Did Obama Take Liz Cheney’s Advice?


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.
 

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  • Dan Schulman

    Daniel Schulman is Mother Jones' deputy Washington, DC, bureau chief. Reach him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com. Dan is the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita, a biography of the Koch brothers that is now out in paperback.