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First thoughts: Obama's Oslo speech

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Obama's Oslo speech: For a president trying to reconcile receiving a Nobel Peace Prize just after calling for a military escalation in Afghanistan, President Obama today boldly made the case for just wars (like the one in Afghanistan), while also lauding the contributions the United States has made in promoting peace (World War II, the Marshall Plan, the creation of the U.N., nuclear disarmament). Yet the crux of his acceptance speech was reconciling how war can be necessary, but also how humankind must strive for a better world. "We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected," he said at the end of the speech. "We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place… So let us reach for the world that ought to be -- that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls."

*** Admitting his accomplishments (so far) are 'slight': At the beginning of the speech, Obama addressed the criticism that, just nearly 11 months into office, he doesn't deserve the award. "Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight," he said. "I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honor than I." And he also addressed the contradiction of receiving a peace prize as his country fights two wars. "I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms."

*** "We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals we fight to defend": Like in his Berlin speech during the presidential campaign, Obama also argued how the United States has helped forge world peace. "Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans." Yet he also said -- in a thinly veiled swipe at the Bush years -- that the U.S. must adhere to the standards that govern wars. "America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves," he said. "That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard."

*** Three ways to build a better world: Obama then discussed three ways the world can try to build "a just and lasting peace." First, enact and enforce tough sanctions and penalties on countries that violate rules and laws (looking at you, Iran and North Korea). Second, protect the "inherent rights and dignity" of all peoples. "I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear," Obama said. Third, promote economic security and opportunity. "It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive," he argued. 

*** In sum: Even the most ardent critic of the president's foreign policy will have a hard time picking apart today's speech. After all, he went before a committee of peace to make a case for "just wars." One wonders, by the way, if so much of this speech would have been dominated by the case for war had he not JUST ordered the deployment of 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. In short, he attempted to promote his foreign policy ideology -- "idealistic realism."

*** Tough talk from the Nobel winner: Turning to domestic affairs… The man who now has a Nobel Peace Prize yesterday had some very tough talk for Republicans in yesterday's bipartisan White House meeting on the economy. According to the Republicans in the room, Obama "suggested that Republicans, by their refusal to work with him, 'seem to be almost rooting against recovery' and for high unemployment in an effort to make gains against Democrats in the midterm elections next year," the New York Times reports. In fact, it was the president's second-straight day of tough talk. Remember that he said this in his economic speech on Tuesday: "We undertook a series of difficult steps [to help stabilize the economy]. And we were forced to take those steps largely without the help of an opposition party which, unfortunately, after having presided over the decision-making that led to the crisis, decided to hand it over to others to solve."

*** Disappointed progressives: Just when it looked like Senate negotiators were able to thread the needle on health care -- by striking a deal that folks from Joe Lieberman to Chuck Schumer and even Howard Dean might be able to support -- some on the left are downright mad. Why? Because the deal doesn't contain a public option. We've said it before and we'll say it again: The left's continued obsession with the public option (despite the fact that Obama and Hillary Clinton never said a word about it during the campaign, and even though it would apply to only a fraction of Americans) represents a failure for an Obama administration that has tried to emphasize that reform is about MUCH more than the public option. "To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage available for those without it," Obama said in health-care address to Congress. "The public option is only a means to that end, and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal."

*** Palin fires back at Gore: Yesterday, after Al Gore (in his interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell) responded to Sarah Palin's Washington Post op-ed questioning the science of climate change, Palin fired back via Twitter: "Glad Wash.Post ran my Op-Ed on 'Global Warming' Climategate scandal;amazing 2 see Al Gore's denial of the controversy-its like denying gravity." 

*** Remember, they always come in threes: Finally, Washington state Rep. Brian Baird (D) yesterday announced he wouldn't seek another term, becoming the third House Democrat to recently announce his retirement. (The others were John Tanner of Tennessee and Dennis Moore of Kansas). Republicans think they have a good chance of picking up this congressional seat, which Obama won (with 53% of the vote) in 2008, but which Bush won in 2004.

Countdown to MA Special Election: 40 days
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Countdown to Election Day 2010: 327 days

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