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Home Page --> October 2007

Gravel Gone Wild

Mike Gravel's supporters - all five of them - are furious over MSNBC's decision to cut him from last night's debate. What could he have done to qualify you ask? Simply put, if he had made fourteen campaign stops to Iowa and New Hampshire he would've made the cut. Is this guy seriously running for president?

Perhaps a more appropriate question to ask though would be who is Mike Gravel? Well, believe it or not, he is actually a former two-term U.S. Senator from the great state of Alaska, and played a key role in blocking the renewal of the military draft back in 1971. I would link to his campaign site's biography, but it's an annoying PDF file (ah, technology), so you'll have to either take my word or visit his Wikipedia page for reference.

Just to give you an idea of just how poorly run his basically non-existent campaign is, here are some stats on his fundraising and polling numbers. Yup that's right, a whopping $238,745 raised and a big fat 0% in the latest Iowa poll. Even Dennis the Menace has managed to raise a couple million dollars for cryin' out loud (and that doesn't even count the big bucks that are about to pour in from UFO enthusiasts!).

Those around the blogosphere were almost unanimously glad to see old Mike left out of the debate. Oliver Willis sums up the sentiment in his post "No Gravel, Thank God:"

This debate certainly benefits for the absence of Mike Gravel, a candidate on the fringe of the fringe with no discernible support whatsoever. Congressman Kucinich is able to argue from the very left without sounding like an idiot, even though I agree with him on almost nothing.

A False Choice

Hillary calls out her opponents on Iran.

Richardson and Roswell

From First Read:


Seriously, Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, called on the government to declassify all Roswell documents. He brought it up himself when Chris Matthews was joking about Kucinich's UFO answer. He said the government hasn't "come clean" on the issue. His campaign will surely say he was joking, he has a sense of humor. But even though he was laughing in some parts of that answer, he wasn't joking about THAT.

Matthews looked on in disbelief and joked that this is shaping up to be a contest between the de-evolution party and the pro-UFO party.


This isn't new for Bill Richardson. RCP's own Jeff Pyatt recently posted this video to YouTube (linked this morning by Drudge):



This is old news to New Mexicans. It may just be one of those issues that New Mexico politicians need to occasionally tip their hat to, but it's still kind of odd. Will this harm Richardson's veep chances?

There's more extraterrestrial talk around the blogosphere, and it'll be interesting to see what happens. Everybody already expects Kucinich to say this kind of stuff. He's Teflon on the good crazy.

But Governor Richardson is still vying for respectability (and at least a cabinet spot). Maybe he needs to save the Roswell investigations for when he's heading the FBI or something.


Others Blogging It:

Captain's Quarters
Right Voices
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Post-Islamism

From Ali Eteraz:


Faced with only these two options - dictators or elected theocrats - in Muslim majority countries, the usual reaction by westerners is to throw their hands up in frustration and opt for apathy or give into a militaristic pessimism. These are both uninformed reactions. They fail to take into account the future of Islamic reform, which lies with the emergence of a post-Islamist political order in the Muslim majority world.

Post-Islamism is at hand because a new crop of Muslims have figured out how to reconcile liberal democracy with Islam. Upon doing so, they give up on creating religious organisations devoted to "da'wa" (Islamic evangelism) and move towards becoming organised as civil-political parties with platforms based on equality and pluralism. Incidentally, part of the credit for the popularity of post-Islamism goes to the theocratic Islamists. In their eagerness to merge religion with politics, they thought the result would be religion. Instead, the devout middle class realised that religion alone could not provide for their social concerns. Post-Islamism, thus, is the recognition that while religion may provide salvation in the next life, politics is what provides for welfare in this one. It is, at its barest, politics subsuming religion.

(h/t meme)

New Atheists

John Derbyshire of The Corner on Theodore Dalrymple:


On the other hand, conservatives like TD and myself are inclined to defer to human nature in its generality, and there is no doubt that human beings are innately, instinctively religious. The Dennett-Dawkins-Hitchens program to sweep away all those musty old cobwebs of faith and deliver humanity into the pure clear light of reason just bears far too close a resemblance to every other millenarian project, from Spartacus's City of the Sun to New Soviet Man. No thanks. Human nature has its unappealing side, but grand projects to overhaul it invariably end with a mountain of corpses. We'll take humanity as it is, religion and all. This attitude is, it seems to me, the essence of a conservative outlook.

We irreligious are a minority--always have been, always will be. We are freaks and sports. A proper humility is in order. We don't have to surrender our faith in the ordinary rules of evidence, nor (in a free society at any rate) assent to the truth of things that seem to us highly unlikely to be true. It's awfully hard for us to venture commentary in this zone, though, without sounding condescending or insincere, or just caught up in a purely aesthetic enchantment with the outward forms of religion, as in TD's appreciation of that Anglican divine he is gushing over, or my own love of the old hymns and liturgy. That enchantment is psychologically real, but, certainly so far as actual believers are concerned, spiritually empty. It can't but be irritating to them, it seems to me--coming across as something like false flattery; and to the dogged atheists it is of course beyond irritating.

Colbert and Facebook

techPresident on the NYT on Colbert and Facebook:


But what can we learn from these groups? Like Mr. Colbert's group, Mr. Obama's group grew extremely quickly, benefited by viral information spread in Facebook Newsfeeds. This is the main mode of information discovery in Facebook - the majority people who joined the group were not explicitly searching for a Stephen Colbert group (there are over 500). Rather, they were presented with the group their friends had joined, and elected to join as well. Of course, this group capitalizes on maximum name recognition of Mr. Colbert, currently out on the road promoting his new book.

So what if a candidate created a Facebook group, and in every speech and in every email they promoted the group - would we see a similar, viral phenomenon? While not on the scale of Mr. Colbert's group, I find it quite likely that a campaign could "engineer" significant growth of a group. The question that remains is what good the group serves. If these groups are little more than the "bumper stickers" on our profiles, are they worth candidate time and effort? I'm skeptical, but I'm not yet ready to write groups off completely.


Facebook has been pushing this idea as of late, and even held a political summit here in Washington, DC earlier in the month in order to highlight their political action guide.

This is old news in Canada.

H/T meme

Krugman's Fear

Tom on Paul Krugman:



Krugman is in many ways a weather vane of liberal opinion, though he doesn't so much generate new ideas as regurgitate and amplify what he sees and hears among his clique in the liberal intelligentsia and the progressive blogosphere. And this column offers a couple of excellent clues about how the left would like to frame this election, which basically is as follows: Republicans, in general, have vastly overhyped the threat of Islamic terrorism (in part because they're bigots), and Rudy Giuliani, in particular, is a dangerous man with an even more dangerous set of neo-con advisors who will take America to war with Iran.

Krugman's column is a road map to the Democrats' general election strategy against the guy most pundits agree is the Republicans' best bet to hold on to the White House - if he can win the nomination. It'll be a replay of the '64 campaign against Goldwater, complete with tens of millions of dollars spent on modern day versions of "Daisy."


Fear will no doubt be prevalent on both sides. While a Giuliani '08 candidacy would likely be "Daisy" all over again, I think the Right also has their fair share of bogey women. The Left may try to scare us with a Rudy foreign policy, however the Right's appeal to culture warriors will no doubt be laden with scary tales of Clintons back in the White House.

Krugman continues to push the far Left's new meme on Iran with this snip:


Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let's have some perspective, please: we're talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden's.


This is the same misleading argument we've heard from the likes of Juan Cole and Fareed Zakaria: Iran = Switzerland (or in Krugman's case, Sweden).

Iran has been threatening their neighbors for decades, and engaged with Iraq in one of the most gruesome wars of the 20th Century. Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq are all Shia nations. Aside from their role as stewards of the faith, Iran has proven that they will extend their sphere of influence if given the opportunity. We've seen it in Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and now in Iraq.

Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute points out how Krugman's Iranian terror theory runs contrary to the 9/11 Report. The Islamic Republic has worked along side Sunnis and Arab regimes for years, with the endgame being to push the West out of the region and exert their hegemonic authority throughout the Islamic world (not a caliphate, but serious enough).


Others Blogging It:

Middle Earth Journal
JammieWearingFool
The Democratic Daily
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Colbert '08

President Colbert? Probably not, but don't be surprised to see the comedian's name on the always-important South Carolina primary ballots...of both parties. The late night satirist announced his candidacy for President of the United States last week, and, believe it or not, he actually seems serious about his intentions. According to The Politico blog, his Comedy Central team has been carefully inquiring about the legal ramifications of a bid. Colbert, who has contacted the state parties in his home state, has no illusions that he'll actually win. So what would he consider a victory?

"It will be a success for me if at the Republican or Democratic convention, someone stands up and says, 'The great state of South Carolina, home of the finest peaches, home of the finest shrimp, casts one delegate for Stephen Colbert.'"

And in case you were wondering, yes, he can legally appear on both party ballots.

As funny as this publicity stunt may be, Colbert could actually have a significant impact on the race. Let's take a look at Bill Richardson. Many consider him to be an upper second-tier candidate, he's raised tens of millions of dollars, and he's a sitting governor. Yet despite all this, Stephen Tyrone Colbert polls ahead of him. Colbert also beats out long shots Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel and is in a virtual tie with Joe Biden.

Before some Democrats proclaim him the anti-Clinton candidate however, it's important to note that Colbert's support is in the low single digits. The poll is a national one though, so it's not hard to imagine Colbert doing quite a bit better in his home state of South Carolina. Perhaps what is even more impressive is what results may look like in the very unlikely event he ran as a third party candidate. Again, I hate to repeat myself, but believe it or not, Colbert actually polls double digits as an independent, taking most of his votes from disenchanted Republicans (they do know he's only making fun of Republicans on his show, right?). His greatest vein of support is among younger voters - he pulls an astounding 28% of those aged 18-29.

Remember the much-publicized "One Million Strong for Barack [Obama]" Facebook group? Created at the start of his campaign, the group "only" boasts around 400,000 members. Considering that Obama is touted as the youth candidate, you can see just how hard it is to attract a million online college supporters. Supporters of Colbert's candidacy created a similar group on October 16th. And as of today, ten days later, "1,000,000 Strong For Stephen T Colbert" has already achieved its goal. Perhaps Obama's campaign should call Comedy Central for some tips.

In all seriousness though, Colbert's candidacy, whether he appears on the ballot or not, still amounts to little more than a publicity show. That being said though, his support is a reflection of one thing: Americans are sick and tired of politics as usual.

Typing Rather Than Writing

Brian Beutler on Ezra Klein on David Brooks:


What the Internet does, is makes a wider range of knowledge more immediately accessible, and less necessary to memorize. It provides us with fast access to information that we probably wouldn't have learned at all--even cursorily--if there were no Google. And I don't feel like I read much less--or much differently--than I would if the World Wide Web collapsed on itself. At the same time, though, other forms of technology have cleared the space in my brain for the trivia I learn on Wikipedia and IMDB. I never memorize phone numbers or addresses anymore. Ever. And my ability to write and think in non-Instant Message format diminishes every single day.


Ditto, and emphasis my own. Beutler, Klein and Brooks all hit on the downsides of this perpetually plugged-in world we now live in, and Buetler's point is especially precient.

One of my favorite Andrew Sullivan posts addressed this matter, where writing becomes blogging, and as Klein points out, research turns into compiling.

There's certainly something visceral about blogging, and as a medium it appears to attract indignation as opposed to assiduity. Obviously, the ability to react without hesitation makes it more prone to activism and message-pumping, as opposed to genuine writing.

This reminds me of a famous shot Truman Capote once took at Jack Kerouac: "[It] isn't writing at all -- it's typing."

The case has been made that blogging has a peer-oriented editorial process, but it still lacks that cooling saucer beyond your own discipline and poise (at least 99% of blogging seems that way). When you hit submit, you've essentially made your point, and any edits or changes henceforth could be perceived as vacillation or a lack of clarity. It's stream of consciousness. It's undeniably different. I think Sullivan (Andrew) put it best:


Producing a book while blogging was almost impossible. It wasn't so much the time (though that was hard); it was the very different mindset needed when you sit down to write something that you hope will last a few years and something that you know will only last a few hours.

I've tried to push the boundaries - blogging about a book, writing longer, more sustained dialogues (like the debate with Sam). But the web keeps bringing you back to the punchy and the immediate and the fun. One day, I hope to stop this pace and spend a few years reading and writing again. But not yet. It's too interesting to quit right now.

MORE

60

Hillary Clinton turns the big SIX-OH today. The blogosphere has a predictably mixed reaction:


JammieWearingFool:

By the way, is it just me or does anyone else find it unseemly that people use their birthdays to shake down campaign contributors?

Six Meat Buffet:

Race-baiting socialist Chuck Rangel gives Hitlery a birthday present: Mother of all Tax Bills.

Hillary celebrated her birthday as she has every year, looking the other way while her husband bangs a fat chick. Happy 60th, dear leader!

CrackerPoint:

On this day in 1958, Pan American Airways made the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York to Paris. In 1940, the P-51 Mustang made its maiden flight. In 1936, the first electric generator at Hoover Dam went into full operation. In 1861, The Pony Express officially ceased operations. In 1947, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was born.

TransGriot:

I'm willing to bet that when she blows out the candles on her cake later today her birthday wish is going to be getting inagurated president on January 20, 2009.

Suitably Flip:

Is this meant to further "humanize" the candidate? I'm not sure how many Americans identify with birthday bashes in which their staff all dress up as their various manufactured public personae...

This year, rumor has it the campaign staffers are dressing up as Hillary's different positions on the Iraq war -- hawkish Hillary, peacenik Hillary, duped-by-the-President Hillary, date certain Hillary, equivocal Hillary, fence-riding Hillary, hawkish again Hillary, etc.

It's a good thing she's got a bigger staff now than she did as First Lady.


Check out meme throughout the day for more birthday wishes and curses!

Cornering Quds

The U.S. is prepared to announce a new list of unilateral sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. NYT has the story:


The immediate legal consequence of designating the Quds unit as a terrorist organization would be to make it unlawful for anyone subject to United States jurisdiction to knowingly provide material support or resources to it, according to the State Department. Any United States financial institution that becomes aware that it possesses, or has control over, funds of a foreign terrorist organization would have to turn them over to the Treasury Department.

Because Iran has done little business with the United States in more than two decades, the larger point of the designation would be to heighten the political and psychological pressure on Iran, administration officials said, by using the designation to persuade foreign governments and financial institutions to cut ties with Iranian businesses and individuals.


As the article notes, the sanctions will probably have a limited effect on the Revolutionary Guard. We've had little to no economic cooperation with the republic since 1979, and it might prove difficult to actually freeze IRGC activity.

But it does create a couple of possibilities:

1. It sends a message to the Russians and the Chinese. Both nations are fighting the U.S. on more multilateral UN sanctions, so the White House is making it clear that they will do their best to work around the body in order to harm Iran economically. This move may create some concern for the two SC states, perhaps bringing them back to the sanctions table with America.

2. This could ultimately give Iran a hand to play with, and the opportunity to strike a deal in the future. By isolating the IRGC's activities, which are indeed rather expansive, the administration might create an opportunity for Tehran to reign in on the outfit as a concession (not to mention a win for the Bush Doctrine). The other tradeoff might be Ahmadinejad, who may be getting setup to fall on his sword. All of these could be bargaining chips for Iran, if they choose to bend on their nuclear ambitions.

It makes sense to isolate the IRGC and their interests. They are not simply a branch of the Iranian military, as some critics have insinuated. They function more like a fraternity, woven into every aspect of Iranian society. Like a Skull and Bones with guns.

And for the far Left bloggers who keep asking for some realism, well this is what it looks like. If you assume that the global scene is anarchic, and that it's up to states to engage each other in order to resolve matters, well sanctioning a state that you perceive to be attacking your best interests is part of it. This is not the game Iran wants to play. They'd rather use slow and pseudo-deliberative institutions as a go-between, enabling them to control some of the pace and outcomes.

Realism doesn't demand equity, it demands a state-driven global order. America is engaging in just that.


Others Blogging it:

The Strata-Sphere
The Van Der Galien Gazette
American Street
Atlas Shrugs

Israel's Dilemma

From the TIME Middle East blog:


Rice is basically warning that trends may be moving in favor of Hamas, the prime advocate of a one-state solution to the problem. Israel will not accept signing its own death warrant to accomodate Hamas's demand for one Arab Muslim state, of course. But another implication that can be read into Rice's comment is that when the window for a two-state solution is closed, Israel will be faced with a demographic time tomb that threatens a Muslim majority within the land it controls. At that point, Israel would face a fateful conundrum: allow a democratic majority to rule, which would threaten Israel's existence through the ballot box, or establish an unviable apartheid system thay would bring international isolation and probably collapse.

The Putinization of Iran

My thoughts, brought to you by The Van Der Galien Gazette.

"Pimping Paul"

It won't be allowed any longer at Redstate.

Daniel Larison wonders if banning Ron Paul supporters is symbolic of today's GOP:


The presumption behind the ban that most Paul boosters are liberals is embarrassing to RedState. Sadly, it says a lot more about what passes for conservatism at RedState than it does about the Paul supporters. Rather than reaching some reasonable middle ground, punishing posters who abuse their privileges, their solution is a ban against new members saying anything about Paul. The symbolism of this move is terrible for RedState. It says to all those enthusiastic Paul backers that there is no point trying to talk to most Republicans, and after this I would be hard pressed to contradict such a view. It also puts the lie to the oft-repeated myth that the conservative coalition is brimming with intellectual diversity and thrives off of energetic and spirited debate, when it has been clear for some time that a great many Republicans have wanted Paul himself gone from the debates. Were I tempted to participate in a RedState forum, this move would cure me of that temptation very quickly. This is a move that represents a stagnating movement that is shedding supporters and gradually breaking to pieces on account of its own ideological rigidity and brittleness.

#54!

RCP's rank on the Memeorandum Leaderboard. #54 of 100...not bad!

Thanks, Meme.

Dodd and the Netroots

The Netroots may have their man.

A few months back, RCP's own Jeff Pyatt wrote about Hillary Clinton's subtle overtures to the Netroots, and how she carved out her niche in the blogosphere in order to atone for her previous errors in dealing with this influential activist group.

Seemingly absent of a flag bearer up to this point, Chris Dodd appears to be making his move. Just yesterday, he posted over at Huffington Post on his role as a senator, his obligation to the U.S. Constitution and why he's stalling the FISA bill. Today, he held a video chat/interview at FireDogLake, where he reaffirmed his position on these issues.

The video is well worth watching. Aside from its policy implications, it provides us a window into the course the Dodd campaign is taking. He's frustrated. He's determined. He's tieless. This guy is going to the mat for the Constitution, and he wants the Netroots behind him.

While other candidates invoke the name of Bobby Kennedy, Dodd hopes to fill the void he left behind. Glenn Greenwald explains:


The Democratic Party has gone from Robert Kennedy and Nicholas Katzenbach standing up eloquently and aggressively for the rule of law (h/t reader JF) -- even in the face of fear-mongering claims that undoing those mergers would cripple the economy -- to Jay Rockefeller plotting in secret for months with Dick Cheney as to how they can protect lawbreaking telecoms from the court battles they are losing and immunize them from the consequences of their criminal conduct in allowing warrantless spying for years on American citizens.

That steeply downward fall -- from Robert Kennedy and the rule of law to the Cheney/Rockefeller telecom amnesty deal -- illustrates so many things about what has happened to our country.


Senator Dodd's campaign has clearly noticed this frustration, and has decided to make their move for the Left-progressive base. Will it work?


Others Blogging It:

Atrios

Obama: Gone Fishing

The Swamp on Barack Obama's latest direct mail drop:


The mailing highlights a recent Senate vote, typically referred to as the "Kyl-Lieberman Amendment," that labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization as part of a "Sense of the Senate" measure that was passed by a wide margin.

Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York voted for the amendment, as did Sen. Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois.

Obama missed the vote, but has said he would have voted against the provision, had he not been campaigning in New Hampshire.

The mailing states: "Barack Obama is the ONLY major candidate for president to oppose both the Iraq War from the very start and the Senate amendment that raises the risk of war with Iran."


On the back of the brochure, the text says: "While other Democrats voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, Barack Obama opposed another Bush foreign policy fiasco."


I don't know that Obama wants to hang his hat on simply not being around to vote on these things. He wants us to turn the page on the Clintons, yet Hillary's the one who shows up to work. While Obama was giving a speech against the Iraq War in Illinois, Hillary was governing. While Obama was off campaigning in New Hampshire, Hillary was governing.

This seems like a poor strategy for a candidate with an experience weakness: Vote for me...I wasn't there. It's the 'Gone Fishing' candidacy.

And does Obama really want to talk about foreign policy nightmares?


Others Blogging It:

Marc Ambinder
Politico

Running On (And From) Iraq

My thoughts on the foreign policy plans presented by Hillary Clinton and John McCain, shared at The Van Der Galiën Gazette.

Mike and Chuck

Walker, Texas Ranger likes Mike Huckabee:


The one question that remains is: Can Huckabee win the nomination? The presidency?

As with the other candidates, Huckabee has, and will continue to have, his hecklers: "He hasn't raised enough money." "He'll never beat Hillary." "Our society is too prejudice and paranoid to vote for a once Baptist minister." "He'll never out-race the top four Republican candidates."

I was thinking about these types of comments the other day when I recalled another leader in ancient times that didn't match up in the line up: King David. Seven men were poised and paraded for the position of king, but David was left in the field shepherding because he wasn't "a frontrunner in the polls." They overlooked the best because they were too busy judging by outward appearance. But God appointed David king.

It's time to quit choosing our leaders based solely upon charisma or one strong suite, and move back to being a culture which esteems and elects its leaders because of character and qualifications. It's substance, not pizzazz, we should want in a leader. Mike Huckabee is the real deal.


This whole thing might be over. Of course, Huckabee isn't Norris' first choice.

Others Blogging It:

Yeas & Nays
Wonkette

Drinking Liberally

Via Environmental Economics:


Tim tells me that my thirsty beer post was picked up by Andrew Sullivan:

A liberal quandary: do I like my craft beers cheap or do I want to increase production of ethanol?

A liberal quandary? Conservatives don't drink Dogfish? Is it either mass market beers (e.g., Budweiser) or bourbon (e.g., Makers Mark) on the rocks?


And let's not forget that Miller, based in a blue city, is a union-made beer (owned by a cigarette company no less!).

Who's with the proletariat now?

Two Wrongs (Updated)

In his most recent column for Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria discusses the hyperbolic tendencies of the Right while describing the intentions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Zakaria rightly argues that we have exaggerated some of Iran's capabilities and intentions, while noting the absurdity in comparing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the likes of Joe Stalin or Adolf Hitler.

Zakaria gets a lot right, but here's what he gets wrong:


Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?


At the tail end of the column, Zakaria implores his readers to get a better understanding of Iran, a NAM country that we have essentially disengaged from over the past decade. This is perhaps true, but such an understanding is a two way street. Zakaria dismisses the hegemonic ambitions of Iran, with never a mention of their consistent financing of global terrorism. Not one mention of the corrosive and destabilizing role they play in Lebanon. No mention of the assassinations this regime has been linked to, or their constant bullying of neighbors, such as Azerbaijan and the UAE.

The kind of imperialism that Iran engages in is far more subtle, and is cultural, religious and ideological. Claims of a new caliphate are of course rather silly, but we have already witnessed the way Iran utilizes proxies and territory to expand their sphere of influence. An Iraq with no American presence would serve as a grand staging ground for insurgent groups like Hezbollah, and also allow the faithful in Qom to fulfill their role as stewards of the Shi'a faith in Iraq.

We mustn't assume that Iran is weak simply because we're stronger, or that they are Switzerland simply because they're not the Soviets or the Nazis. There's room between those two polarities for a lot of harm and destruction. But this either/or argument is the same logic used by bloggers like Juan Cole, who much like Zakaria seems determined to challenge exaggerations with more exaggerations. However, two disingenuous wrongs do not make a right.

Here's where Zakaria is spot on:


In a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani said that while the Soviet Union and China could be deterred during the cold war, Iran can't be. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had a "residual rationality," he explained. Hmm. Stalin and Mao--who casually ordered the deaths of millions of their own people, fomented insurgencies and revolutions, and starved whole regions that opposed them--were rational folk. But not Ahmadinejad, who has done what that compares? One of the bizarre twists of the current Iran hysteria is that conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers.

If I had to choose whom to describe as a madman, North Korea's Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, I do not think there is really any contest. A decade ago Kim Jong Il allowed a famine to kill 2 million of his own people, forcing the others to survive by eating grass, while he imported gallons of expensive French wine. He has sold nuclear technology to other rogue states and threatened his neighbors with test-firings of rockets and missiles. Yet the United States will be participating in international relief efforts to Pyongyang worth billions of dollars.


This is fair, and the conflation of Ahmadinejad with the likes of Mao, or even Kim Jon Il, only muddies the conversation and makes the debate about Ahmadinejad as opposed to the entire Qom-controlled regime as a whole. While I understand Rudy's point (Communists have earthly goals, Ahmadinejad does not), Zakaria is correct to dismiss the comparisons of carnage and death unleashed by these 20th Century despots.


UPDATE


The Reality-Based Community on Zakaria:


The only reason Iran has any influence against us is because we have made a series of foolhardy, and eminently reversible, policy choices. If we didn't have 165,000 troops stationed next door, they'd have no ability to damage us militarily. If we were actually moving to reduce our reliance on carbon fuels and increase the cost of "dirty" energy in order to encourage renewables, their economic pull would gradually weaken.


The problem with this argument is that it obfuscates the role played by Iran in supporting and financing global terrorism for decades. This notion that Iran has been like Switzerland since 1979 is a disingenuous fairy tale.

Secondly, the day the last American troop leaves Iraq will signal the rise of Iranian hegemony. They've already said it, and they've already done it in other countries.


They want a weapon because it offers them an insurance policy against American invasion and prestige and pull in the world community. If anyone tells you they want a nuclear weapon in order to attack us, arm terrorists, or blow up Israel, they are a profoundly stupid person and you should stop listening to them immediately.


Pull in the world community? A nuclear armed Iran will only limit its global economic options, and will likely lead to more sanctioning (if not blocked by irresponsible regimes in Russia and China). The kind of pull it allows them is an exclamation point on every action they make in the Middle East. Yes, it serves as an insurance policy in theory. But they know the U.S. and Israel will never allow them to have the weapon, and they're fighting for the best pole position diplomatically.

They can't have the weapon without Russia and China harming their own economic interests in the West. Iran would need their cover, and they're unlikely to get it. But a nuclear Iran would certainly be a more brazen and ambitious one, and at that time, there'd be little we could do about it.

Believing that this is simply a matter of deterrence for them, or that they wouldn't provide the knowledge to their various proxies, would in fact be profoundly stupid.


Others Blogging It:

Crooks and Liars
Matthew Yglesias
Kevin Hayden

Stateside Inertia

Michael Yon on the media, and the information we're getting about Iraq:


I've written about how dangerous this war is for reporters who claim there is no real consumer demand for articles about Iraq that would justify the risks. The internet erosion of the mainstream media subscriber base and advertiser support doesn't reduce demand for news from the ground in Iraq, but it does dry up funds for anything but local stringers with spotty notions of accuracy.

But it wasn't until I spent that week back in the States that I realized how bad things have gotten. I believe we are witnessing a conspiracy of coincidences conflating to exert an incomprehensibly destructive force on the free press system that we largely take for granted. The fact that the week in question also happened to be when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were delivering their reports to Congress makes me wonder if things are actually worse than I've assessed, and I returned to Iraq sadly convinced that General Petraeus now has to deal from a deck clearly stacked against him in both America and Iraq.


Others Blogging It:

Say Anything
Hot Air
Confederate Yankee

On Hillary's Resume

Courtesy of James Joyner:


The claims that low level work on political campaigns and lobbying organizations constitutes serious preparation for the presidency are certainly strained. Still, she's experienced enough to be president. Being married to a governor and president is hardly the same thing as being governor and president but there's not much doubt that she got an intimate view of and was a major participant in the decision-making process. One could argue that her policy role as First Lady was as at least as important as that of most pre-Mondale Vice Presidents.

That said, Giuliani has a point. While Clinton is a first rate policy wonk, she's never had the pressure of making and living with major decisions. Advising the executive requires a much different skill set than being the executive.

On Oppo Journalism

Digby on Sen. McConnell and smears:


Journalists will say that using political "oppo research" is a legitimate way to get tips, as long as they always check them out before they run with them. Fair enough. But what they fail to acknowledge is that this allows the best story-planters to set the agenda for coverage, and the best story-planters are those who know how to get the media interested.

And after watching them for the past two decades very closely, I think it's obvious that what interests the media more than anything is access and gossip and vicious little smears piled one atop the other. And why not? They are easy to report, require no mind numbing shuffling of financial reports or struggling through arcane policy papers. In fact, the press has made a virtue of the simple-mindedness by calling what used to be known as gossip, "character issues", which are used to stand in for judgment about policy.

The press, therefore, will go to great lengths to protect the people who give them what they crave, most of whom happen to be Republicans since character smears are their very special talent. There was a reason why Rove and Libby used "the wife sent him on a boondoggle" line. Stories about Edwards and his hair and Hillary and her cold, calculating cleavage are the coin of the realm.

Dove-Tailing

I've mentioned it before, but there seems to be a campaign on the Left to dismiss the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Eager to avoid another costly war on yet another front, it would appear as if these bloggers and activists are engaging in a questionable brand of exegesis. Though their intentions are noble enough, their tactics are slightly misleading.

The latest example of this comes from a surprising blogger. Juan Cole, whose blog I highly recommend, has published a piece in Salon on what's really becoming a tried and true topic for the far Left...Iran Hawks. While I found myself agreeing with much of the article, I was puzzled by this little nugget:


Iran has not launched an aggressive war against a neighbor since 1785 and does not have a history of military expansionism. Its population is a third that of the United States and its military is small and weak. Aside from the Republican Party's long history of fear-mongering as a way to get power, throw public money to their corporate clients, and scare Americans into giving up their civil liberties, what is driving this obsession with Tehran?


Hmmm...well, inserting 1785 in there is sort of irrelevant. Many flags have flown over Persia since then, and this current cult-like regime has only been around since 1979. So if we're really talking about Iranian territorial ambitions, well we should focus on their behavior.

So let's take a look at their behavior. I certainly can't agree with Cole on the republic's behavior, and I think some of their neighbors would likewise take issue with that argument. Maybe ask the UAE, who had island territory grabbed from them in 1992, which now serves as an Iranian weapons caché. Perhaps the jittery Azeris might disagree, especially since Iran disputed Azerbaijan's claims to the Caspian by sending a gunship into their waters. I'm sure the Qataris might take issue with Cole, especially since their national gas interests are tied to land under joint stewardship with Iran.

These land disputes don't even begin to address the regime's imperialism via proxy. Whether or not the land that's currently called "Iraq" becomes "Iran" is an antiquated way of looking at global power and influence, and sort of beside the point (Iran has been Iran since 1935, and it was a creation of the hated Pahlavis). This Iranian regime is the poster child of the Bush Doctrine--a terror financing state, using cells and radical groups in order to exert influence and power throughout the world.

This is Iran's modus operandi. Multiple sources, including the 9/11 Commission, have linked Iran to the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which resulted in the murder of 19 American servicemen. We also know that Iran exerts their influence, an imperialism of ideas and religion, over Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. We know that they sent their Quds forces all throughout Islamic Africa during the 1990's, and helped finance infrastructure and military projects in terror-harboring Sudan. They've been linked to assassinations of retribution in places such as Germany and Argentina.

Adding all of this up, it makes it difficult for me to understand Cole's position on this. It has become pretty obvious that the Left is eager to dovetail the buildup to war in Iraq with the rhetoric we're now hearing on Iran. This is certainly a fair point, and talk of World War III may only hurt a serious debate on the matter.

But let's not be naive. Iran has made it abundantly clear that they will use every available piece of turf to extent their influence and launch attacks upon the West. They have also publicly stated their intentions to take our place in Iraq. Our departure from the region would permanently change the makeup of the region, leaving the door wide open for a hegemonic Iran. Hence, our efforts in Iraq are tied to Iran.

They know it, so why don't we?

Mitt In Your Stocking

From The Dombrowski Factor:


Should New Hampshire choose to hold their primary at the end of December, it will fall in the middle of the holiday season. So not only will they be asking voters to think about which candidate they want to represent their party in the general election, which candidate they believe can lead our nation out of war, out of a health care crisis, immigration debate, and energy crisis, but they want them to do so during the most hectic time of the year.

This could mean that along with the heartwarming ads full of homecoming, family and Santa we will have negative ads featuring Hillary Clinton as the Grinch. Perhaps in with the Christmas card from your best friend will now be a direct mail piece with Romney's name on the "Naughty" list, a lump of coal in his stocking, or Giuliani as Scrooge and the Radcons portrayed as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

The first caucus will come right after the New Year when everyone is clamoring back to work, trying to exchange the snowman sweaters from their grandmothers, still out of town, or watching the bowl games. They will now be expected to turn their thoughts to November.

Iran's Constitutionalists

My thoughts on this, over at The Van Der Galiën Gazette.

On the Faux Mugging

I decided not to talk about this story yesterday, because frankly, I thought it was really dumb. In sum: Progressive talker Randi Rhodes gets "mugged," some on the Left assume conservatives did it, oops she didn't really get mugged.

Nonetheless, this created quite a stir on the far, far, far Left. Brown Shirt conspiracies were posited, and a whole ton of tin-foil hat hyperventilating ensued. Some of it got really nasty, as Shawn Macomber points out for us today at The American Spectator. He goes beyong the hyperbole, and tries to get at the root of the problem:


There is, however, something bigger going on here, encapsulated in the determination of Rhodes' fans, against all facts to the contrary, to hold-tight to the pipe dream of right-wing fanatics hiring Blackwater agents to beat her as she walked her dog: They so wish it were true. As with global warming alarmism, these sorts of messianic martyr fantasies about neo-Nazi conspirators aligned against liberals' salvation program for the masses are delusions designed to assure people clearly desperate for meaning in their lives that they are historically significant figures living in historically significant times. History, sadly, is not made within the virtual walls of online echo chambers.


NOT LONG AFTER the first (erroneous) report of an attack, a Rhodes fan let it be known that she hoped police would find the attacker and somehow induce him to "explain what circumstances in his background led to his rage."

"This knowledge may help us all avoid attacks on the street in the future," she wrote.

At the time, no doubt, the expectation was the explanation would be Rush Limbaugh or College Republicans. Now that the culprit is nonexistent or inanimate, depending on how one classifies culprits, the question of what caused "his" rage is moot. Or, considering the complete psychological profile our left-wing friends had already worked up, is it more a case of an answer looking for a question?

Either way here's wishing Ms. Rhodes a speedy recovery and here's hoping her supporters find a way to get to the bottom of their own rage, which they so adeptly project on others.

Russia's Tinder Box

Kim Zigfeld at Pajamas Media on Putin and Iran:


Muslim outrage combined with growing Slavic nationalism is an incendiary mixture. Goble points to a recent statement by Sergei Arutyunov, the head of the sector on the Caucasus at the Institute of Ethnology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, indicating that, in Goble's words: "Contemporary Russia resembles Germany at the time of Hitler's rise in Germany, with a population increasingly dominated by 'the ideology of revaunchism,' according to a leading Russian specialist on ethnicity. And as a result, fascism is rapidly gaining ground." Arutyunov is concerned, Goble writes, with "the increasingly negative attitudes of that country's ethnic Russians toward other groups and especially toward migrants" and his concerns are justified when one considers that, according to Aleksandr Brod, director of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau: "Since the beginning of 2007, he said, there had been more than 170 cases of inter-ethnic violence, which had led to 51 deaths and 230 major injuries. Most of these crimes, he noted, had occurred in the Russian capital, Moscow oblast, Nizhniy Novgorod oblast and St. Petersburg."

In light of all this, it's not too surprising that Putin would be thinking appeasement where Iran is concerned. Situated so close to Russia and as flush with oil revenues as Russia itself, Iran is ominously positioned to throw a lighted match into Russia's Islamic tinder box.

Roniacs

I'm surrounded by them, apparently.

Washington, DC has a lot of love for Ron Paul, per capita anyway. Patrick Ruffini has more.

Caspian (Updated)

An event of interest going down in Tehran today. The five Caspian Sea power brokers met, primarily to discuss territorial matters over control of the Caspian, and more specifically the oil and gas reserves resting beneath it.

Iran's nuclear program of course became the hot topic, and some bloggers have taken this as a startling rebuff of American military intentions in the region:


Vladimir Putin's warnings against military action against Iran deserve to be taken very seriously. Since we're not contemplating actually conquering Iran and trying to occupy its territory, people need to understand that the post-strike diplomatic environment is going to be much more important to the future of the Iranian nuclear program than is any damage that bombing Iran with our on-the-table options might or might not do. If Russia decides to just send some scientists with schematics and materiel over to Iran and show them how to build a nuclear bomb, then -- bam -- nuclear bomb.


Of course Russia has become increasingly unpredictable, but this scenario is highly unlikely. This display of Caspian unity is more economic than anything else.

As it stands, the five nations--Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan--all have a proportional claim to the oil reserves that reflect the size of their coast line. Iran has claimed more, and acted on it in 2001 when they sent a gunship into Azeri waters to halt BP exploration.

For the Russians, their biggest fear is a proposed gas pipeline deal between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. This would cut into the Russian energy monopoly over the West, which would hurt the already struggling Russian economy.

So my guess is the deal goes as follows--no more talks of a gas pipeline, no NATO forces in Azerbaijan, and Iran sucks it up and takes their 13% of the water. Yay team Caspian!

I doubt there's more to read into than that, but who knows for sure. Is Russia going to stand by an increasingly isolated Iran, as opposed to their bread and butter in the West? I doubt it.


UPDATE:

Cernig (not surprisingly) disagrees:


As I've written before, a world where there is a sole superpower which speaks about looking after everyone's interests but is essentially selfish about its own interests and is willing to make any number of exceptions to its own supposed rules for its allies is an inherently unbalanced one. To coin an analogy, having a cop around can be good - but a corrupt cop who plays favorites, looks out for his own pocket before those of the citizenry and is subject to no meaningful oversight is almost as bad as not having any cop at all. In such a situation, it is inevitable that other nations will look to create counterbalances to that superpower and will be mistrustful of said superpowers plans.


As does Andrew Sullivan:


What Putin is surely saying with respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions is relatively simple. If you Americans bomb Iran, we have the capacity to help them develop a nuclear bomb pretty quickly thereafter. Or just give them one.


I think this Cold War 2 scenario being described here is highly unlikely. Firstly, it's a misnomer to argue that some "sole super power" is pulling all the strings here. Russia may be protecting their sphere of influence, but the pressure they're feeling is coming from America, France, England, the EU and the UN. Creating this faux Caspian unity keeps Azerbaijan from sabotaging Russian energy interests, thus cutting into their European markets.

The West has roundly condemned Iran's nuclear ambitions. Azerbaijan, stuck between two worlds on this one, needs to be reigned in by the Russians and Iran. I think this was a big topic of discussion at this summit, and it's probably the reason President Ahmadinejad went to Baku to establish the conditions.

I don't think Russia is interested in having NATO troops in their backyard, however I find it very unlikely that they would stand by a lonely Iran were more severe action taken against them. Heavier sanctions may be on the way come November, and the reasons for standing with Tehran may become less apparent. Give them a bomb? How might their gas and oil customers in the West react to that?

I think there are multiple opportunities for a Western front against Iran, and we've seen this to a point. If Russia and China use their powers in the UN to subvert those efforts it'll be yet another example of a flawed global instituion failing to protect the Western values it was created to preserve.

Work through those channels, and play it by the book. But let's not pretend that the United Nations (which would ostensibly be China and Russia in this case) stands as the sole hope to protect innocent Iran from the unipolar hegemon. I'm not buying it.


UPDATE II:


Dave in Boca puts it better:


Vlad the Empoisoner has been juking and feinting about the Baku/Ceyhan pipeline ever since he became President of what he wants to reconstitute as a new USSR.

I was present at many of the events leading to the inception of the pipeline in the mid-90s and even then, the Russians opposed the Amoco-sponsored [along with BP] project which would serve as an alternative artery of crude oil to the West.

I have written several times on this blog about the Russians' steadfast opposition to alternative energy sources from the Caspian. Now with his visit to Tehran, Putin, whose subtlety matches the brutal political culture of his Motherland, openly claims some sort of primus-inter-pares role for Russia and Iran on the Caspian littoral. This has been a debate of more than a decade, and at one point Russia claimed that any offshore resources should be shared equally by all littoral states, even if they were only a few miles offshore from Baku, for example.

Putin and Ahmadodojihad are trying to pull a power play on Gaidar Aliyev, the Azeri President [whom I had the privilege of escorting to a Chicago Bulls game over a decade ago] who must depend almost entirely on American and Turkish geostrategic support to maintain a balance of power in his beleaguered republic.

Talking Points

I'm glad Brendan Nyhan is noticing the same thing that I have.

The Islamic Left

Ali Eteraz continues his series on the future of Islam for the Guardian:


So what is to be done?

Well, secular tyrannies are inadequate. Monarchies are dictatorial. Outright Islamophobia and directly demonising Islam gives fuel to Islamism. Military confrontation is out of the question for ethical and pragmatic reasons.

I recommend creating a viable and well organised Muslim left. It would be an intra-religious movement as opposed to a universalist one (though obviously it doesn't shun allies). It would be a cousin of the international left, but in a Muslim garb. Just as the Muslim right found Islamic means to justify the destructive ideas from the enlightenment (Fascism, Marxism, totalitarianism, evangelical religion), the Muslim left should find Islamic means to justify the positive ones (anti-foundationalism, pragmatism, autonomy, tolerance).

This Muslim left should also espouse the following basic ideas, without being limited to them:

• separation of mosque and state;
• opposition to tyranny (even if the tyrant has liberal values);
• affirmance of republicanism or democracy;
• an ability to coherently demonstrate that the Muslim right represents merely one interpretation of Islam;
• a commitment to free speech and eagerness to defeat the Muslim right in the marketplace of ideas;
• commitment to religious individualism and opposition to left-collectivism, specifically Marxism;
• opposition to economic protectionism;
• opposing any and all calls for a "council of religious experts" that can oversee legislation (even if those experts are liberals); and
• affirming international law.

Realist Redux

Jonah Goldberg of The Corner on Democrats and Realism:


Turkey is a hugely important strategic ally, and long-standing member of Nato. They provide enormous logistical support for the United States in the region. They offer precisely the sort of secular model Democratic and Republican foreign policy mavens insist should be offered throughout the Muslim world. They can cause incredible hardships for us if we alienate them and we can give anti-American elements in the country a great issue in the process.

The Armenian genocide resolution is being driven in no small part by Armenian constituents in various Congressional districts. I see nothing wrong with that. But where is the realist outrage? When Jewish-Americans lobby for specific foreign policies that allegedly harm America's national interest, it's enough to send realists into dithyrambs of dyspepsia. But, at least when pro-Israel lobbyists make their case they argue that such policies also advance American self-interest as well. The Armenian genocide resolution, meanwhile, may be morally right, but it is very, very, difficult to argue it is in America's self-interest, at least in terms of how the so-called realists define it. By any realist calculation, it is purely symbolic in all ways save its potential for harm.

But once again, as I've long argued, realism is a hat idealists and ideologues put on when they lose an argument. When the losers win their arguments, all of a sudden there's nothing wrong with idealism.


Emphasis my own, and I agree. We have heard progressives beat the realism drum ad nauseam, ususally in their efforts to condemn neocons, liberal hawks and other all-purpose straw men. While this resolution may be the idealistic and just thing to do, it certainly doesn't qualify as strategic realism.

This resolution has come up before, and was killed by the intervention of President Clinton. It was just as important and righteous then, and we weren't involved in a two-front war. Strategically, Turkey is more important to us than ever.

So bravo for condemning an obviously terrible and genocidal act. This is the right thing to do. It just isn't necessarily the smartest.

GDS?

Crittenden on Krugman on Gore Derangement Syndrome:


What Krugman needs to understand about Gore Derangement Syndrome is this. It's simple. You could put it on a bumpersticker: Gore Lied, No One Will Die.

But in the end, Gore is really not that maddening. The institutions that have anointed him ... the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, neither academy nor deeply engaged in pursuit of either art or science ... and the Nobel Prize committee, a handful of Scandinavians whose worldview is exalted primarily by the large amounts of dynamite profits they have to dole out ... are not actually involved in making decisions that govern this world.

In the contest that matters most, Gore still lost. Unelect him again in '08!


Ouch.

Others Blogging It:

Kevin Drum
Rising Hegemon
Take Our Country Back

Feelings Redux

A reader's response to feelings:


For those of us who view the Bush administration as Ezra does, this is exactly what Cohen and his ilk are up to: they're ignoring the whole context of the foreign policy discussion. That's what the liberal hawks did last time around--arguing from an abstract moral point of view that the administration's motives and abilities didn't matter because the mission was righteous--and most of them have come to regret it.


This whole "feelings" business is a bit of a red herring. Ezra's argument is that it's irresponsible to advocate a course of action without considering its context, and it's doubly irresponsible to do so from a high-profile platform without considering the effect your words might have. Discuss and advocate, by all means, but with your eyes open.

On Feelings

Andrew on Ezra on Cohen:


Klein slips in a bogus word here: feels. Cohen doesn't feel he is a liberal hawk; he believes he is. He has arguments to make, arguments that can be agreed with or disagreed with, but that have merits of their own that should be addressed regardless of the arrangement of political power at the time. This isn't narcissism; it is the duty of any writer and thinker to state his own views as best he can without concern for how the world might greet them, who might use them unfairly, or who might expropriate them for insincere purposes. Without this independence, a writer is merely a hack. Or, worse for a writer, an activist.


Amen.

I wrote about the Cohen piece a couple of weeks ago, and found Klein's argument equally puzzling. Aside from labeling all dissenters as enablers, it also seemed to imply that there should rarely ever be consensus on matters of foreign policy. I argued the following:


Consensus on foreign policy apparently strikes Ezra as enabling and unthinkable, even though Democrats and Republicans often agreed on matters of war and diplomacy throughout the last century. This is why Senator Johnson could mobilize his party to support a Republican president's war effort. This is why Republicans and Democrats alike could support the same approach in dealing with the Soviet Empire. This is why two of the top-tier Democrats, both currently courting the anti-war vote, could authorize the invasion of Iraq in support of their president.

This behavior, or similarity in tone, surprises Ezra. Forget the very Liberal merits in staying in Iraq, those are irrelevant. To approve of such a thing would make you a neocon, thus dismissing you from the table. The appropriate behavior for any good Democrat would be to apologize for the invasion, and get out. Anything short of that enables the scary neocons, and PNAC and other bad stuff.


I didn't touch upon the feelings argument, but yes, I find it to be the puffiest of straw men, as did (Andrew) Sullivan. I don't think it's a question of honesty, but rather a question of fairness.

It's not fair to accuse someone you disagree with of narcissism. This should probably go without saying, but it's unfair to warn someone on the impact of their words simply because you don't like them.

Why? Because that can go both ways. If the words of Roger Cohen are enabling the administration, well who does Klein et al. enable?

Who might take comfort in hearing that American bloggers, journalists and politicians don't support their president?

That's a dangerous path to go down.


Others Blogging It:

Protein Wisdom
Brian Beutler
Ezra Klein

The 800-Pound Gorilla

Since John Edwards announced his candidacy in December of last year, so much has happened with regard to the 2008 race. Candidates from both sides have lined up to try and win the nomination; some have dropped out, some are struggling, some are surging. We've played the money game, the polling game, and especially of late, punches are being thrown. But still, less than three months out from the Iowa caucuses, there is one question that looms large, that until recently, no one has taken notice of. Oscar, Emmy, and now Nobel Peace Prize in hand, will former Vice President Al Gore throw his hat into the ring at the last minute?

While consistently repeating that he has "no plans" or "no intentions" to run for president, that hasn't stopped the Draft Gore movement from heating up. All across the country, people are chanting "run Al, run" and even trying to put Gore on their state's primary ballot. They took out a full-page New York Times advertisement, and have amassed almost 200,000 signatures on a petition urging him to become a candidate.

But is he planning to run or even thinking about running? It's impossible to say - most of his former advisers say he isn't running, but also admit that he doesn't talk politics with them anymore. The only people who know for sure are Al and Tipper themselves. It is even possible that he has yet to make up his mind.

Whether or not you like the guy, there is no questioning he has reinvented himself. In 2000 he was often portrayed as manhandled by his staff and too "wooden." Now though, he's a fiery critic of the Bush administration, a celebrity, and a New York Times bestsellers author. And now just today, he and the IPCC earned perhaps the most prestigious international honor there is, the Nobel Peace Prize. The stars have seemingly aligned for Gore to become president.

The stars can align themselves all they want, but that wont matter unless he says the magical words that so many in the Democratic base want to hear: "I'm in." Liberal bloggers, who have longed for a Gore run for many months now, are in a frenzy about a potential candidacy. They're asking nicely, they're pleading, they're even claiming that the world "needs" a President Gore. There's one thing for sure - torn between Edwards and Obama, the left is still looking for a consensus anti-Hillary candidate, and with the aforementioned two slipping in the polls, many are desperately waiting for Al to come to their rescue.

There's a reason why Hillary has this sense of inevitability - it's because she will inevitably be the nominee unless something, or someone, shakes this race up between now and January. There is no question in my mind that Gore can be that someone. With 100% name recognition, excitement among the Democratic base, and the potential to raise globs of cash very quickly, the former Vice President may very well be the last thing remaining between Clinton and the nomination. For a good rundown on why a Gore candidacy is not only viable at this point in the race, but also winnable, check out this Daily Kos diary - take note of the polling analysis in particular; in a recent survey, Gore is actually seen winning New Hampshire.

With the recent back-and-forth between Hillary and Obama, MyDD regular Jerome Armstrong agrees and sees an opening for Gore. But will he heed the call?

The Future of Journalism, Cont.

TPM:


And yet this is a fitting bookend, with Gore receiving this accolade while the sitting president grows daily an object of greater disapproval, disapprobation and collective shame. And let's not discount another benefit: watching the rump of the American right detail the liberal bias of the Nobel Committee and at this point I guess the entire world. Fox News vs. the world.


Liberal bias? I don't know. A predilection for stupidity? Most certainly.

Iraq as Anathema (Updated)

Andrew Sullivan wonders if Hillary Clinton is having second thoughts about her vote to condemn the IRGC, noting her apparent change of heart on negotiating with Iran.

I don't think this is inconsistent at all, and as Sullivan points out, her one condition is that there be no predetermined conditions. This is a big difference from direct talks with Ahmadinejad.

Obama kept up the offensive today:


America needs a leader who will make the right judgments about matters as grave as war and peace, and America needs a leader who will be straight with them. When I spoke out against going to war in Iraq in 2002, I knew that I was putting my political career on the line. Going to war was popular; so was President Bush. But I felt strongly that a war in Iraq would lead to an open-ended and destructive occupation of Iraq, and weaken us in the fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. And I felt a responsibility to say so.

Now, the Senate has once again voted for an amendment that goes out of its way to draw connections between distinct threats, and that replaces judicious policy-making with unnecessary saber-rattling. And once again, we hear that it is not really a vote for more war, it is a vote for more diplomacy.


I think the Democrats put themselves in a tough spot here. They must keep up the appearance of global toughness, while all the while dismissing the global significance of Iraq. So Iran, according to Obama, is distinct. Iran is a threat, but it has nothing to do with Iraq. Terrorism is bad, but it's not the same as Iraq. Al Qaeda attacked us, but it's not the same bad guy in Iraq.

It's the diplomacy equivalent of hot potato. The land that is currently called Iraq holds a lot of significance for Shiia Iran. Politically, it's another potentially friendly regime to serve as a steward over, and a buffer from Arab, U.S.-friendly regimes to the west.

But Iraq isn't important. Question: When does the far Left start making the Soviet/Poland comparison on behalf of Tehran? After all, Iran has been victimized by imperial powers, they sure could use that very distinct buffer...

UPDATE:


The Plank thinks this gives new life to the Obama campaign:


But the Iran vote allows Obama to cast Clinton's judgment as an ongoing problem, and to illustrate how his judgment continues to be sound (though this would have been easier to illustrate had he actually shown up in the Senate to vote against the amendment). As Obama puts it in the last line of the Union-Leader op-ed: "This is not a debate about 2002; it's about the future, and in that debate I can run on, and not from, my record."


UPDATE II:


Clinton hits back.


UPDATE III:


Marc Ambinder raises a good point:


Clinton is on the Armed Services Committee; Iran's Revolutionary Guards are attacking U.S. soldiers; the biggest beneficiary of the Iraq war being ran, it's simply reality -- as Obama himself acknowledged -- that Iran's actions will in some way factor into decisions about when and where and how fast to move troops out. Clinton turned a sketchy resolution into a much better one, one that wasn't bellicose and gave no hints or winks to the White House. And, oh -- Obama didn't show up and argue this during the vote itself.


Excellent point. How much longer will Obama be allowed to criticize measures that he avoids voting on?

Binding Bungle

Michael van der Galiën on the Armenian genocide resolution passed by the House this week:


Marc Schulman posted about the resolution a few hours ago (after my original post). This post is a response to his post. Not because I disagree with him - we obviously agree - but because I think it's important to point something out. Marc writes: "On this evening's PBS NewsHour, Committee Chairman Lantos said the resolution will serve to begin the restoration of America's moral authority, which he and other Democrats maintain has been squandered by the Bush administration."

That's absolutely laughable. I would put it more nicely if I could but I can't. It's one big joke. Lantos seems to think that he can 'restore' America's 'moral authority' by condemning others while ignoring the bloody past of the US itself. That's not how you 'restore' America's 'moral authority.' If he wanted to do that, he should call for a resolution labeling the treatment and masskillings of Native Americans 'genocide.' Instead, he chose to play politics by satisfying the 90,000 Armenian voters in the district of a fellow Democrat.

Changing Their Tune

Matthew Yglesias on changing one's mind:


I plead not guilty to the charge of fashionability since you'll see I turned against the war before it was fashionable to do so. I could give a long answer detailing my naiveté about the war, but the truth of the matter is that in an irresponsible-but-probably-typical manner I just took my cues from the fact that almost all of the leading Democrats seemed to be backing Bush on this and so I did, too. It was only after the invasion that I bothered to read Charles Tripp's A History of Iraq and begin to get any information about Iraq that wasn't specifically designed as a polemic about the war.

Well, my heart sunk like a stone. Between reading that book and once I bothered to notice that the nuclear weapons intelligence was all wrong (I'm always baffled by how few hawks changed their mind after this, seeing as it was the centerpiece of the argument for war and all), it looked pretty clear that I'd gotten this wrong. In retrospect, I think it was all foreseeable enough, but like a lot of people I said a lot about this issue without knowing anything about it and it's hard to make forecasts from a perspective of total ignorance.


On the one hand, I think Yglesias should be complimented for this mea culpa. We seem to have reached a point in politics where it has become impossible to shift one's opinion on policy. We saw how John Kerry was for the war before he was against it. We see it with Mitt Romney, who constantly has his pro-life cred challenged, while his rationale for shifting to the anti-abortion crowd is frequently met with skepticism.

We should certainly elect officials with strong values, but at what point did changing your mind become vacillation? Why is stubborn support for bad policy a commendable trait?

And while I applaud Yglesias for his frankness, I have to take issue with the glaring double standard on this. He's not alone in becoming a latter-day pacifist, and it's rather frustrating that many of these anti-war bloggers now see it as their responsibility to question the clarity and moral integrity of those who support staying in Iraq.

The hawks these bloggers deride are those who consistently supported the invasion throughout, even to this day. Ok, I suppose I can understand that. But why then are people like Rep. Brian Baird condemned for changing their minds? Baird, much like Yglesias, had a change of heart based upon the information provided to him.

Why is Baird now a warmonger? This strikes me as very illiberal--support a war when you believe it'll be quick and easy, but denounce it when it actually resembles a real war.

Were these repentant hawks really hoping for parades and flowers in Baghdad?

Ezra vs. Malkin?

We wished for it yesterday, and today, Michelle Malkin has taken up the challenge...well, kind of:


On behalf of all liberal bloggers of purported good faith, the Respectable Liberal Blogger Ezra Klein has chivalrously stepped up to the plate to challenge me to a debate about S-CHIP.

I'm. Trrrrembling.

With. Laughter.

A good-faith debate would require that Respectable Liberal Blogger Ezra Klein actually be a person of good faith. He is treated as such in some elite conservative circles, where his work is linked frequently and intellectual repartee among the Beltway boys' club is warm and chummy. He is free to continue traveling in those cozy circles where highbrow right-wingers are not so mean and scary.

But I'd just as soon share a stage, physical or virtual, with Respectable Liberal Blogger Ezra Klein as I would with Chris Matthews, Geraldo Rivera, or an overflowing vat of liquid radioactive waste.

First, let's bust the cherished myth that Respectable Liberal Blogger Ezra Klein is as brilliant as he, the nutroots, and his respectable conservative friends think he is.

---

"Debate" Ezra Klein? What a perverse distraction and a laughable waste of time that would be. And that's what they really want, isn't it? To distract and waste time so they can foist their agenda on the country unimpeded.


Well, that was a really wordy decline, but hey, keep it coming!

Others Blogging It:

Dan Riehl
Obsidian Wings
Bark Bark Woof Woof

Michigan Madness

On the same day the Republicans were in town debating economics, four Democrats essentially said "no thanks" to Michigan's January 15th primary. Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, and Joe Biden all opted to remove their names from the ballot rendering any primary all but meaningless. Dennis Kucinich tried twice to remove his name, but failed to put the proper paperwork together by the 4PM deadline; and he wonders why he's pulling 0-1% in polls...

State Republicans take the move as an insult to their state's voters, and at the same time, an opportunity to capitalize in the general election. As QandO points out, there are bound to be some in Michigan who see the dropouts as putting party over state; remember, the DNC has threatened to take away Michigan's and Florida's delegates to the convention should they not change their primary dates back to February. I tend to agree, unless Hillary is the nominee of course.

Which brings us to the latest chapter of my soon-to-be released book entitled "The Flawless Clinton Campaign." Not caving to the DNC or Iowa voters, who very likely will not care enough to switch allegiances because of their candidate's decision to stay on the Michigan ballot or drop out, Hillary has basically assured herself a win in the Wolverine State's primary. Yes, it will be nothing more than a meaningless beauty contest, but it could provide her team with some valuable press after a possible Iowa loss.

Needless to say, Michigan Democrats are miffed. Michigan Liberal and Blogging for Michigan held no punches in their criticism. They make the years-old case that the current early states are in no way representative of the country as a whole, contain no large cities, and have a comparatively miniscule population. Debbie Dingell furiously continues:

"I'm livid," said Debbie Dingell, a Democratic national committeewoman and wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell. "What they don't realize is they're not running for president of Iowa, they're running for president of the United States."

So what do we make of this mess? For one, if Michigan Democrats want to have any relevance, they'll move back to their scheduled February 9th caucuses. Then we should be all set with the Iowa-New Hampshire-Nevada-South Carolina gambit, right? Wrong. There's talk that Iowa may move its caucuses to an earlier date in January. But the craziness doesn't end there. New Hampshire, trying to remain, arguably, the most important early state, might move it's primary into December. You read that right.

Looks like we might know who the respective nominees are in January.

The Challenge

We talked about Michelle Malkin earlier, and showed you the uproar her investigation into the Frost family has caused around the blogosphere. In her retort, she took the following jab at a few progressive bloggers:


And now to the nutroots' pushback. It's not just Media Matters and MoveOn.org who lie through their teeth and attempt to intimidate critics through mass thuggishness. It's militant leftist bloggers who wouldn't know a good-faith argument if it bit them in the lip.


One of these bloggers mentioned by Malkin was Ezra Klein, who in fact writes rather prolifically on health care reform. Klein offered the challenge:


Let's have a good faith argument. I will debate Michelle Malkin anytime, anywhere, in any forum (save HotAir TV, which she controls), on the particulars of S-CHIP. We can set the debate at a think tank, on BloggingHeads, over IM. Hell, we can set up the podiums in the shrubbery outside my house, since that seems to be the sort of venue she naturally seeks out. And then if Malkin wants an argument, she can have one. We'll talk S-CHIP and nothing but -- nothing of the Frosts, or Congress, or her blog.

---

So c'mon Michelle: Let's debate health care. Prove to the world that you really want "a good-faith argument." We can talk crowd-out, and cross-subsidization, and whether lower-middle class entrepreneurs are able to procure health care on the individual market. If this is a policy argument you care so deeply about as to travel to the Frost family's house to see if they really deserved S-CHIP benefits, surely you'll want to set up a web cam and talk through the issue.


Well, what else is there to say but FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Others Blogging It:

Think Progress
Van Der Galien Gazette
Shakespeare's Sister

Agenda: Democracy

From Michael Gerson in today's WaPo:


In the backlash against President Bush's democracy agenda, conservatives are increasingly taking the lead. It is inherently difficult for liberals to argue against the expansion of social and political liberalism in oppressive parts of the world -- though, in a fever of Bush hatred, they try their best. It is easier for traditional conservatives to be skeptical of this grand project, given their history of opposing all grand projects of radical change.

---

The unavoidable problem is this: Without moral absolutes, there is no way to determine which traditions are worth preserving and which should be overturned. Conservatism assumes and depends on an objective measure of right and wrong that skepticism cannot provide. Without a firm moral conviction that independence is superior to servitude, that freedom is superior to slavery, that the weak deserve special care and protection, the habit of conservatism is radically incomplete. In the absence of elevating ideals, it can become pessimistic and unambitious -- a morally indifferent preference for the status quo.

History does teach that reform is easier to start than finish well. But history also teaches that some organic social arrangements are rotten and wormy; that it is not utopian to rescue a human life from oppression, it is justice; that events without reference to universal ideals of freedom and human rights can become a hell of permanent, unchallenged slavery. It is not a coincidence that the great movements of conscience have generally come not from skeptical traditionalists but from men and women of faith and conviction who taught that loving your neighbor is inconsistent with enslaving him; who rescued children from the nightmare factories of the Industrial Revolution; who asserted that the long tradition of racial segregation created 10,000 petty tyrants; and who believed that the Declaration of Independence is actually true, for us and for all.


Aside from unclear or codified international values, the other problem with a Burkean approach to the democracy agenda, especially in the Middle East, is the lack of feudal land owners that transcend dynasties and empires. Conservatives that argue for the "organic" development of society must also acknowledge that this region has never really had the underpinnings of a Middle Class, at least not in the way we know it.

Iraq resided under many flags, as have the Iranians. Whether it be the Qajaris, the Mongols or the Pahlavis, the head of state often divvied out rights to followers of their respective dynasty. Once these regimes were toppled, the land often changed over.

Even in modern day Iran, while much of the country's industry is state run, it's done so often by families and names loyal to the Revolutionary regime (see Rafsanjani and the copper industry). It's true that you can't make people care about a constitution simply by writing one, nor can you call it a democracy by simply having elections.

Certainly, this must flow up from the people, and there must be the desire to have a democratic, civil society. But we mustn't assume, for example, that this current regime ruling over the Iranian people stemmed from something organic. Their claim to power in Iran is really no better than that of the regimes and dynasties before them, and mustn't be granted more legitimacy and respect than it deserves.

Sadly, you see this happening on both ends of the spectrum. As we've seen in the past, the progressives and the Ron Pauls of the world are working to push us further away from the world. Who knows if their voices will be heard in the next administration, but it's something we should all be concerned about.

Others Blogging It:

Eunomia
Brian Beutler
Publius Pundit

Stalking?

Malkin et al. continue to feel the heat for their investigation into the family of Graeme Frost, and today, Malkin lashes out at her critics:


Why did I take the time to go to Baltimore? Because bloggers raised questions about the Frosts' financial situation and made specific reference to these pieces of real estate. I did not "harass" the Frosts. I simply reported what the tenant told me and described what I saw after driving by their home. My basic reporting rebutted some impressions left by other bloggers on the right who haven't been to these sites and assumed they were high-end luxury properties. They're not. Moreover, I corrected the mistake that some of these bloggers made in overvaluing the house at $400,000-plus. It's closer to $300,000.

The bottom line remains:

This family made choices. Choices have consequences. Taxpayers of lesser means should not be forced to subsidize them.

The Left is so accustomed to the stenographic servitude of the MSM, it goes bananas when we fill the vacuum. Moonbat bloggers have taken to posting my personal home information again in "retaliation."

Why? Because they want to make an example: Challenge their narratives and you will pay.

If they can redefine simple reporting as "stalking," they'll have their desired chilling effect.


Others aren't buying it.

FireDogLake:


You know, Michelle, every time I think that you and your fellow travelers have hit rock bottom and that you can't possibly become any more loathsome and despicable, you find another trap door and gleefully sink to new depths. Who knew that the single greatest threat to Our Way of Life in This Great Country is actually sick and injured children? I applaud your courage in taking on this vile threat to America and to all Americans, and your fearlessness in gassing up your mini-van and going to snoop around the Frost family's property all on your own. Go, you intrepid little citizen journalist, go!


Sadly, No!:


The lesson here, folks, is this: if you publicly take a stand in favor of a policy that wingnuts don't like, they will rummage and troll through your personal and financial life in order to 'expose' you in any way possible. As I've said before, they simply have no souls.


Bark Bark Woof Woof
:


It is at this point when it becomes pretty obvious that we have gone far beyond the point of reasoned debate and civil discourse. This is no longer a question of whether or not a popular and successful insurance program for middle class children should be expanded or vetoed or a debate about the role of government in providing health care. That has been lost in all the sound and fury which, to their credit, the progressives have left pretty much to the righties; all the lefties have done is stand back and watch in wonder at the viciousness of the attacks from the Free Republic and their minions.

Kiss Float, Round II?

It's hard to forget the nationally acclaimed Kiss Float that followed Joe Lieberman wherever he went in his race against Ned Lamont last year. Well get your paper mache ready folks: Joe is causing trouble again.

The small city of Milford is rarely the focus of political attention, but local Democrats and liberal bloggers are hopping mad with their Independent (or is it Independent-Democrat?) Senator's recent endorsement of Republican Mayoral incumbent James Richetelli. Tessa from My Left Nutmeg pulls no punches:

Joe Lieberman has decided to visit Milford (CT) on October 14th to attend a Republican fundraising event where he will provide an endorsement for the Republican candidate for Mayor.

There, that's as calmly as I can put it.

This was announced by the New Haven Register ("This just in: Newspapers Suck!") in an article which lists all of the contact information for attending and donating to the Republican fundraiser.

Connecticut Bob also chimes in:

Joe Lieberman will bring his message of cronyism and endless war to Milford on October 14th to pay back a political debt. Mayor Richetelli was an ardent supporter of Joe Lieberman during last year's senate campaign. So Joe has come to help out a friend.

Actually, I think the issue goes much deeper than that. Lieberman seems to be bent on revenge for the Milford Democratic Town Committee's endorsement of Ned Lamont AFTER he won the primary. Joe apparently felt betrayed by that, and now it's payback time and he's coming to campaign hard for the Republican incumbent.

The fact that a sitting US Senator feels it's necessary to insert himself into a municipal election is unusual. And that he decided Jim Richetelli is the best candidate without ever having spoken with Democratic candidate Kerri Rowland should be surprising to most thinking people.

But when that senator is Joe Lieberman, suddenly common sense gets thrown out the window.

I have to agree with CT Bob on this one - this smells of nothing more than political payback. Not even talking with the Democratic candidate in the race, who is running under the same party banner that gave Lieberman a name and home in the Senate for eighteen years, is insulting.

As was mentioned in the My Left Nutmeg post, the drama doesn't end there. At the end of the New Haven Register article is contact information to purchase tickets to the Lieberman-Richetelli fundraising event. Correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked, newspapers aren't supposed to make donation pitches on behalf of political parties.

As far as I'm concerned, not only should the newspaper should issue an apology, they should also provide the contact information for a Milford Democratic Party fundraising event. Anything less would simply be unfair.

The Broken Market for Political Discourse

There is a growing authoritarian wing in the Democratic Party. They march under the ever-vacillating slogan of progressivism, but make no mistake, their desire is power and control over the political process and discourse in the party. They claim to speak on behalf of the work-worn and dust-begrimed masses in our country, those who look towards a strong and disciplined party apparatus to show them the way. These neo-progressives view internal debate as a treasonous act, and a poor display of party organization.

Electoral success serves as a be all and end all for them, muting any dissention or disagreement within the Democratic community. This is what spurred me to coin Stollerism, in addition to my subsuquent follow up on the matter.

Well, the doctrine's namesake has spoken. Matt Stoller of Open Left defends his position on profiling rouge Democrats, making the case for party primaries in swing districts:


Still, the cultural habits against primaries are very powerful, and you can hear these habits echoed quite frequently on the right and the left by people who consider primaries 'threats' instead of democratic mechanisms. Take conservative Time Magazine blogger Kevin Sullivan, who coined the term 'Stollerism' as a way of discussing my ostensible desire to 'purge' the party. Perhaps I'm intolerant, but calling for democratic and open elections to ratify or reject political leadership is not the same thing as a Stalinist penchant for murdering one's opponents, or a hostile purge of dissidents in an authoritarian regime. I don't mind that Sullivan uses terms like purges to describe my goals, since he's not the audience relevant to this discussion of Democratic Party matters. But disturbingly, this equating of purging with its clearly hostile overtones and democratic structures like primaries is a consistent theme within the party as well. I'll randomly pick Oliver Willis, who suggested in response to the same line of posts Sullivan discussed that primaries are ideological purges and that the only reason I could think a primary against Kucinich was a positive development is that Kucinich is not progressive enough for me. When I confronted him and pointed out his illiberal impulses, Willis's rationale changed, and he then returned to the premise that primaries waste time and resources.

The illiberal nature of the anti-primary arguments is a consistent theme among a certain slice of Democratic activists and insiders. They argue without realizing it that if you live in a swing district or a Republican district, you don't deserve a voice in who runs for the Democratic nomination. For a party that believes in enfranchisement, that illiberal line of argument needs a strong and consistent rebuttal.


I don't mind Stoller's mischaracterization of me as a conservative, because frankly, the tiny microcosm of thought that he represents is not the audience relevant to discussion of things involving a big tent party. Also, since we know Stoller is prone to this kind of hyperbole and sloppy exaggeration, it comes as no surprise that space is at a premium in his "Open Left." Furthermore, please forgive me if I have my suspicions about Stoller's feigned victimhood. Again, the voters disregarded by activists like Stoller are my primary concern here, and their grievances much more paramount. It's their views he has made an affront upon, and their opinions that only matter when counted towards his permanent majority.

What a puerile and crass way to look at political discourse. Stoller no doubt suffers from a case of majoritarianism, as I'm sure others of his ilk do. Showing an utter disdain for those who disagree with him, Stoller once again proves that dissent is a trifling process, one which he simply cannot afford time for. He chooses to triage his targets, as if all issues of party and ideology were between those who agree and those who just don't matter. Stoller appears to believe that the 2006 mandate is his own, a product solely achieved by the efforts of blogger activists such as him.

This logic is of course asinine. It's those being profiled who enable him to declare policy victories along with the electoral triumphs. It's Heath Shuler and Ben Chandler who allow him to declare 2006 as a vote against the Iraq War, and a blanket dismissal of Bush policies.

So here's the inherent contradiction: You can buck the "progressive" line in order to be counted among the many, but once you begin to legislate, you had better not reflect the values and opinions of your district. Oliver Willis, another of Stoller's targets, put it in simple perspective for Matt:


his comment didn't refute my main idea that a primary for primary's sake against a guy like Dennis Kucinich for not being progressive enough was idiotic. In addition to that rationale, it is a waste of time and resources. I am able to hold both ideas in my head at one time. What Stoller is saying here though is that if you're against one, fruitless, useless, primary, you're against the very idea of primaries.

That sounds almost as simplistic as an argument Bush would make.

Look, I wish every area in this country was as forward thinking and progressive as Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live. But that simply isn't the case. As such, a political party - in order to gain power - must run a candidate in a district with a snowball's chance of winning. You're not going to get Heath Shulers elected to office in Maryland, nor are you going to get Dennis Kuciniches elected in North Carolina. That's just a fact.

In 2006 the Democrats decided to compete across the board and threw away the litmus tests and pushed candidates all over the country. As a result they won the House and Senate and elected Pelosi and Reid to leadership positions.


Willis is making far too much sense here, and will no doubt have his Liberalism questioned once again as a result of it. The bulk of Stoller's "essay" is indeed an elaborate straw man. Neither Willis nor myself were questioning the enfranchising potential of the primary process. The question is whether or not a party, one barely a year removed from wresting control of a body they had lost for over a decade, is in any position to be attacking their own. Worse yet, who is Matt Stoller to talk about enfranchising voters, while simultaneously dismissing the choices made by voters in swing districts?

These voters are nothing but a number to the authoritarian wing of the party. I would take relief in knowing that Stoller was an exceptionally vocal minority, but there are of course others like him. It's equally depressing to see these voices granted legitimacy more and more frequently. Stoller concludes with this foreboding take on the issue:


Once Democratic leaders recognize that they represent both the Democratic Party and their district/state, their behavior will shift in important ways, and allow us to focus on other activities.


Beware of those who put the party apparatus in Washington on par with you the voter. They talk about the devices of power not as mere spectators, but as their ultimate right of passage. If you draw up the blue prints, you generally want to build the house along with them. Remember, this is their house. They paid for it, and they expect to run it.

Long Live The Queen?

Gun Toting Liberal is begging you to reconsider Hillary:


TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS? THREE DECADES OF CLINTON-BUSH RULE? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MINDS? Folks -- WAKE UP... don't even GO THERE. We are a Democratic Republic...

Our brothers and sisters from across the pond think we are 100% DAFT as a society for even CONTEMPLATING a three-decade rule by two VERY CLOSE families; the Clintons and Bush's. That's right, the Clintons and Bush's get along FAMOUSLY behind the scenes as has been widely reported, and to our brothers and sisters across the pond, they are seeing us voting for a MONARCHY from the sidelines and wondering what the hell we are THINKING...

Along with myself. What the hell ARE we thinking, my fellow Americans? ANYBODY but Hillary. Come ON. Wake UP...

Stay Classy, Netroots

If you ever find yourself wondering why people get irritated by bloggers, well this nonsense should clear the matter up for you:


ANOTHER OPEN REPUBLICAN SEAT-- FAR RIGHT CONGRESSWOMAN JO ANN DAVIS DIED TODAY

Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) wasn't precisely an extremist maniac. Nor was she a moderate. Looking over her voting record, you'd have to say she was quite a bit further right than a normal conservative but not necessarily a full-blown fascist like most of her party's congressional caucus. The only Virginia congressmember to her right was Eric Cantor, an actual full blown fascist. (But when it came to the humane treatment of animals, she did abandon the Party of Hatred and Bigotry and vote with the Democrats enough of the time to actually be viewed as a moderate... on that one issue.) You can't hate someone who loves a puppy dog-- well... there was Blondi, I guess-- but let's wish Jo Ann well in her adventures over the Styx. She passed away this morning.


Our condolences go out to all of Rep. Davis' family, friends and staff. Her passing is very sad news, and we wish them all the best.

Democrats Eye Domenici's Seat

With yesterday's announcement that he is retiring from the Senate after his current term expires in 2008, Pete Domenici has turned GOP prospects from terrible to near-worst case scenario. Despite slipping approval ratings thanks to his role in the US Attorney General firings, he still would have been favored to win re-election against anyone the Democrats could have thrown at him, Bill Richardson being the exception. Domenici told reporters that he was stepping down largely because of a degenerative brain disease that was discovered last month.

His retirement has set off a frenzy in the Republican Party to find someone who could hold the seat. On the other hand, Democrats are now considering New Mexico one of their best pickup opportunities. Dems first looked to popular Rep. Top Udall who had been amassing a large campaign war chest for months now. Heath Haussamen reported that Udall had this to say after learning of the retirement:

"Throughout his distinguished career in public service, Senator Pete V. Domenici has worked hard for all New Mexicans. He will leave the United States Senate as New Mexico's longest serving member, earning a reputation as a statesman and skilled negotiator," Udall said in a statement released through a spokeswoman. "Although we have not always seen eye-to-eye on every issue, we have worked together in the best interest of the state, and I look forward to working with him for the remainder of this Congress."

Sounds a lot like a man gearing for a run if you ask me. But it turns out that's not the case. After seriously considering a bid, Haussamen reports that Udall decided he will stay in the House and gain seniority rather than become a freshman Senator. More than one New Mexican blogger is disappointed in Udall's decision. Over at the 'Burque Bubble, Scot Key writes:

Was anybody else awakened in the dead of night by the nightmarish thought of having to choose between Martin Chavez and Heather Wilson for U.S. Senate in '08?

The two people he's referring to are Republican Rep. Heather Wilson and Democratic Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. Chavez, who has openly admitted to be considering a 2010 Gubernatorial bid and has even set up a website for a run, may very well be who Democrats look to to change gears and run for Domenici's seat. In a post from a few months ago, Duke City Fix gave a number of reasons why Chavez shouldn't run for governor, one of which was:

Leaving the governorship to Denish might stand him in good stead if something were to happen to Pete Domenici. If Domenici follows through on his intent to run again, it will be 7 1/2 years from now before his new term is up. A Democratic governor would appoint his replacement if necessary, and Chavez admits he really wants to be a Senator.

With Udall opting out of a run, don't be surprised if Chavez jumps on the opportunity.

And finally there's Governor Bill Richardson looming in the background. Since Domenici's retirement, Richardson has repeatedly told reporters that he is completely focused on winning the Presidency. That being said, if he fails in his attempt to win the Democratic nomination and is also overlooked for the VP slot, I'm willing to bet he's going to give considerable thought to a Senate run - term limits will ultimately force him out of the governor's mansion in 2010, and being that New Mexico's other senator is a Democrat, Domenici's seat may very well be the last opportunity Richardson has to continue his political ascendancy for a long while. If he does run, a win would be as near a lock as Democrats could hope for; the filing deadline is February 12.

On the Republican side, the aforementioned Rep. Heather Wilson has already tossed her hat into the ring. Best known among liberals for her outrage over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during her Super Bowl performance a few years ago, she may find herself in a bloody primary against one of her House colleagues, Congressman Steve Pearce. According to Joe Monahan, Pearce is "50-50." He also took a shot at Wilson for jumping in so early, saying, "We should not be jockeying for position, kicking him out the door." Ouch. Monahan goes on to argue that the conservative Pearce would likely start out the favorite in a potential primary, but Wilson would try and close the gap by arguing she is the more electable general election candidate. If Pearce jumps in, Democrats will be salivating over the prospect of not only winning the Senate seat, but also picking up their two House seats.

With Domenici's retirement, national Republicans have their backs against the wall and face the increasingly serious possibility of being the minority in a filibuster-proof Congress for the first time since 1974 when Democrats controlled 62 seats in the chamber. It's no wonder Mel Martinez wants to jump the RNC ship.

Clinton vs. Netroots

Brian Faughnan of the Weekly Standard picks a fight with the Netroots:


Hillary Clinton, you'll remember, has staked out a nuanced position on the surge. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in late August, Clinton declared of the surge, "It's working." And now, O'Hanlon has been named as a foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign.

Clinton, of course, is no friend of the antiwar left, and at least one lefty blogger is calling on the Senator to "renounce O'Hanlon's support." But, despite her grandstanding during the Petraeus hearings, it isn't at all clear that the senator's position on the war is all that different from the president's. By putting O'Hanlon on her team, she's let the netroots know that she doesn't need their support, and more to the point, she doesn't want their support. How can she afford to be so dismissive of this powerful constituency? Maybe because they aren't as powerful as we'd thought.


Ouch. I mentioned the importance of foreign policy staffing yesterday, and this will no doubt be important for the next president. Our global standing is in question, and the next administration could set the tone for the War on Terrorism. Will it be Bush's legacy, or America's legacy?

On Clinton and the Netroots--I think Faughnan may be on to something. Hillary Clinton needs to account for all of the voices in her party, not just the loudest. Now is the time to distance herself a bit from them, as they would no doubt turn on her in a heartbeat were she to get elected. With their Republican muse gone, they'll need something to charge the outrage-o-meter. If she panders to them now, she'll only fuel such outrage upon being elected. It would be nearly impossible for any president to fully appease them, so why do it at all?

Belay their demands now, and she can maintain her independence in the general election, preventing the GOP from pigeonholing her as an extremist.

Kyle Moore disagrees:


O'Hanlon has been pimping the Iraq war with regularity, and even adopted the Orwellian overtones of the pro war movement when he not so subtly hoped the highly critical GAO report leaked before the Petraeus report would be "improved" before official release.

That Hillary would pick this man as a foreign policy advisor is highly disturbing, and just about eradicates any hope that she would even engage in a significant change of strategy in Iraq. In other words, should she be allowed to attain the Democratic nomination, we voters will be faced with a simple, though depressing, choice.

Vote for more war in Iraq or vote for more war in Iraq.

My only hope at this point is that she has played her hand too early, and is currently in the process of destroying her own prospects at nomination.

European Education Envy?

From Atlantic Review:


Judging by the recent article in Businessweek by Jennifer Fishbein titled, Europe Falls Short In Higher Education, one could assume that Europe's leaders are desperately casting about for ways to emulate the international recognition for superstar status accorded to US and UK universities. The basis for this view rests primarily on the recently released results of the Shanghai Jiaotong University Academic Ranking of World Universities. Of the top twenty universities in the world only Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Tokyo University in Japan were represented and all the rest were in the US. This should hardly be surprising as the independence, competitiveness and deep pockets far eclipses most other universities. But it should be noted that the methodology used is heavily weighted by counting up the citations, written in English, in three areas, Science, Social Science and Arts & Humanities. The reliance on English citations would certainly predispose that universities that were part of the Anglosphere would have a big advantage.

Neocons, and Liberals, and Progressives! Oh, My! (Updated)

Roger Cohen dissects the word "neocon" in today's New York Times:


Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel's benefit.

Beyond that, neocon has morphed into an all-purpose insult for anyone who still believes that American power is inextricable from global stability and still thinks the muscular anti-totalitarian U.S. interventionism that brought down Slobodan Milosevic has a place, and still argues, like Christopher Hitchens, that ousting Saddam Hussein put the United States "on the right side of history."

In short, neoconitis, a condition as rampant as liberal-lampooning a few years back, has left scant room for liberal hawks. "Neocon is an insult used to obliterate the existence of this liberal position," says Paul Berman, a writer often so insulted.


Overall, I agree here with Cohen's assessment of neoconitis. This is a subject I've touched upon in the past, and I believe it's an important conversation for the Left to have with the 2008 election ever approaching.

The history of American Liberalism in the 20th Century was one of intervention, globalism and anti-communism. More importantly, it was one that stood steadfast in opposition (at least in theory) to Fascism and totalitarianism. First Liberals became "Liberal hawks," despite the fact that there is nothing inherently non-violent or isolationist to the ideology in the first place.

Then the Left allowed itself to lose the language war, thus the retro act we're seeing today in the neo-progressives. As I pointed out yesterday, this language game really gets us nowhere. The Right used Liberalism in order to marginalize genuine Liberals, and now, the Left uses neocon in order to marginalize genuine Liberals. Where does that get us policy wise? If interventionist Liberalism is bad, and neo-conservatism is clearly bad, well what does American foreign policy look like? Do the so-called progressives even have a plan?

The results will be tantamount to isolationism, and it's a dangerous road to go down. Cohen is obviously as irked about it as I am, however he supports his claims with a rather curious example:


Liberal interventionists, if you recall, were people like myself for whom the sight in the 1990s of hundreds of thousands of European Muslims processed through Serbian concentration camps, or killed in them, left little doubt of the merits, indeed the necessity, of U.S. military action in the name of the human dignity that only open societies afford.

Without such action in Bosnia and Kosovo, Europe would not be at peace today.


BooMan posted a good fact check on this argument, which certainly has its flaws. I don't know that I would cite standing back while NATO bombed Yugoslavia's infrastructure into the Stone Age as a good example of "liberal interventionism," nor was it Wesley Clark's finest hour.

That not withstanding, Cohen makes some valid points. If everyone who proposes military action is a neocon, while those opposing it are deemed progressive, it could leave us with a truly stunted foreign policy. This makes it all the more important to keep an eye on which way the foreign policy establishment is swaying in the coming election. These Machiavellis will no doubt have the ear of their Prince or Princess, and it could affect our global policy for the next decade.

Others Blogging It:

Matthew Yglesias
Atrios
The Van Der Galien Gazette


UPDATE:


Dan Drezner gets it right:


Why should the netroots be upset about Cohen's argument? Everything from Crashing The Gate onwards has been about how the left should appropriate the tactics of the right, because it was politically effective. Isn't this tactic exactly what Cohen is describing?


And Ezra Klein gets it wrong:


Cohen may not, personally, think like Bill Kristol. But he certainly writes like him. "Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy," he says, naming no names, and instead offering a simple, generalized accusation of anti-semitism against all those who question the neoconservatives.

---

These are not arguments. They are smears. They are attacks aimed at degrading the credibility, rather than the beliefs, of the coalition that opposes the Iraq War. And in intent and effect, they are indistinguishable from Bill Kristol's worst columns, save for the possibility that they are more effective, because they ostensibly come from within the Left, rather than outside of it.


Once again, don't look under your bed, there just might be a Bill Kristol! Consensus on foreign policy apparently strikes Ezra as enabling and unthinkable, even though Democrats and Republicans often agreed on matters of war and diplomacy throughout the last century. This is why Senator Johnson could mobilize his party to support a Republican president's war effort. This is why Republicans and Democrats alike could support the same approach in dealing with the Soviet Empire. This is why two of the top-tier Democrats, both currently courting the anti-war vote, could authorize the invasion of Iraq in support of their president.

This behavior, or similarity in tone, surprises Ezra. Forget the very Liberal merits in staying in Iraq, those are irrelevant. To approve of such a thing would make you a neocon, thus dismissing you from the table. The appropriate behavior for any good Democrat would be to apologize for the invasion, and get out. Anything short of that enables the scary neocons, and PNAC and other bad stuff.

I've asked neo-progressives to outline what their world might look like in fifteen months. The talking point bogey men will presumably be gone, and if they get their way, a progressive will take the White House.

What's the plan?

Democracy, Hizbullah Style

From Beirut to the Beltway:


The opposition's refusal to have a candidate is reminiscent of their refusal to disclose their objections on the Hariri Tribunal, calling instead for the discussion to take place within a "national unity government". Today, they won't go into names of candidates now before agreeing on the agenda of the next government.

Naturally, fielding a candidate implies acceptance of the democratic process and the right of MPs to vote. Hizbullah prefers to train and arm its allies, and maintain an illegal occupation in downtown Beirut, restricting access to the government building and parliament. After a "slip of the tongue" by an Amal MP a few days ago that the "opposition" might end the "sit-in", Hizbullah quickly denied anything of the sort would happen before an agreement is announced between Saad Hariri and Nabih Berri.

Patriotism and Basketball

Matthew Yglesias on patriotism and Knicks fans:


There were two kinds of Knicks fans in New York when I was a kid. On the one hand, you had people who wanted the Knicks to win, who therefore found Michael Jordan's global fame somewhat annoying, who and who learned, watching Knicks game after Knicks game, to appreciate what there is to appreciate about grind-it-out defense-oriented physical basketball. On the other hand you had crazy people who would insist that Patrick Ewing was the best center in the game, that Michael Jordan only seemed good because he got superstar calls, and were, generally speaking, completely out of touch with reality. The attitude toward America that conservatives like to champion is like this latter batch of Knicks fans -- not people animated by a special concern for our fellow-citizens and a special appreciation for our country's virtues, but by a deep emotional investment in a certain kind of national hagiography and myth-making.

Neo-Progressive Diplomacy

While reading around the progressive blogosphere, I continue to be puzzled by the reaction to rising tensions between Iran and the United States. While I understand the desire to avoid another costly and poorly conducted war, I'm having trouble figuring out what alternatives the Netroots would like to see us pursue.

Should we ignore Iran? Should we negotiate with them directly? Should we put them on par with the Soviet Union? All of these options have glaring flaws, and frankly, don't seem to be very well thought out. Here's a bit of a roundup on neo-progressive sentiment on the issue:


AlterNet:


After the Second World War the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, part of East Prussia and part of Slovakia. Then, mostly through rigged elections, it turned Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria into puppet states and used military force, when necessary, to maintain that status.

Neither the United States -- nor anyone else -- seriously challenged any of that.

Basically, we accepted that anything that happened inside the Iron Curtain -- formed by the positions where the Red Army stopped at the end of the war -- was inside its sphere of influence.

Booman Tribune:

This also explains the open hostility of many in the Bush administration to Iran, as evidenced by the statement by Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defence Secretary Robert Gates (as reported in ask's recommended diary at Booman Tribune) to visiting British MP's that "I hate all Iranians." Clearly her attitude reflects the general zeitgeist within all levels the Bush administration, which after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and the utter failure of the Iraqi occupation, have now focused all their attention on Iran as the "next enemy" to be taken down, whatever the cost in lives, money or worldwide economic turmoil.

Ezra Klein:

At the end of the day, I don't think we're going to stop the Iranian nuclear program. We're not serious enough about doing so. The country's politicians have committed to it going away, not trading it away. But the former isn't much of an option and the latter is unlikely. So it will likely proceed apace. That's why I'm so insistent on politicians actually signaling whether or not they'd attack Iran to end their atomic pursuit -- because that will probably be the choice they face. And so I'm glad to see that Hillary Clinton is atoning for her vote in favor of Lieberman-Kyl by cosponsoring a resolution that states that any funds used to attack Iran must go through an explicit process of congressional approval. The bill, of course, is unlikely to pass, but if Democrats are willing to stand behind it, they can publicize the problem and make action by the Bush administration significantly less likely.


So the thought process seems to be as follows: War with Iran is an unacceptable negative, whereas immediate capitulation should be viewed as nuanced and positive. After all, people who talk to their enemies are serious, and those who consider military action are simply jingoistic and "hawkish."

This seems to be the preferred logic by critics on the far Left, despite any lack in clarity and specifics. For starters, this method limits your leverage immediately if negotiations were to ever occur. As Jason Steck points out, it's pretty routine to play out attack scenarios and wave the big stick. You do this because you can. Iran is also playing this game to the best of their ability by declaring to the world that they have missiles pointed towards Israel.

There is a place here for coercive diplomacy, as Iran certainly doesn't want to be attacked or harmed all for the sake of a nuclear program that's in its infancy. It's a Power Strategy Mix, one that has yielded some positive results in dealing with North Korea. So why would we begin the process with immediate limitations and fewer options?

Even more confusing is the constant referencing of the Soviet Union in this matter. Dan Senor recently dismissed this argument in the Wall Street Journal:


Iran is not the Soviet Union and the post-9/11 struggle is not the Cold War. The deterrence camp is willing to stand by as Iran develops nuclear weapons, presumably on the model that Iran will eventually collapse as the Soviet Union did. But the Argentinean case demonstrates what Tehran was willing and able to do when it had no nuclear umbrella. If, as the 9/11 Commission Report argues, the U.S. suffered from a "failure of imagination" regarding how far terrorists would go, a nuclear Iran risks encouraging the terrorist imagination to take another quantum leap.


Not only that, but Iran's extensive history of imperialism via proxy makes it far too difficult to simply "contain" them. How do you contain Hezbollah? How do you contain Hamas? Does such containment involve Syria as well? Following the Cold War logic, what line do we draw, and where would we define the Iranian "sphere of influence"?

The Iranians do not have the position of power that the Soviets held. We tolerated their sphere (which isn't entirely accurate, unless you want to call supporting outspoken dissidents living behind the curtain tolerance), because they could utilize their power to make good on their ambitions. The Iranians can still be stopped, and approaching them any differently grants them an undeserved legitimacy. We should avoid such a mistake at all costs. So why then do the progressive bloggers prefer this method?

None of these questions have been answered by the Left. Instead, we've had hyperbolic ranting and raving about neo-cons and Norman Podhoretz. We hear an awful lot in the blogosphere about progressive values and progressive candidates.

What does progressive diplomacy look like?

Ruffini on Inflated Kos Numbers

Who's to blame? Patrick Ruffini blames SiteMeter:


Currently, Kos's average daily "visit" count stands at about 454,000 and his daily page views at 538,000, a low 1.18 ratio. This number has fed the huge mythology surrounding Kos that he has "half a million" readers a day (I used the number 600,000 as recently as 48 hours ago), while top conservatives are stuck in the muck at about 100,000 to 150,000. These are the numbers used to populate N.Z. Bear's frequently referenced traffic ranking.

We now know that the only thing we can trust about the SiteMeter numbers are the page views. And from that we can arrive at a more realistic number of daily unique visitors for Daily Kos and other leading blogs.

How so? The best guide we probably have are other netroots blogs like MyDD (stats) and OpenLeft (stats) built on open community platforms. They have low enough traffic that SiteMeter's inflationary effect is minimal at best. Using Scoop (what Kos uses) and SoapBlox respectively, both have a ratio of about 1.9 page views for every visit (itself a less stringent measure than "unique visitor"). On Red State, where there is likely a little bit of this effect, it's about 1.8 to 1. On a Wordpress-style blog without diaries, the ratio averages 1.5 page views per visit.

Extrapolating from Kos' page view number, a more accurate "visitor" number for Kos would be in the neighborhood of 283,000. If Kos is a stickier site than MyDD or OpenLeft (a fair assumption), that number is probably lower. That works out to an artificial inflation in the accepted Daily Kos traffic number of about 60%.

---

Why does this matter? Because if someone uncovered a 60% ratings inflation in Rush Limbaugh's or Bill O'Reilly's numbers, we'd never hear the end of it.

2008? Hold On!

Editor's Note: Join us in welcoming James Skoufis to RealClearBlogs. James is an experienced blogger who has covered state and local elections all across the country. The addition of his voice to the blog will help us further provide the best debates, discussions and commentary from around the blogosphere for RCP readers.

With the media saturated with 2008 news, thirteen months out from the general election, it's not hard to miss that there are three governorships up for grabs this year. On second though, "up for grabs" may not exactly be the best phrase to use, as you'll see.

In Louisiana, popular Republican Representative Bobby Jindal is pitted against Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell as well as Independent John Georges. Polls have consistently shown Jindal with a huge lead, but it is still uncertain whether he will be able to reach the 50% + 1 needed to avoid a runoff election. Louisiana is unique in that it is one of the very few states that forces a second election if one candidate does not win a majority of the vote - if such a scenario occurs, the top two candidates, regardless of party, face-off in a runoff.

The latest poll, conducted in early September, shows Jindal leading with 51%, State Senator Boasso in second with 11%, Public Service Commissioner Campbell with 8%, and wealthy businessman Georges rounding out the pack with 7%. The poll however was commissioned by an outfit hired by Campbell, so take the numbers with the appropriate grain of salt; most other polls have shown Jindal closer to the 60% mark.

State Democrats are hopeful that if they can get a candidate into the runoff that they may have a chance to retain the seat being vacated by unpopular Governor Kathleen Blanco, but chances still seem extremely slim even if that happens. Hurricane Katrina forced nearly a million refugees into neighboring states, almost all of which were black Democratic voters, further hurting the party's chances of electoral success. Those who stayed were extremely unhappy with the Democratic state government's response to the hurricane. To make matters worse, an ad attacking Jindal's religious views completely backfired and looked desperate. All in all, the best Democrats can probably hope for is to save face and force a runoff; the race's primary will be held on October 20th, and if needed, the runoff election will be held on November 17th.

Neighboring Mississippi also has a gubernatorial contest this year, and like Louisiana, the Republicans look poised to win. Incumbent Governor Haley Barbour, like Jindal, has high approval ratings and benefits from holding office in one of the reddest states in the nation. That being said, the most recent poll I've been able to find of the race, way back in April of this year, had Barbour under 50% - albeit at 49.6%. John Arthur Eaves Jr, Barbour's Democratic opponent, pulls 35.4%. The one caveat is that nearly 1/3 of Mississippi voters polled had no idea who Eaves was. In other words, there may be significant room for improvement for the Democratic personal injury lawyer. Since April, Eaves' campaign has gone very negative on Barbour, hoping to drive down his approval ratings; It'll be interesting to see new numbers on this race when they become available. That being said, Barbour remains the very strong favorite to win, but an upset isn't completely out of the realm of possibility; the election will be held on November 6th.

The third and final state to have a statewide election this year is the Bluegrass State. Tattered from a bitter primary and still under heavy scrutiny for awarding civil service jobs to political loyalists, incumbent Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher faces an extremely uphill race against former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Steve Beshear. Perhaps the only thing more unpopular than awarding civil service jobs to political loyalists is pardoning political loyalists after being indicted for accepting said civil service jobs. But that's exactly what Fletcher did - issuing a blanket pardon for everyone in his administration who was involved in the scandal. Needless to say, he isn't exactly Mr. Popular in Kentucky.

Also needless to say, nearly every poll has shown Beshear thumping Fletcher. The most recent one has Fletcher losing 35%-45% which is actually an improvement over most other polls. In nearly every other instance, Beshear is winning by a 20-point margin. An incumbent Republican governor in a red state under 40% - never mind under 50% - is very, very bad news. Apparently running on an anti-casinos platform isn't a winning strategy in Kentucky; look for a big Beshear win on November 6th.

I told you these three races weren't really "up for grabs."

Sloppy

I've beaten this drum before, but once again it seems necessary to point out that the "future of journalism" isn't looking too bright these days.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo continues to misunderstand the diplomatic community's concerns surrounding Iran, and today twists a Norman Podhoretz quote way out of context:


So this is the threat. Iran overturns the current unipolar world order and replaces it with a new world order dominated by Iran. It's really quite astonishing that people even write this garbage with a straight face. And yet there it is. Lost in all of this is that Iran is, what?, a third rate military power? Maybe?

Despite my reservations about the often hawkish Podhoretz, Marshall has in this instance taken the man's words and stripped them of all meaning.

This may come as a surprise to Marshall, but there are in fact other countries with good reasons to fear a nuclear Iran. You could ask the UAE, who had the Island of Abu Musa seized from them by the Iranians, with little to no international recourse. Then there are the Qataris, whose economy rests on their abundant supplies of natural gas. How comfortable would they be with a nuclear-armed Iran residing over the gas fields of South Pars?

It was, after all, King Abdullah II of Jordan who expressed concerns over the so-called "Shia crescent," with the potential threat of an emancipated and empowered Shiite coalition posing a united front against regimes like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. These fears weren't concocted by Darth Cheney, but are instead the very real concerns of states that must deal with a hegomonic Iran.

Also, a nuclear Iran would undoubtedly become a further isolated Iran. This effects the Azerbaijanis, who will attempt this month to settle territorial disputes over the Caspian, and build bridges with the republic on energy development. Syria's economy depends heavily on Iran, and would likewise be stunted by a sanctioned and lonely Tehran.

These things aren't top secret, nor were they cooked up in some neo-con think tank. This information is out there, and it's abundantly clear that a more aggressive and nuclear Iran changes the political order in the Middle East, altering all negotiations, concessions and agreements in the region.

This of course is what Podhoretz meant, and he's absolutely right. All of this seems to be inconsequential to Marshall, who has once again chosen partisanship over journalism.

Blogging Burma

It's becoming more and more apparent that things in Burma may be far worse than we initially realized. Gateway Pundit is aggregating all the latest news and info on this tragedy, while other bloggers are trying to sort out the political implications.

Vox Popoli makes an intriguing point:


Whether the victims are Jews, Buddhists, Christians or even atheists like most of the Chinese students at Tiananmen, the equation is always the same. The secular state, jealous of its power, murdering those it deems threatening.

Government is the problem. Government has murdered more human beings in the last century than every war, civil war and private crime in the world combined.


Well, sure. While I understand the point that governments kill, I don't however see this as the appropriate time to have it out between the secularists and the religionists. Yes, the Soviet Union and the Khmer Rouge were just as apt at killing, despite being devoid of any religious fervor. But it should be noted that while undemocratic governments must suppress and kill, democratic ones are obviously less prone to do so.

Government = bad is not the right lesson to take away from the atrocities reportedly taking place in Burma. The Buddhist monks taking beatings and bullets there aren't marching in favor of flat taxes and small government, but rather, freedom and transparency.

Government isn't the problem here, but bad government most certainly is.

Others Blogging It:

Jules Crittenden
Blue Crab Boulevard

Rewarding Iran

From the Telegraph:


"The president of Iran pledged to Prime Minister Maliki during a recent meeting that he would stop the flow of weapons, the training, the funding and the directing of these militia extremists that have been such a huge problem really for Iraq," Gen Petraeus said.

The most obvious goodwill gesture open to Gen Petraeus is to release Iranian officials held by US forces and accused of being senior figures in Iran's Revolutionary Guards Qods Force, a secretive unit that directs support for overseas terrorists.


If true, this is certainly positive news. We should be careful about getting into tit for tat, Bill Richardson-style diplomacy with a terror sponsoring regime, lest we're willing to grant legitimacy to their actions. In my opinion, we mustn't create such a moral equivalence. However, anything that could lessen the violence and chaos in Iraq is a good thing, and should be pursued if at all possible. Jason Steck thinks this is the right way to go:


The move shows a reality in opposition to the fiction constructed about United States policy by many of the harshest critics of the Bush administration in their search for a Manichean "pure" narrative about events in Iraq. In spite of calls from so-called "neocons" for an aggressive approach towards Iran, actual U.S. policy has favored the diplomatic front spearheaded by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

U.S. contingency planning for military action, frequently leaked to the press, serves as a stick alongside diplomatic carrots, not a serious policymaking option. The U.S. lacks forces for an Iran attack, enjoys little likelihood of success in either crippling Iranian nuclear activities or Iran arms trafficking, faces the threat of "asymmetric" Iranian retaliation against a broad range of U.S. interests, and cannot obtain necessary political and military domestic support for an attack even if the "neocons" held the kind of power that the fearful thought anyway. An attack on Iran would be disastrous to U.S. interests, and most signs are that the Bush administration has at least embraced that much of the lessons of recent history.


Jason has the right idea. But, I have a couple of questions:


1. Is General Petraeus being a good White House shill by publicly applauding negotiations with Iran?

2. If Iran isn't actually supplying weapons to Shia militants in Iraq, what is the good general talking about?

The far Left has been silent on this story today, and I can't blame them. They have been running with the Bush/Darth Cheney/war in Iran is inevitable narrative for weeks now, and it'll make them look awfully silly if Iran is truly beginning to bend.

Rebelling Against Rudy

Our top story this morning from around the blogosphere is the buzz of a third party brewing on the Christian Right. Not thrilled by the prospect of a Rudy Giuliani candidacy, some Christian activists are preparing to take matters into their own hands. John Hawkins shares his thoughts at Right Wing News:


Now, I am of the opinion that anyone the GOP runs in 2008, including Giuliani, would be an improvement over the Democratic nominee for America, conservatives, and yes, for social conservatives.

However, given that the Republican base is disgruntled because they don't think the GOP leadership is conservative enough and that Rudy is almost guaranteed to alienate large numbers of social conservatives that the GOP absolutely cannot win without in 2008....well, you get the idea.

In the end, if Rudy were to capture the nomination, he would not be able to hold and turn out a high enough percentage of Republican voters to win the election -- especially after he began running back towards the middle for the general election.

You can say that's not fair and that conservatives should be willing to compromise more to win, but we have to deal with reality as we find it and realistically, I don't think Rudy has what it takes to win the Republican nomination or the presidency. Time will tell if I am right...


Meanwhile, Digby can't get over the irony:


I'm certainly looking forward to all the stories about the Republicans being held hostage by their far right "activists" who stupidly refuse to compromise and are ruining their party's chance for victory. I'm especially looking forward to the insightful piece in the NY Times that posits that the 60's narrative that so animates the whole political establishment is now turned on its head: the war is unpopular with a vast (somewhat) silent majority, but the social radicalism and upheaval that fueled the Republican rise back in the day is now all on the conservative side.

You tell me which party should have more to fear that its base is alienating the American people? Which party really needs to be running from the "crazies" of its base and which one's "crazies" are actually average Americans from all walks of life whose most radical proposal is to ensure that all Americans have access to a doctor?


Others Blogging It:

Van Der Galien Gazette
Outside The Beltway
Bark Bark Woof Woof

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