Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 3:45 PM ET, 03/11/2011

Clapper vs. Pawlenty: An easy choice on foreign policy

By Jennifer Rubin

Yesterday provided a clear contrast between two national figures' ability to think and communicate clearly on national security. One was a mini-disaster and one was an impressive display.

On the disaster front, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a walking advertisement for abolishing the DNI position. He's called the Muslim Brotherhood a "largely secular" group. He was unaware of the London bombing when queried by ABC's Diane Sawyer. And he was back at it yesterday.

When asked during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee which countries posed the greatest "mortal threat" to the United States, he gave a peculiar answer: "Certainly, the Russians still have a very formidable nuclear arsenal, which does pose potentially a mortal threat to us." He added, "I don't think they have the intent to do that." He also listed China: "So they too do pose, potentially from a capabilities standpoint, a threat to us as a mortal threat." It was a disturbing view, causing Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to roundly criticize him. Graham considered this gaffe a "third strike," and grounds for his resignation.

Muddled as his syntax was, it was Clapper's analysis that was most alarming. He conflated the possession of military hardware with "threat" and specifically denied that Iran and North Korea (which might carry out threats to the U.S. homeland) were mortal threats. Obama administration officials on damage control later in the day confirmed he was only talking about military capabilities. But does Clapper understand the difference between military capacity and threats? (France and India have nuclear weapons, too, so are they "threats"?)

But that wasn't the worst of it. On Libya, he proclaimed that Gaddafi would "prevail." One wonders if this is what the Obama team is saying behind closed doors. If so, it is a sickening replay of its dismissal of the Green Revolution in 2009.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored the question when asked about Clapper's comments. Press secretary Jay Carney accused Graham of misrepresenting Clapper's views. Regardless of what Clapper meant, it is obvious that he has a serial communications problem. Given his role, that would seem to be a fatal flaw, but the president is standing behind him.

Contrast the cloud of confusion created by Clapper with presidential candidate-in-waiting Tim Pawlenty. As he has been of late, Pawlenty was forceful and precise on national security. Speaking in New Hampshire, Pawlenty went after Obama's approach to foreign policy, as Politico reported:

"I'm not overly concerned about our popularity ratings in Europe or the Middle East," Pawlenty said at a presidential house party in his honor. "What I am concerned about is, is this nation secure." . . .

Taking the mic at this enthusiastic, wall-to-wall people forum, Pawlenty received plenty of applause for his "pro-American, pro-security, pro-defense" stance on foreign policy. And a sea of heads nodded in agreement, as Pawlenty took the opportunity to brag about his five trips to Iraq, three visits to Afghanistan, and Asian and Latin American trade missions. . . .

Calling Libyan Mumammar Gadhafi "a confirmed terrorist, a psychopath," Pawlenty said Obama should be more aggressive in pushing for a no-fly zone over Libyan skies.

"I would be more forward leaning than that," he said.

The former Minnesota governor had harsher words for Obama's handling of the crisis in Egypt, charging the administration should have foreseen aging ruler Hosni Mubarak's eventual fall from power.

"What was the plan between an 82-year-old dictator and chaos?" he asked.

He wasn't asked about Clapper's remarks, but given Pawlenty's comments, I am certain he wouldn't name Russia and China as our most serious threats or declare Libya's revolution to be a lost cause.

It says volumes that a governor (albeit one who has traveled more than most) is more impressive on national security than the Obama official in charge of national security. And it reminds us that domestic issues won't be the only topic in the 2012 presidential race.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 11, 2011; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  National Security  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Arianna wins in a knockout
Next: Mitch Daniels doubles down on social issues 'truce'

Comments

Could it not be that his definition of 'mortal' was 'mortal to the country as a whole', not 'mortal to some portion of the country, while most people and institutions survive'?

Given that stipulation, I would maybe agree with him. Waiting on the Nork's EMP stuff...

Posted by: betapi | March 11, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Pawlenty is a shrewd politician and , very smart. He is record in MN, however is an unmitigated disaster. He fathered the 1998 tax cut deal that left a structural deficit in the state's budget and MN has been reeling ever since. Failed policy after failed policy. Bridge collapse. Disastrous agency appointees- cronies, really. and to top it all off, he is a pure WAR MONGER. Elect this beedy-eyed dweeb, and we would be guaranteed not only an indefinite stay in Iraq and Afghanistan but a new, improved war in Iran. Oh goodie...

Posted by: staussfamily | March 11, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness that we have a president who actually thinks and analyzes before he pulls the trigger.

Posted by: jem4 | March 11, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Why is that the Pawlentys of the world are so anxious to sacrifice other Americans' sons and daughters in foreign warm for personal political gain?

Posted by: BBear1 | March 11, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

It was bizarre to me to hear an honest assessment of Libyan situation grounds for firing according to Lindsey Graham, perhaps he would prefer to go back to when we did things from "the gut" and not from an honest assessment. The fact is, the Libyan dictator WILL WIN without any intervention, with the airpower he has against the rebels he will win, if acknowledging this is a crime, then that is a sad state of affairs for us. I don't know about anyone else but I am tired of dishonest intel. I welcome what Clapper is saying, and besides, its true.

Posted by: octavian81 | March 11, 2011 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Pawlenty and his gung-ho-war-mongering GOP counterparts still don't get it that we can't be the police of the world without a cost to us in lives and dollars that is just too high. Clapper might not be much of a communicator, but Pawlenty's war-mongering is loud and clear.

Posted by: paris1969 | March 11, 2011 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Pawlenty has the charisma of a light bulb on off. Pretty dim character this Pawlenty character and sad to say maybe the best the Repugnicans have to run their eventual landslide loss campaign against Obama with. The Repugnicans have zippo folks in the public light now that have a chance and if Tim is their best shot they have no shot at all but thanks for playing.

Posted by: jbento | March 11, 2011 11:05 PM | Report abuse

So where is all the money going to from for Pawlenty's pro-security, pro-defense stance? Not from the middle class and the poor, we've already been giving plenty and where has it gotten us? Union stripping, wages frozen, jobs disappearing...

It's so easy to talk tough when you don't have a plan and someone else has to pay for it when you finally get one.

Posted by: AverageJane | March 11, 2011 11:30 PM | Report abuse

If i have gleaned anything at all from the spotlighted Republican frontmen, it is that none of them are deep thinkers and all of them have no experience in combat. They have no idea what they are willing to put the sons and daughters of other Americans through in their zeal to prove just how militant they are. These simpletons have no personal courage themselves and would never allow their own sons to be deposited in the middle east where they are hated, but readily propose putting our kids over there. Pawlenty to me, looks and sounds retarded, just like Palin and Hucklebuck. It must be something they do to Republicans at birth that doesn't expose itself until they are adults, and then it is too late. They babble like uneducated idiots, making no sense, lying through their teeth, and repeating the same things other Republicans say over and over.

Posted by: papafritz571 | March 11, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

So where is all the money going to come from for Pawlenty's pro-security, pro-defense stance? Not from the middle class and the poor, we've already been giving plenty and where has it gotten us? Union stripping, wages frozen, jobs disappearing...

It's so easy to talk tough when you don't have a plan and someone else has to pay for it when you finally do get one.

Posted by: AverageJane | March 11, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

President Waldo and his Team can't admit Islam might inspire terrorists... don't see Iran or North Korea as threats... but think right-wing conservatives are a danger ?

Surely, the leadership of the Free World is seriously in doubt.

It is 3AM and I don't feel safe.

Posted by: pvilso24 | March 12, 2011 12:00 AM | Report abuse

President Waldo and his Team can't admit Islam might inspire terrorists... don't see Iran or North Korea as threats... but think right-wing conservatives are a danger ?

Surely, the leadership of the Free World is seriously in doubt.

It is 3AM and I don't feel safe.

Posted by: pvilso24 | March 12, 2011

***************
Just the fact that you believe what you wrote, tells us that you are an idiot. Our President knows more about who America's enemies are then you and the rightwingnuts like you could ever hope to know. That you actually think America's Presidents are not informed each and every day about our enemies and what they are up to, shows you have no possible knowledge of how government is run and what agencies are in direct contact with the President every single day.
Maybe you are basing your ignorance on Bush who never knew what was going while Cheney was playing at being dictator. Some day you rightwingers are going to open your eyes and realize your ignorance of your own country and the countries around the world have left you in a deep void that limits your ability to babbling nonsense and nothing else. Grow up and get an education. fritz

Posted by: papafritz571 | March 12, 2011 1:06 AM | Report abuse

That this Rubin person thinks Pawlenty's facile and uninformed campaign speech represents any kind of foreign policy knowledge demonstrates why it was silly for the Post to offer her a forum. The ignorant and doctrinaire applaud the opportunistic and uninformed, and the Post publishes it. This newspaper once had standards.

Posted by: turningfool | March 12, 2011 3:05 AM | Report abuse

The first step in enforcing a "no fly zone" is, as was pointed out earlier this week to Congress, the bombing of air defense systems. So anyone pushing for the imposition of such a zone is arguing for those raids. If the question was rephrased to be "do you support US planes bombing Libyan defense facilities?" would Pawlteny have responded the same way?

Posted by: jhherring | March 12, 2011 3:57 AM | Report abuse

marvellous ms rubin.

Posted by: razor2 | March 12, 2011 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Clapper, Panetta and Napolitano must go!

Posted by: bigmac1810 | March 12, 2011 6:26 AM | Report abuse

This is right wing political correctness. Right-wing conservatives are like lemmings that leap over a cliff. "Forward-leaning"...I think that was a favorite phrase of Rummy and his self-important crowd...look where that got us. Oh I forgot...you thought he was great.

Posted by: pdurand | March 12, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse

Further proof that NOBODY in Washington has any clue about what's going on. Time to crawl into the cave and seal the entrance...

Posted by: Apostrophe | March 12, 2011 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company