[Updated April 6 and 16] Senate Hearing this Afternoon on Gration as Ambassador to Kenya

[Update April 16:  The Gration nomination was approved on voice vote by the Committee, vote by full Senate to be scheduled.]

[Update April 6:  The National Journal reported on the hearings which generated relatively little coverage.  The story notes the strong opposition to Gration from Sudan activists but concludes that he is expected to be confirmed, with support from Committee Chairman Kerry (as well as the President) and with no indication of opposition from the Republican side either.  There is probably just too much other news out of Ivory Coast and Libya, along with Sudan itself, for these hearings on the appointments for Kenya and Botswana to get much mainstream media coverage.]

Confirmation hearings for Scott Gration for Ambassador to Kenya and Michelle Gavin (recently Africa director for the National Security Council) for Ambassador to Botswana begin at 2:30pm Washington time.

Here is the link to the video and for subsequent transcript and submissions from the Senate.

See Diplopundit for counter-Gration advocacy from Save Darfur and related Sudan activists who are unhappy enough with Gration as Special Envoy on Sudan to work against his Kenya nomination.  Staying away from domestic politics, and not being a Sudan expert myself, I won’t weigh in other than to say that the Kenya/Somalia job seems much different than the Sudan envoy job.  And to point out that the post in Nairobi has been waiting for him for a long time and that he has loyalty from President Obama as discussed in previous posts.

Previous on Gration:  Discussion about Gration as Ranneberger Replacement Hits the Media and Gration Spoke Out on Obama/Odinga ‘Smears’ in 2008 Campaign and Obama taps Gration.

Obama Budget Proposal includes Diplomacy and Assistance Cuts for FY2012, While Congress Continues Work on Cuts for This Year [Updated]

It seems that the Obama administration by leading with a budget proposal that recommends modest cuts, is laying the groundwork for negotiations with Republicans in Congress over somewhat bigger cuts at the end of the day, if in fact a budget is to be passed and signed into law for the new fiscal year. In the big picture, the overall goal of rebuilding USAID and generally elevating Diplomacy and Development as part of an overall “national security strategy” is at least deferred until some years down the road when the fiscal tradeoffs might seem easier or less politically expensive. On the other hand, we see here “American incrementalism” at its finest on both sides. We don’t spend a lot on foreign assistance, relatively speaking now, and we will keep doing most of things we are doing now in the same basic way we are doing them, with a very few programs eliminated and overall budgets squeezed some.

Regarding the current fiscal year, now almost half over, Josh Rogin writes at The Cable blog at Foreign Policy:

Of course, nobody knows what the fiscal 2011 funding levels will be, because congressional Democrats failed to pass an appropriations bill before the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The House Republican leadership released its overall allocations for the next CR on Feb. 11, which would provide a total of $44.9 billion for the State Department and foreign operations for fiscal 2011.

A news release by House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) praised the $44.9 billion number and said it was a reduction of $3.8 billion, or 8 percent from total 2010 appropriations and a reduction of $11.7 billion, or 21 percent, from the president’s 2011 budget request. Granger and GOP congressional leaders are promising to cut Obama’s 2012 request even further.

“The reductions made to my section of the bill are a good start. As long as I am Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I will ensure that our foreign aid is not used as a stimulus bill for foreign countries. This bill is about our national security and the funding levels reflect that,” Granger’s statement read.

The new continuing resolution still has a long way to go before it becomes law. But if enacted as the House GOP leadership wants, it would slash U.S. funding for international financial institutions, eliminate U.S. contributions to several international funds, and cut allocations for global health and childhood survival programs by $784 million compared with fiscal 2010. USAID would also face a $121 million cut to its operating budget as compared with fiscal 2010 under the current House GOP plan.

Funding for international financial institutions was hit especially hard in the GOP bill, with a cut of $892 million from fiscal year 2010 levels. Funding for global health and childhood survival programs also took a hit, losing $784 million compared with 2010.

“Targeted cuts to the bill were partially made by rescinding funds from appropriations that remain unspent, freezing federal employee pay raises at the State Department, not funding programs that require authorizations, scaling back contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations, and eliminating wasteful, duplicative and ineffective programs,” Granger said.

The lawmakers proposed keeping aid to Egypt and Israel intact. However, the continuing resolution would cut off foreign aid to the Lebanese armed forces unless Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certifies such funding is in the United States’ national security interest.

Update: Here is the link from today’s special briefing on the State Department’s 2012 Budget Request with Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides.. One of the more interesting things here is the innovation of splitting the State Department budget into a $47B “core budget” and “[f]or the first time, OMB is presenting our war funding as they do with the Department of Defense, in a separate account called OCO, Overseas Contingency Operations. This will allow for a full transparency and a unified approach for the costs we believe are not part of our core budget. The State and USAID OCO request for 2012 is $8.7 billion . . . “

Obama and “the ideals that still light the world” and that “we will not give up for expedience’s sake”

In writing here about the situation in Eygpt and U.S. support for democracy, I referred to remembering what the President had said about his priorities as our leader and holding him accountable to that.  To that end I am quoting here the Inauguration Day post from two years ago that was part of wrapping up a personal web “travel log” that my wife and I did to keep in touch with friends and family while we were in Nairobi:

January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day from Mississippi!

Beautiful cool, clear winter day here. Big moment for Kenyans. The news from Kenya is especially troubling right now (but do not hesitate to travel there if you are able–I certainly want to get back for a visit at the first available opportunity).

The magnitude of the food crisis has reached the point that the Gov’t (even) has declared a “national emergency” reflecting perhaps 10M people short of food. Several big corruption situations involving maize, petrol and other vital needs have just now come to light, while a newspaper reports that witnesses who provided confidential evidence to a committee appointed to investigate the post-election violence have been identifiable through the reports produced, are now under death threat and in many cases in hiding, having been provided no protection by the government. Thus, they are unlikely to be available to testify in the event that the prosecution tribunal to be established actually comes to fruition. SO, not much new–just a lot MORE of the same type of news.

At the same time, these things are not inevitable and can be changed to some substantial degree.

For those of you who have contributed to help with the Upako Centre or other worthy projects in Kenya, this would be a great time to keep them in your prayers and offer any additional financial support you are able. Things have turned dramatically for most of us financially since the time we went to Kenya in the spring of 2007, but most of us still have much to be grateful for and lots more than what we really need when it comes down to it.
From the President’s Inaugural Address this morning:

. . . .

Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.
Those ideals still light the world and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.
So to all peoples and governments watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of all nations and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
. . . .

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. The world has changed, and we must change with it.

Published speculation on impact of release of Kenya cables . . .

In “World Politics Review“, Nairobi-based security/defense writer Lauren Gelfand suggests that the coming Wikileaks release may undermine efforts against corruption, due to Ranneberger’s recent outspokeness on that issue, but more generally asserts:  “But although the documents will be embarrassing, and possibly damaging to Ranneberger’s legacy, they are not likely to yield any revelatory information.”  No sourcing is presented for this conclusion, which is different than what I hear elsewhere.  Regardless, we shall see when we see.

If there is nothing “relevatory” but rather embarassing to Ranneberger specifically, then I don’t see why this should present a major setback to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission or other reform efforts as Gelfand suggests.  The next Ambassador can take the same positions and carry out the same policies, now, on corruption.  It will be up to the President and Secretary of State to see that this happens.  The point here is consistency.  It will take years to really turn around corruption, one way or the other. 

If bad things did happen in regard to the 2007 election, Obama and Clinton were not in the Executive Branch at that time, so it wouldn’t be their fault in the first instance.  Perhaps it is time to “lance the boil” so that the U.S. can be more effective in helping Kenya in the future, especially with a new election coming in less than two years. I wish that the State Department Inspector General would have looked at the matter long ago, but it is what it is.

“The President’s New Development Policy”–It’s Anti-Socialist, so can Republicans Find Common Ground?


I’m overdue to write more about President Obama’s “new development policy”, following my participation in a “bloggers’ roundtable” on the subject at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

There are lots of people with much more knowledge and experience writing well about this, including especially at the Center for Global Development on my blogroll. “Value added” from me here might be to emphasize that the President has embraced notions of aid effectiveness, prioritization and bi-lateral relationships, as well as focus on private sector growth as THE way to reduce poverty, as reflected in the operating model of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In other words, Obama has taken an experimental innovation from the G.W. Bush administration and sought to apply this as a policy framework across the broader scope of foreign aid in general.

This leads us to an interesting insight from a piece in The Root last week, “How Barack Obama became a Republican”: Obama can best be understood as an old fashioned establishment Republican–a “Mastodon” if you will–with policies largely what one would have seen from a Gerald Ford confronted with similar circumstances. This is a more conservative era, and Obama’s new development approach is more narrowly market focused presumably than what you would expect from a Nixon or Ford, but I think in broad terms this observation makes sense. Granted that the President doesn’t LOOK that much like Gerald Ford, but policy-wise I do think this is a better template than the Dinesh D’Souza “Luo tribesman”.

Of course, many in the right within the GOP have always hated moderate or liberal Republicans with a special passion–and post-midterms many in the “Tea Party” are itching to carry on the fight after eclipsing dealmaking “Reagan Republicans” like Trent Lott and other more center-right figures. I am not sure why we should assume that these are not people who are fully serious about “ending not mending” foreign assistance.

The conventional discourse has been about how, not whether to address poverty. Perhaps this is now a question that is no longer a given. At some level, poverty is just an extreme case of inequality. Perhaps we now embrace inequality as reflected in Nicholas Kristof’s latest: “Our Banana Republic”. Are there “Reagan Republicans” left who will deal with the Democrats and Obama for a more “conservative” or “right looking” foreign assistance program, or will they be cowed by the fear of primary challenges to come?


Why listen to what the President says when you can stereotype from his African ancestry? [Updated]

Newt Gingrich has gotten some play from accusing President Obama of being (gasp!) an “anti-colonialist” in a National Review interview. He says he learned this from the “stunning insight” of Dinesh D’Souza in a Forbes column.

This is a bit like Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act. Do we really want a Republican Party that is re-arguing European colonialism? When I started reading National Review back in high school, and got introduced to Dinesh D’Souza, an overall message that I got at the time was that intellectual type conservatives recognized that conservative reluctance or recalcitrance on civil rights had been a screw-up that, along with Watergate, had contributed to our minority status at the time.

Here is Ta-Nehisi Coates, in The Atlantic: On Pro-Colonialism. For me, being anti-colonial is very much in keeping with the “original intent” of our Founding Fathers.

Regardless, Obama has gone to Africa, early in his term, and spoken to Africans: what was his actual message to Africans as the President of the United States (as reported on the Voice of America)? Can people like Gingrich actually be bothered to reflect on this, or is that unnecessary since there will be people who will obviously buy whatever pop psychology is served up about our “half-caste” leader?

Update: Related thoughts from Eugene Robinson in today’s Washington Post column:

The rational explanation is that Gingrich seized on the “programmed by his absent father” thesis as a way of furthering the “birther” narrative — the paranoid fantasy that Obama is foreign, exotic, alien, somehow not American. So what if D’Souza’s piece makes assertion after assertion that is plainly, demonstrably unsupported? Just throw it out there, and maybe a few gullible souls will believe it.

Of course, Glenn Beck was the first to push this meme publicly that I know of. See my post here about Beck’s agitprop about Obama and “anti-colonialism”.

From Antony Karanja in The Daily Nation: “Why Kenya and Obama are being dragged in the mud of U.S. racism”.

Gration spoke out on Obama/Odinga “smears” in 2008 campaign

It is easy to see why President Obama might want retired General Scott Gration as Ambassador to Kenya for the 2012 presidential campaigns in both the U.S. and Kenya. Gration served as a campaign military and foreign policy advisor to Senator Obama in 2008 and spoke out against allegations from the U.S. hard right that Obama played some nefarious role as a secret supporter of Islamic terrorism in respect to Raila Odinga and the 2007 election in Kenya. Gration became acquainted with Obama through accompanying him on his visit as a Senator to Kenya in 2006.

Gration has enhanced credentials as both a retired air force major general and the son of missionaries who grew up in Congo and in Kenya and speaks Swahili. He has said that he was a Republican prior to the 2008 campaign.

Here is Gration’s October 17, 2008 letter to the Washington Times:

Mark Hyman’s “Obama’s Kenya ghosts,” (Commentary, Sunday), was a disgraceful smear on Sen. Barack Obama. Because I accompanied Mr. Obama on his trip to Kenya, I can say unequivocally that Mr. Hyman’s piece was filled with lies and innuendo.

• Mr. Obama’s 2006 trip to Kenya was authorized by the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who congratulated Mr. Obama on a successful trip when he returned.

• Mr. Obama did not “campaign” on behalf of Raila Odinga, has never endorsed him, and was not “nearly inseparable” from Mr. Odinga during his time in Kenya. Mr. Obama met with a wide range of Kenyan and American officials, including a Nobel Prize winner, human-rights defenders, and President Mwai Kibaki. He did not have a single scheduled meeting with Mr. Odinga.

• Mr. Obama was accompanied throughout his trip by myself and two other active-duty U.S. military officers; and the U.S. ambassador attended meetings and events throughout the trip. The Obama staffer – Mark Lippert – that Mr. Hynes names is a naval reservist and Iraq War veteran whose deployment began several months before the Kenyan elections and continued well past it.

• The Obama speech that Mr. Hyman references was a widely praised effort that condemned corruption and tribalism while urging the promotion of private enterprise and accountable, transparent government.

• Mr. Obama and Mr. Odinga are not cousins, and efforts to assert otherwise have been described as “stretched to the point of ridiculousness” by an independent fact checker.

Mr. Hyman references telephone contacts that Mr. Obama had with Mr. Odinga in January. He fails to mention that those contacts were encouraged by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and were accompanied by public statements that Mr. Obama made on Voice of America, Kenyan radio, and in a Kenyan newspaper, calling for calm and a peaceful resolution of Kenya’s political crisis. Repeatedly, Mr. Obama asserted, “the opposition (led by Mr. Odinga) must turn away from the path of mass protest and violence in seeking participation in government.”

Mr. Hyman’s piece concludes with an astonishing attempt to tie Mr. Odinga, the sitting prime minister of Kenya, and, by absurd association, Mr. Obama to acts of terrorism committed against the United States of America. This false and outrageous charge says a lot more about Mark Hyman than it says about Barack Obama.

Given the partisan crossfire from Washington and elsewhere in the U.S. on the Kenyan constitutional referendum, and the partisan crossfire over the 2007-08 Kenyan election crisis, it is hard to imagine that there will not be the same type of attacks on both Obama and Odinga from from the U.S. in the 2012 campaigns.

New Glenn Beck agitprop uses Kenyans as cutout prop to insinuate that President seeks to turn U.S. “Marxist” or “full-fledged Soviet” (or even “anti-colonial”!) because, Beck claims, that was the dream of Obama’s father . . . and is reflected in Kenya’s new constitution

You can’t make this stuff up–at least I hope you can’t. It takes an accomplished demagogue to do this. I really don’t care one way or the other what Beck thinks or dreams about American politics as such, but America has some responsibility of self-assumed leadership in world affairs. As a democracy, it matters when we delude ourselves about the citizens of other nations, and certainly citizens who treat us as friends and who share our democratic aspirations.

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes should be ashamed of themselves for this.

Reasonable people can be strongly in disagreement with President Obama’s policies on whatever subject, and patriotic people can be sharply critical of an elected president; reasonable people can have different views about Kenyatta and Kenya’s political history and about Obama, Sr.’s role or lack thereof, and about Kenya’s new constitution, but taken in sum total this is truly, deeply and offensively ignorant and disrespectful to millions of people who never did anything to Glenn Beck.

I have never been a Marxist or in any way pro-Soviet–I am an old “Cold War Republican” or at least have been. I have never even been a Democrat. I am not a natural ally of Obama. Nonetheless, this type of smear by long strings of rambling insinuations based on distortions of facts likely unknown to Beck’s audience, seems to me outside the bounds of how small “d” democrats talk to each other about their country and its elected leaders and Beck and his enablers deserve to be called on it.