Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Report: America's Worst Governors

| Wed Apr. 21, 2010 11:07 AM EDT

Since 2005, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has compiled an annual list of Washington's most corrupt lawmakers, and this year it added a new group of elected officials to its hall of shame: the nation's governors. In its "Worst Governors" report, CREW highlights "the unethical and incompetent actions" of 11 state chief execs. Who made the cut? You know your guv did, South Carolina. Yours, too, New York. The full list, along with what CREW says landed them there, below the jump.

Afghan Police Training: "An Unbelievably Incompetent Story"

| Fri Apr. 16, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Handing out Sen. Claire McCaskill's prepared remarks Thursday afternoon as a hearing of her subcommittee on contracting oversight was about to get underway, the Missouri Democrat's press secretary warned reporters that her boss might go "off the cuff." Sure enough, after striding into the room and calling the session to order, McCaskill didn't bother consulting her notes. She stared straight ahead at the witnesses before her and launched into a freestyle assault on police training efforts in Afghanistan. "It is an unbelievably incompetent story of contracting," she said. "For 8 years we have been supposedly training the police in Afghanistan. And here's what we've done. We've flushed six billion dollars. Six billion dollars!"

If only she were exaggerating. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who has been in charge of training Afghanistan's security forces since November, informed Obama recently just how dire the situation is, according to a recent story co-published by Newsweek and ProPublica. "It's inconceivable, but in fact for eight years we weren't training the police," he told the president. "We just never trained them before. All we did was give them a uniform." 

Gordon Heddell, the Pentagon's Inspector General, delivered a similar assessment to McCaskill's committee. "Just about everything that could go wrong here has gone wrong," he said, adding, "we have to start at the very beginning."

Did Obama Take Liz Cheney's Advice?

| Sat Apr. 10, 2010 9:23 AM EDT

Has the Obama administration taken Liz Cheney's tongue-lashing to heart? At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Thursday she blasted the White House for routinely dressing down Hamid Karzai and said the Afghan leader was "being treated to an especially dangerous and juvenile display from this White House."

Whether or not the administration heeded Cheney's warning, it is certainly softening its approach toward Karzai in recognition of the fact that "tough love" diplomacy was only driving a further wedge between the Afghan president and US officials. The New York Times reports on the administration's abrupt attitude change:

The difference in approach was evident in two recent scenes on Air Force One.

Scene 1, March 28: Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, visited reporters flying with the president from Washington to Kabul and promised that President Obama would take on the Afghan president for ignoring American demands on corruption and drug trafficking.

Scene 2, Friday: General Jones visited reporters, this time traveling with the president to Washington from Prague, and told them that Mr. Obama had sent Mr. Karzai a thank-you note expressing gratitude to the Afghan leader for dinner in Kabul. “It was a respectful letter,” General Jones said.

What happened between these two scenes? Mr. Karzai publicly lashed out against Western governments, hosted the president of Iran and said he would join the Taliban if the international community kept pressuring him.

Obama administration officials maintain that they are not going to return to the days when President George W. Bush and Mr. Karzai would have twice-monthly videoconferences. But the pivot reflects a recognition that public pressure on Mr. Karzai may have driven him away. “In some ways, we want to do more of the love part of ‘tough love,’ and less of the tough part,” a senior administration official said.
 

Liz Cheney's SRLC Gaffe

| Fri Apr. 9, 2010 10:33 AM EDT

Liz Cheney opened the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last night with an all-out assault on the Obama administration, singling out the president's handling of foreign policy—a three pronged approach, she said, of "apologize for America, abandon our allies, and appease our enemies"—for particular rebuke. Nothing new there. What was interesting is that she took particular issue with the administration's treatment of Hamid Karzai, whose conduct recently could certainly be described as antagonistic. But what's wrong with the following statement in her prepared remarks (that is, beyond Cheney's overheated rhetoric)? Answer below the fold.

Afghan President Karzai, whose support we need if we are going to succeed in Afghanistan, is being treated to an especially dangerous and juvenile display from this White House. They dress him down publicly almost daily and refuse to even say that he is an ally. There is a saying in the Arab world: "It is more dangerous to be America’s friend than to be her enemy." In the age of Obama, that is proving true.

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