Wednesday, January 16, 2008


For the most part the Democratic debate in Nevada last night was civil as the three main contenders chose to mostly focus on their strengths and attack Bush. Clinton and Obama pretty much dominated the conversation, with Edwards trying mostly to build his populist rep while creating a sense of uniqueness. On this point he didn't succeed as he repeatedly went to his stump no matter what question was asked of him. One odd moment that I think escaped most was something that Edwards said at the very end of the debate, long after the audience passed out. The NY Times has the full transcript here, but I draw your attention to the very end:

"RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, on the conduct of foreign policy, after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, you made a phone call to General Musharraf in Pakistan. He called you back quickly. Close to half the people in Pakistan believe the government of Musharraf or allies were involved in the assassination of Miss Bhutto.


RUSSERT: Was it appropriate for you to talk to Musharraf at that time, perhaps give him cover at a time when he needed legitimacy?

EDWARDS: It was absolutely appropriate, and I didn't actually speak -- place a call to President Musharraf. I placed a call to the Pakistani ambassador in the United States and told him that I knew Musharraf, we had met in Islamabad years ago and talked about some of the problems in Pakistan at that time and that I had some things I wanted to say to him.
Now, the things I had to say to him were tough. And they were exactly the things that the president of the Untied States should say to a President Musharraf under these circumstances.
First, I said to him, you have to continue on the march to democratization in South Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, who I was with in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East just a few years ago, I heard her talk about the path to democratization being baptized in blood in Pakistan. She put her life at risk for that path to democratization. What I said to Musharraf is: You have to stay on that path. Now, he said he would. That needs to be taken with great cynicism and a huge grain of salt, given his history. Second, I said you must allow international investigators in to determine what happened, because no one is going to trust some internal investigation that you conduct. Actually, they have now allowed Scotland Yard investigators into Pakistan to at least conduct some investigation. And then, third, I said these elections that are scheduled have to take place as soon as possible, but they need to be real. They have to be open, fair. The opposition parties need to be represented. They have to be secure.And those are the points I wanted to make to him. And those are exactly the points I would make to him as president of the United States."

I understand no one really had the time to follow up on this one (there was about one minute left to the debate) but as soon as I heard his response I was a bit shocked, after all it seems to me completely inappropriate for Edwards to speak to Musharraf about this issue, especially in the tone that Edwards claims he spoke. He's not an elected official, so what is he giving Musharraf orders for? And that paternal arrogant attitude that reminds me of Bollinger introducing Ahmadinejad at Columbia University doesn't grease the wheels of friendship and is completely counterproductive coming from a former Senator. I mean, what the hell is Musharraf going to say, "Oh well now that John Edwards told me I need to have to open elections I better do it." or is he going to say, "Wow, John Edwards is a tool." Either way I don't think any unelected candidate should be doing international relations unless it's for a personal reason using the most conciliatory tone possible. (And yes, I think Obama can talk to Kenya considering he has family there and he's an elected official. In fact I couldn't imagine any one in his position not pulling a few strings to help out.)

I still have a great respect for Edwards, but in his desire to establish a hard foreign policy rep I think he stepped over the line here.

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