Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Thursday, December 01, 2016

On Aug. 5, 2015, when President Barack Obama was making the case for the Iran nuclear deal, he journeyed uptown to American University, where decades earlier John F. Kennedy had delivered a famous address on peace and the future of nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union. Hoping to bathe himself in some of the glow of JFK, Obama framed the deal as another critical step forward in the march toward world peace. In 1963, Kennedy had offered the same sense of hope. After giving his American University speech, Obama met with a handful of foreign policy reporters and columnists, this reporter among them, for a 90-minute roundtable on Iran policy and whatever else those in the room wanted to bring up. Unlike similar sessions he has held over the years, this one was fully on the record.


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Looking back on it, though, the entire session is revealing not for the news that it made in the moment, but as a window into how Obama thinks about foreign policy and policy in general, as well as how he engages in long conversations with reporters that go deep into the weeds.

On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump met with reporters and editors at The New York Times for a briefing that was on the record, as well as a separate one that was off. In his public remarks, Trump flipped his positions on everything from torture to climate change to prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Following the Obama interview in 2015, the White House sent around a transcript of that conversation, which was never published. But to give readers a sense of what Obama is like in a relaxed atmosphere, we're publishing it below.


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First, crap, left the f off of the o in the title. I hope those interested take the time to read the transcripts of this roundtable to see and understand both the depth and breadth of Obama's understanding of foreign policy issues even if one wants to disagree with his logic and conclusions. There is no flippant disregard or the intentional disposal of arguments and positions he chose not to embrace. The caricature of an ignorant and oblivious President are nowhere to be found in reality.

And comparing pre and post inaugural Obama to today's Trump couldn't be more stark in the contrast between the foundational differences in the details of their thought processes and the ability to articulate them as coherent policy.

Maybe Trump will be the more successful president when history makes its ultimate judgment, but it's not too early to compare the temperaments and seriousness with which each one views their responsibilities. Read it for yourself.

#1 | Posted by tonyroma at 2016-12-01 07:11 AM | Reply

'Muricans have decreasing attention spans. Trump is just a reflection of the voters. They want sound bites, not deep thought. They got it.

#2 | Posted by 726 at 2016-12-01 07:28 AM | Reply

After six and a half years in office, Obama said that the tough calls -- to redeploy American troops to Iraq or to mobilize nato to launch airstrikes against Libya -- have convinced him more than ever of the need to make force a last resort. "In terms of decisions I make, I do think that I have a better sense of how military action can result in unintended consequences," he said. "And I am confirmed in my belief that much of the time we are making judgments based on percentages, and no decision we make in foreign policy -- or, for that matter, any policy -- is completely without hair, which is how we kind of describe it. … There's always going to be some complications."

The President leaned back in a leather chair pulled up to the center of the table. "So maybe at the same time as I'm more confident today, I'm also more humble," he said. "And that's part of the reason why, when I see a situation like this one, where we can achieve an objective with a unified world behind us -- and we preserve our hedge against it not working out -- I think it would be foolish, even tragic, for us to pass up on that opportunity." (for the Iran Deal) www.newyorker.com

Pretty much sounds like exactly what Sully and Nutcase continually criticize Obama as being oblivious of, doesn't it? For any US President, inaction on an issue can be fraught with as much potential peril or blowback as acting upon it. This is why we can't just criticize the result without first understanding all the other variables considered before the decision to act was made.

#3 | Posted by tonyroma at 2016-12-01 07:51 AM | Reply

Two thoughts:

First, it is important to remember just how infrequently he did anything like this, which begs the question as to why he did it then. The answer, of course, is that he needed the press to sell it for him.

Second, and your piece of the transcript in post #3 demonstrates it best, his "depth and breadth" of understanding of foreign policy reveals less of a "caricature of an ignorant and oblivious" than it does one of naivete. He clearly was aware that the chances Iran would renege on the deal once it got what it wanted were pretty good, but he chose to grasp at straws in the name of "hope and change".

#4 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2016-12-01 08:27 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1


Of course you act as though this was a bilateral agreement and not a joint international one so it was never just his judgment as much as it was the rest of the civilized world's in conjunction with his own. Iran hasn't reneged on the agreement yet, so Obama has been more prescient than you at this juncture, correct?

#5 | Posted by tonyroma at 2016-12-01 09:05 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

The IAEA has reported Iran has violated the deal, twice.

#6 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2016-12-01 09:12 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Book smart vs street smart.....

I take street smart.

No one ever questioned his ability to comprehend situations, but I question his ability to comprehend outcomes.

As sitz points out indirectly, the agreement is pointless precisely because it was internationally put together. Do you really feel Russia would punish Iran for violations?

#7 | Posted by AndreaMackris at 2016-12-01 10:07 AM | Reply

And this is the type of president we are getting:

Trump's Call to Pakistan's Prime Minister Would Be Hilarious, If Everyone Involved Didn't Have Nukes

Until now, Donald Trump's decision to forgo the customary State Department briefings before speaking to world leaders had sparked confusion and mild breaches of protocol. But his apparent lack of preparation before a call on Wednesday may have shifted the United States' relationship with two key countries -- and both have nuclear weapons.

If a readout released by Pakistan's Press Information Bureau is to be believed, the president-elect gushed about Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on the call, and offered to visit the nation. Here's the full text:

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.

On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.

#8 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2016-12-01 03:25 PM | Reply

Trump's office put out a statement saying they "had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future." However, it would not confirm whether Pakistan's account of the conversation was correct.

Calling Pakistan "fantastic" would be quite the turnaround for Trump, since he tweeted this in 2012:

Donald J. Trump


"Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We've given them billions and billions of dollars, and what (cont) tl.gd
3:11 PM - 17 Jan 2012


#9 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2016-12-01 03:26 PM | Reply

What would you have him say Gal.

#10 | Posted by graph1 at 2016-12-01 08:52 PM | Reply

What would you have him say Gal.

Read this and see if you can figure it out for yourself.

#11 | Posted by tonyroma at 2016-12-02 08:17 AM | Reply

"I want to make clear there's no going back. Absent a clear and present violation [by Iran], I don't think we can take advantage of some new president -- Republican or Democrat -- and say, ‘well, we're not going to live up to our word in this agreement.' I believe we'd be alone if we did, and unilateral economic sanctions from us would not have anywhere near the impact of an allied approach to this." -incoming SECDEF Mattis

#12 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2016-12-02 08:51 AM | Reply

TONYROMA you are still waiting for Reagan to nuke the world. Boo Don' believe everything you read.

#13 | Posted by graph1 at 2016-12-02 06:57 PM | Reply


Reagan was a governor with years of executive government experience. Donald Trump is a multiple-banruptcied reality television star with a narcissistic personality disorder that has zero experience in public service whatsoever, much less a reasoned understanding of protocol and the expected behavior of the US President.

That you link him with Reagan shows how detached you are from any semblance of reality by bringing such an absurd comparison. Reagan understood statesmanship even if I disagreed with most of his politics. Trump can neither understand it nor likely spell it because he continues to show he can't perform it.

#14 | Posted by tonyroma at 2016-12-02 11:01 PM | Reply

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