Friday, March 07, 2008

Wins would help

I'm not sure which of these columns or posts is the most unsettling.

Wins in two more states that "won't count": Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi on Tuesday, would help, at least some.

The Powers flap is nearly as damaging as the Texas (popular vote) and Ohio losses as it puts him in a no win situation of how to do with controversial remarks from a valuable advisor (he stands by her he gets flack, he cuts her lose and he gets flack for appearing "weak"), and ultimately cuts him off from the services of that valuable advisor.

The shift in news reporting, based on the decline in violence across Iraq, has helped dilute a critical distinction in policy views and judgment between the candidates. Without anger over Iraq dominating the headlines, personality issues, and to a lesser extent, bread and butter economic issues, ascend in importance. But of course this has been true throughout the primary season, so it can't be the basis for the most recent downturn in Obama's prospects.

Brooks is certainly right that Hillary needs for this to be a "knife fight". How does Obama avoid or transcend this? I don't know. But he's the candidate of hope, of change, and of a different kind of politics. He obviously needs to get back to that. And I don't believe there's any virtue in either he, or his advisors, trying to gain mileage from the Clinton's tax returns or the Clinton library's donors. This isn't the kind of stuff that got Obama a place in the game's starting lineup. Deep six that stuff and get back to substantive policy distinctions and political change.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Rules: Border Wars, "Terrorists", and Latin America

Amidst our primary election drama, there has been some not so friendly skirmishes between Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela. Fred Hiatt's Wash Post editorial took on the subject this morning with all the thoughtfulness and nuance as usually accompanies the paper's foreign policy declarations.

I don't profess to know all that much about Columbia and FARC, but Glenn Greenwald notes how trite and simplistic the foreign policy "consensus" is regarding our entanglement around the globe and close to home:

(1) Any government or group that takes money from and is allied with the U.S. is inherently good. Anything they do -- including invasions, wars and other acts of violence -- is just and "bold."

(2) Any government or group that opposes the U.S. is inherently bad and anything they do is inherently unjust (even when it's exactly the same behavior as the praiseworthy behavior in category (1)). By definition, they're "Terrorists."

(3) Any government or group that takes money from and is allied with the U.S. is "democratic," regardless of whether they gained or seek power through elections. Such governments and groups are also devoted to "human rights," no matter how much arbitrary imprisonment, murdering of political opponents, torture and other due process they engage in.

(4) Any government or group that opposes the U.S. is "anti-democratic" -- "enemies of democracy," a Dictatorship -- even when they gained or seek power through elections.

(5) The U.S. has a vital interest in dictating who governs every other country. It's always our business to intervene in every conflict and pick the side we want to win, not just with our political support but with money and arms. Since we are morally good, our decisions will always be in service of Democracy and Human Rights.

(6) If you deny or contest any of these premises, then you are an America-hater, part of the Blame America First crowd, because it means that you think that America's role in the world is sometimes destructive and unjust (which no American patriot would ever believe about their own country).

The Political Untouchables

Josh Marshall says:

Let's note that Sen. McCain has decided to hang tough with his embrace of anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic Pastor John Hagee. And the major papers and cable news outlets have decided to give him a pass.

Matt Yglesias says:

I've been Hagee-bashing since before it was cool, so this pisses me off, too. But realistically it's not the press and the cable networks that gave McCain a pass, it was Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They gave him a pass because, of course, they were arguing with each other.


Yeah, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for either Clinton or Obama to bring up the Hagee endorsement or the screaming pastor's crazy Jews-be-damned apocalyptic rantings. Despite all the whining by religious conservatives about how everyone from Hollywood to the media, university elites, and various reality world social and physical scientists hate them, their own elites are virtually unassailable, shielded by the belief among many in the media that calling evangelicals on what they actually believe is somehow derogatory and by the belief among many Democratic politicians that to antagonize conservative evangelicals in any way, shape or form spells doom, no matter how crazy and nutjob the evangelicals are and despite the very serious implications for American politics and world harmony that the evangelicals' apocalyptic threats carry and Republican embrace of said rantings represent.

Historical Election

Once interesting angle of this election that I haven't heard discussed much is that the three remaining contenders for the WH currently occupy U.S. Senate seats. The last time a sitting U.S. Senator was elected to the Presidency was 1960. Prior to that, the only other sitting U.S. Senator to ascend directly to the nation's highest office in the 20th century was Ohio's Warren G. Harding.

Back off the Math

I think Matt Cooper (h/t Andrew Sullivan) has a valid point here:

They (Obama's campaign) are now about arguing math instead of change. The tide is with them, still. But Clinton did a lot last night. Pennsylvania's demographics are like Ohio's and just as she had a popular governor in Ted Strickland helping her the past two weeks, she now has Ed Rendell, more bruised, but still well liked and a force of nature. If she wins there, she certainly has a moral claim on the nomination...

If I were Obama, I'd stop arguing it's over and say, "Okay, let's keep this discussion going." (It's gonna keep going anyway.) You're still the candidate of the past. You still supported NAFTA and voted for the war.


I don't agree with Cooper that Obama should deliberately seek out some opportunity over seas to be seen as "tough". Hillary's vote for the war and dependence on "experience" is enough of a target. But I do agree that while the math does favor Obama, falling back on it as a response to last night's losses is a losing strategy. And Pennsylvania both poses similar problems for Obama as Ohio and is a large enough state, late enough in the process that, whatever his delegate-math advantage, losing there will hurt him a lot. This is especially true because while Clinton cannot catch up to Obama's pledged delegate total during the primary season, neither can Obama win the election outright during the primary season. Last night guaranteed that Hillary will keep going all the way to the convention, and once there, all bets are off.


I haven't been this disappointed since NH.

As far as what Obama needs to do to "hit back" at Hillary, he should lead with his strength--wait for it--change.

Specifically, he should highlight, in some more controversial, attention getting way (like the red phone ad) that Hillary's foreign policy is nearly similar to that of Bush's. Such an approach would damage Hillary should she become the nominee. But it would help change the new-strategery-same-as-the-old-strategery meme that Obama is somehow less experienced than Hillary, and that the election itself is about experience as opposed to change. Obama should emphasize, again, his challenge to the political system itself, in contrast to Hillary's focus on herself.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Mother of all Primary Wars Tomorrow

Until, of course, the Pennsylvania primary in April.

I'll confess to being a bit wearied at this point with the whole thing.

What I Learned About Hamas

From reading the NYT and the Washington Post this morning:

First, the Times:

Ever since the militant Islamist organization Hamas took over Gaza eight months ago, President Bush’s peace plan for the Middle East has been to prop up the more moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in the hopes that Palestinians would rally behind him as man who could bring them statehood and make Hamas irrelevant...

As long as Hamas controls Gaza, it can subvert negotiations between Israelis and moderate Palestinians whenever it sees fit...


Hamas, the militant Islamic group, took control of the Gaza Strip last June after routing the pro-Abbas forces there...

While the Post says

The Palestinian territories have been deeply divided since June, with the radical Islamic movement Hamas taking over in Gaza and the secular, Fatah-led Palestinian Authority remaining in the West Bank...

Gaza has suffered for months under a strict Israeli-imposed economic embargo, and residents said the latest violence further strained infrastructure that is already near the breaking point...

Israel has said its operations are designed to protect the nation from Hamas, which Israeli officials say has lately been receiving higher quality weapons from Iran.

"We have to destroy the Iranian enclave," said Yuval Steinitz, a leader in the Likud Party who advocates a full-scale invasion of Gaza. "We have to level a heavy blow to the terrorist infrastructure."

Reading these articles, one would never know that Hamas was elected by the Palestinians in Gaza. The election bringing Hamas to power in Gaza was, ironically, encouraged by the United States, who hoped or assumed that the more "secular" and "reasonable" Fatah (another Palestinian organization that the U.S. and Israel once labeled as "terrorist" being as it was the establishment of the late Yasir Arafat) would win. But after Hamas won the American-Israeli-led election process, neither would recognize the results or talk to Hamas.

But the American press at least seems to have forgotten all of this.

Meanwhile, I thought that last bit about Iran was pretty charming. Expect to see that connection made a lot more as the U.S. election proceeds and demands are made to "liberate" Iran/eliminate the terrorism-sponsorship from Tehran.