Monday, January 12, 2009

Raising Questions

One of the fabulous scenes in the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona is where the bank robbing Snopes brothers pull off their first robbery. "Everybody Freeze! Everybody down on the ground!", commands Gale, the older brother running the enterprise from behind a shotgun. One old farmer standing in line for the teller sort of spoils the moment: "Well, which is it young feller, you want I should freeze, or get down on the ground? I mean to say, iffin I freeze, I can't rightly drop, and iffin I drop, I'm gonna have to be in motion." Truly a comic moment to be remembered. But that by the by.

Its relevance here--I always have a purpose for these things--is the similarity to what I suspect is going to be a continuing theme in the Obama presidency--contradictory indicators of his intentions, emanating from his attempts to be all things to all people. And thus we are witnessing already the results of behind the scenes machinations by the "team of rivals" whose rivalry is already making a mash of things, and who are apparently already competing for which camp can control the direction of policy via the time honored method of the insider leak.

For one current example, how an Obama administration intends to deal with Hamas. Leaks last week suggested back channel meetings were already in the works, while this Sunday Herald piece instructs the president-to-be that "Dialogue with Hamas is Obama's First Job", buttressing the internationalist wing inside the nascent administration. Bill Kristol, on the other hand, in yesterday's New York Times piece "Continuity We Can Believe In" , highlights the walk-back from official spokeswoman in charge of stamping out these kinds of fires (she had better get some flame retardant boots for this job):

Meanwhile, the Obama transition team’s chief national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, was denying a press report that Obama’s advisers were urging him to initiate low-level or clandestine contacts with Hamas as a prelude to change in policy. Anderson told The Jerusalem Post that the story wasn’t accurate, and reminded one and all that Obama “has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past agreements.”

So which is it young feller?

Just for a hoot, here is the larger block containing the scene of the hayseed farmer, representing the befuddled American public, and Gale Snopes, representing official administration policy. The confrontation proper begins at 4:17 on the video.

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