mm245: Obama – the pundits are still marveling

January 6, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

A news story that just won’t go away: Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee winning the Iowa caucuses; our post, including a distressingly poor quality but nevertheless inspiring video, is here.

The always refreshingly incisive Steve Chapman sheds some light:

Authenticity is the winner in Iowa test

Steve Chapman | January 6, 2008 | Chicago Tribune

Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton talked a lot about building “a bridge to the 21st Century.” Right now, his wife looks like an unappealing detour back to the 20th.

Having him stand behind her as she addressed supporters after her third-place finish in Iowa didn’t help. She might as well have invited Fleetwood Mac to provide the music. Nostalgia isn’t everything.

The Iowa caucuses, it should be noted, are rarely as decisive as they may appear. Since 1976, only one candidate has won Iowa on the way to becoming president—George W. Bush in 2000. But if you can’t win the election in Iowa, you can certainly put yourself in a solid position to lose it, which is what Clinton and John Edwards accomplished Thursday evening.

Steve Chapman The evening was full of surprises. I would not have guessed that Barack Obama would reprise a German slogan chanted upon the fall of the Berlin Wall: “We are one people.” But it was appropriate, since the polarization of the last 15 years has featured everything short of an Iron Curtain between the red states and the blue.

Regarding Huckabee, Chapman warns that a win for an evangelical darling” in Iowa may not translate in the rest of the U.S.:

His victory was one for “none of the above.” Once voters get to know the newcomer better, he may look worse than the other options.

And as for Romney and Clinton, he believes that their smooth politician’s pandering became transparent to Iowa’s caucusers.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Authenticity is the winner in Iowa test — chicagotribune.com

Faithful reader should know by now what side of the political spectrum yr (justifiably) humble svt usually finds himself, not for nothing is this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© is called Left-Handed Complement.

And readers of Steve Chapman, in the Tribune as well as Reason have every reason (as it were) to believe they know on which side of the aisle he feels most comfortable.

Yet, both of us are (perhaps unexpectedly, or in spite of our selves) impressed by Obama’s victory this past Thursday night.

The key question remains regarding every candidate: can s(he) govern?

This jury is still out. But, this endless presidential election campaign has certainly become a great deal more compelling.

And our increasing concerns about the dirtiest dirty tricks of all in American politics, outright election fraud, will become a great deal more compelling as Obama’s sizable contingent of young and minority voters find roadblocks to casting their ballots.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm121: We’re fighting at least three wars in Iraq. Do you want to end them all? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

August 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Christopher Hitchens is that guy you love to hate. His best seller, God is Not Great is currently No. 5 on the New York Times list (since one needs an account to access the list, I thought I’d just show you the pix):

hitchensbestseller

This is not some retiring violet — the man does like to pick a fight.

But yet. He does have a way of making sense.

Here he is in Slate yesterday, making sense:

slate

We’re fighting at least three of them.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, at 4:56 PM ET

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Click image to expand.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

When people say that they want to end the war in Iraq, I always want to ask them which war they mean. There are currently at least three wars, along with several subconflicts, being fought on Iraqi soil. The first, tragically, is the battle for mastery between Sunni and Shiite. The second is the campaign to isolate and defeat al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The third is the struggle of Iraq’s Kurdish minority to defend and consolidate its regional government in the north.

The balance of the article is quite concise for Mr. Hitchens. Take a look.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

We’re fighting at least three wars in Iraq. Do you want to end them all? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

So, no wonder the Bush administration is so confounded by Iraq. I’m sure that they have no idea that they’re fighting three different wars there!

And our prospective leaders may have the same trouble:

The ability to distinguish among these different definitions of the “war” is what ought to define the difference between a serious politician and a political opportunist, both in Iraq and in America….

Meanwhile, it is all very well for Sens. Clinton and Levin to denounce the Maliki government and to say that he and his Dawa Party colleagues are not worth fighting for. But what do they say about the other two wars?

Attention, candidates! Please learn already that the USA’s position in the world cannot be summarized in a 20-second sound byte.

What are your substantive thoughts (i.e., body text, not headlines) about the panoply of messes (some we’ve inherited, some we’ve created, some we’re just bemusedly observing) in the world?

Show us your brains, candidates! (And that goes for you putative non-candidates — Michael Bloomberg I mean you!)

Start by telling us what you think of this Christopher Hitchens analysis (I know, you wouldn’t touch his atheistic whatever with a 10-foot whatever so leave his name out of it if you must), but acknowledge that our world is more complex than ABC123.

Wouldn’t it be a wondrous achievement if we elect a president for her/his brains, not his superficialities as showcased through the expenditure of $billions in manipulative advertising and nefarious “swift boaters”?

Will I live that long?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm120: Study: US preparing ‘massive’ military attack against Iran | The Raw Story

August 28, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Today was collection day here at L-HC. Accumulated enough story ideas for a week at least; of course, if they’re news based, the fish get stale quickly.

Found this courtesy of reddit.com, out-digging Digg once again, and it caused me to toss the fish back, perhaps to catch another day.

This one is too important not to share.

rawstoryinvestigates

iranattack

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday August 28, 2007

The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to a new analysis.

The paper, “Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMD in the Middle East” – written by well-respected British scholar and arms expert Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and Martin Butcher, a former Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament – was exclusively provided to RAW STORY late Friday under embargo.

Well, okay, we know that military strategists are always war-gaming, right?

The study concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran’s WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.

Sounds a bit more further advanced than a theoretical game, huh?

It’s lengthy, but now take a look at the original story.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Raw Story | Study: US preparing ‘massive’ military attack against Iran

Anyone the least bit concerned about this?

Even-handedly, near the end, the report includes some push-back:

“The report seems to accept without question that US air force and navy bombers could effectively destroy Iran and they seem to ignore the fact that US use of air power in Iraq has failed to destroy all major military, political, economic and transport capabilities,” said Johnson late Monday after the embargo on the study had been lifted.

“But at least in their conclusions they still acknowledge that Iran, if attacked, would be able to retaliate. Yet they are vague in terms of detailing the extent of the damage that the Iran is capable of inflicting on the US and fairly assessing what those risks are.”

Back to the paper:

We should not underestimate the Bush administration’s ability to convince itself that an “Iran of the regions” will emerge from a post-rubble Iran. So, do not be in the least surprised if the United States attacks Iran. Timing is an open question, but it is hard to find convincing arguments that war will be avoided, or at least ones that are convincing in Washington.

Constant reader may already know this about MUDGE: I am not a knee-jerk pacifist peace-nik make love not war child of the sixties.

Like so many of my generation, I artfully dodged the Vietnam draft, in the interests of self-preservation rather than some lofty anti-war principles, I freely, if somewhat shamefacedly admit.

But, carefully reflected upon, carefully conducted war has its place.

My father and father-in-law, both members of the Greatest Generation and now deceased, did their duty, honorably in an honorable cause.

My son, and new daughter-in-law both served multiple tours aboard Naval vessels in the Arabian Gulf enforcing the U.N. sanctions of Iraq in the ’90’s and targeting cruise missiles against the enemy in Afghanistan.

So, it’s not knee-jerk pacifist peace-nik make love not war that is making me feel nauseous as I write this.

Forest fires, after all, are Mother Nature’s way of taking old-growth forests and starting over. Sometimes this same principle may be operative where wrong-headed nations are concerned. Turns out that Smokey the Bear and his fellow peace-loving comrades were both utterly wrong.

Unfortunately, the Muslim states have made no secret of their aim to obliterate Israel, and it’s in reaction to that virulent hatred, and that alone, that causes this observer to think: “Hmm, remove Iran’s capabilities to destroy Tel Aviv and generally make destructive mischief throughout the region? Maybe sooner than later.”

So, I’m concerned. Not because punishing Iran is a bad idea per se. To protect our interests, which include Israel’s right to exist, some punishment may be necessary.

But the gang that can’t shoot straight scares me.

If there’s a way to conduct a preemptive strike against Iran, no matter how good the reasons, we cannot trust George III and his ne’er-do-well minions to correctly consider the geopolitical ramifications, nor direct the military campaign effectively.

So I’m thinking, “Stand down, Pentagon.”

And, all you macho presidential candidates out there (and Hillary, I meant you most of all!), Iran is not the issue with which to flex your warlike muscles. The stakes are way too high for posturing, either by the Bush mis-administration, or by any of you.

This is one initiative that, unless dire reality intrudes, should get put on the shelf until, say, 21-January-2009, the earliest.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm115: Barack Obama’s Republican edge

August 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Startling! Take a look:

salon

Barack Obama’s Republican edge

If he can win the Democratic primary, will his fans from the opposing party help take him all the way to the White House?

By Michael Scherer

Aug. 24, 2007 | It was sort of like finding a Christmas tree in a cornfield. In late July and early August, Iowa Republican voters were asked to name their choice for president in a University of Iowa poll. Mitt Romney, who leads most Iowa surveys, got 22 percent of the total. Rudy Giuliani came in second with 10 percent. But third place went to a Democrat, Barack Obama, who got nearly 7 percent — more than Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Sam Brownback combined.

Not to worry: The Obama campaign isn’t likely to join the Grand Old Party, and pollsters are convinced that Obama has exactly zero chance of winning the Republican caucus in Iowa. But something is going on. “I don’t want to make too much of it,” says David Redlawsk, the professor who commissioned the poll. “But I do think that the message Obama is putting out right now is the most likely to reach across party lines.”

There are other signs of Obama’s crossover appeal. Over the last several months, Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, has been holding focus groups for various media organizations like Fox News to find out what the public thinks of the presidential candidates. “I would ask Republicans, ‘Which Democratic candidate would you accept? Who would you consider to vote for?'” Luntz says. “Obama would get more than everybody else combined. Hillary [Clinton] and [John] Edwards have no crossover voters.”

A recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News revealed a third data point in Obama’s favor: When asked in July which Democratic candidate has the best chance to defeat a Republican in a general election, Republicans and independents were more likely than Democrats to pick Obama over Clinton. In fact, among Democrats, only 22 percent said Obama was the best general election candidate, while 54 percent flagged Clinton as the best in the general election. But among Republicans, 33 percent said Obama was the best candidate, and 37 percent said Hillary. In other words, Republicans were about 11 points more likely than Democrats to see Obama as the best shot for a Democratic White House.

Any political expert will tell you that polls don’t mean much five months before the first caucus. But a pattern may be emerging. In part because of Clinton’s high negatives among Republicans, it appears Obama is gaining momentum as a fresh candidate with a less divisive approach, by constantly appealing beyond the partisan lines of the last decade. His first television ad buy in Iowa included testimony from a Republican state lawmaker from Illinois talking up Obama and his ability to reach across party lines. As Obama reiterated in an appearance in Iowa last week, “The country is hungry for change. It wants something new. We want to chart a new direction for our nation.”

I find this story confounding, confusing, counterintuitive, and any other “c” word that’s appropriate.

Go ahead and take a look at the rest:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Salon.com News | Barack Obama’s Republican edge

If I hadn’t seen this story in Salon, I might suspect it’s part of a Republican dirty tricks campaign.

It’s a paramount tactic among the Roves of the world to do all that’s necessary to see that the other party nominates the candidate easiest to defeat in the general election. This explains John Kerry.

Because I have to tell you, gals and guys, it is my firmly held belief that what people say to pollsters and what they do in the privacy of the voting booth can differ astonishingly. This explains Harry Truman’s win in 1948.

I think that it’s understood that people tend to tell pollsters an idealized version of their beliefs, or a varnished version, or an aspirational version, and then they go ahead and reelect the (mainly) guys who are, deep down, the most like themselves in all the important ways (i.e., white, male, Christian).

And, I’m ready at all times to be thrilled and impressed with the maturity and intelligence of the U.S. voting public, but I can’t help but be overwhelmed by my curMUDGEonly insistence that the electorate of 2008 will not elect a black man president, nor, to be sure, the particular woman in question.

I’m disappointed with that situation, but here’s the other problem. Whatever those Iowans say, the only chance the Republicans have of having any of their motley crew of candidates win in November 2008 is if the Democrats, whose victory in Congress seems to have led to only (bloody and bloody-minded) business as usual, nominate a candidate sure to galvanize the demoralized Republican troops into the polls in (modern) record numbers.

Call me cynical, but the prospect of staying home and letting a black man, or that woman swear the oath of office on 20-January-2009 might cause even the most dispirited Republican voters to get out and vote for Rudy or Old Man McCain.

And in my opinion, the Democratic center, for all of its brave conversation, has not yet evolved so much further than their Republican counterparts.

Whatever they all say to the pollsters, in the utter privacy of the voting booth, I just can’t see the average citizen doing the right thing.

Finally, none of the candidates have much of a record of executive accomplishment. The more months go by, Rudy’s supposed turnaround of NYC is going to tarnish. Obama and Clinton and many of the rest are lawyers, managers only of assistants and paralegals. A couple of governors might have executive experience, but of small states with tiny local challenges. And Fred Thompson, you’re no Ronald Reagan!

Michael Bloomberg, we’re ready for you!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

BTW, Patrick Smith of Salon has a new Ask the Pilot column this weekend. Patrick, I don’t want to incur any further fiscal obligations to you and Salon.com, so I won’t excerpt it or comment further here, except to recommend that my fearless reader get over and check it out. Terrific as always.

–MUDGE

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