(Bumped up from Wednesday.)
After Barack Obama’s team of White House amateurs overreacted to the expulsion of Honduran President Zelaya two weeks ago by lining up with Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Hillary Clinton’s State Department has brought some adult leadership to the process. What Barack Obama should have done at the outset was coordinate with his Secretary of State. But apparently Barack likes to listen to the likes of Dennis McDonough, who is a political hack on par with Karl Rove. McDonough is clueless on policy but always eager to play a political angle.
Rather than check with the intelligence community, who could have briefed President Obama on the fact that intelligent agents of Cuba and Venezuela were plotting with Honduran President Zelaya to circumvent the Honduran Constitution, Obama quickly denounced the Hondurans and failed to do anything behind the scenes to prevent the blow up or reassure the Hondurans that the United States would not abandon them to Chavez. Although the Honduran military had the full support of the Honduran Supreme Court and the Honduran Congress when it moved against Zelaya, the action exposed Honduras to charges that it was reverting to the bad old days of military governance.
Enter Hillary the Savior.
Secretary of State Clinton, while condemning the action of the Honduran military, mounted a behind the scenes diplomatic effort to counter the meddling of Cuba and Venezuela. Her efforts paid dividends yesterday with the news that Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias, would mediate the conflict. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Mrs. Clinton said both sides had agreed to work with Mr. Arias, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for brokering an end to civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua. She called him “the natural person to assume this role.”
Talks will begin Thursday in Costa Rica, Mr. Zelaya told Honduran radio. It was the Obama administration’s idea to bring Mr. Arias in as a mediator, said a senior U.S. official briefed on the diplomacy.
Mr. Arias could help the U.S. try to find a solution in which Mr. Zelaya returns to his post temporarily. Political parties here also have discussed moving up presidential elections already scheduled for November.
But a solution could prove tricky, with Honduras’s political establishment opposed to Mr. Zelaya resuming his post for any period.
Honduras’s acting president, Roberto Micheletti, applauded the designation of Mr. Arias and said, “We are ready for dialogue,” but added, “Only if it’s about President Zelaya’s surrendering himself to the tribunals of justice, and not about his return.” He told reporters, “No way.”
Washington has sought to make clear it prizes democratic principles by quickly condemning the coup and throwing its weight behind Mr. Zelaya, though he is a leftist ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and a frequent critic of the U.S.
The Wall Street Journal is a tad hysterical here. The reality is that a deal is likely in place that will let Zelaya finish his term after a public commitment to forego his effort to circumvent the Honduran Constitution and seek a new four year term for himself.
The Honduran press sees it differently. The lead article in today’s La Prensa states:
EEUU parece abandonar a Manuel Zelaya (The United States Appears to Abandon Manuel Zelaya).
La Prensa also reported on the testimony of proposed Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela who told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday that this was not just a matter of resolving Zelaya’s expulsion from Honduras but that there also is a need to look at Zelaya’s effort to circumvent the Honduran Constitution and the efforts of Venezuela to interfere in Honduran internal affairs.
This is the message that the United States should have delivered on day one but Barack Obama circumvented the State Department. It has been Hillary’s leadership over the last two weeks that has moonwalked the Hondurans back from the precipice of crisis and set them on the road to a peaceful, legal resolution of the matter that will protect Honduras from the subversion of Cuba and Venezuela. Well done Madam Secretary.
From the State Dept. Web site: