Monday, September 03, 2012
Just in case you're curious — and I am, obviously — the SecState's official website says she's spending Monday (which is barely underway in Texas as I write this), September 3, in Jakarta (where it's already early Monday afternoon now), and she is expected in Beijing on Tuesday-Wednesday, September 4-5.
But what's next? Again per Secretary Clinton's official schedule on her official government website:
On [Thursday,] September 6, Secretary Clinton will be the first Secretary of State to travel to Dili, where she will emphasize U.S. support for the young democracy of Timor-Leste in her meetings with senior officials.
In Brunei, Secretary Clinton will meet with senior officials to emphasize the importance of the increasingly vibrant U.S.-Brunei relationship. She will also highlight the U.S.-Brunei ASEAN English Language initiative and discuss Brunei’s 2013 chairmanship of ASEAN.
The final stop on Secretary Clinton’s trip will be Vladivostok, where she will lead the U.S. delegation to the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting [on Saturday-Sunday,] September 8-9....
Meanwhile back in Charlotte, North Carolina, the official schedule for the Democratic National Convention promises that:
President Obama and Vice President Biden will accept the Democratic nominations for President and Vice President on Thursday, September 6 at Bank of America Stadium.
I note that many pundits have asserted that Secretary Clinton is not only not attending her husband Bubba's speech (which I fully expect to be the highlight of the entire convention), she's scheduled to be on the other side of the world. Many wise pundits whom I admire insist that Obama could never replace Biden because it would imply a mistake in choosing Biden to begin with, a mistake which Obama is incapable of admitting. And I certainly don't expect Secretary Clinton to create an international incident by publicly snubbing the Indonesians or the Chinese or the Russians.
But to the argument that Obama can't admit error: That's true, but it's still never stopped him from changing direction on a dime (see, e.g., his sudden epiphany that he really does support gay marriage). Obama is undeniably over-proud, but one must also take into account the Beldar Corollary: "Only a sucker would base any bet on the proposition that Barack Obama is capable of being shamed by anything."
Once or twice already in the two and a third centuries of American diplomatic history, a small country (like, say, Dili or Brunei) may have been disappointed when an American diplomat has sent a subordinate or asked to postpone a meeting. I don't know how important the Obama Administration thinks Timor-Leste is in the grand scheme of things, but apparently no American SecState has taken time to go there either before or since its independence a decade ago. While in Dili, Secretary Clinton is scheduled to "visit a coffee plantation," but one doubts whether missing that visit would be a casus belli even with the East Timoreans. And it would be in the Sultan of Brunei's financial interests to see Obama win, assuming the sultan wants to continue America's dependence on foreign oil. (He's surely shrewd enough to contain his giggles whenever anyone mentions Obama's "green energy" push.) Indeed, if you skimmed the roster of the U.N. looking for countries to which the SecState could most easily send a brush-off her polite regrets at the last minute and with no real consequence, Timor-Leste and Brunei would be hard to top.
Moreover, the world is smaller than it used to be, especially when you are the SecState and you have the resources of the U.S. Air Force at your command. The press covering her trip consists largely of the reporters traveling on her plane; and such reporters are routinely held incommunicado while they're being re-routed across the globe without notice or apology, as with Obama's recent surprise trip to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a joint civil-military facility, one to which a government plane could easily divert and land in complete secrecy. And even upon leaving the USAF's protective arms to venture into a busy city, a cabinet secretary, when she wants, can move with far greater stealth than, say, a Hollywood celebrity like Clint Eastwood (who famously played a Secret Service agent on film, but doesn't have any himself).
If the sudden replacement for Joe Biden had just secretly flown in from international diplomatic negotiations in Beijing, and was about to head off to Russia afterwards, that would certainly add to the breathless excitement of a Thursday night surprise, wouldn't it? Would anyone in the country still be talking on Friday about the latest disastrous unemployment figures or the $16 trillion national debt milestone?
So, being admittedly paranoid and fond of conspiracy theories — and still of the firm opinion that this switch would represent Obama's best hope for reelection and Hillary's best hope to succeed him — I'll believe Joe Biden's job is safe when I see reliable proof that Secretary Clinton has stepped onto the tarmac at the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili.
I will be happy to be proved wrong, and I hope I will be.
But if you're a would-be Democratic voter this fall and my prediction indeed fails, will you not be disappointed?
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Requiescat in pace: Neil Alden Armstrong (1930-2012), American astronaut, hero to the human race
My friend Patterico has a post up honoring a true American hero who passed away today — Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. Lightly edited and without blockquoting, here's the comment I left on his blog:
I was born in 1957, the year of Sputnik — indeed, during its few weeks of orbit — so I was old enough not just to watch, but to relish, the 1969 Apollo 11 landing. Indeed, although I don’t quite remember Alan Shepard’s flight, I do definitely remember John Glenn’s, and all the rest of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights which preceded or followed Apollo 11.
By July 1969, I had several models of each major component spacecraft of the Apollo system, constructed variously of plastic, paper, or balsa wood and with varying levels of detail. Some of them were working model rockets that I’d sent hundreds of feet into the air before they returned to earth on their plastic parachutes. I was almost certainly an insufferable fan. I remember accompanying my father to the barbershop some weeks before the landing; while he got his haircuit, I was explaining to all the grownups present how the Lunar Excursion Module was practically made of aluminum foil, and that the real one was less rugged than some of my models. On the fateful day, while Walter Cronkite narrated, Armstrong was piloting the real LEM over and around the boulders strewn across the Sea of Tranquility, and I was piloting my favorite and most detailed plastic version over and around the sofas, chairs, and other obstacles of the Dyer living room. Neil and I had simultaneous, and equally successful, touchdowns. The whole world celebrated.
Folks are apparently still arguing over whether Armstrong said “One small step for man,” which made no sense, or “One small step for a man,” which made perfect sense. I wish historians could get their acts together and report it the way it makes sense, even if they feel compelled to drop a footnote to suggest that Armstrong might have inadvertently swallowed the “a.” Let’s recognize that Armstrong didn’t have the luxury that Doug MacArthur had to re-film his return to the Philippines and re-shoot his famous “I have returned” line until he was entirely satisfied with it.
Armstrong wasn’t just a lucky guy who was in the right place at the right time to snag a history-making role — although there was some luck involved in his beating out the other Apollo astronaut candidates and astronaut wannabes. Rather, he and his fellows were extraordinary pilots and professionals, patriots who’d seen friends blown apart or burned up while pushing the boundaries of manned flight. They all knew the same could happen to them at almost any moment, but they were all righteously committed to helping make that giant leap for mankind. Can we at least give them all the benefit of a generous standard for quoting what might in fact have been said, and what clearly was meant to be said, instead of a truncated and nonsensical version of that quote?