Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Washington this week comes at a pivotal time in U.S.-Turkish relations. The importance of Turkey to the U.S. administration can be traced by the number of high-level visits by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden in December 2011 while this is Davutoğlu's first reciprocal visit since his last trip to Washington in November 2010. While there is a sense of deja vu given the frenetic pace of meetings, speaking and awards including his selection for the second time to Foreign Policy's top 100 Global Thinkers list for "imagining a new role for Turkey in the world - and making it happen," there is much that has changed since the last time Dr. Minister came to Washington.
The volatility of U.S.-Turkish relations, which ranged from the low points of 2010 with the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla and UN Iran sanction incidents quickly followed by the developments of 2011 including the Arab awakenings and Eurozone crisis, reemphasized Ankara's transatlantic value to Washington. Prime Minister Erdoğan's personal involvement and interest in foreign affairs throughout 2011 transformed him into the most popular leader in the region. During Erdoğan's tour of the "Arab Spring Capitals", observers marveled at a leader who could lead Friday prayers with the faithful in Libya one day and on the very next day lecture the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on the merits of secularism. Traveling with large business entourages across the globe there has never been a more successful Turkish champion selling Turkey to every available market around the world, signifying Turkey's unique global role.
Davutoğlu's own role as the architect of Erdoğan's foreign policy has been acknowledged and appreciated for close to a decade, first as the principle advisor to the Prime Minister, then as Foreign Minister, and now as an elected member of the Turkish Parliament. The transformation of this cerebral professor of international relations into one of the nation's most recognizable politicians mirrors Turkey's own transformations and has come with its own intrigue about the role of a possible Prime Minister Davutoğlu in a post-Erdoğan Ankara. Precisely because of this domestic interest in Davutoğlu, his relations with world leaders and trips abroad have been intensely scrutinized within Turkey. Given the importance of the United States for Turkey, Davutoğlu's visit this time to Washington during an election year amidst a deteriorating situation in Iran, Iraq, and Syria may be his most critical.
The personal chemistry developed between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu mirrors that of President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan. Davutoglu's last visit was shortly after the Wikileaks group launched Iraq War Logs, which included over a 1,000 damaging cables about Turkey. As the first foreign minister that Secretary Clinton met in person after the release of Wikileaks, Davutoglu's message was clear "We have excellent relations with Hillary. These documents won't affect our foreign policy. ... We don't take these observations seriously."
Yet this personal chemistry has not been shared uniformly by the Washington establishment particularly because of the continuing tensions in Turkish-Israeli relations, the approaching 100 year anniversary of the events of 1915 that many members of Congress believe constitute a genocide, and skepticism about the integrity of Turkey's civil-military relations, democracy, and free press. In December, these feelings suddenly found public expression in the form of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's impromptu response at the start of his remarks at this month's Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Istanbul.
Furthermore, Washington's domestic politics in Washington make Ankara one of the administration's biggest political targets which has emerged throughout the Republican primary process. At a moment in which the role of American global leadership is being questioned, Ankara's newfound swagger and emergence as an international leader should be a welcomed sign of a more responsible partner in regional stability and long-term democratization that are in the American national interest.
Having spent the last decade strengthening regional ties through Davutoğlu's principles of "strategic depth" without placing preconditions on democratic conditionality, Ankara has emerged as a power player in the emerging realities of both the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Davutoğlu has been largely reactive in his foreign policy since the beginning of the Arab protests claiming that Ankara worked with all actors even as his oft-repeated goal of "zero problems with neighbors" has become "zero neighbors without problems" given the precipitous deterioration of relations with Iran, Iraq, and Syria over last few months. Yet precisely because of these changed dynamics the importance of Washington has only increased for Ankara as much as the inverse has been true and emphasized by Turkish leadership.
Instead of viewing Turkish foreign policy in "Cold War" terms of alignment or drift on specific tactical issues, Washington has an opportunity to recast a long-term vision that these democratic allies share and encourage a more active role for Turkey. The evolution of Davutoğlu's career and foreign policy beyond principles of international relations theory should be realistically assessed in the context of Iran's destabilizing nuclear weapon's regime, Iraq's sectarian tensions, and Syria's ongoing oppressive crackdown. The switch from "strategic depth," which has largely been accomplished in the last decade, to a "democratic depth" that focuses on the interlinkages between domestic and foreign challenges ahead that start with a new Turkish constitution are critical for both Ankara and Washington. Revitalizing the critical US-Turkish six-decades-old alliance that has primarily relied on converged geostrategic realities into a partnership of shared values and visions in the midst of global and regional transformation is the best long-term outcome of Dr. Minister's visit to Washington.
Joshua W. Walker is a Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States based in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants to step off the "high wire of American politics" after two decades and is again tamping down speculation that she might stay in government if President Barack Obama wins a second term.
Clinton told State Department employees on Thursday that she is ready for a rest and is paying no attention to the Republican presidential candidate debates. She said she wants to find out just how tired she is after working flat out as first lady, senator, aspiring presidential candidate and finally the top U.S. diplomat.
I'll admit it: Listening to Barack Obama, I am ready to enlist in his campaign against the feed-the-rich Republicans ... until I recall that I once responded in the same way to Bill Clinton's faux populism. And then I get angry because betrayal by the "good guys" for whom I have ended up voting has become the norm.
Yes, betrayal, because if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday's State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons?
Why hasn't he pushed for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Clinton's deregulation reversed? Does the president really believe that the Dodd-Frank slap-on-the-wrist sellout represents "new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again"? Can he name one single too-big-to-fail banking monstrosity that has been reduced in size on his watch instead of encouraged to grow ever larger by Treasury and Fed bailouts and interest-free money?
When Obama declared Tuesday evening "no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas," wasn't he aware that Jeffrey Immelt, the man he appointed to head his jobs council, is the most egregious offender? Immelt, the CEO of GE, heads a company with most of its workers employed in foreign countries, a corporation that makes 82 percent of its profit abroad and has paid no U.S. taxes in the past three years.
It was also a bit bizarre for Obama to celebrate Steve Jobs as a model entrepreneur when the manufacturing jobs that the late Apple CEO created are in the same China that elsewhere in his speech the president sought to scapegoat for America's problems. Apple, in its latest report on the subject, takes pride in attempting to limit the company's overseas suppliers to a maximum workweek of 60 hours for their horribly exploited employees. Isn't it weird to be chauvinistically China baiting when that country carries much of our debt?
I'm also getting tired of the exhortations to improve the nation's schools, certainly a worthy endeavor, but this economic crisis is the result not of high school dropouts as Obama suggested, but rather the corruption of the best and brightest graduates of our elite academies. As Obama well knows from his own trajectory in the meritocracy, which took him from one of the most privileged schools in otherwise educationally depressed Hawaii to Harvard Law, the folks who concocted the mathematical formulas and wrote the laws justifying fraudulent collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps were his overachieving professors and classmates.
If he doesn't know that, he should check out the record of Lawrence Summers, the man he picked to guide his economic program and who had been rewarded with the presidency of Harvard after having engineered Clinton's deregulatory deal with Wall Street.
That is the real legacy of the Clinton years, and it is no surprise that GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich has been campaigning on his rightful share of it. The international trade agreements that exported good U.S. jobs, the radical financial deregulation that unleashed Wall Street greed, and the free market zealotry of then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was reappointed by Clinton, were all part of a deal Clinton made with Gingrich, House speaker at that time.
As Gingrich put it in the first Republican debate in South Carolina: "As speaker ... working with President Bill Clinton, we passed a very Reagan-like program, less regulation, lower taxes." Even the 15 percent tax break that Mitt Romney exploited for his carryover private equity income was a result of the unholy Clinton-Gingrich alliance. Both principals of that alliance were pimps for the financial industry, and that includes Freddie Mac, the for-profit stock-traded housing agency that Clinton coddled while it stoked the Ponzi scheme in housing and that rewarded the former speaker with $1.6 million to $1.8 million in consulting fees.
There were, finally, some bold words in Obama's speech about helping beleaguered homeowners, but they ring hollow given this administration's efforts to broker a sweetheart deal between the leading banks and the state attorneys general that would see the banks fined only a pittance for their responsibility in the mortgage meltdown. Obama could have had success demanding mortgage relief if he had made that a condition for bailing out the banks. Now the banksters know he's firing blanks, and they are placing their bets on their more reliable Republican allies to prevent any significant demand for helping homeowners with their underwater mortgages.
Of course, Romney, Obama's most likely opponent in the general election, will never challenge the Wall Street hold on Washington, since he is the personification of the vulture capitalism that is the true cause of America's decline. Obama should shine in comparison with his Republican challenger, but there is little in his State of the Union speech to suggest he will chart a much-needed new course in his second term.
Former President Bill Clinton said Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney can't say what they believe and get nominated in a GOP primary, in an interview with Esquire published Wednesday.
"As a private citizen he [Gingrich] was for certain important health-care reforms and believed in climate change and believed there had to be a strong reaction to it. And now he's just like Romney," Clinton said. "Neither one of them can say what they believe to be true and get nominated. Romney's still trying to figure out what he did as governor of Massachusetts and still appeal to this driving vituperative energy."
Gingrich has cited his work with Clinton when he was Speaker of the House as evidence that he can fix the economy. Other times, he has left out Clinton and touted balancing the budget and creating 11 million new jobs.
When asked last December whether Gingrich could take credit for balancing the budget, Clinton said, "Not really, but I think he did work with me to pass some good budgets."
Clinton, however, praised his former adversary last November to NewsMax, saying, "I think he's doing well just because he's thinking, and people are hungry for ideas that make some sense."
Clinton also praised Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts in December, adding that it would be a "mistake" to underestimate him.
Clinton told Esquire that Republicans have been pushed farther to the right.
"Every time the president adopts a plan that they [Republicans] once advocated, they abandon it and push farther to the right," he said. "But the voters can push them back."
Although Bill Clinton's reputation as a statesman has long since recovered in most quarters following personal scandals in the 1990s, a new, four-hour documentary portrays the arc of his career as one littered with sexual dalliances and foibles.
That's doubly surprising when you consider the source: not a conservative production company but PBS.
Politicians with their four legged friends through out the years.
To see more great photography visit HuffPost Exposure.
In one fell swoop, Newt Gingrich focused the worlds' attention on all of the ignorance that has plagued Israel through more than 30 years of rhetoric and innuendo: a rhetoric cultivated by Israel's opponents and nurtured by those complacent enough to accept it as gospel. Beginning as early as the establishment of the State of Israel and gaining steam through the progression of politicians that sponsored the Oslo Accords, this malaise has grown unchecked, but Newt fixed that!
Unsettling as it may be, in the arena of global policy making, it is a general practice for political leaders from one administration to spin webs of misinformation and half-truths in order to elicit compliance from the politicians of other nations. Instead of leading towards sound policy and even-handed legislation, this political manipulation simply promotes confusion and ignorance. This practice of spreading ignorance and inflammatory rhetoric regularly happens when, for example, the principal sponsors of important events promote their private views by encouraging less scrupulous politicians to espouse their personal agendas. The corrupting influence of financial incentives exists as something of a permanent virus contaminating democracies that otherwise work quite well. The story is an old one in which politicians, who often begin with the best of intentions seeking tirelessly to achieve their various moral objectives, ultimately find themselves in compromising situations, capitulating to the views of their supporters, political advisers, or even adversaries.
When it comes to spewing prejudicial views against Israel, there are all too many examples of this disturbing practice. Take, for instance, the much maligned remarks uttered last month by the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman. Speaking at a conference on anti-Semitism sponsored by the European Jewish Union in Brussels, Gutman insisted that recent European anti-Semitism was fueled by Israel's delaying negotiations for a Palestinian state. While Gutman was widely castigated for his comments, the loathsome practice of blaming Israel for the hatred lobbed at her is all too common. Such mindless speech may just be a case in point but then the same must be said for the words delivered by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at this year's Saban conference. Clinton openly expressed her concern for the future of Israel's domestic democracy claiming that legislation introduced in the Knesset against radical left-wing NGOs endangered the process of democracy. Her comments rang out much to the chagrin of Israel's die-hard politicians who live by that democracy each day.
Such rhetorical antics make me think of Abraham Lincoln's famous words: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." If, as a politician, you can fool all of the people some of the time, would you? Perhaps that's what politicians must do to survive in the world of politics; but if that's the case, then fooling some of the people all of the time would probably keep you in politics longer! Hmmm... food for thought? The fickle nature of politicians is so plainly reflected in these words, and that alone should be enough to set alarms buzzing. However, we live in a jaded world where constituents who cling to the belief that their votes are the driving force behind democracy's vibrancy swallow the deceitful rhetoric unprincipled politicians throw at them.
How foolish to endorse anti-Semitism as being fueled by political action, as Ambassador Gutman did, or, worse yet, the paradox of insisting that the passage of a law in a democratically elected government is an affront to the very democracy that gives rise to that law as Secretary Clinton posited. Absurd! Such haranguing is fueled by ignorance and, in turn, encourages people who support even more ignorant politicians too busy spouting their own invectives to be deterred by facts!
I was in the midst of composing this article when, unrelated to my writing, I was asked to describe what a blessing is and how it relates to free choice. At first I did not connect this seemingly tangential question to my article, but now I find myself weaving my understanding into the very concept of free choice inherent in a democracy.
The will and insights that motivate society to modify its course must be understood by those disciplined push-pull politicians tasked with navigating the political fog. A blessing causes a positive change to the essential self when bestowed by a selfless agent, notwithstanding our limitation to perceive this "magical" process, we all know individuals that may be considered blessed who deliver successful actions and outcomes.
Good leaders are distinguished because their insight leads them to achieve goals that reflect their accurate comprehension of it. The "magic" is in their unshakable bond in the belief that motivates their lifelong careers to bring changes to improve society's fabric. On the flip side, politicians who focus on the struggle with political onslaught or challenges to their personal lives often make compromises that ultimately characterize their infamous or uneventful careers.
Democracy is the blessing of free choice bestowed on society, an antidote to the political virus. When less scrupulous politicians are corrupted by the influence of financial incentives, society is at risk of infection cured only by constituents exercising free choice. Indeed, democratic or even theocratic societies are strengthened by the courage of leaders committed to their unwavering conviction not to be influenced by ignorance and inflammatory rhetoric or those who would attempt to fool all of the people all the time.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning Internet and software companies to beware what they sell to autocratic governments.
Clinton says authoritarian governments are trying to use the same tools of online connection to spy on or restrict citizens. She says those governments sometimes get help from companies that knowingly sell online surveillance software or other tools.
Who would have thought that Republican voters would prove so accepting of sin? At least when its committed by a white guy, like the serial philanderer Newt Gingrich, who betrayed not one but two wives while they were enduring serious medical difficulties.
In the latest New York Times/CBS poll of Iowa Republicans, alleged philanderer Herman Cain's once impressive support shifts to the new front-runner, Gingrich, whose richer history of marital deceit is not a problem even for the self-described evangelical Christian voters who favor him over Mitt Romney by a ratio of 3-1.
It is the first time that I have felt sympathy for a candidate experiencing the prejudice directed at a practicing Mormon. Clearly the ultimate of "squeaky clean" doesn't cut it for a presidential contender of that faith among Republican Christian "values voters," even when he is compared with a sexual roué of Gingrich's considerable magnitude.
Or perhaps it is Newt's peerless capacity to mask moral hypocrisy with the appearance of religious propriety, first as a Protestant and now as a Roman Catholic, that endears him to other Republicans who wear their religion on their sleeves. Many of those were willing to tear the country apart over the sexual wanderings of a Democrat in the White House, but now they are quite willing to send someone of Gingrich's reputation to the Oval Office. We are speaking of a politician who was having an extramarital affair with a congressional staff member 27 years his junior, now more appropriately his third wife, during the very years when he was so energetically stoking the Clinton sex scandal.
But Newt did manage to cooperate closely with the Democratic president in passing the "welfare reform" legislation that in effect ended the main federal poverty program. Given that 70 percent of those covered by the gutted welfare program were children, it is at least consistent that the former House speaker now favors further aiding those children by wiping out the long-standing restraints on the exploitation of child labor.
Gingrich also cooperated successfully with President Clinton on the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, which legislated drastic cuts in the capital gains tax benefiting the wealthy. In addition, he was a great partner for Clinton in whipping up enthusiasm for a broader agenda of deregulation that set the stage for the housing mortgage bubble and resultant Great Recession. It is Gingrich's hypocrisy concerning these economic matters that will prove more troubling as his chances of becoming president increase.
Given that Gingrich was on the payroll of Freddie Mac to the tune of $1.6 million, how in the world will he be able, in a one-on-one debate with Barack Obama, to logically make what has become the standard Republican case: that it was liberal do-gooders at the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who forced the banks to make bad housing loans?
The honest answer, politically awkward of course, would be to admit that those agencies were government sponsored only on the risk end, and as for profit entities they were owned and traded by investors in the stock market. They got in trouble for the same reason Citigroup did, because the obscenely huge bonuses of their top executives were driven by their profit performance and not the quality of the home mortgages they backed.
The packaging of hugely profitable but eventually toxic mortgage securities, with the GSE seal of approval, that is at the heart of the economic crisis was the result of a Republican-engineered deregulatory mania that Newt abetted and Clinton supported. A mania that Sen. Obama criticized, but not Gingrich, who was a highly paid booster for Freddie Mac even as the housing market was imploding.
The private/public GSE model of the two housing agencies in which the risk but not the profits was carried by the public is the very arrangement that Gingrich is on record as celebrating as late as 2007 when the crisis was visibly under way. Gingrich favored it as a model not just for housing but even the space program. "I'm convinced that if NASA were a GSE, we probably would be on Mars today," he declared in a post on the Freddie Mac website on April 14, 2007.
Although Gingrich now claims that when he was on the Freddie Mac gravy train he was simply giving objective advice as a "historian" that sought to improve the agency's performance, the truth is quite the opposite. Obama will no doubt delight in quoting back to Gingrich his assertion that "while we need to improve the regulation of the GSEs, I would be very cautious about changing their role or the model itself."
Gingrich, who ran into trouble with the House Ethics Committee when was speaker and paid a $300,000 fine, is himself a variant of a GSE, having turned his government backing into a hugely profitable enterprise. After he left office his various personal business enterprises had revenues of about $100 million. Last week in South Carolina, Gingrich scoffed at the idea that he needed to work as a lobbyist; after all, he noted, he is paid $60,000 a speech.
You would think that with a sorry personal and political record like Gingrich's -- and there is so much more -- the Republicans would never nominate him as their presidential candidate if they expected to win. But I wouldn't rule it out, for the driving faith of the GOP has become the notion that the toxic mixture of moral hypocrisy and unfettered greed is a formula for victory. Newt could be their man.
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is using a European trip to hold a rare meeting with Syrian opposition figures.
Clinton plans to sit down with seven Syrian-born opponents of the Bashar Assad regime during a visit to Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday. A State Department official says it's only the second time she has held such a session since the U.S. decided this summer that Assad would never allow reforms and must leave office.
The group of exiles is assembling from across Europe.
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and two former presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, are joining top anti-AIDS advocates for a panel discussion to observe World AIDS Day.
The discussion will take place Thursday at George Washington University and will be streamed live on YouTube. Bush and Clinton will participate via satellite.
Former President Bill Clinton hinted at what his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will do after she leaves office in an interview with conservative outlet NewsMax Sunday. Hillary Clinton has said that her role in the Obama administration would be her "last public position," and that she will not serve a second term as secretary of state if President Barack Obama is reelected. She has also repeatedly said that she will not run for president again.
"I think she wants -- and she has said publicly -- to continue a lot of the work that she's done, she did as a private citizen, as first lady, as senator and as secretary of state," said the former president. "Around the world, she's done an enormous amount of good in, you now, the so-called soft power areas, empowering women and girls, helping them, giving them access to capital, helping them make a living, promoting better healthcare practices. I think she will have a major role to play in the nongovernmental world. That's what she plans to do, and I think she'll do it well."
Secretary of State Clinton hinted at her plans in December 2010, saying that she would "probably go back to advocacy work, particularly on behalf of women and children, and particularly around the world because if you look at what is still happening to women in many parts of the world it is tragic and terrible."
In the Newsmax interview, Clinton also praised Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, his one-time adversary as speaker of the House, saying "he's being rewarded for thinking."
"I think he’s doing well just because he’s thinking, and people are hungry for ideas that make some sense," Clinton told NewsMax. "He's being rewarded for thinking."
He also praised the candidate's debate performance, though he declined to predict a primary win.
"I still think Romney comes across as strong and forceful and knowledgeable and I thought Perry had a better debate last night, he did much better than he's doing," he said.
The former president's praise is a surprise considering their contentious past. During Clinton's presidency, then-House Speaker Gingrich fought Democrats hard on such issues as Medicare and welfare reform. He also pushed for Clinton's impeachment.
More recently, though, Clinton and his allies have offered positive feedback on the GOP candidate.
"He is brilliant," Dick Morris, a former Clinton campaign strategist, told HuffPost's Sam Stein. "He's a very skilled adversary."
Clinton called Gingrich "creative, flexible, and brimming over with new ideas" in his book and, in September, predicted a comeback for GOP hopeful.