Obama's latest campaign-trail gaffe, stemming from his reckless threats to unilaterally bomb Pakistan if President Musharraf doesn't help root out Al Qaeda targets, prompted Pakistani-American groups to take to the streets of Chicago in protest, outside an Obama fundraising dinner.
New America Media, an online consortium of ethnic news media, reported the story yesterday:
Obama Faces Protests From Pakistani Americans
Pakistan Link, News Report, Ayub Khan,
Posted: Aug 13, 2007
CHICAGO – Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Barack Obama was greeted by noisy protesters as he arrived to speak at a fund-raiser organized by his South Asian supporters in Chicago. They were protesting his recent remarks about his willingness to launch unilateral military strikes against Al Qaeda havens in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
A group of about three dozen, mostly Pakistani-Americans, angrily chanted, "Obama, hypocrite," "Peace, Not War," and held placards that read "Obama equal Osama," "War is Not the Answer," "Pakistan is Not Our Enemy." Sen. Obama sneaked in through the back door of the Mysore Woodlands Restaurant on Chicago's famed Devon Avenue and claimed that he has been misrepresented by the media. He said those who are protesting his remarks haven't read his exact remarks and were instead relying on twisted reports.
Obama said that he did not advocate outright military action but that in case the Pakistani government was unable to take out known Al Qaeda targets in its territory, then the American military could launch targeted attacks. He added that full precautions should be taken to avoid any civilian casualties. He said his foreign policy will focus on diplomacy with all (even the enemies), troop pullback from Iraq, closing of Guantanamo Bay prison, and increased funding for education programs worldwide. At the same time, tough action needs to be undertaken against hardened terrorists. In response to a question about U.S. support for Indian military action against militants and separatists he once again underscored that diplomacy should be the top priority.
After his explanation, some Pakistani community leaders and an Urdu newspaper editor tried to pacify the protesters by telling them that Obama had clarified his views and that he was misrepresented by the media. Obama accepted to meet the protester's representatives inside the fund-raising venue. But the protesters demanded that he come outside and apologize for his comments.
"Sen. Obama made his shameful comments in a public venue. He should feel no shame in coming out and apologizing in public," yelled one protester from a megaphone. The protesters also urged others not to go inside the venue and labeled those who went inside to meet the senator as "traitors." Tense scenes were seen at the protest site as Obama made his quiet exit once again from the back door.
The protests come in the wake of Obama's gunslinger-style comments, made during a recent speech designed to showcase his purported foreign policy experience:
I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.
The clear implication of this foolish speech by the Obama campaign is that (1) Obama would attack inside Pakistan if need be and rub President Musharraf’s nose in this action; and (2) an implicit threat to remove Musharraf and redesign Pakistan’s government. After 8 years of shoot-first, ask-questions-later Middle East foreign policy from an inexperienced President, do we really need another one?
Obama's mind-boggling threat to unilaterally attack Pakistani targets if Pakistan doesn't cooperate with the American military shocked Democrats. Virtually every candidate running for the Democratic nomination -- Christopher Dodd, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, John Edwards -- pounced on Obama's blunder and denounced it for being reckless and inflammatory:
"It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd said in a statement.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, in a telephone interview, said that Obama’s threat, if acted upon, could inflame the entire Muslim world. "My international experience tells me that we should address this issue with tough diplomacy first with Musharraf and then leave the military option as a last resort," he said.
Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) said in a statement that he would first apply "maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia" to do their utmost to combat the spread of terrorism. He also challenged both Obama and Clinton to block a proposed U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) called Obama’s threat misguided. "The way to deal with it is not to announce it, but to do it," Biden said at the National Press Club. "The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan that we are about to violate their sovereignty."
David Plouffe's and David Axelrod's famed rough-and-dirty campaign tactics are running Obama's campaign into the ground: according to today's Rasmussen daily tracking poll, Obama trails Hillary Clinton by a 16-point margin nationally, which is surprising in light of the massive amounts of money Obama has raised so far. Overall support for Obama has dropped in the wake of his threats to bomb Pakistan.
Democratic voters appear to be fed up with Obama's hard-nosed tactics, too. According to the Boston Globe, a New Hampshire voter chided Obama's negative campaigning yesterday:
HANOVER, N.H. –Presidential hopeful Barack Obama tried out a small, intimate campaign event Monday — and got a warning not to act too much like a politician for his trouble.
"We’re having this experiment because we’re getting these big crowds at a lot of our events," Obama told eight voters — and three times as many newspeople — invited to a restaurant. "We’ve been blessed to have some terrific crowds at these town hall meetings, but most of the time I’m doing most of the talking and not doing enough listening."
The Illinois senator sounded a familiar theme, that he is an outsider to Washington and to politics as usual. He called lobbyists the enemy and their donations corrupt. "If they’re spending a billion dollars on lobbying over 10 years — they’re averaging 100 million dollars a year — that carries weight in Washington. The congressmen will deny it, but they’re not spending it just to provide good information," he said.
But Maggie North of Claremont told him he risks becoming part of the usual political scene if he keeps being drawn into well-publicized spats with rivals. "You can be it," she said. "But you’ve got to stop — excuse me for being blunt — you’ve got to stop getting involved in the way people are fighting each other, chewing you up a little more."
"That’s what you do when you run for president," Obama responded, getting a laugh.
North told him later, "I expect so much more from Democrats than I’m getting."
Obama said infighting among the candidates is part of the process. "Some of that’s OK, it thickens your skin. ... Putting you through the paces like that is part of the hazing that’s required for the job," he said.
North wasn’t persuaded. "What happens when you engage in that is you become like everybody else," she said.