Thursday, January 29, 2009

Privileged Information

(H/T: Middle East forum)

I. According to President Carter, he "spent a long time with President Obama" the evening before the five living presidents met at the White House January 7.. "I would say he was most interested in the Middle East because I had been to that region twice in the previous year and had met with some people that others usually don't meet with as you probably know,".

Ken Stein, who had worked with Carter for many years, asks: "Why does only Carter know about them? "How come they don't tell the rest of the world, how come we don't learn about these things?"

A similar thought occurred to Norm Geras, some time ago:

What about Hamas's founding charter, replete with antisemitic imagery, some of it drawn from the notorious Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? "It's terrible," he says. "I despise antisemitism in anyone. I think anti-Jew is a violation of the basic principles on which my life is built. I grew up with it in the south with anti-black, so I saw the ravages of racial discrimination." But when the charter was raised in those talks with Hamas's top echelon: "They ridiculed it as being ancient, passé, an inconsequential document. But I don't speak for anyone else."

Can it be that Carter failed to follow up here in the obvious way: if the document is no longer of any account, why not revoke it and replace it with something else? Can Hamas have missed this idea? Can Jimmy Carter?

II. I wouldn't attach too much importance to whatever conversations took place between the present and former presidents. Obama is that kind of guy, who wants to collect as many opinions as he can, from a wide range of positions, before he goes on to do exactly what he had determined to do before all that exposure to the diversity of points of view.

How do I know this?

From observation, gut feeling, and this little article written by Cass Sunstein:

He had an important topic to discuss: the controversy over President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls between Americans and suspected terrorists. ... Before taking a public position, Obama wanted to talk the problem through.

Obama wanted to consider the best possible defence of what Bush had done. To every argument I made, he listened and offered a counter-argument. After the issue had been exhausted, Obama said that he thought the programme was illegal, but now had a better understanding of both sides.

... This is the Barack Obama I have known for nearly 15 years -- a careful and even-handed analyst of law and policy, unusually attentive to multiple points of view.

Sunstein is amazed by Obama's thorough prudence. Unlike "many prominent Democratic leaders" who "had already blasted the Bush initiative as blatantly illegal.", he actually explored the opposite point of view, before joining these leaders in blasting the Bush initiative as illegal...


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