Democratic Dissension

John Hanlon

3/4/2009 9:46:18 PM - John Hanlon

Although many members of the media are more concerned with debates and disagreements within the Republican Party than with substantive issues, there are some major issues of contention on President Obama's side of the aisle that should be addressed.

Firstly, there was a very disturbing article in the Washington Post article yesterday about a possible disagreement between President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

From the article:

"SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, March 2 -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday expressed doubts in a private meeting with an Arab counterpart that the Obama administration's outreach to Iran would be successful.

Clinton "said she is doubtful that Iran will respond to any kind of engagement and opening the hand out and reaching out to them," said a senior State Department official, who requested anonymity because he was describing a closed-door conversation." 
This is disturbing precisely because any major public disagreement between the Secretary of State and the President regarding foreign policy should be, by definition, concerning. During the Democratic Primary, Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton frequently differed over foreign policy. However, now that Clinton is now Secretary of State, I would have hoped that their policy disagreements would be kept private. Clinton is supposed to be representing the United States and the policies of the President of the United States when she is abroad -- but that does not look to be the case here.

Secondly, there seems to be another debate brewing between President Obama and the Democratic Congress about earmarks.

Paul Kane wrote the following in an article published today in the Washington Post:

"Congressional Democrats pushed back yesterday against suggestions from President Obama that they rein in spending on narrow special interest provisions, defending these "earmarks" as a sliver of the trillions of dollars in federal spending and part of their constitutional duty to their constituents.

"I don't think the White House has the ability to tell us what to do. I hope all of you got that down," House  Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday, saying that Obama could only "suggest" certain reforms for Congress to consider."

Although the first story is more disturbing than the second, both point to the fact that there are serious policy disagreements percolating within the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party.

President Obama believes in engagement with Iran but it looks like his own Secretary of State has her doubts. Obama wants to cut down on earmarks but some Congressional Democrats are rejecting that idea.

The media continues to focus on disagreements within the Republican Party, but they are largely ignoring (the articles I mentioned are not dominating the news) substantive disagreements between the President of the United States and his Secretary of State on issues as serious as Iran.