Wow, today was a great day. First off, I got to witness President Obama signing all four executive orders to and him explaining before signing each one that…Americans are not barbarians…and we can still catch the bad guys without acting like the bad guys. I’m telling you….it was a fantastic moment after living through 8 years of Bush Terrorism on so many levels! We don’t have to break our laws to be able to protect ourselves.
You can watch President Obama signing his executive order to close GITMO within a year, here:
Is it just me or is it nice to have a president who explains what he’s doing in a coherent, rational, and sane manner without an evil smirky grin on his face where you get the feeling you’re going to get screwed again?
Secondly, I also watched Hillary Clinton as she was well received at the State Department (it was estimated to be a crowd of a 1,000 people OUTSIDE who cheered her when she got out of the car) today. One reporter on MSNBC said the State Department has been starving for years for great leadership and they’re thrilled that Hillary is going to be there for them to have REAL discussions about foreign policy, to finally have someone who will listen to them and their ideas, and to have debates where there is disagreement. Love it! I guess this means Condi Rice sucked eggs. Obviously (and we know she did!).
Anyway….a short time later, Hillary held her first press conference as the new Secretary of State and then George Mitchell was announced by her as the new Special Envoy to the Middle East. Holy cow! A thrilling moment. There were many times before Obama picked Joe Biden to be his VP where I had hoped he would pick George Mitchell (HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE), because I knew he would be a perfect fit, but that doesn’t matter now, because President Obama has put George Mitchell in his Cabinet! I knew he would. See? I can get it right sometimes. LOL
We Mainers have a special attachment to George Mitchell, not only because he was our former US Senator and the peace-maker for Northern Ireland, but because he does have this special ability to bring everyone around the table to work towards peace and has enough political savvy to get the job done. He has a quiet resolve. I think he’s unique in this aspect and he will be a fantastic voice in bringing about some peace (or rationalism!) to the Middle East. Something tells me he is going to be well received over there. I can’t wait to see what he does.
Here are George Mitchell’s remarks today upon accepting his new role on behalf of the American people and the Middle East (transcript from the Washington Post):
MITCHELL: Thank you. Mr. President, Madam Secretary, I’m grateful to you for your kind words and for the confidence that you show in me and in Ambassador Holbrooke.
It’s a great honor for me to be able to serve our country again, and especially to do so with my friend and distinguished colleague, Richard Holbrooke.
I don’t underestimate the difficulty of this assignment. The situation in the Middle East is volatile, complex and dangerous. But the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that danger and difficulty cannot cause the United States to turn away.
To the contrary, they recognize and have said that peace and stability in the Middle East are in our national interest. They are, of course, also in the interest of Israelis and Palestinians, of others in the region and people throughout the world.
The secretary mentioned Northern Ireland. There, recently longtime enemies came together to form a power-sharing government to bring to an end the ancient conflict known as the Troubles. This was almost 800 years after Britain began its domination of Ireland, 86 years after the petition of Ireland, 38 years after the British army formally began its most recent mission in Ireland, 11 years after the peace talks began, and 9 years after a peace agreement was signed.
In the negotiations which led to that agreement, we had 700 days of failure and one day of success.
MITCHELL: For most of the time, progress was nonexistent or very slow. So I understand the feelings of those who may be discouraged about the Middle East.
As an aside, just recently, I spoke in Jerusalem, and I mentioned the 800 years. And afterward, an elderly gentleman came up to me, and he said, “Did you say 800 years?” I said, “Yes, 800.” He repeated the number again. I repeated it again. He said, “Ah, such a recent argument. No wonder you settled it.”
But 800 years may be recent, but from my experience there, I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings; they can be ended by human beings.
I saw it happen in Northern Ireland, although admittedly it took a very long time. I believe deeply that with committed, persevering and patient diplomacy, it can happen in the Middle East.
There are, of course, many, many reasons to be skeptical about the prospect for success. The conflict has gone on for so long and has had such destructive effects that many have come to regard it as unchangeable and inevitable, but the president and the secretary of state don’t believe that.
They believe, as I do, that the pursuit of peace is so important that it demands our maximum effort, no matter the difficulties, no matter the setbacks. The key is the mutual commitment of the parties and the active participation of the United States government, led by the president and the secretary of state, with the support and assistance of the many other governments and institutions who want to help.
The secretary of state just talked about our long-term objective, and the president himself has said that his administration, and I quote, “will make a sustained push, working with Israelis and Palestinians, to achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security.”
This effort must be determined, persevering and patient. It must be backed up by political capital, economic resources, and focused attention at the highest levels of our government. And it must be firmly rooted in a shared vision of a peaceful future by the people who live in the region.
At the direction of the president and the secretary of state, and in pursuit of the president’s policies, I pledge my full effort in the search for peace and stability in the Middle East.