A New Name, and a New Location
01/19 12:18 PM
Hillary and Edwards, starting to square off over Iraq
What happened to TKS? It has found a new focus, and a new name, as the Hillary Spot
. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly
01/15 08:26 AM
Will Obama's official announcement come on Oprah?
The debate about the “surge” on Capitol Hill seems surreal to many of us. I’m hearing on CNN International and the BBC that the President faces “stiff opposition” in Congress, but that stiff opposition amounts to a non-binding resolution opposing the move. Yawn. Wake me when the opponents of the war are a) actually willing to cut off funding, to take actual action to prevent the surge from occurring and b) actually discuss another course of action. If they want a withdrawal, wake me when they actually discuss the consequences of a U.S. withdrawal to the people of Iraq and the surrounding region.
Apparently I’m not the only one noticing a sizable gap between surge opponents’ rhetoric and their actions. John Edwards made it the centerpiece of his speech Sunday:
Forty years ago, almost to the month, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at this pulpit, in this house of God, and with the full force of his conscience, his principles and his love of peace, denounced the war in Vietnam, calling it a tragedy that threatened to drag our nation down to dust.
As he put it then, there comes a time when silence is a betrayal — not only of one's personal convictions, or even of one's country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to one another and to the brotherhood of man...
If you're in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel. Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war - use it.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s spokesman responded, but the words were awfully mild to earn the headline, “HILL JABS AT JOHN” in the New York Post.
“In 2004, John Edwards used to constantly brag about running a positive campaign. Today, he has unfortunately chosen to open his campaign with political attacks on Democrats who are fighting the Bush administration's Iraq policy,” said Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson.
In fact, never mind “jabs”; doesn’t this statement sound rather… whiny? Edwards’s speech was a political “attack”? Isn’t it… well, criticism? A call to action? Articulating a position, and arguing why it is better than the alternatives?
What kind of Nerf rules are going to be in effect for the Democratic presidential primary, if Edwards’ remarks constitute some sort of out-of-bounds infraction?
01/15 08:02 AM
Explosion at U.S. Embassy in Athens? UPDATED: Anti-tank shell
Guess that Obama presidential announcement isn’t coming on Martin Luther King day after all. Nonetheless, the news is full of accounts suggesting an official announcement is not far off.
(Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King and his beliefs were considered controversial; today the man is honored as a secular saint. I wonder what controversial ideas of today will be considered settled issues, fifty years from now. Probably bilingual education. The politicians of 2057 will probably agree that it is unwise to teach children two languages simultaneously, as it will hinder children’s efforts to learn America’s dominant language, and it is better to immerse them in the common tongue spoken everywhere: Spanish.)
Hotline looks at Obama’s team, while the Chicago Sun Times has lunch with Obama’s financial guy, Louis Susman, who was John Kerry’s national finance director.
An interesting excerpt:
How much money did Susman raise for Kerry? A bundle: $247 million.
A vacuum cleaner was how someone once described him for a 2005 Tribune article, saying Susman was able to ''Hoover'' money from ''deep pockets.'' Another described him as that ''rare successful businessman who has the heart of a political operative."
There is a big part of his heart that belongs to former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa), a dear friend, who is already in the running for president in 2008. But Susman has told Vilsack (and every other presidential hopeful who's asked . . . he won't specify whom) that he is giving his whole political heart to Obama. He calls the Illinois senator ''extraordinary,'' and marvels at his trip to New Hampshire late last year. ''It's unheard of what happened in New Hampshire, unheard of that people were scalping tickets to see Obama.''
And the Chicago Tribune argues that Illinois should move up its primary to help Obama. “Root, root, root for the home candidate…”
UPDATE: Could Obama be announcing on Oprah on Wednesday?
01/12 12:19 AM
Highlights, and lowlights, in the world of radio interviews
Very early reports of an explosion within the U.S. embassy compound in Athens...
UPDATE: CNN International is giving two contradictory pieces of information - one is that "chaos" is going on within the compound, the other is that the Embassy is reporting no injuries.
This is pure speculation, but — gas leak? It would be, what 7 a.m. out there? If this happened within the hour, between 6 and 7 a.m. local time?
The fact that this explosion is reported within the compound makes it more ominous if it is, ultimately, terrorism; on the other hand, past terror attacks on embassies have all involved somebody on the outside trying to hurt people within.
The next thought - very ominous from where I'm sitting, half asleep - is that if this is al-Qaeda, they may use their style of multiple simultaneous attacks...
The AP has a brief item up...
UPDATE: It must be either not that bad, or very hard to get information about this in Athens, because CNN International is telling me about David Beckham going to the Los Angeles Galaxy...
Athens media sources are reporting the explosion was "of significant size," whatever that means...
Anthee Carassavas is in Athens, telling CNN "officials leaning hypothesis of terrorist atack", officials are speculating that a rocket-propelled grenade launched from outside the compound. Explosion was near the Ambassador's office; the Ambassador is currently safe and secure. (I'll bet very few employees were at work at that hour.)
UPDATE: Several hours later, we are informed it was an anti-tank shell:
An anti-tank shell was fired at the U.S. embassy early Friday, striking the front of the building but causing no injuries. Greece's Public Order Minister said the blast was probably an act of domestic terrorism - raising fears of resurgent violence by far-left Greek militants.
While it's reassuring that this wasn't al-Qaeda, and that there were no casualties, I've wondered if or when we would see other terror groups imitating al-Qaeda's mass-casualty "superterrorism" methods. Had they done this later in the day, the results could have been much worse.
For example, in Spain, ETA blew up a parking garage at the Madrid Airport a few weeks ago. The bomb only killed two people, but the devastation reminded me of Oklahoma City - clearly, it could have been much worse.
ETA is also claiming, by the way, that despite the fact that they blew up a parking garage and killed two people, the "ceasefire" is still in effect.
Hey, guys, let's go over the definition of "ceasefire" again.
01/11 08:19 AM
Newt Gingrich polling as well as John Edwards in North Carolina
If you haven't read Hugh Hewitt's interview with military strategist and author Thomas P.M. Barnett (the first of ten!), then you ought to. Whether or not you agree with everything Barnett says and/or recommends, there's no denying he's a smart guy who has studied military, geopolitical, cultural and historical issues extensively, and who brings a lot of useful ideas to the table.
This portion made me sit up and take notice:
TB: Well, you know, they’ve been bumping up against the reality ever since the end of the Cold War, that it’s not just enough to win the war anymore. If you don’t follow through on the peace, then heck, you might as well just schedule the next decapitation regime-toppling visit seven, eight years hence. I mean, we went to Iraq, we went back to Iraq. We went to Haiti, we’ve been back to Haiti already. We went to Somalia, and we are sort of back in Somalia through our support with Ethiopia there.
HH: And the AC-130’s.
TB: Unless you fix the aftermath, and connect the country, leave it more connected than you found it, the problems and the lack of stability that led rise to the initial conflict just repeats itself time and time again.
- - - - -
HH: Dr. Barnett, when we went to break, you were saying it’s not enough to decapitate an enemy regime. If you leave it there without connecting it to the core, that group of economically developed, globalized countries, it will in fact revert into perhaps at least as bad a situation. Does that argue for a prolonged commitment of American men and material to Iraq this time?
TB: It does, I mean, because we’ve known for years now, from looking at countries post-conflict, post-disaster, post-civil strife, but the recovery process typically extends as much as ten or twelve years. That corresponds, by the way, to most estimations of what it takes to defeat a stubborn insurgency. It’s a long term process of nation building, which is a controversial subject. We’re very snake-bitten on it, because of our effort in Vietnam.
But the key thing I’d like to note in terms of differences between Iraq and Vietnam is with Vietnam, we had superpowers funding the other side, and we really don’t have that here. We have a much less powerful opponent, in terms of the radical Salafi jihadist movement, which in many ways is really a parasite that tends to come into conflict situations, so that if we abandon Iraq to that kind of sectarian violence, we’re really, in many ways, turning it over to become an outpost what will inevitably draw us back in this long war against radical extremists.
Will we hear any presidential candidate really address this problem in depth? It sounds like dealing with potential threats in the future – be it a country that protects terrorists, like Taliban-era Afghanistan, or a country that cannot control its territory, and thus is a haven for terrorists, like Somalia – we have to not only go in and kill the bad guys, but we need a way of establishing a local order that will empower good guys, and persuade the locals to be good guys. The to-hell-with-them hawk “rubble don’t make trouble” slogan is inaccurate; after a few years, rubble does make trouble.
Americans hate nation-building. The Pentagon doesn’t really like nation-building. Politicians hate nation-building. But if we don’t do it successfully, most of our military actions turn out to be temporary band-aid solutions. We need to either figure out how to nation-build a lot faster, or condition the American people to be a lot more patient with this sort of thing.
I’d love to hear our potential commanders-in-chief talk about this subject at length – but I have a bad feeling all we’re going to get are vague pledges to “build a 21st Century military capable of adapting to a world of emerging threats”, etc.
Meanwhile, if you want to see a train wreck of an interview with the same host, check out Hugh’s chat with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, aspiring president.
HH: Well, Congressman, what happens if the troops withdrew quickly? Wouldn't Iraq descend into just chaos and violence even far beyond what we see there now?
DK: Well, I'm not talking about that scenario. What I'm offering is a process, and the Kucinich plan involves the United States, first of all, of letting the international community know that we are going to end the occupation, close our bases, withdraw our troops, let the Iraqi people have control over their own oil assets, and then we get the international community engaged, so we can put together a peacekeeping and security force as we transit out. At that point, a process of reconciliation, reconstruction, reparations, and other things I set in motion. I mean, we can't stay there. Occupation is fueling the insurgency. More troops are only going to mean more troop casualties and more civilian deaths.
HH: So you wouldn't pull them out until there was an international force there to replace them?
DK: Yeah, you have to have a process. But you know what? You can't start the process as long as we're occupying it. No one's going to help the United States if we just say we're going to stay there, and we're going to stay there until we understand that the American people are ready for a new direction, and for that matter, the world's ready for a new direction. And I think Iraq is, too.
Basically, we can’t leave until there is an international force to take our place, but no international force will take our place until we leave, so we will leave, and hope one appears to take our place.
To say nothing of "More troops are only going to mean more troop casualties and more civilian deaths." Apparently killing any insurgents, al-Qaeda, and affiliated thugs and terrorists is absolutely impossible.
01/11 07:12 AM
Biden finds a campaign manager
Today's news brings word of an intriguing poll out of North Carolina. The headline in the News and Observer - “N.C. Dems prefer Edwards to Clinton, Obama” is accurate, but one could also write, “Newt Gingrich polling as well among North Carolina Republicans as John Edwards is among North Carolina Democrats”.
North Carolina Republicans are divided over who should be their next presidential nominee, but Democrats like home boy John Edwards, according to a new poll.Edwards, the former Tar Heel senator, had the support of 29 percent of Democratic voters, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh. Edwards is followed by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (16 percent) and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (15 percent), with 40 percent saying they would support another choice.
The former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, had the support of 30 percent of GOP voters, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (29 percent), Arizona Sen. John McCain (22 percent) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (6 percent). The remaining 13 percent supported someone else.
Obviously, this poll is only big news if Edwards trailed an opponent among North Carolina Democrats. Having said that, if you had told me that the non-Hillary and non-Obama Others would outpoll Edwards in the Tar Heel state, in a poll conducted just a few days after he declared his candidacy... I would suggest that's a sign that Edwards is a bit soft in his home state.
And I realize this poll will stir cheers from the volunteers hoping for a Gingrich candidacy. Most folks see the GOP presidential primary as the big three - Rudy, McCain, and Romney - and then somebody looking to fill the old George Allen slot. Maybe the fourth slot will go to Gingrich... or maybe there will be five serious contenders by the time of the first caucus.
01/11 07:01 AM
Is the Washington Post determined to take some shine off Obama’s halo?
I had asked yesterday whether any strategists or campaign planners on the Democratic side had proven particularly talented or inspired in 2006.
Sen. Joe Biden must think he has found one – he hired a campaign manager, Luis Navarro, who will depart as executive director from the Florida Democratic Party. The AP summarizes Navarro’s brief, but fairly successful run in that position:
Navarro was hired in July 2005 as Democrats hoped to turn around a long, downward slide. His $180,000 salary raised some eyebrows, but the party believed it needed to bring in a strong professional to help turn around its fortunes.
In November, Democrats won back seven state House seats, two U.S. House seats and a Cabinet position — the chief financial officer post. It's biggest goal, though, wasn't met when Republican Charlie Crist comfortably beat U.S. Rep. Jim Davis to become governor.
Having Mark Foley's congressional seat fall into your lap helps improve one's record, but 2006 seemed to be a good year for Democrats, and Navarro probably had something to do with that.
01/10 06:37 AM
Let's hear it for running campaigns from Inside the Beltway!
I said a few posts down that Sen. Barack Obama hasn’t had much critical press yet. But I wonder how soon that will change.
Today’s Washington Post has an article headlined “The Green Gripe With Obama.” The gist:
The Democratic senator from Illinois gets stellar marks from greens. Just a few months ago he was calling global warming "real," saying: "It is here. . . . We couldn't just keep burning fossil fuels and contribute to the changing atmosphere without consequence."
So why then, environmentalists ask, is Obama backing a law supporting the expanded use of coal, whose emissions are cooking the globe? It seems the answer is twofold: his interest in energy independence — and his interest in downstate Illinois, where the senator's green tinge makes the coal industry queasy.
It’s a fairly thin story, running on A11, that essentially says, ‘Obama introduced a bill dealing with coal, and environmental groups don’t like it.’ But this is the scrutiny that a potential president gets, as opposed to a first-term junior senator from Illinois.
Similarly, Dana Milbank wrote a lot about Obama’s beach picture in People magazine. In detail. Perhaps a bit sneeringly or snippy, or perhaps oddly fixated on it:
There's Catherine Zeta-Jones in a teeny string bikini, Penelope Cruz in a cleavage shot on a boogie board, Jessica Alba in a skimpy fuchsia bandeau bikini, and hunky Australian actor Hugh Jackman shirtless in Nevis.
Then there's the junior senator from Illinois. Rounding out the Beach Babes spread is a New Year's Day photo of Barack Obama in the Hawaiian surf. We see his well-defined pecs, his perfectly hairless torso, just a bit of padding around the abs and a drawstring dangling from his form-fitting surfer trunks. The aspiring presidential candidate splashes through the water and squints into the distance; he is transformed into Burt Lancaster in "From Here to Eternity."
"I really appreciate you toting that around," Obama said with evident sarcasm yesterday when presented with the image as he left a news conference in the Senate TV gallery on ethics laws. "Thank you very much."
The senator was more appropriately attired, in a navy business suit and pale-blue tie, but he was uncharacteristically flustered as he sought to explain the photo.
"You know, it's uh —," he attempted.
And: "It's embarrassing."
And: "You know, I have no idea what beach it was taken on."
And: "It was, it was, it's uh, it's uh, paparazzi!"
Obama noticed that Jay Newton-Small of Bloomberg News was studying the image. "Stop looking at it!" he mock-scolded, and hustled away.
Newton-Small offered her critique. "He does look slimmer in his work suits," the young woman judged, but she allowed that he "looks good for his age."
Such candid photos — the People shot of Obama was, as the senator suspected, done by a paparazzi agency that People identified as Fame Pictures — can be damaging to a politician. Few can forget, try though they might, the Agence France-Presse photo nine years ago of a fleshy Bill and Hillary Clinton dancing on the beach in bathing suits. And the shots of John Kerry windsurfing in his skintight wetsuit proved poisonous to his presidential aspirations.
The Post also wrote that story about Obama’s long-ago cocaine use, and some people thought that article was a bit of a cheap shot on Obama, since there was not much of a news hook, other than, ‘experts say the revelation from the book that has been out for months may be an issue later in the campaign.’
Has somebody at the Post decided that Obama’s honeymoon is over?
01/10 06:18 AM
The First of About 8,000 Hillary Political Obituaries, To Be Followed by 7,999 to 8,000 Stories on ‘The Hillary Comeback’
Hillary Clinton is thinking of basing her presidential campaign in Washington D.C., instead of the New York City area. Speaking as a correspondent who will be returning to the Washington area, I conclude that her decision to run the campaign from inside the Beltway and in the nation’s capital is absolutely the right choice… for me.
I also applaud Senator McCain’s rumored decision to base his campaign in Crystal City, Virginia, right outside Washington.
You know, if we could get every contender to run their campaign from the same office building, it would be fantastically convenient. Again, for me, not necessarily the campaigns.
01/10 06:07 AM
Obama announcing on Martin Luther King Day?
So Dick Morris is analyzing the political scene with his trademarked caution and understatement, declaring Hillary Clinton “seems to be showing her age rather than grasping just how much the political world has changed since she last trod the presidential campaign trail.”
Hillary appears to have been completely taken by surprise by the boomlet for Obama. He's now tied with her in New Hampshire and ahead of her in Iowa. The Obama phenomenon quickly knocked her out of her complacency. Suddenly, just days after the New York Senate election, she began to frantically invite prominent Democratic Party types from Iowa and New Hampshire to her home for dinner to discuss her 'potential' presidential race. Using her BlackBerry — or more likely the old Clinton Rolodex, — she contacted the party hacks from 10 years ago…the people who supported Bill back then. It's been a long time since she last visited New Hampshire, and she hasn't kept up with the changes in the Party. She's relying on the outdated Clinton contacts, even ignoring the first female Speaker of the House, who was also the first Democrat elected Speaker in 70 years. That's someone to pay attention to.
Really? [And Pelosi is the first Democrat elected Speaker in 70 years? Not 12?*]
Yes, Obama is going to be a very strong candidate. And yes, when everyone is throwing roses at his feet, then he’s going to look unstoppable. But he has yet to get a word of critical press. He was completely untested in his Senate campaign. And the pressures of running for local office just don’t compare to the pressures of running a presidential campaign.
By comparison, let’s look at Hillary’s sense of connection with the average Democratic party official, activist, or primary voter. From about 1992 on, if you were a Democrat, you spent time defending Hillary Clinton. From about 1994 until Gore started running in earnest, the Clintons were the Democratic Party.
And we’re supposed to believe that Obama or Edwards has assembled a power base or network of supporters that could go toe-to-toe with the Clintons? We’re supposed to believe that Pelosi, Reid, Dean, or some other Democrat has established an independent faction that will cause Hillary problems if they don’t get on board?
Color me skeptical. It’s not that Hillary’s a lock for the nomination, but she’s the frontrunner, and she brings resources to the table that no other Democrat will.
Morris also seems to think the fact that Hillary is talking to James Carville and Paul Begala is a sign she’s still running 1992 software in a 2008 world:
The top echelon of Hillary's brain trust is the same old White House gang that advised them many years ago. As part of her offense after the election, Hillary even had a highly publicized dinner with former advisers James Carville and Paul Begala (wonder how the press ever learned of that rendezvous). Their last presidential campaign was Bill Clinton's 1992 race 14 years ago — hardly the place to go for cutting edge political advice. Even the Clintons declined to hire that undynamic duo for the 1996 race or for either of Hillary's Senate races. Gore ignored them in 2000 and Kerry refused to hire them in 2004. Hillary won't hire them either, but she still looks backward. Maybe the nostalgia is comforting to her.
Putting aside any lingering rivalries between Morris and Carville and Begala dating back to the Clinton years, are the Crossfire men really that outdated? I know Carville hasn’t worked on domestic campaigns since 1992 (other than some last-minute advice to the Kerry campaign), but Carville has advised Tony Blair since then, and I don’t think one can say that either adviser has been away from the political scene.
Who else is out there? Kerry’s crew? Joe Trippi? Edwards has Dave “Mudcat” Sanders; I don’t know if his combative writing partner, Steve Jarding, whose ferocious tactics for Jim Webb must be considered effective, is affiliated with any candidate. Were there any other Democratic campaign managers or strategists who stood out as innovative geniuses in 2006? Didn’t most Democratic candidates have a strong wind at their back?
Morris’ assessment of Hillary has been shaky in the past – in 1999 he said she would never run for Senate, and thought Rick Lazio would beat her in 2000 – and it seems like this is the first of many columns we will see sensing that Hillary’s chances are dwindling.
It’s going to be a looooong campaign. Hillary will stumble. And then she will come back. And then she will stumble again. And then she will come back again. And then, in the second month of the campaign…
UPDATE : TKS reader Mike helpfully points out that there is a new female Speaker of the New Hampshire House, the first elected Democratic Speaker in New Hampshire in 70 years. Would have helped for Morris to be a bit more specific.
01/09 05:31 AM
Joe Biden's in... to be the best Biden he can be.
An interesting, and believable rumor: That Barack Obama will announce his candidacy on Martin Luther King Day.
Boy, I think that timing would work. Would work really well, in fact.
Hillary Clinton announcing on Susan B. Anthony Day just wouldn't have the same power and resonance.
The New York Times' sources are telling a different story, however:
Obama, Democrat of Illinois, is not likely to say whether he intends to seek the party’s presidential nomination until after President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 23. As he walked out of the Capitol on a recent afternoon, Mr. Obama only smiled when asked about his timing. Then, he rushed to change the subject.
Initially, Mr. Obama said he intended to announce his decision after returning from a holiday vacation in Hawaii, where he was visiting his grandmother and other relatives. Now, several people close to the senator say, he needs a little more time to make up his mind.
In related news, Dennis Kucinich is singing for votes in New York. This is one of those moments where you just have to love the all-out wackiness of American politics.
Interestingly, Kucinich earned the following praise from Magic Johnson: "He made some great comments... I like his energy."
01/08 07:34 AM
Mitt Romney, Bob Shrum, and remembering an odd courtship from 1988
So Joe Biden is in
“I am running for president,” Mr. Biden said toward the end of an appearance on “Meet the Press” on NBC.
“I’m going to be Joe Biden, and I’m going to try to be the best Biden I can be,” he said. “If I can, I got a shot. If I can’t, I lose.”
I want to give the senator a vote of confidence: I'm fairly certain that he will be the best Biden he can be, and that no one else in the race will come close to being a better Biden. And to use one of his favorite phrases, I'm not being facetious.
I will, however, remember a few lines about Biden's first presidential campaign from What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer, because when you read a 1,051 page monolith about the 1988 presidential race, you find yourself wanting to use anecdotes from it and justify the enormous amount of time spent reading it.
But [Biden] really couldn't blow off the press conference, or delay it for a day... no more than he could hold off Bork [who Reagan had nominated that day]... no more than he could hold off the debate, which went off that night, as scheduled. Biden seemed barely there. He never made a dent, couldn't seem to connect. Dukakis, Gephardt - they both made points. But Joe looked like he'd dropped in from outer space. The fact was, he'd chucked Pat [Caddell's] message one day before — and he didn't have a new one. He didn't have time to think up one line! On stage, his answers wandered, they went nowhere. His smile would jump up in the middle of a sentence, as if he'd thought of something funny but didn't mean to share it. Tom Shales, the TV critic, wrote the next day, for the Washington Post:
"Biden... appears to be overadvised and suffering from excessive consultitis. Worse, he comes across on TV as someone whose fuse is always lit."
"Unless we ditch television for the remainder of the campaign, Biden will never be President."
There's a slogan: "Biden 2008: Let's Prove Tom Shales Wrong."
01/08 07:14 AM
I can't wait for the first Kerry-Edwards debate
So Bob Shrum – he of the distinguished campaign consulting and speechwriting record of Ed Muskie, then George McGovern in 1972, Ted Kennedy 1980, Dick Gephardt 1988, Mike Dukakis 1988, Bob Kerrey 1992, Al Gore 2000, John Kerry 2004 - is going after Mitt Romney:
Romney is the remainder man of the Republican race, the one to have once conservatives realize that dwarf stars like Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore are dim possibilities. This also assumes, of course, that John McCain, who’s been busily engaged in some base licking of his own, can’t overcome the doubts about him by cozying up to Jerry Falwell. If McCain falters, Romney will be there as the plausible alternative. But in a straight-up choice between them, McCain has the advantage. He’s not only a genuine career-long social conservative—a truth obscured by the sliming he took from the Bush campaign in 2000 — he’s also the next in line, steadily drawing Bush operatives and fundraisers to his side, in a party that nominates by primogeniture and increasingly regards McCain as both acceptable enough to the base and electable enough in the country to hold the White House in 2008.
I recently read Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes
, a fascinating, but really, really long (1051 pages!) portrait of the 1988 presidential race. (And no index. Arrrrgh, as Bob Dole would say.) Anyway, guess who makes an appearance, and comes across as rather odd, in a section describing the campaign of Dick Gephardt:
And [Gephardt campaign manager Bill] Carrick got in, looked the thing over, and discovered there’s no message. Who’s doing message? And Carrick said, there’s only one guy to do message: guy’s a genius – Bob Shrum. They’d worked together for Teddy Kennedy – Shrummy and Bill, pals, you see… so Carrick told Dick he had to get Shrum. So Dick called Shrum, and called him, and called him back, and finally invited him to dinner… out to the house for dinner. So they made a date, and Jane cooked, and everything was ready, out in the woods of Virginia, where Dick and Jane had their lovely, airy house… except that day, Shrum was meeting about [Mario] Cuomo. Had an appointment with Mario’s son, Andrew – supposed to talk for an hour or so. But Shrummy and Andrew got to talking and the time… well, it just went! … and it got to be awfully late. And there were Dick and Jane, in the woods in Virginia, and no Shrum, and the dinner was drying out in the oven by the time Shrum finished talking to Cuomo… and that was in Washington, forty-five minutes, at least, from Dick’s house, and Shrum would have to find someone to drive him (Shrum’s a genius and does not have to drive himself – he once took a cab in Washington… to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) so Shrum had to go back to his office and get a colleague to drive him out to Dick’s, and by the time they got there, even Shrum thought Dick might be, well, a little ****ed off… but no.
“Good to see youuu…” Dick said at the door. Jane was in the kitchen, taking the supper off life-support. And Shrum and Dick started talking… about the campaign, the nation’s ills, the Congress, the White House, the field for ’88… and it was great. Shrummy talked about a lot… but the amazing was, how well they agreed! And by the time Dick jumped into his own car, to spend an hour and a half driving Shrum back to Washington (Hey, no problem – after midnight there’s hardly any traffic at all!) Shrum forgot all about Cuomo.
[All italics and ellipses in original.]
Let me get this straight: This guy can run a campaign, but he can’t drive a car?
I guess Romney could shut up Shrum’s criticism by challenging him to a drag race.
01/08 06:19 AM
An early look at the standings in Nevada: Good news for Rudy, Hillary
If John Kerry runs for president in 2008, we may get to see a great
debate in the primaries. From the News and Observer
[Former DNC Chair Terry] McAuliffe recounts having dinner with Edwards after the 2004 election. He notes that Kerry sent Edwards to a lot of small markets, leading to criticism that Edwards was not visible enough.
"Terry, they wouldn't let me," Edwards told McAuliffe. "I wanted to go after the Swift Boat guys. I wanted to go after Bush. They wouldn't let me."
But when McAuliffe sat down with Kerry, the Massachusetts senator expressed frustration that Edwards did not campaign harder.
"Kerry said that Edwards told him several times, 'Watch the news tomorrow! I'm really going to go after Bush.' Then Kerry would watch the news the next night, and Edwards was nowhere to be seen," McAuliffe wrote.
"I also heard that Kerry believed Edwards had promised him that if Kerry wanted to run again in 2008, Edwards would sit the race out," said McAuliffe, who is supporting New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for president.
"But if you asked the Edwards people about it, they said there was no way any such promise has been made."
Wouldn't you love to see these two hash it out on stage in one of the early debates?
01/08 06:10 AM
The First of Many Inspiring Moments From the New Majority on Capitol Hill
For what it’s worth, in Nevada, a poll of that state's presidential preferences at this early date has 31 percent for Rudy Giuliani, 25 percent for John McCain, 21 percent for Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney 4 percent. That’s the highest number I’ve seen for Gingrich in a while; unfortunately for him, the GOP primary is currently scheduled April 2008, fairly late in the process.
It’s more notable for the Democrats, who have moved up Nevada’s primary so that it is expected to fall between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Hillary leads with 37 percent, Obama with 13 percent, John Edwards and John Kerry at 9 percent each. That seems a little surprising, as I had heard Edwards was popular with the unions out there.
01/05 10:38 AM
Hillary's running, right? Right?
Courtesy TKS reader Daniel, I call your attention to this revealing moment
, illustrating the thinking of the new congressional majority:
Charlie Gibson: Would you vote in favor of money to support another 20,000 to 40,000 troops in Iraq?
Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kansas: I think we're going to vote to support what the commander in chief and head of military asks to do. At least, I am certainly going to vote to support it.
Gibson: If he wants the surge, he'll get it.
Boyda: Yes.… He is the commander in chief, Charlie. We don't get that choice. Congress doesn't make that decision.
Gibson: But the polls would indicate, and indeed, so many voters when they came out of the ballot box, said, "We're voting because we want something done about the war and we want the troops home."
Boyda: They should have thought about that before they voted for President Bush not once, but twice.
Indeed, the American people should have thought about how they wanted troops home from Iraq in the 2000 election, two years and change before the invasion. They also should have considered how they would feel about the circumstances in Iraq in 2007 back in 2004.
Or, you know, these new members of Congress could remember that indeed, they do get that choice, that they control the purse strings, and they have a significant ability to influence foreign policy. But then again, it's probably easier to vote yes, and then deny any responsibility. After all, that's what most Democrats who voted for the invasion have done.
UPDATE: Another TKS reader, Paul, has a differing interpretation:
I take your comments (and the "headline" of the post) to mean that there is something negative about Boyda's comments about the war, the Commander-in-Chief and his inherent responsibilities, and the implications of Americans electing President Bush not once, but twice.
Believe me, I'm as skeptical of the House Democrats as any person on the planet, and I fear greatly for the country if their leaders' views hold sway in the coming two years. But I must admit to being pleasantly surprised - yes, even inspired! - to hear a rank-and-file Democrat Member actually seem to endorse the idea that a) the Commander-in-Chief really should be given broad latitude to fight the war as he sees fit (within limits, of course) and b) the results of the last two Presidential elections actually mean something. I would assume that Ms. Boyda doesn't support the Administration's war-making tactics (certainly) or objectives (possibly). But her stated deference to the powers inherent in the Presidency and the incontestable fact that Bush was re-elected two years ago seems to be remarkably statesmanlike. Am I missing something?
Paul raises a lot of fair points. But I don't like the overall tone of Boyda's comments - that she and the legislative branch can’t be held accountable for what happens from here on out regarding foreign policy. If she thinks a troop surge is a bad idea, she ought to oppose it. If she thinks it’s a good idea, she ought to support it. There’s something unseemly about privately believing a policy to be a bad idea, but voting in favor of it anyway because “it’s what the commander in chief wants to do.” The Democrats won control of Congress last year, and with that power comes responsibility, as Spider-Man’s Uncle told us.
And there’s a flip side to this – if President Bush is convinced a surge of additional troops is what it’s going to take to improve the situation, he ought to persuade the country, and by extension the Democrat-controlled Congress. “I’m the decider” isn’t going to cut it at this point; he has to say, fairly explicitly, “here’s what I want to do, and here’s why it’s going to work.”
By the way, as much as I loathe “flip-flopping,” supporting a military action when it goes well and opposing it when it goes badly, I would contend it is reasonable to change one’s position on continuing military operations in Iraq when the overall situation reaches a tipping point. A voter or legislator can say that they had faith that the mission was accomplishable in 2004 (a year or so after the invasion) and then conclude, in the beginning of 2007, that a stable Iraq cannot be built upon this wrecked husk of a civil society and that it will take a period of Balkan-like ethnic fighting before Iraq’s Sunni and Shia are willing to coexist.
If you've read Krauthammer this morning, or Dean Barnett over at Hewitt's site, you're seeing a lot of staunch I'm-glad-Saddam's-dead folks admit they're appalled with the way his execution was, um... executed. Basically, it took a moment that should have marked solemn justice for a lifetime of crimes, on par with the Nuremberg trials, and turned it into a Shia pep rally, as if Saddam's greatest crime was being a Sunni.
We want a stable, democratic, free and prosperous Iraq. It’s just not that clear that the Iraqis want it that badly. A reasonable person could say it’s time to pull back and let them fight it out.
01/05 09:36 AM
The Global 'Authority Deficit' and the 2008 Primaries
For what it is worth - and it's probably not much - Mickey Kaus predicts that Hillary Clinton will not run for president. (Video on BloggingHeads
"I'd say it's a 50-50 proposition," he says. "I'll get a full credit if it's right and no one will remember, except you [Robert Wright] if it's wrong."
I seem to recall this rumor running through Iowa a few weeks back, and Hillary's people very quickly quashed it. Needless to say, if she chooses not to run, then many, many people will be stunned, including me.
01/05 05:57 AM
"I'm Joe Biden, and I approved this message. And I'm not being facetious."
Edwards’ announcement speech talked a great deal about restoring America to a position of moral leadership.
He’s talking around, but not quite actually addressing, a rapidly-developing problem that Peter David eloquently laid out in the Economist’s 2007 preview
It will become more obvious in the coming years. The world has an authority deficit. Authority is draining away from international institutions, from the big world powers (including the superpower) and from the nation-state itself. And though other forces, such as religion, are surging into the places the state has vacated, religions—and especially Islam—have an authority deficit of their own. Less authority is not always a bad thing. Some would say it is just the corollary of a more equal distribution of power. But it makes the world less orderly, and therefore less safe...
The [United Nations] Security Council’s decisions, meanwhile, go humiliatingly unheeded. In 2006 the council ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium, North Korea to give up its bomb, Sudan to stop killing civilians in Darfur and Hizbullah to disarm in Lebanon. To date, neither Iran nor North Korea nor Sudan nor Hizbullah has complied.
In the 1990s the collapse of the Soviet Union made it seem briefly possible that America’s moral and military authority might keep the peace. No longer. Moral authority? Ask a politician in Moscow, Beijing or Cairo about America’s moral authority and they will at once counter with the fiasco of Iraq, Guantánamo, “rendition” and the alleged torture of suspected terrorists. Even America’s military pre-eminence is in question. Though its armed forces will remain stronger than anyone else’s, the past three years have cruelly exposed America’s inability to squash insurgencies or put failed states back together again.
David runs down the list – the EU, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank – all international institutions that seem to be losing influence and effectiveness, as well as clarity of purpose and momentum, and succumbing to paralysis from internal divisions. Perhaps most intriguing are the forces seeking to fill the gap:
Abhorring a vacuum, newer and older forces have thrust into the spaces the state has left behind. NGOs aspire to spread good policy and governance. Religions offer the order and consolation of eternal values. The paradox is that these forces face an authority deficit themselves. Who elected the would-be defenders of the environment and liberty, such as Greenpeace and Amnesty? As for religion, even a newly self-confident Islam is hobbled by a lack of authority.
The badguys can’t muster much authority, either; they can easily destroy but they can’t create. Al-Qaeda, the remaining Taliban, the insurgents in Iraq, the Courts Union in Somalia – none of these guys can establish stable rule over much territory. They’re much better at blowing stuff up and undermining others’ attempts at establishing order and rule of law.
So it would be nice to, as Edwards puts it, restore America’s ‘moral authority’ – although I think that beyond Abu Ghraib, America has little to apologize for. (Or perhaps we ought to have a clearer perspective about America’s sins and those of the rest of the world.) But those who aspire to the title of “Leader of the Free World As Of January 20, 2009” ought to interrupt the Hosannas for a higher minimum wage to look at an accelerating global crisis: Can’t anybody here play the governing game?
Why do so few leaders in the West want to spend money on their militaries, and/or actually engage in combat in places like southern Afghanistan? Why do so many ordinary workers around the world feel that globalization is a menace, and that the solution is to build walls and withdraw from the world? Why do states from Russia to China to Pakistan to North Korea feel so free to sell the deadliest of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons to dangerous regimes around the globe? And how can we entrust the United Nations to address any of these crises, when they can’t weed out sexual abuse of children from the ranks of its “peacekeepers”? Are China’s free-market authoritarianism and Putin’s iron-fisted state-run thugocracy the governing models of the future?
Will these big questions even come up in the 2008 primaries? Or will all the campaigns boil down to the generic trope, “I stand for true American values”?
01/05 05:13 AM
Looking at Edwards' Announcement Speech in Greater Detail
It’s far from certain that Democratic primary voters in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will be clamoring for a Biden presidency in early 2008.
Yet it’s easy to picture Sen. Joe Biden getting applause at the debates from Democratic primary voters with comments like this:
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he believes top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded they have lost Iraq and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will "be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof," in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam.
"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost," Biden said. "They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy — literally, not figuratively."
In fact, it's easy to imagine this line being adopted by every Democratic contender, the inverse of Kerry's pledge that he had a secret plan to improve the situation in Iraq: the claim that the Bush administration has a secret plan to lose the war in Iraq. But this line constitutes a near-perfect excuse for a candidate's lack of a specific or viable plan for Iraq — "The guys who made the decision to start the war don't think this war is winnable, so why do you expect me to have a plan to win it? Everybody agrees this can only end with us fleeing in defeat like in Vietnam; the difference is I'm honest about it."
On a related note, as we gear up for wall-to-wall Democratic Primary coverage around here, I'm thinking of installing a Joe Biden Facetious Meter, counting the number of times he insists, really, that he is not being facetious. (Early research occurred here.) Perhaps a worthwhile hunt through the archives would determine if there has ever been an occurrence when the Delaware senator admitted that, indeed, he was being facetious.
01/04 08:15 AM
I took a second look at John Edwards’ announcement speech from last week, which was strikingly brief (less than 1700 words in prepared remarks) and disappointingly generic in some places.
Let’s start with the positives – Edwards spoke extensively about volunteerism, a perfectly noncontroversial idea that everyone can back, and then actually appeared to be suggesting that the public cannot expect government and politicians to solve their problems for them:
Earlier this year, we were not in the Ninth Ward but in St. Bernard Parish with 700 young people who gave up their spring break to come here and work to help rebuild New Orleans.This is an example of what all of us can do if we actually take it upon ourselves to take responsibility.
And we want people in this campaign to actually take action now — not later, not after the election. We don't want to hope that whoever's elected the next leader of the United States of America is going to solve all our problems for us. Because that will not happen, and all of us know it. Everyone listening to the sound of my voice right now knows that.If we actually want to change this country and we want to move America the way it needs to move, we're going to have to do it, all of us, together. Instead of staying home and complaining, we're asking people to help.
You know — all of us have so much to contribute and we have different things to contribute. And we want you to help not starting later, but starting right now.And that's why we're here in New Orleans, because Americans can make a huge difference here.
And what I've seen — I learned a lot in the last campaign, which some of you heard me talk about — but I've actually learned more since the last campaign, because I've seen firsthand what actually happens when, instead of waiting for somebody else to take care of our problems, we do something.
Having said that, the policy proposals laid out in Edwards' speech were pretty much standard issue for a Democratic presidential contender in this decade:
So it's not — and by the way, it's not just Iraq that'll help establish America's leadership role in the world again. We have to show that we have the moral authority to lead. You can't lead through raw power.
And in order to do that, we're going to have to lead on things that, at least in the short term, seem like they're beyond our self- interests, things like the genocide in Sudan and Darfur. We said after Rwanda we'd never let anything like this happen again. Well, it's happening right now. America needs to lead.
I was in Uganda a few weeks ago where there are huge atrocities going on in northern Uganda. America can make an enormous difference there. I was there with the International Rescue Committee, who are another group of Americans that are making a huge difference in the world.There's so many opportunities — global warming, which is a huge moral issue for America and for the entire world.
We need to ask Americans to be willing to be patriotic about something beyond war. We need to ask America to be willing to conserve, to take the steps necessary to get off our addiction to oil, to create a new energy economy in this country.
It's critical to America being able to do what it needs to do in the 21st century. We ought to be the example for the rest of the world. It's not just what we do over there; it's also what we do here.
You know, we've got 46 million, 47 million people without health care coverage? When are we finally going to say, "America needs universal health care"? Because we do. We need it desperately.
I like the idea of America leading on Sudan. The question is, leading how? There’s really only one way that the killing will stop: a properly armed military force standing between the militias and their would-be victims. So who’s up for it?
We ought to be patriotic to do something about global warming. I don't mean in an abstract way. I mean, we've made mistakes in the past. We walked away from Kyoto unilaterally, which was, in my judgment, a serious mistake.
If you are under the age — people often think about global warming as something that is going to affect the next generation. If you are under 60 and something doesn't change, global warming is very likely to affect your life.
And this is another example of a place where Americans can get off their addiction to oil, we can drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, we can invest in some of the cleaner alternative sources of energy — wind, solar, biomass. There are a whole series of things that we need to do.
Come on, man. 95 to 0. 95 to 0! That was the vote in 1997 when U.S. Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution which stated was that the United States would not sign any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.” It wasn’t just those big bad Republicans; every one of those good Democrats came to the same conclusion.
They could not support Kyoto as it was written, at least partially because it has a great big exemption for China, the world’s second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (and with all that coal they burn, all kinds of other pollutants). India, no slouch in generating carbon dioxide and economic industry, is also exempted. Those are not insignificant objections, and yet Edwards adds to the slippery doublespeak that support of the Kyoto treaty means the speaker loves the environment, and opposition to the treaty marks one as an evil polluter.
It's also worth noting that Edwards’ “we’re going to do it together” Bela Karolyi routine (“You can do it, Kerri! You can do it! I cannot do it! You can do it!”) – is that it’s straight out of Howard Dean’s “You have the power” rhetoric from 2004.
One of the more interesting books by somebody on the other side of the ideological divide is “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” by Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean. I was reminded of this passage (italics in original):
Every time I see John Kerry on television, I am struck by the same thought. Whether he is snowboarding or playing hockey or wearing his leathers, sitting on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, the message seems to be the same: Aren’t I amazing? His campaign spots, with the focus on his laudable service in Vietnam, tell the same story: Aren’t I amazing? It’s no different with the other Democratic candidates, or with George W. Bush, the “compassionate’ conservative. All of them had their version of Kerry’s Harley. Look at me. Aren’t I amazing?...
This is the difference between the Dean for America campaign and every other presidential campaign of the past twenty years. Every other candidate has started by saying Look at me. Aren’t I amazing?
But every time Howard Dean got up to speak, every time his campaign staff go on the web to blog, the message was Look at you. Aren’t you amazing? And they were: 600,000 people committed to a new democracy.
In an era where Time magazine made the safest (and lamest) possible choice in its selection of the Person of the Year, a campaign that focuses on “you” as opposed to the candidate might be the right formula.