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July 28, 2008

Manny Being Manny in Mesopotamia?
Posted by Adam Blickstein

While this weekend's bombings threaten to unravel the relative sectarian calm in Iraq, the historical tensions between slugger Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox front office have again reemerged during baseball's second half.  Which of course makes this Manny quote that much more curious:

“I could choose a team that offers me the best conditions or one in the chase for the postseason. I don't care where I play, I can even play in Iraq if need be. My job is to play baseball."

Not sure if even the Iraqi's could put up with Manny antics, though I would love to see Scott Boras lead the status of forces negotiations.  So what are the conditions on the ground like for Iraqi baseball? The NY Times had it covered it in 2005:

The players laid out the bases at the edge of a fallow soccer pitch, where the grass had grown to shin height and was full of dust from sand storms. A herd of cows and sheep grazed nearby. The players drew from a communal stockpile of gloves - most do not own their own - and took turns batting and running the bases.

There were a lot of wild throws, and few hits made it out of the infield. The shortstop was out of position, playing nearly on top of second base, and for some reason everyone referred to the catcher as "the umpire." Many players in the league said they had never seen the sport played by non-Iraqis; even Mr. Ismael has only seen college or professional players from abroad on instructional DVD's and videos.

Looks like Iraq be in the market for some Tom Emanski instructional videos. I wonder how Fred McGriff would sound in Arabic...

July 27, 2008

John McCain on the Gas Tax
Posted by Michael Cohen

Check out John McCain's argument on ABC today about on how we can make the gas tax work. Offered without comment:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a single economist in the country said it’d work.

MCCAIN: Yes. And there’s no economist in the country that knows very well the low-income American who drives the furthest, in the oldest automobile, that sometimes can’t even afford to go to work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they all say that . . . the oil companies, the gas companies are going to absorb … any reduction.

MCCAIN: … they say that. But one, it didn’t happen before, and two, we wouldn’t let it happen. We wouldn’t let it — Americans wouldn’t let them absorb that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How would you prevent that?

MCCAIN: We would make them shamed into it. We, of course, know how to — American public opinion. And we would penalize them, if necessary. But they wouldn’t. They would pass it on.

Does John McCain Know What a Timetable Is?
Posted by Michael Cohen

You really have to watch this interview with John McCain on ABC this morning: it's disturbing on a number of levels. Check out this exchange between McCain and George Stephanopolous:

JM: I want to make very clear to you, it's not a date, it's conditions on the ground.

GS: So, you shouldn't have used the word timetable?

JM: I didn't use the word timetable?

GS: You said "pretty good timetable."

JM: Well anything is a good timetable that is dictated by conditions on the ground. Anything is good, but the timetable is dictated by conditions on the ground, not by an artificial date.

Ok, let's ignore the fact that right before these words were spoken, Stephanopolous literally repeated McCain's statement back to him about a "pretty good timetable." It's one thing to forget something you said the day before, but Stephanopolous actually began the interview with these words. (I'm just saying).

But to the larger issue - by it's very nature a timetable IS NOT based on conditions on the ground. It's based on arbitrary or as McCain says "an artificial date." If Senator McCain believes that our leaving Iraq should be based solely on conditions on the ground (as he argued repeatedly in the interview) then he is making the argument that there should be no timetable for the withdrawal of troops. But here he is arguing that "anything is a good timetable." Quite simply, this doesn't make any sense.

This is not a minor mistake; McCain's entire campaign has been based on the notion that there should be no timetable for withdrawal. But from these words it is not clear that McCain even understands what a timetable is.

Continue reading "Does John McCain Know What a Timetable Is?" »

McCain doesn't understand Iraq war history, says "we were greeted as liberators"
Posted by Max Bergmann

On ABC's This Week, McCain when pressed by George Stephanopoulos whether Obama was right about invading Iraq, scoffed saying, "we were greeted as liberators." This just adds to the evidence of last week that John McCain doesn't understand the history of what's happened in Iraq.

So McCain now thinks that everything went as expected during the invasion that in fact American troops were greeted as liberators. One has to wonder if McCain's memory is really that bad. If McCain really believes that U.S. forces were greeted as liberators, as he and Cheney, predicted, then he clearly has no understanding of what actually happened in Iraq.  

In fact, during the initial phase of the war U.S. forces encountered tougher resistance than expected and the cheering crowds failed to materialize. Max Boot, McCain's own military adviser, said at the time that the idea we would be greeted as liberators"might have been wishful thinking." [Boston Globe, 3/28/03]The Philly Inquirer said that one top administration official "almost every assumption the plan's based on looks to be wrong." The administration was expecting a WWII type toppling, but instead Saddam's forces blended in with the population providing unexpected resistance that laid the ground work for the coming insurgency.While the battle for Baghdad did not materialize and the city fell quickly the result was chaos, not parades of liberation. While McCain was praising Bush and Rumsfeld, the Boston Globe noted on April 20, 2003 that,

More than a week into "Phase 4" - the reconstruction of Iraq, the centerpiece of the military's effort to be seen as liberators and not conquerors - life in Baghdad has decidedly not returned to normal. In all levels of society, from those who openly embrace American military rule to fundamentalist Shi'ites who seek to replace Saddam Hussein with an Islamic government, people here are expressing swelling suspicion of America's motives. At night, the capital's residents listen to a cacophony of gunfire in total darkness, unless they have generators. People beg journalists for phones, because they have had none since US forces started bombing Baghdad. Government buildings still smolder and hospitals turn away patients, even though by the end of last week, US troops belatedly began guarding crucial public buildings - most of which already had been looted.


July 26, 2008

Voting Against the Troops
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

McCain's campaign knows it's in trouble.  Obama just rocked an impressive international trip in which he showed not only the type of signal that he would send to the world, but that he does in fact have a greater grip of the issues.  Meanwhile, McCain was at home embarrassing himself on the Anbar Awakening and flailing around on timelines.

So, naturally on cue.  Here come the really nasty, disgusting personal attack ads about how Obama hates the troops.  Ya, of course he does.  Which is why he got this incredible reception from American forces in Kuwait. 

But, I'll let others address the reason that these claims are absolute garbage.  I wanted to focus on McCain's claim that Obama "voted against troop funding."  Well guess what?  So did John McCain.  Last year during the fight over Iraq troop funding and withdrawal from Iraq we saw two rounds of bills.  The first would force the President to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days.  It passed and was vetoed by the President.  John McCain voted against it and supported Bush's veto. So according to John McCain's own definition he himself voted against funding the troops.  Obama voted against the second round of bills, which did not include any attempt to force the President to bring American troops home.

If we want to have a real policy debate we should have it.  But Republican attempts to cast disagreement about the war as "voting against the troops" is disingenuous and not good for our country.  The American people wizened up to these kinds of phony attacks.  John McCain claimed to be above that type of politics.  But he obviously is not. 

"Fawning" Foreigners: Obama Big, McCain Small
Posted by Ari Melber

The McCain Campaign has finally found its line of attack against Barack Obama's widely heralded global tour. Ever since Obama canceled a trip to visit wounded soldiers in Germany, based on logistical disagreements with the Pentagon, McCain has used the snafu to argue that Obama -- you guessed it -- does not support the troops.  A new ad, released on Saturday, assails Obama for prioritizing limelight and exercise over honoring American soldiers:


And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.


The ad is running in selected markets in Colorado, Pennsylvania and DC. The campaign would not release the overall ad buy; the limited run suggests it is more focused on shaping the media narrative than directly persuading voters around the country.

Continue reading ""Fawning" Foreigners: Obama Big, McCain Small" »

July 25, 2008

The McCain Campaign's Worst Nightmare
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

For months the McCain campaign has been attempting to separate him from George Bush and it finally seems to have worked.  They must be thrilled with this headline from the NY Times.

Bush and McCain Seem to Diverge in Foreign Policy

Perfect.  McCain is the reasonable centrist.  Bush is the crazy man nobody likes.  This is exactly what they've been pushing for.  Oh wait...

Essentially, as the Bush administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of Mr. McCain, of Arizona, to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neoconservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration.

Whether the perception of Mr. McCain as being at odds with the administration is politically advantageous for him is a matter of debate among his supporters, but many of his more conservative advisers do not think it is a bad thing.

“There’s no doubt, particularly as Bush has adopted policies in the direction of Obama, that that gives Obama bragging rights,” said John R. Bolton, the Bush administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who has sharply criticized the administration’s talks with Iran and North Korea. “But if you believe as I do that this administration is in the midst of an intellectual collapse, it doesn’t hurt McCain. Occasionally in politics it helps to be right.”

Could this be any worse for the McCain campaign?  These guys spent months trying to cultivate an image of a more moderate and reasonable foreign policy than George Bush.  The LA World Affairs Council Speech was all about portraying McCain as being better with our European allies.  The nuclear speech was supposed to make McCain seem more reasonable about international institutions.  But it's hard to make that arugment when on the most fundamental questions of war and peace you are as conservative and hawkish as John McCain.  It seems to finally have caught up with him.

On top of that.  Who is standing up for him and agreeing with his policies?  None other than John Bolton.  A guy who spends his days criticizing the Bush Administration for being too soft.


Bottom line:  from the start of this campaign one of the central imperatives for the McCain campaign was to distance itself from George Bush's extreme foreign policy.  They seem to have failed and that is some seriously bad news for John McCain.

An Appropriate Ending to a Miserable Week
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

OK.  So McCain finishes off this week by essentially endorsing Obama's 16 month timetable.  Seriously?  I'm glad he's taking my advice.  I really don't know what to make of this.  Either:

A.  He has finally come around to the right policy and has a lot of apologizing to do to Barack Obama.  After all, because of Obama's support for timetables, McCain has said this week that Obama would rather lose a war than lose and election. 


B.   McCain.  A man who is highly influenced by Neoconservative thought and earlier this year was arguing for keeping American troops in Iraq for 100 years, before moving to the permanent South Korea-like permanent basing model, is confused about his policy or just willing to say anything to win an election.

Count me a skeptic, but somehow I don't think a 16 month timetable will be part of the Iraq playbook if McCain becomes President.  Not when conservative allies like Charles Krauthammer are arguing that McCain is the candidate of permanent bases.

Obama's Berlin Speech
Posted by Michael Cohen

Over at the New York I had a few thoughts on Obama's Berlin speech that hopefully will be of interest to DA readers:

Few places hold as much symbolic power for presidential speechmaking as Berlin. So it’s little surprise that Barack Obama chose this city for his first major foray onto the global stage.

But if the West was united in 1963 when John F. Kennedy offered a lacerating indictment of communism and in 1987 when Ronald Reagan demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall, today the trans-Atlantic alliance is teetering, with genuine and serious divisions between Europe and the United States.

To bridge these fissures, Mr. Obama returned to the same language he has used to try to bridge the partisan divide in America. In fact, his first major overseas speech on Thursday was not dissimilar to the ones he delivered in high school gymnasiums and town hall meetings in the United States. As a reflection of his call for post-partisan politics, it was classic Barack Obama.

Back during the Democratic primaries, it was more than a message of change that spurred Mr. Obama’s political rise, it was his vision of a united America coming together to solve common challenges — a call reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s pledge nearly 30 years ago to “make America great again.” Indeed, Mr. Obama’s message then was as much about bridging the divisions between blue-state and red-state America as it was about his policy prescriptions for providing universal health care or fixing a broken economy. In Berlin, he took this nonpartisan populist message and repackaged it for the rest of the world.

During the last few months, Mr. Obama has strayed somewhat from these themes, focusing more on the back and forth of daily politics and less on what George H. W. Bush deridingly called the “vision thing.” But it returned with a vengeance yesterday in the German capital.

Read the rest here.

Everybody Get Together
Posted by David Shorr

David Brooks misses the point when he takes a shot at Obama's people-coming-together message:

Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together. We should help Israelis and Palestinians unite. We should unite to prevent genocide in Darfur. We should unite so the Iranians won’t develop nukes.

This isn't a mystical hope, it's our only hope. I don't think there are any illusions; this approach entails painstaking diplomatic work and navigating minefields of interests, sensitivities, slow-rolling, spoilers, malefactors... But as with any major policy dilemma, you have to ask: what's the alternative?

The fact is that we won't get anywhere with the forementioned international challenges -- or any of the numerous others -- without greater international solidarity and cooperation, which has been in short supply in recent years. When you put these key realities side by side -- a fragmented world community, ineffectual American leadership, and the pandora's box of urgent international challenges -- I think it's a slam dunk that we should try to bring the world's leaders, governments, and peoples together. We have a lot more to lose from not trying than from trying.

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