Saturday, December 22, 2007

Something to learn from other countries

By Carol Gee

Those of us who will be casting votes for the next president, have a thing or two to learn. One of our best resources can be the foreign press. The rest of the world is observing our electoral processes with a great deal of interest, and very often with a helpful and relatively unbiased fresh view. This post presents a current sampling.

United Kingdom - BBC News features a special report, "Vote USA 2008." It is an "Election Issues Guide" that sets out leading candidate positions from a drop-down list on Iraq, Iran, National Security, Climate change, Health care, Illegal immigration, Abortion and the Economy. The various positions are given only for the Democrats' three "main candidates," Clinton, Obama and Edwards. However the section includes the five Republican views of those they consider to be the "main candidates," Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain, Romney and Thompson. It could be a very handy tool for those of us who are undecided and want to compare positions, rather than polls. Take a look; it is excellent.

China - Opinion Brendan John Worrell, originally from Australia, writes from 2007-12-17: "Which country scares you the most? There is no more important relationship that America has than our relationship with China." It is a bit of a fresh perspective, and seems very favorable towards John Edwards. The op-ed begins:

In a CBS Evening News special series "Primary Questions," news presenter Katie Couric asked 12 United States presidential candidates, "Which country scares them the most?" and if they were president, "what would they do about it?"

. . . Nine of the 12 candidates listed Iran, two, including Hilary Clinton mentioned Pakistan, and a lone John Edwards commented, "Scares me the most in terms of America and being president, China, because I think China presents huge challenges for America because of their size, because of their population."

. . . When Edwards came to China in the middle of October last year, he met with the nation's top education, economic and environment ministers. A week after returning to the US he gave an interview with the Asia Society, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational institution that seeks to promote greater knowledge of Asia in the US.

Worrell's op-ed closes with this:

Back at the Asia Society interview, and Edwards who is often compared to the dynamic JFK said: "I think that, by no means, is it pre-determined where this relationship (China US) is headed. There's great potential and there are great challenges. And we just need to engage this relationship with our eyes wide open in a thoughtful and visionary way. And I think there is great potential for success if we do that. Ignoring the relationship or not giving it the attention it deserves is a huge mistake."

Thoughtful and visionary are the key ingredients here. President Bush has less than 11 months to try and reverse the anti-US front that has spread around the world since he took office. And perhaps a majority of the world's citizens may answer Katie Couric's question as, "The US, this is the nation that scares me the most." To follow up her question and challenge that nation's resolve, "what are the voters going to do about it?" For better or worse, come November 4, 2008, the world will find out.

The Financial Times of London had a very good editorial yesterday titled,"Why we must have faith in America’s voters." Senior editor at the Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell, wrote very insightfully about religion and politics in America. The writer's analysis brings a much needed outside view to us. To quote:

A spectre is haunting America, the spectre of theocracy. Presidential candidates are either citing scripture or dropping broad hints that they will govern as “people of faith”.

. . . The irruption of God into the presidential campaign need not mean the country is growing more conservative or doctrinaire . . . What has changed is that candidates’ personal convictions have become an issue.

. . . changes were often mandated by courts changed voters in two ways. The first was ideological. If such principles as secularism or neutrality become a basis for condemning and banning cherished traditions without the say-so of the legislature, then some voters will view a candidate’s repudiation of those principles as evidence of democratic good faith. The second shift was organisational. Thanks to constitutional limits on government’s right to meddle in religion, churches are the surest refuge from overweening government.

. . . It is always legitimate to want information about a candidate’s bedrock beliefs, whether they are religious or not. If Americans are pressing for such information more urgently in recent elections, the reason is not that they are turning into fanatics. It is that, when basic institutions and social rules are in flux, convictions about first principles matter more than they once appeared to.

The International Herald Tribune is the international voice of the New York Times. Based in Paris, non-American readers comprise 2/3 of its readership. Their "U.S. Election 2008" sidebar section carries eight feature stories about all of the leading candidates. The main story focused on Bill Richardson's international experience as an envoy.

Dubai - Aljazeera's "Americas" story is pretty straightforward. The piece is about a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that Clinton and Giuliani are locked in a dead heat. To quote Aljazeera:

According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Giuliani and the ex-Massachusetts governor are tied at 20 per cent support among primary voters.

. . . According to the survey, 45 per cent of Democratic primary voters support Clinton compared with 23 per cent for Illinois Senator Barack Obama and 13 per cent for John Edwards, former North Carolina senator.

Ria Novosti, Russia -- An editorial written by a Russian about Time Magazine's choice of Vladimir Putin as its "person of the year," is not really about our upcoming elections. And yet it is, in a way. Just as the next president must deal with China in an effective manner, so must that person know how to deal with Russia. To quote RIA Novosti political analyst Boris Kaimakov:

I have no illusions that Time has conferred the title on Putin because it likes him. Most probably the magazine meant to highlight the role of Russia in the modern world. When the Kremlin gives the instruction to turn off the gas tap, half the world is about to faint. It is one thing to discuss Khodorkovsky and the way top Russian lawyers use electoral law to put down sources of instability, and it is quite another thing when there is no gas in your stove when you want to make your morning coffee.

A president who can afford to pursue such a policy deserves close attention. He jolts Western politicians out of the complacency that they have felt after the Soviet threat vanished, and he comes across as a serious irritant or even a threat to the man in the street.

. . . The West is worried about lack of free speech and democracy in Russia, and Putin is worried about delays of wages and pensions. This is his top priority. That is his idea of stability, which he maintains with the help of his rigorous vertical power structure. This accounts for his intolerance of opponents and blistering criticism directed at them. His message is: I am sustaining the vertical structure with both my hands, and I don't care what my critics try to cadge from foreign embassies.

Don't look Putin in the eye. Look at the roots. Time has done it. Perhaps, as many think, its choice of person of the year was a mistake. But there is no mistake about one thing: Russia is resurgent, and the start of that resurgence coincided with Vladimir Putin's presidency.

Other countries can inform us about the election in several useful ways. Today I looked at a few possibilities. They stated who they think the leading candidates are. They let us know what scares them about the U.S. We learned some new information about our religiosity. We saw that foreign policy experience carries weight with them. We saw that Aljazeera can write straight news about U.S. politics. And we got a peek into what the Russians think about their "Man of the Year." Not bad for a morning's read.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The Bill is about due

By Carl

Bill Clinton is The. Greatest. President. Ever.

That's not just my opinion. The reasons can be found on the biography on the White House website:

During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus. As part of a plan to celebrate the millennium in 2000, Clinton called for a great national initiative to end racial discrimination.

History will ultimately judge if Mr Clinton deserves to be placed in the pantheon of Lincoln and Washington.

President Bush...not so much.

We're starting to see the forms in which history will hand up its judgement of Presidents Clinton and Bush in, of all places, the Democratic primaries.

Barack Obama has been saying it's time to "turn the page" on the partisanship and scandals that have been rife in this country since the Clinton years. Correctly, he has pointed out that he could win in states that Hillary Clinton could not.

Hillary Clinton has begun running on her husband's record, embracing the booming economy and stable foreign relations (and implicitly, how President Clinton stopped every domestic terror attack in the country on his watch, save for the one committed three weeks after he took office).

History's judgement is being reflected in the polls. People are warming to the idea of a return to Clintonia. Hillary has apparently turned her awkward momentum around and is
beginning to firm up her poll numbers. Indeed, she has begun to equate Obama with Bush, if you can believe it:

But the unchanging core of Clinton's message is her experience, and in recent days she has presented the election as a binary choice: between a competent, experienced Clinton and novices such as Obama. "That's the kind of logic that got us George Bush in the first place," she said this week in Iowa.

This message appears to be resonating with the electorate.

Oddly, not much of the scandal that plagued the Clinton administration have seemed to stick in this race. Certainly, the Lewinski affair remains a dim memory to most people, particularly in light of the heinous, illegal and unconstitutional behavior of the Bush administration. Somehow, people are willing to forget a blow job in this atmosphere. Which makes Obama's campaign theme of "turn the page" that much more remarkable for its clumsiness.

It remains to be seen just how much damage equating Obama to Bush will have, but if anything, a reminder of any likeness to Bush is going to make people stop and think.

Hillary is in an unique position as the first candidate for President to be able to run with an actual President in her entourage (who is not a father, of course) and we should have seen it coming that she would begin to more closely tie herself to his legacy as the race began to tighten.

Hillary is a known quantity. She's been vetted a few hundred times in the past sixteen years, and there's not much people have to learn about her. Obama's great strength in this race is that he's kept it close as people have gotten to know him, and managed to have others speak for his character, like Oprah Winfrey.

This, despite having written several books about his life. He's practically Proustian in his recollections!

The race is turning into the home stretch now, and that people don't know Obama may now be his weakness. The electorate generally prefers the devil it knows, and the electorate views all candidates as devils.

The more Bill Clinton appears on the campaign trail and the tighter Hillary Clinton hitches her wagon to his legacy, the tougher it will become for Obama to score victories. In fact, the right wing charge of "Billary" may prove to be a useful asset in the Super Tuesday primary season, since it neatly sums up the point that Hillary was a major force in Bill's policy shop.

People need to know that, and remember how good the 90s were to their pocketbooks and their families, and they will come to Clinton in droves.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Other People Mitt Romney Saw His Father With

News Item: Romney never saw father on King march; Defends figurative words; evidence contradicts story

By J. Thomas Duffy

10. The first Super Bowl... I still have the picture in my head, Dad standing there, arm-and-arm, with Max McGee

9. Margaret Mead... I was very young, and it was on a dig in some foreign country ... I can still see, both of them, in their dirty kakis

8. U Thant... I believe that I saw Dad be the first person to greet him at the United Nations

7. Charlton Heston... In the early 60's, I think it was on the set of "The Greatest Story Ever Told" that I saw them ... If Dad were still alive, I can see him, at the NRA convention - who has endorsed me, by the way - handing Mr. Heston the "cold dead hands" rifle

6. John Glenn... It's so crystal clear, that I could swear Dad was on the first orbit with him

5. Miles Davis... It was just before 'Bitches Brew' came out ... Not many people saw it, but Dad was an old hipster ...

4. Ian Smith, the Rhodesian Prime Minister... In fact, as I remember seeing, Dad had, kind of, a Mormon Prophecy, and told Smith that the country would, some day, have a name like "Zimbaby", or something like that ...

3. Hank Aaron ... Dad was there the big night, No. 715... Almost can see Dad himself, hitting that homerun

2. Abba Eban ... I can still see them, like they were standing here today ... Dad told Eban, he could wrap things in in five, or six-days

1. I can see it clearly... August 15, 1965 ... Shea Stadium... Dad up there with The Beatles ...

Bonus Make-Up (and Made-Up) Mitt Riffs

Steve Benen/Crooks and Liars: Romney’s tall tale about MLK

Josh Marshall: Saw in the Sense of Imagined

Tbogg: Black History Month with Rahsaan Roland Romney

Andrew Sullivan: It Gets Better

Is John Boehner Consulting The Romney Campaign, Giving Make-Up Mitt Crying Lessons?

Romney Speech: Where's Leonard Pinth Garnell When You Really Need Him?

Well ... Mitt would have seen his Dad there ... But, what the hey, he got the NRA endorsement, anyway ...

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Invasion of the Viking Women

By Capt. Fogg

A couple of readers* urged me to blog about this story yesterday, but it's one of those things that is so depressing, so horrifying and so disgusting to someone who once loved the United States that it's really hard to do anything but let you read about it yourself and weep. It seems like we're not only to suspect anyone sounding vaguely Islamic of harboring dreams of invading and conquering or subverting the US, but our new Immigration and Customs Enforcement people are worried about an invasion of Viking Women.

I've talked to Europeans who used to maintain vacation homes in the US and have sold them because of the outrageous harassment they get every time they enter the country, including fingerprinting and examination of financial records. I read recently the story of two English entrepreneurs who wanted to bring some capital and open a business here and essentially were thrown out by ICE with no reason given and I've read about people who because of visa irregularities have been held incommunicado and without charges for years without knowing why.

No, I'm not talking about "enemy combatants" I'm talking about tourists like Eva Ósk Arnardóttir, an Icelandic woman who overstayed her visa in 1995 and went home three weeks late. She's been back without any problems, but this time she's discovered the new America, the America of secret prisons, of jack-booted officers and dungeons where ordinary and harmless people are chained and shackled and interrogated and terrorized and poked and probed and intimidated and held without charges or benefit of legal help.

*My thanks to Crankyboy and Swampcracker

(Cross-posted from The Impolitic.)

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The best of the best, BAGeL style

By Creature

Today, my Reaction friends, is a big day. Not only does today mark the beginning of my vacation (yay!), it is also the day the best DJ on the planet, State of the Day's very own Ted, reveals his picks for the best songs of 2007. Yes, were talking the CMJ award winning Ted. Yes, were talking the best IndieRockNoisePop of 2007. Yes, I am home and able to tune in to the whole extravaganza!

The countdown from #50 starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (do the math for Eastern etc.) and the #1 BAGeL approved song should be revealed around 1:45 p.m.. Afterwards starts the honorary mention hour, and then the Best Bay Area songs follow right after. My ears can't wait.

And, remember, if you miss anything Ted will be posting his "best of" lists tomorrow.

Enjoy and happy Friday, everyone.

Sing more, because if George Bush listened to BAGeL Radio the world would be a much better place.

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The Garlic's 2007 Sounds of Christmas

By J. Thomas Duffy

In what will likely become an annual tradition, The Garlic has had its ear to-the-ground, wide and far, to bring to you the Sounds of Christmas. Who's listening to what to get into the holiday spirit (and I do realize, using the phrase "holiday spirit" versus "Christmas spirit" may bring upon me Bill O'Reilly's war machine)

While you're reading, click on to listen to Louis Prima, and his What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')

President Bush (and his Telcom Buddies) - Angels We Have Heard On High

President Vice President Dick Cheney - Silent Night

Condoleezza Rice - I Wonder As I Wander

Dana Perino - What Is Santa Claus? (Stan Kenton version)

Paul Wolfowitz - I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

Donald Rumsfeld - Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby - I'll Be Home For Christmas

Blackwater USA - Sleigh Ride

Mitt Romney - O Come All Ye Faithfull

William Kristol - Little Drummer Boy

Michelle Malkin - What Child Is This

CIA agent John Kiriakou - Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Lou Dobbs - White Christmas

Howard Krongard - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

French President Nicolas Sarkozy - I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg - Our Little Town

Bonus Xmas Links

Garlic Christmas Special - David Sedaris Christmas Letter

Twas The Night Before The New Congress

Twelve Days of Dubya ...The Twelfth Day

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stopping by a Middle East news stand

By Carol Gee

(image: sumeja @ StockXchng)

What is going on in the Middle East these days,
I asked myself. I confess that my ignorance about the region is a few weeks old. As I read to catch up with the latest from Aljazeera, I picked up a thread that ties all the stories together. What I learned is that factions of people are upset that certain people are not where they are supposed to be. Or, occasionally, others are pleased to see strangers where they usually have not been for some time. (All quotes are from Aljazeera):

Turkey and the Kurds -- shooting at each other has gone on for some time now. But the actions of Kurdish separatists, who would like to establish an intact and sovereign Kurdistan, are now being actively challenged by Turkey, with the help of the U.S. These new developments have proved to be a hornet's nest of complications for the United States diplomatic forces, trying to get the Iraqi government factions to reconcile and move forward. The headline says, "Turkish forces launch Iraq raid." To quote:

Some 300 Turkish troops have crossed over into northern Iraq in an overnight operation hunting Kurdish separatist fighters.

Reports on Tuesday said that the troops had already pulled out, but not before their presence overshadowed a surprise visit by the US secretary of state to Kirkuk in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Condoleezza Rice was snubbed by the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region in protest against America's apparent helping role in the military action.

. . . Meanwhile, US military commanders and diplomats in Iraq said they did not know Turkey was sending warplanes to bomb in northern Iraq until the jets had already crossed the border.

Americans have been providing Turkey with intelligence to go after Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.

The Haj in Saudi Arabia and Iran -- a Sunni country and a Shia country were at odds in the recent past. But they have been having more frequent interactions as part of a larger Middle East family of nations. And the President of Iran is now making his own pilgrimage to Mecca in the heart of Saudi Arabia. The headline is, "Ahmadinejad takes part in the Hajj;" and to quote:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, joined millions of Muslims on Mount Arafat, east of Mecca, to mark the spiritual high point of the Hajj. He is the first Iranian leader to take part in the annual Muslim pilgrimage. Ahmadinejad is attending the Hajj at the invitation of King Abdullah, the Saudi king.

. . . Last month, Ahmadinejad publicly rebuked King Abdullah for Saudi Arabia's participation in a meeting in the US city of Annapolis aimed at finding peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

But he also became the first president of Iran to attend the end-of-year annual summit of Gulf Arab leaders that was held in Qatar earlier this month.

Israel and Palestine -- continued killing and territorial conflict. Attacks by each side against the other, demands for recognition of rights, incursions into the other's territories, all continue to plague the peace process that has lagged behind for decades. "Hamas leader renews truce offer" is the headline. To quote from the story:

Islamic Jihad, a group much smaller than Hamas, has been responsible for most of the attacks since Hamas seized total control of Gaza last June from forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah party.

"We stand by our original offer for a truce based on reciprocation and an end to attacks by all sides," Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera in a phone interview.

"Our position has not changed. We are ready to commit to a truce but Israel would also have to simultaneously commit to stopping its raids and assassinations against the Palestinians."

Earlier reports suggested that Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Gaza-based Hamas government, made a new truce offer through the Israeli media in a telephone conversation with Suleiman al-Shafi, an Israeli journalist.

Palestinians and Israelis -- conflicted over settling Jerusalem. The so-called "two-state solution" still seems very far away. The factions have split into smaller and smaller groups, and small pieces of land are still in dispute. Neither side has been able to step back and see how their rigid stances are perceived by their opponents. Negotiators always seem bound by worries about being seen as not rigid enough by their own constituencies. The story is headlined, "Israel 'examines' new settlement." To quote:

Israel has said it is examining a plan to construct a new Jewish neighbourhood in occupied east Jerusalem, weeks after sparking criticism for expanding another settlement in the city.

. . . Two weeks ago, Israel invited bids for more than 300 new housing units in another settlement at Jebel Abu Ghneim in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem. Har Homa, as the settlement is known to Israelis, is built on land confiscated by Israel.

. . . Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed, for the capital of a future state.

. . . In its 40 years of control over east Jerusalem, Israel has built new neighbourhoods there that are now home to 180,000 Israelis.

Update: The new headline, just in, reads, "Israel backs off on settlement plan." Good news! Tough choices need to be made by all of these conflicted parties in the Middle East.

The United States is also obliged to make tough choices. As long as our military forces occupy Iraq, the factions will not have incentive to work to reconcile themselves. We need to leave them to it. We need to begin talking to Iran in the process, who can be enlisted in solutions because of potential interest in a peaceful Iraq. And most of all, a strong, concerted and skillful U.S. initiative towards a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine will go a long way towards bringing peace to the entire region. The establishment of Palestinians in a contiguous area that can sustain a united population, and a peaceful settlement of Israelis in a secure area to which they have an acknowledged right, is the dreamed-for "two state solution." The U.S. owes such a big effort to the region. Goodness knows we have made such a mess. We really need to clean up after ourselves with more good offices than have been forthcoming so far. All this may have to wait for a new president. The current leopards are probably not going to change their spots.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest)

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Suddenly, he's the Great Communicator

By Carl

Bush will hold a press conference today.

That's the
second this month. The first was where he all but called Congress "do-nothing" (unlike the 109th and last Republican-led conference, which did even less), and then promptly got spnaked all over the place over the NIE report on Iran's nuclear program. Bush's feeble response was to try to make lemons out of lemonade and prove that the NIE supported his claims all along.

The NIE most certainly did not support claims of World War III (the implication in October was that this was imminent if Iran continued to develop their (knowledge of, deliberately parenthetically) nuclear arms.

That issue still hasn't gone away, as Bush claimed he was only apprised of the new NIE in late November, but sources close to the Oval Office have been quoted as saying that Vice President Darth Vader was briefed as early as March and that the President himself exhibited knowledge of the new assessment even in
February of 2007.

It has, however, been overshadowed by a far more urgent issue, and that is the
deliberate destruction of torture videotapes held by the CIA that had been subpoenaed by a Federal court.

This is a smoking gun issue, and early reports cite officials as high up as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez as having discussed the destruction of the tapes before the actual destruction took place.

Errr, "conspiracy to obstruct justice" is the first charge that leaps to mind.

Contempt of court" is another possible charge.

This is the smoking gun issue for pro-impeachment forces. This is an illegal act, and appears to have been done, if not under the direction of, with foreknowledge by senior officials of the Bush administration, if not Bush and Cheney themselves.

The timing is the problem, however. Obviously, this issue will work its way up to the Supreme Court, and as we all know, that court is stacked with Bush partisans.

Will they set aside personal relationships for the greater good of the Constitution?

I doubt it. But I can hope.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Behavior is an indicator of leadership capacity

By Carol Gee

How can we make the best decisions about choosing the next President of the United States?What qualities of leadership should we look for? How can we tell what is true or not about the various candidates. One of the answers is to observe their behavior. Attributing motives to people is very risky, even with those we know personally and know the best.

Slogan vs. action -- TPMCafe blogger, "cscs," observed and commented on candidate behavior recently with his "Agents of Change?" post. The behavior he was observing was connected to who showed up for Monday's Senate debate on amending the FISA bill. I quote his conclusion that points up the incongruity between the rhetoric and the actions of Senators Clinton and Obama on the issue:

Both Obama and Clinton are vying for the "agent of change" title, but I don't think you can have it both ways. I don't think you can hope for the audacity of hope to change politics while at the same time practicing politics-as-usual.

And that's exactly what yesterday was -- a calculated, risk-averse decision to stay on the campaign trail, while Dodd spent 10 hours on the floor of the Senate yesterday, instead of hunting for votes.

The politics-as-usual thing to do was to stay in the horse race.

The politics-of-change thing to do would have been to come back to Washington to fight for something.

Saying one thing and doing the opposite -- "I oppose the concept of retroactive immunity" Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid announced in his statement. And yet he put up the Intelligence committee bill that promised it, instead of of the Judiciary Committee version omitting retroactive immunity. Many of us see Senator Reid as weak and ineffectual, but that is a risky assumption because we cannot know for sure what his motivation was in this case. But these kinds of behaviors reinforce that belief that he caves in too easily. Debate on the bill was set for Monday, Dec. 17 reported Jeralyn from TalkLeft. The post quotes Senator Reid's statement about his decision a few days earlier:

"I consulted extensively with Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Leahy about the best way for the Senate to consider this subject. “I have determined that in this situation, it would be wrong of me to simply choose one committee’s bill over the other. I personally favor many of the additional protections included in the Judiciary Committee bill, and I oppose the concept of retroactive immunity in the Intelligence bill. But I cannot ignore the fact that the Intelligence bill was reported favorably by a vote of 13-2, with most Democrats on the committee supporting that approach.

. . . I expect that when we begin debate on the bill, there will be amendments to incorporate many of the Judiciary Committee provisions into the Intelligence Committee text.

.... There is one issue that cannot be resolved through informal negotiation. As some are aware, the Intelligence Committee’s bill provides the telephone companies with retroactive immunity from lawsuits filed by their customers for privacy violations. Many members, myself included, believe that such a grant of immunity is unwise. I expect there will be a full debate on this subject next week."

Campaign behaviors can predict electability -- Political consultant Peter Fenn, writing for, seems to think this is true. His post asks, "Do Democrats have the backbone to win?" and illustrates with action verbs what that means behaviorally. To quote:

Right now, I think Democratic voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and during the onslaught on Feb. 5 — had better take a good, hard look at which Democrat can best go toe-to-toe with the GOP choice for nine long months next year.

Who can take the punches and punch back?

Who can develop a solid message and stick to it?

Who can run a campaign that is disciplined and focused?

Who can go on the offensive and stay on the offensive?

My sense right now is that Clinton has an operation that can truly take on the Republicans and that Barack Obama may be tough enough, if not as experienced.

I am unsure of the others, though they all may be able to pull it together should they win the nomination.

What qualities of leadership should we look for that can be deduced by looking only at behavior? By reading the news with an eye to action verbs we get clues from the candidates themselves. The above paragraphs include a few ideas. For example, Senator Reid's hypocrisy regarding protecting our civil liberties seemed very evident to me. One of the things we like the very best in our leaders is that the behave authentically. We are attracted to someone who seems to be able to be "comfortable in their own skin." Also, there seemed to be differences in willingness to take risk between Clinton and Obama versus Dodd regarding the FISA debate. On the other hand, Peter Fenn seems to think that, so far, Clinton and Obama would run tougher campaigns against Republicans. Time will tell about that question.

How can we tell what is true or not about the various candidates. Look at the behavior. What do they do, rather than what do they say? We cannot ascertain the level of courage of heroes by attributing motives to them. But we can recognize courage when we see it. I recall the old saying, "Courage is not about being unafraid; it is about which direction you run."

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)


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Happy holidays, or something equally banal

By jeffaclitus

Greetings, all. I know it's been some time since I posted anything (some of you may not recognize or remember my byline at all), but I thought I'd pop in briefly to spread some holiday cheer, specifically by sharing this with you.

Are you not amused? If nothing else, it should take you back to that special time a few years ago when you couldn't step outside for more than three minutes without hearing that song somewhere (best pop song of the past ten years?).

And this simply brilliant review of a book by Garrison Keillor. I can't begin to do it justice; just trust me and read it.

Meanwhile, hope you're all well and enjoying the holiday season.

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If Fred knew then what he knows now...

By Libby Spencer

Freddy Kagan in Dec 05.

The American military, however, is infinitely better trained, equipped, and motivated today than it was at any point in the Vietnam War. The advantages of a volunteer over a conscript army in such wars are incalculable. The technology of the current American military, although not developed for counterinsurgency struggles, has proven to be almost as valuable in such fights as it was in conventional war. And the American soldiers of today are so much more experienced in many of the sorts of tasks they face than were the conscripts of 1965 that there is no comparison between the two.

The technological improvement of the U.S. military between 1975 and 2005 has also revolutionized counterinsurgency warfare almost as much as it did conventional war. Precision-guided munitions now allow the use of U.S. airpower in support of discrete tactical operations without generating excessive collateral damage. The near-invulnerability of the military’s armored vehicles has also proven invaluable: Repeatedly during the battles of Fallujah and elsewhere, the arrival of American tanks or Bradleys meant that the insurgents’ day was done. Perhaps the most remarkable difference, however, comes from a seemingly trivial piece of equipment: Night-vision goggles and infrared sensors mean that coalition forces, not the insurgents, now own the night. The vc and the nva used to terrorize American infantry when darkness fell. Today it is the other way around, and the insurgents hardly try to operate at night at all. All of these technological developments, and many more, have helped contribute to the rapid collapse of meaningful guerrilla activity in Iraq and make it unlikely that such activity will develop again as long as American forces remain there in significant numbers.

Freddy Kagan today.

"What's astounding is how long we spent not applying traditional counterinsurgency principles to fighting what obviously was an insurgency," says Fred Kagan, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and former West Point instructor. "It's not that we've solved the IED problem, per se. It's that we've begun to have success in defeating the insurgents."

Gee whiz Fred. You think that could be because 'experts' like yourself took so long to admit the insurgents were winning?

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Vigorous Sentiment

By Creature

I'm flabbergasted to find out today that at least four, count 'em, four top White House lawyers took part in discussions about destroying evidence, obstructing justice, and generally covering their hostile, lying asses when the time came to decide what to do about those pesky torture tapes. Some top White House officials [Cheney/Addington, for sure] even expressed their "vigorous sentiment" that the tapes should be destroyed.

Who would have thought the White House was so involved and cared so much? It almost makes me think Bush and company were the ones who personally took the moral low ground, ordered the illegal torture, and then tried to pawn all responsibility off on those down the line. But no, they are good, god-fearing folks. They wouldn't do that. Would they?

Update: The White House pushes back. TPM explains:

The essence of the pushback isn't about whether the White House knew of the tapes and their destruction or about whether White House attorneys were deeply involved. The White House is focusing narrowly on the issue of whether it has been misleading by minimizing its role or mis-characterizing it. The pushback, in short, is: Hey, we've been stonewalling and haven't said jack about this.

And, if you don't believe us we're going to stomp our feet and cry until you leave us alone.

Update II: Meme has more.

Update III: The Times gives in to White House bullying and changes their tag-line. Freedom of the press rocks.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Oh brother! Where art thou?

By Carl

Let's assume that
this story is true for a second:



Isn't his wife, Elizabeth, terminal? Isn't it pretty clear that she's likely not only aware of this relationship, but has possibly even given it her blessing?

Given the, um, rather randy way the Republican line-up has comported themselves in their personal affairs...Rudy Giuliani himself has almost as many spouses as half the Democratic field...who really cares?

Now, let's take the story's merits under close examination by parsing it:

The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively that Rielle Hunter, a woman linked to Edwards in a cheating scandal earlier this year, is more than six months pregnant – and she’s told a close confidante that Edwards is the father of her baby!

OK, so we have some hearsay, second hand information that John Edwards is the father of an illegitimate child with a woman he has long been associated with.

No direct proof, not even the word of the woman herself. Just some overheard gossip.

Let's move on:

The ENQUIRER has now confirmed not only that Rielle is expecting, but that she’s gone into hiding with the help of a former aide to Edwards . The visibly pregnant blonde has relocated from the New York area to Chapel Hill, N.C. where she is living in an upscale gated community near political operative Andrew Young, who’s been extremely close to Edwards for years and was a key official in his presidential campaign.

Hang on, this story has one more twist:

Young – a 41-year-old married man with young children -- now claims HE is the father of Rielle’s baby.

So she moves to Chapel Hill to be...either closer to the father of her baby or to duck out media scrutiny.

On the prima facie evidence, which seems more likely? If she's ducking media attention, then moving to the same community as a high profile campaign official hardly seems to be the way to go, don't you think? Gated community or not, the media will be camped out in that area, waiting.

That's hardly ducking out!

In a statement issued to The ENQUIRER through her attorney, Rielle said: “The fact that I am expecting a child is my personal and private business. This has no relationship to nor does it involve John Edwards in any way. Andrew Young is the father of my unborn child.”
From the woman herself, we have the admission that indeed, it's not Edwards' baby, and that Edwards never even had sex with her, unlike the Monica Lewinski affair, in which Monica herself kept quiet about it until she had to testify.


TO: The Republican Right Wing
CC:: "Eggman" Matt Drudge


We have bigger problems in this nation than to get tangled up in the private affairs of people.

I thought you learned that when the country viciously backlashed against the Clitnon impeachment?

(Cross-posted at
Simply Left Behind.)

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Another loss for the home team

By Capt. Fogg

Even though their last attempt in 2003 was shot down by a Federal Appeals Court, the GOP controlled FCC under Kevin Martin has decided, despite public and congressional disapproval that we need less diversity in the media and as of yesterday has made it far easier for the handful of heavily Republican near monopolies that own most of the newspapers, TV and radio stations in the US to move toward unobstructed media consolidation in all markets. In the cases where such cross ownership isn't allowed by the rules, waivers will be granted and if there is no preference for "conservative" viewpoints, I will be amazed.

There's still hope that a wrench can be thrown into the machine once more and another handover of public property to the corporate barons prevented, but we have to let our senators know and we have to do it now. 25 of them have already pledged to overturn this outrageous ruling but we need more - unless of course you really want a country where all you can read and hear is Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and lyin' Bill O'Reilly.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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Top Ten Cloves: How Bush Administration reacted to news of the Death Star Galaxy

News Item: Jet From Supermassive Black Hole Seen Blasting Neighboring Galaxy

By J. Thomas Duffy

10. Checked with NASA, to make sure it wasn't some drunk astronauts pulling a prank

9. Debated for a few hours about using it as an opportunity to raise the Terror Alert Chart, and call for Duct Tape and Plastic

8. For a short period of time, not knowing what was going on, Bush changed into his flightsuit, just in case

7. Rush Limbaugh called... Wanted to know which was older - the Death Star Galaxy or Hillary Clinton

6. Worked late into the night to see how that could fit this into FISA Debate and giving Telcoms Immunity

5. Condoleezza Rice raced over, in case they needed her to go out and talk about "mushroom clouds" again

4. Immediately started writing press releases, blaming Al Qaeda in Iraq

3. Bill O'Reilly and William Donahue called on Bush to renounce this Death Star Galaxy as a liberal, secular ploy to diss Christmas

2. Had someone call Erik Prince and get assurances Blackwater USA wasn't involved

1. Assigned someone to tutor Dana Perino, to make sure she knows something about the Hubble Telescope

Bonus Video

MSNBC Countdown - Alison Stewart Interview with Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute, discussing the emergence of the “Death Star Galaxy"

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

They just don't get it

By Creature

Yesterday Bill Clinton let it be known that if we make his dear wife president he and the elder Bush would travel the world making it safe again to love America.

Sorry, Bill, I understand you've fallen for George Sr., his oil friends, and their oil money, but, dude, you have lost the plot. What we really need is to put everything Bush to bed. Reminders are not welcome. And, bedsides, why would Bush Sr. agree to this my-son-sucked-ass tour in the fist place. As Attatruk said: "I'm sure Bush père will happily go around the world to publicly acknowledge his namesake is a 'gargantuan tool'. A gargantuan, and I would add, incompetent tool.

Update: The weepy Bush responds with an emphatic "no fuckin' way" and proves that there is plenty of room in his son's denial-bubble for two.

In a statement sent to CNN Tuesday afternoon, former President Bush’s chief of staff Jean Becker said that he “wholeheartedly supports the President of the United States, including his foreign policy. He has never discussed an ‘around-the-world-mission’ with either former President Bill Clinton or Sen. Clinton, nor does he think such a mission is warranted since he is proud of the role America continues to play around the world as the beacon of hope for freedom and democracy.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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A black mark for greening

By Carl

At the weekend, I discussed the coming oil crunch and how
alternative energy sources might stack up to replace fossil fuels.

Specifically, when it comes to corn ethanol, there's a negative energy impact in converting from fossil fuels: it takes a lot of energy to produce one gallon of corn ethanol, more energy than is derived.

A lot of that energy comes from the petroleum-based fertilizers that corn needs in order to grow efficiently enough to create a supply of ethanol.

There's also a
downside to using that much fertilizer:

The nation's corn crop is fertilized with millions of pounds of nitrogen-based fertilizer. And when that nitrogen runs off fields in Corn Belt states, it makes its way to the Mississippi River and eventually pours into the Gulf, where it contributes to a growing "dead zone" — a 7,900-square-mile patch so depleted of oxygen that fish, crabs and shrimp suffocate.

The dead zone was discovered in 1985 and has grown fairly steadily since then, forcing fishermen to venture farther and farther out to sea to find their catch. For decades, fertilizer has been considered the prime cause of the lifeless spot.

With demand for corn booming, some researchers fear the dead zone will expand rapidly, with devastating consequences.

In short, you kill off the Louisiana shrimp farmers, which is a critical link in the economic recovery of the region.

Corn prices have doubled in the past five years, from $2 a bushel to $4. That makes corn a very tempting crop to plant for any farmer. It also makes it impossible for environmentalists to ask farmers to cut back on production, or to create environmental buffer zones so that run-off is less of a problem (i.e. plant nitorgen-fixing crops like alfalfa that will thrive in a fertilizer rich environment).

The dilemna can be summed up this way:

Farmers realize the connection between their crop and problems downstream, but with the price of corn soaring, it doesn't make sense to grow anything else. And growing corn isn't profitable without nitrogen-based fertilizer.

The flip side of this problem (and isn't there always?) is that, with a dead zone of over-nitrogenated water taking over more and more of the Gulf, there's less and less chance of having carbon scrubbed out of the atmosphere and back into the life cycle on the reefs and other offshore ecosystems. Algae bloom into overpopulation, die off en masse, and then suck all the oxygen out of the water as they drop to the bottom of the ocean, decaying.

There's nothing left at the surface to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen until the algae levels balance out again. Plus, the oxygen at the bottom is taken away, meaning shellfish (who can't outswim the depletion) die off.

This happens on an annual basis now, but the dead zone season has been extending each year, forcing shrimpers to go further and further off-shore, endangering fragile ecosystems that include larger pelagic fish and mammals.

And as the dead zone grows larger and stays longer, it may actually trap many fish and mammals within its confines, where even the fastest swimmers won't be able to outrace their deaths.

In other words, dolphins, whales and sharks are dying off because of shrimpers due to the unintended consequences of corn ethanol research.

Which was supposed to help save them and their fragile environments.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Like an oasis in the desert

By Carol Gee

It was an amazing thing to watch, this strange thing called "leadership." But there it was, this cool guy from Connecticut, his face getting red, saying "No, not this time!" He was saying it on the floor of the Senate In Washington.

And a few of his friends stood up for him -- Senators Kennedy, Wyden, Nelson and Feingold, particularly, but generally he was on his own.

The opposing Republican Senators he faced yesterday got really red in the face, too. Their arguments for the bill were absurd distortions of the issues, avoidance of the truth about the illegality of the actual warrantless wiretap program, etc. The most absurd was the one accusing us "conspiracy theorists" of being fear mongers, trying to make people fear their own government, of all things. Talk about pot and kettle!

His compatriots were in Iowa, gathering next year's votes. Senator Dodd managed to gather some votes that truly mattered to our country's future today. Our public pressure appeared to aid this courageous man in one of the biggest fights of his career, because Senator Reid pulled the bill from the floor until next year.

If it had not been for this one man who exercised leadership at a critical moment, I might be writing a lament tonight. But I am relieved. I am no longer undecided. You have my vote, Senator Dodd, whether you have the required "electability quotient" or not.

Bravo. You are like a cool drink of water in the desert to us.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Monday, December 17, 2007


By Capt. Fogg

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor"

Matthew 19:21


"poverty is not an issue"

Father Jonathan Morris on Fox and Friends


Hasn't anybody had enough of rapists, pederasts, embezzlers, adulterers, public toilet Lotharios, swindlers, the cognitively impaired, the psychotic and the high living patrons of prostitutes of both genders waving bibles and telling us how to vote? Not enough of us I guess. Apparently such tin horn casuists; such moral midgets who use Bibles as a sort of elevator shoe, still find a welcome at Fox News and Republicans stupid enough to think God likes Democracy almost as much as he likes Mike Huckabee still tune them in.

Father Jonathan Morris, a "conservative" Catholic priest told us on Fox and Friends yesterday that the reason there was "less response" from Democrats when it comes to talking about God, is that the Democratic platform is at odds with Biblical teachings. So it is, or at least at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church which for well over a millennium has excommunicated anyone who dared deny that God appoints kings and prelates to rule them and told us that because questioning the government was questioning God, Democracy is of the Devil.

Perhaps Father Morris was too busy with the altar boys to study his "Ecclestical History for liars" course or to notice that the Bible doesn't mention abortion and tells us that life begins with breath, not conception. Of course the Bible, even the bowdlerized, mistranslated and tendentious Vulgate Bible the smug Father reads, commands all sorts of things that no one including the Pope would consider obeying, but Morris isn't a theologian or Biblical scholar or an historian or is he even honest or intelligent for that matter; he's a Republican Christian supremacist and Fox News pet. Like Shakespeare's Iago, he's all about convincing us that our best interests are served by killing the thing we love best and in this case that thing is freedom.

It shouldn't take a genius to realize that the aims of a united church and state are not democratic, but authoritarian. One does not arrive at commandments by voting and law based on commandments as interpreted by divinely inspired priests can be no part of a free society.

Now, this is not judging any Democrat's individual faith, but when their platform goes against Biblical teaching they know they have to be careful when they start getting into details,

says Morris, carefully avoiding the details that show his ignorance and contempt for compassion and decency and liberty and all the human values the values voters can't handle. Indeed, the problem of poverty and how to treat the poor, the subject that seems to appear so often in the words of Jesus is secondary to stamping out abortion says the man in black. After all, the poor go to heaven but those single cell "babies" go elsewhere unless we sprinkle water on them and mumble in Latin, right? Screw the poor, the elderly and the sick. Screw the children and all hail the wealthy and powerful. Jesus is about persecuting gays and abortion, right?

There's always a hierarchy of value,

says Morris with the kind of self contradictory gall that only a moral absolutist can muster, and by that he means the essential teaching of Christianity is about abortion and gays and not the poor. We can talk about the poor and sick and helpless later when we solve these greater problems. Do you need any better proof that there is no God who punishes us than that Morris is rewarded while innocent children starve and die for lack of medical care?

But as long as America avoids addressing it's imbecile problem; it's ridiculous fear of truth and its swooning submission to superstition and charlatans like Father Morris, we will continue to elect the Huckabees and the Romneys and the other Elmer Gantrys we always fall for. Unless we are willing to admit that the wisdom of the stupid only makes sense to the stupid; unless America is ready to have a reformation and a new birth of secularism we don't deserve any better.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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McCain and Lieberman: They need each other


I don't even have to go visit DailyKos to have an idea of just how Joe Lieberman's endorsement of John McCain for President must be received. Even after losing the Democratic nomination and then winning reelection to the Senate as an independent, Lieberman had stressed that he would back a Democrat for President in 2008.

Lieberman gave as his reason for endorsing McCain his Senate colleague's support for the occupation of Iraq. However, as Steven Taylor notes at PoliBlog, there is a lot more to it than that.

At a minimum, anti-terrorism policy has seemed to be Lieberman’s guiding issue since 9/11.

But there is still more. The two have cooperated on climate-change initiatives in the Senate since at least as far back as 2003. So they share some domestic and non-security policy goals as well as being perhaps the most stridently imperialist and militarist in their respective parties (assuming we can still call Lieberman a Democrat, based on the party he caucuses with, if nothing else).

But the bigger question is whether this endorsement can help McCain. New Hampshire, where McCain nearly shook up the GOP race with his win in 2000, allows independents to vote in either party's primary. The 2008 political dynamic seems one highly unfavorable to independents voting in the Republican primary. Independents this year would seem to be much more likely to vote in the Democratic primary, yet with polls showing Hillary Clinton still ahead there almost 2:1, there seems little evidence of that thus far.*

Given the current state of the GOP field, I don't rule out the nomination of McCain, though I still think it is unlikely (Steven's post, linked above, gives the litany of reasons why, even if only by default, it could happen; see also the recent "Lexington" column in The Economist).

Another aspect that is worth noting in this endorsement is Lieberman's own future. Whatever Lieberman may have said about 2008 previously, he was re-elected in 2006 with an electoral coalition that was much more Republican than it was Democratic. If he has any hope of continuing a career in the Senate after this term (and my guess, actually, is that he does not), it won't be as a Democrat. He has to appeal to the constituency he actually represents. And that is independents and (moderate) Republicans. And McCain remains, other than Ron Paul, the most "independent" of the GOP nomination-seekers. No matter how much McCain may be within the mainstream of his party on most issues (something that, by the way, can also be said about Lieberman and Democrats), John McCain has staked out so many visible positions in recent years against his party's core dogmas (as, again, has Lieberman in his) that he still has the reputation for independence that is presumably crucial for any Republican to win the general election.

In the event McCain gets the nomination, could Lieberman be fishing for the running-mate slot, or some position in a potential McCain administration? It has been a long time since someone not from the presidential nominee's party obtained the vice-presidential nomination, though John Kerry reportedly offered his number two slot to McCain in 2004 (and that flirtation may even have been at McCain's initiative). I will not say that I consider a McCain-Lieberman ticket likely. But it might be the Republicans' best hope. More to the point, McCain and Lieberman do appear to need each other politically at this moment in their political careers.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

Disclosure: I hopped on the McCain bandwagon in 2000 and have no regrets about it in the context of that campaign. He remains one of my two favorite Republicans in the field, along with Ron Paul, though that is not saying much. I could never, in today's context, support an ardent and passionate imperialist (McCain) or an ardent and passionate privatizer even if he is an outspoken anti-imperialist (Paul). Not after the orgy of war, occupation, and sellouts to big business of the Bush years. But they remain intriguing candidates that I hope to see do better than their polling numbers. Moreover, a 2008 general-election campaign in which McCain were to be the GOP nominee, Paul were to run as an independent or Libertarian, and the Green Party were to nominate Cynthia McKinney, while the Christianists, upset over the GOP choosing someone who once called their own leadership "agents of intolerance," ran their own candidate, would be a race for the ages! At the very least, it would increase receptiveness to arguments for electoral reform--and issue I care about (and both blog about and do much of my work as a professional political scientist on) more than almost anything else.

* Note: I say this assuming that independents would be more likely to favor someone other than Clinton--perhaps Barack Obama. And I also say this without knowing whether polls a few weeks ahead of the 2000 NH primary detected the surge of independents for McCain. Maybe there is a surge still to come, or not being detected. And if Obama did "win" in Iowa, even on the order of 30-29, maybe it would set up the independents participating in the Democratic primary that I would expect. Nonetheless, an Obama (or other Democrat) surge so late seems somewhat remote to me, and it needs to remain remote for McCain to have much of a chance.

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Why John Edwards may be the best option for Democrats

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Like many of my Democratic friends -- like many Democrats period -- I've been struggling with the current crop of candidates. Whom to support?

I've never much cared for either Clinton or Obama. The former is too much of a centrist triangulator, and I don't trust her on foreign policy. The latter is too much of a feel-good, group-therapy Oprah candidate, and I don't like his use of Republican talking points in trying to take down Clinton. Both would be fine presidents and both are on the right side (which is to say, the liberal-progressive side) on most of the issues that matter to us (climate change, in particular), but it seems to me that we can do better.

I admire many of the other Democratic candidates, including Dodd and Biden, but what about Edwards. I used to blog at his One America Committee, and, absent Gore, he was long my preference. He seems to have learned from his initial support for the Iraq War, to have developed a keen appreciation for foreign affairs, to have built a solid policy platform around key issues like health care and poverty, and to have deepened his message beyond the trite "two Americas" routine. And yet... Maybe I was still longing for Gore, maybe I was still waiting for one of the other candidates to step up and inspire me, maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was behind, well behind, and looking more and more like a long shot. Whatever the reason, I lost interest in Edwards. That's too strong, perhaps, but I'll stick with it. Something about him began to bother me and his message just stopped resonating. I'd heard it all before, I was tired of it, and his whole candidacy seemed to lack a certain power to it, an essential reason to support it.

Although I will support whichever Democrat emerges from the primaries -- which is to say, I will support any Democrat over any Republican -- and although I do not intend here to endorse a specific candidate, I must say that I'm beginning to like Edwards more and more. Again. Indeed, he is, once more, my preference -- I think. It may be that he is the least bad of the top three Democratic candidates, but I would like to think rather that he is the strongest of three fairly strong candidates. Whatever my reservations with respect to Clinton and Obama, I do not dislike them generally, and, reservations aside, I can admit that they are highly credible candidates.

And yet -- those reservations, upon which I have only touched here (see here for Clinton and here for Obama). Besides, I've generally liked Edwards a great deal (see here and here). And today, in a short post that got me thinking, and got me writing this one, Atrios put the differences clearly and powerfully:

Obama: The system sucks, but I'm so awesome that it'll melt away before me.

Edwards: The system sucks, and we're gonna have to fight like hell to destroy it.

Clinton: The system sucks, and I know how to work within it more than anyone.

I, too, think the system sucks. So do many of us. The question is, who can do something about it? Obama is, I grant, serious about policy, but he is essentially running a cult of personality campaign. Plus, his message of two Americas as one, of healing the rifts, is, I think excessively idealistic and, indeed, naive. Naive because the other side, the GOP, plays rough. Although it would be nice to have a uniter rather than a divider in the White House, the reality of American politics is that there are two major parties that generally do not aim for compromise. And, to an extent, why should they? For us, what does compromise mean other than selling out Democratic principles and embracing Republican ones. Remember that the other side -- and I'm not just referring to Bush/Cheney but to most on the Congressional side and certainly to most of the presidential field -- continues to support a losing war in Iraq, wants to bomb Iran, supports the use of torture, rejects diplomacy and internationalism, advocates theocratic social policies, cares little for environmentalism and even less for the climate crisis, and so on and so on. This is the Republican system. Not only would Obama not be able to overcome it, he would find himself having to make compromises with Republicans who, in turn, would be working to destroy him.

As for Clinton, I have no doubt she knows how to work the system. She's proven she can, and her tenure in the Senate has been marked repeatedly by efforts to reach out to the other side, including, most worrisome of all, on Iraq and Iran. As with Obama, she would find herself having to make compromises with Republicans, who, even more aggressively and vindictively, would be working to destroy her.

Which, again, leaves Edwards, a sound voice for progressive values (and one who is polling well against possible Republican opponents) at a time when the two leading candidates are hurling dirt at one another and otherwise putting themselves in a position to act like Joe Lieberman. No, they wouldn't be that bad, don't get me wrong, and Obama in particular is admirably progressive, but what America needs now is a fighter, I think, not a cult of personality or a triangulator. Some combination of the three, along with the better qualities of Dodd (the system sucks, but we need to defend the Constitution), Biden (the system sucks, but I'm crazy enough to speak my mind), Richardson (the system sucks, but I speak Spanish and have travelled the world as a diplomat), and even Kucinich (the system sucks, so let's impeach Bush and Cheney), would be ideal, but, barring that, and barring a Gore run, the best option may very well be Edwards.

Think about it.

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