systemic corruption in the American Congress, especially in the Senate. The members of the Congress are not responsive to national or public interests, they are only responsive to the ideological and money interests to stay in the Congress.

The next step for health care legislation now is for the two Houses of the Congress to hammer out the differences in their versions of the bill and find a compromise. In comparison to the past, however, the compromise will not be sought between the Democrats and Republicans this time; it will be between the liberal and the conservative wings of the Democratic Party.

It will not be an easy step; nevertheless, the Democrats now are too close to a historic threshold to claim a victory and they should be able to bring a compromised health care bill to U.S. President Barack Obama's desk before his State of the Union address, which will take place Jan. 20.

Passing the health care package in the Senate is already being presented as a historic move by Obama. However, amid back-door deals, insurance companies' influence and special deals to the individual states, like the ones handed out to Nebraska and Louisiana, this reform process has so far proven right Bernstein's corruption arguments about the Congress rather than Obama's upbeat assessment of the bill.

According to a report in The Chicago Tribune, "at least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees were involved in shaping the current health overhaul legislation – along with at least 13 former lawmakers registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year. Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years."

The same report concludes that the total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are included. "There's always a worry that [congressional aides or members] may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues is so wide – pharmacies, hospitals, doctors," said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

With all the shortcomings, apparent corruption in Washington and of the reform package, Obama is about to sign historic legislation to bring the most significant change to the American system since 1965, when the Medicare bill was passed, which created America's state-run health scheme for the elderly.

According to the Daily Beast, this bill will give access to health coverage to 31 million more Americans in addition to the 23 million who already have such care.

And The Economist notes that insurance companies will lose the right to refuse coverage to applicants on the basis of past or present ill-heath while price discrimination against older people will be sharply scaled back.

People who favor the package enthusiastically argue that the bill, although not perfect, is something that can be built on in the future, referring to the public option that seems to have been excluded from the grand compromise period, can be added in later years.

It is still not known whether the American people or the insurance companies gained the most from this sweeping overhaul. On Dec. 18, the health care insurance companies hit the highest mark in the stock market this year.

While the public option, the government-run insurance scheme, is out of the picture, the bill still mandates every American buy insurance coverage; hence, the insurance companies' stocks went through the roof in the market, for they are set to access a record number of clients in the coming years, thanks to the lobbyists, who have proved themselves the most creative and useful workers of the year!

Obama, as Bernstein said, recognized the flaws in the legislation process and instead of working to change it or race against it, opted to work for/with it.

And he got an important half-victory in the last days of 2009. From the last curtain of the play called "the year of 2009," it can be safely argued that the Obama doctrine so far can be defined as a sum total of half measures, from dealing with China to the compromise that was reached in the Copenhagen Climate Summit, from deciding on the Afghan strategy to passing the health care bill.