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September 06, 2008

One thing I just realized
Posted by Moira Whelan

Even though she is his running mate, John McCain still doesn't know Sarah Palin as well as he knows George W. Bush.

Mccainbushhug Bush and McCain have worked closely together for at least 8 years implementing reckless policies. Sarah Palin? He talked to her for 20 minutes on the phone before taking a road trip with her.

September 05, 2008

Petraeus: "Qaeda Undefeated in Iraq"
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Shh. Don't tell anyone who attended the GOP convention this past week, but Iraq still remains a vexing, dangerous, and uncertain place:

Al Qaeda remains a dangerous force in Iraq despite a general decline in violence and U.S. troops must continue to confront the militant group, the outgoing top U.S. general in the country said. General David Petraeus told al Arabiya television he believed recent success in reducing violence had restored the United States' image with Iraqis. Troops initially greeted as liberators but later viewed as occupiers were now again accepted as friends. In the interview recorded on Monday and scheduled for broadcast later on Friday, Petraeus was asked whether al Qaeda had been defeated in Iraq. "You will not find any military leader who will say this ... all we can say is al Qaeda is still dangerous," he said. Petraeus' comments were translated into English from an Arabic transcript of the interview sent to Reuters. "It is certain more of these crimes will be committed, and we must continue working to confront these attacks," he said.

This isn't about defeatist Democrats, as Republicans would otherwise suggest, since it's coming from Gen. Petraeus' own mouth. I think everyone recognizes that the situation in Iraq today is far better than it was a year ago (not because of the monolithic GOP-induced talking point of "surge", as Bob Woodward's new book points out), but Iraq remains in a fundamentally precarious place. Political reconciliation has yet to be achieved, and while the current climate of calm is of course promising, the balance there remains fragile. Most in the foreign policy community realize this, and Gen. Petraeus as well as other military officials in the region acknowledge there is still plenty of work to be done and potential for further destabilization.  Sadly, all you heard this week from Lindsay Graham and other Republicans were hyperbolic accusations of how Democrats won't acknowledge the victory there, and that Barack Obama fails to see the sublime beauty of the surge-based successes. But, descending back into the realm of reality for a second, why won't the Republicans listen to Gen. Petraeus and the other commanders on the ground? Al Qaeda remains a threat, Iraq remains dangerous, and the Iraqi leaders have still yet to take full responsibility for their country. This can only truly be achieved with an eventual American withdrawal and transfer of ownership over Iraq's future to the Iraqi's themselves. And while Gen. Petraeus is suggesting a delay in the draw-down of American forces until next February, after the next President takes over, the flag waving, victory asserting Republicans should listen more carefully to Petraeus before once again declaring mission accomplished.

Could the News This Morning Be Worse for McCain
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

The night after his acceptance speech we find out that the economy lost another 84,000 jobs and that unemployment is now at 6.1% - a five year high.  Meanwhile, our leading commanders in Iraq think that we need to maintain current troop levels because:

Petraeus cited several areas of ongoing concern, including the postponement of provincial elections initially scheduled for this month, the disputed status of the northern city of Kirkuk, lingering ethno-sectarian conflicts, and questions surrounding the future of a local security force known as the Sons of Iraq.Petraeus cited several areas of ongoing concern, including the postponement of provincial elections initially scheduled for this month, the disputed status of the northern city of Kirkuk, lingering ethno-sectarian conflicts, and questions surrounding the future of a local security force known as the Sons of Iraq.

In other words there has been no political reconciliation and as a result the security gains have not been consolidated and the situation remains tenuous.

These problems are of course all the results of the terrible policies of the past eight years.  Policies that John McCain has supported and that are the responsibility of his political party.  And outside of painting himself as a hero and a maverick last night, McCain offered no vision on how he solves any of this.

September 04, 2008

McCain Speech Wrap Up on Foreign Policy
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

We seriously learned nothing today about John McCain's foreign policy.  Outside of two paragraphs that really got into no detail.  But let's remember what we do know about McCain' foreign policy

  1. McCain's is reckless and more extreme than Bush:  He was the neocons choice in 2000 and his top foreign policy advisor, Randy Shueneman is a Neocon.  He has had a more extreme position on Iran.  More extreme position on Russia.  More extreme position on North Korea.  He has called our allies adversaries and took an offensive and aggressive tone in the run up to the Iraq war.
  2. John McCain's foreign policy is very similar to George Bush.  McCain didn't even use the word Afghanistan.  He was talking about attacking Iraq and Iran one month after 9/11.  He loves to tout the surge.  But before the surge came the war.  A war he said would be easy and that we'd be greeted as liberators. 

That's it really pretty simple  Nothing new in the speech.  And pretty weak.

McCain on National Security: Just Trust Me, Ok?
Posted by Patrick Barry

To the myriad threats faced by Americans on account of the Bush administration's failed policies, McCain basically has one answer: Trust me, I know what I'm doing.  If only that were true. 

On terrorism, the issue that McCain himself has described as the greatest challenge of our time, his record is terrible, his judgment questionable, and his knowledge poor.

On Iraq, he doesn't even talk about his plan for the future, he just points to the surge, a strategy which even General Petraeus won't call a success. 

On Russia, his moderate tone this evening is betrayed by documented bellicosity.

And on Iran, he is more extreme and reckless than President Bush.

McCain Giving John Kerry's 2004 Speech
Posted by Adam Blickstein

This speech is eerily reminiscent of John Kerry's 2004 convention speech, largely now derided as too heavy on biography, too little on substance, and too much about Vietnam.  In fact, ironically, John McCain gave Kerry some advice 4 years ago on the subject:

McCain said that he urged Kerry sometime ago not to talk about Vietnam during his campaign. "I did advise John. I said, 'Look, you shouldn't talk about Vietnam because everybody else will. Let everybody else do it.' His advisers figured that was probably not enough, that he had to emphasize that in his campaign. In my campaign, as you know, I didn't talk about it because I didn't need to."

What a difference 4 years makes. Now John McCain's narrative subsists and relies nearly unilaterally on his Vietnam experience and time as POW. His service and sacrifice are admirable, but what's not is the brazen politicization of his biography, somehow using this as a qualification to be President. This reversal of principle, like so many that McCain has made in recent years, is yet another switch in the re-imagining of John McCain from maverick to political automaton.

McCain Advocated the Bush-Rumsfeld Military Strategy of Few Troops
Posted by Max Bergmann

Despite his claims of expertise on military affairs, McCain adopted and forcefully advocated on behalf of the bogus vision of military transformation that was pursued by Donald Rumsfeld. This strategy thought high powered precision-guided weaponry could make up for fewer troops. Hence, Rumsfeld advocated for a very small invasion force. Of course the problem with this vision is that it totally ignored the aftermath of any such invasion. As member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain did not oppose Rumsfeld's approach in the fall of 2002. Instead he vigourously advocated on behalf of invading Iraq with few troops. See clips below the fold:

Continue reading "McCain Advocated the Bush-Rumsfeld Military Strategy of Few Troops" »

Party Like It's 1979?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

The short foreign policy section in the McCain speech tonight has:  one sentence on Al Qaeda; one sentence on Iran; and five on Russia.  Is Russia really five times as much a threat to the US as Al Qaeda?  If you took out the Al Qaeda sentence, could it actually be 1979?  Can McCain really be that out of touch?

McCain makes a pledge he can't keep
Posted by Max Bergmann

McCain said:

We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much.

How? Drill of course. This is ridiculous. If we start now it would meet only a few percent of our total oil consumption. It is pure fantasy. McCain has no plan to make this a reality. 

3 Graphs on Foreign Policy?
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There is seriously absolutely no foreign policy substance to McCain's speech.  A lot of biographical stuff about his POW experience, but zero nothing about where he will actually take this country in terms of foreign policy.  This is it in terms of policy:

Today, the prospect of a better world remains within our reach. But we must see the threats to peace and liberty in our time clearly and face them, as Americans before us did, with confidence, wisdom and resolve.

We have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda in recent years. But they are not defeated, and they'll strike us again if they can. Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism and on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia's leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world's oil supply, intimidate other neighbors, and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire. And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and prayers. As President I will work to establish good relations with Russia so we need not fear a return of the Cold War. But we can't turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people.

We face many threats in this dangerous world, but I'm not afraid of them. I'm prepared for them. I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it should not do. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't. I know how to secure the peace.

This is nothing.  There are a lot of paragraphs at the end about his POW experience.  This whole convention was supposedly about showing that McCain is best qualified to be Commander in Chief.  But he won't even explain his worldview. 

McCain urged confrontation with Russia
Posted by Max Bergmann

McCain mentioned Russia in his speech tonight and he said he did not want a new Cold war...phew... But the problem is that his over the top rhetoric when a crisis happens would lead to the very conflict he says he doesn't want. He is crisis prone and itches for confrontation. As I wrote a while back:

The big concern with a McCain presidency – a concern which I am surprised has not been vocalized more fully – is that the U.S. will lurch from crisis to crisis, confrontation to confrontation, whether it be with Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. The danger is that McCain’s pundit-like rhetoric will entrap the U.S. in descending spiral of foreign policy brinksmanship. Just think about the very likely scenario of McCain giving Iran/Russia a rhetorical ultimatum and Iran/Russia ignoring it. Now we are stuck - either we lose face by not following through on our threats or we follow through and go to war.  We can’t afford such a reckless approach after the last eight years. For the next eight we need a president not a pundit.   

Words not in John McCain's Speech
Posted by Patrick Barry

1) Afghanistan

2) Pakistan

3) Osama bin Laden

Pretty telling...

McCain's Lost Constituencies
Posted by Adam Blickstein

One thing has become clear during the Republican convention: they have alienated two very important constituencies - the media and the middle.  First, their baseless attack against the media for unfair treatment has undoubtedly left a sour taste in the mouths of journalists. You can hear it in the voices of the pundits and anchors, and the McCain campaign's fabricated anger and outrage hit a denouement  this morning in an interaction between Time's Jay Carney and McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace. Even the steady Tom Brokaw appears exasperated by McCain's anti-media approach. And as many have pointed out, the strategy didn't work in 1992 for the first President Bush, and chances are it won't work this year.

Second, it's clear that McCain isn't playing for swing voters, independents, or the undecideds anymore. He, as Max said, has made the full conversion to Bush partisan, and is making a gamble to the right, not the middle. Not only does this cut against the grain of his independent maverick reputation, but cuts against where the electorate is statistically at. Even the Wall Street Journal agrees that McCain can't win by simply placating to the GOP base, he actually has to grow the base. Simply put, after this week, that will be impossible, even amongst woman which was part of the ploy of picking Sarah Palin

If Palin was one Hail Mary pass by the McCain campaign, this lurch to the right, disregard for the middle and exiling of the media is an attempt to win an 3 point game by kicking a 65 yard field goal. Not only are the odds long of actually hitting it,  but even if you put those three points on the scoreboard, you still won't win the game.

Lindsay Graham's Fixation on the Surge
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Lindsay Graham is a little high on surge fumes and euphoria.  He says that in Iraq "the rule of law has replaced the rule of the gun."  Really, it's one thing to say that things are going better.  But it's something else to say that Iraq is now governed by the "rule of law."  There are 146,000 American troops currently in Iraq!  They aren't there to rule by the rule of law. 

Let's remember that there are central political pressure points that have not been addressed.  The Sons of Iraq could still turn on the central government as it turns against them even though they were central to defeating AQI.  There is still no agreement on how to split oil.  Kirkuk is still a major pressure point that could explode into violence between Arabs and Kurds.   The security situation has improved.  But declaring victory now is simply misguided.

Oh.  And let's not forget that this war has  still completely undermined our security by distracting us from Afghanistan and Pakistan, empowered Iran, damaged our military, hurt our alliances, cost $10 billion a month, cost the lives of more than 4,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Is it 2004?
Posted by Moira Whelan

The Republican National Convention just showed a video invoking 9-11. I’d link to it here, but it’s probably one of the most horrific displays of playing politics with national security—and the murder of 1800 Americans-- I have seen to date in this election.  Is it 2004? Will the Republicans succeed in scaring Americans into sticking with them?

Interestingly, there was no mention or picture of George W. Bush in the video. It, like the rest of the convention, pretends as if the last 8 years never happened.

Also interesting, the woman who introduced the film spoke about the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City…a domestic terrorism incident that occurred on US soil under the Clinton Administration. In that incident, the first responders and FEMA did a great job because the Clinton Administration let them do their jobs. We also convicted those who killed Americans that day. Contrast that with Katrina under Bush, and the lack of convictions--or even finding--the 9-11 terrorists, and you have a very different story from the Republican leadership on terrorism: an agenda that was fully supported by John McCain.

All in all, the RNC and John McCain owe an apology to the families of the victims of 9-11, and to all Americans for invoking this horrific act in the name of political gain. I’m sure they’d much rather see you actually do something about it instead of starting wars in countries that had nothing to do with it in the first place.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann apologizes to America...

"I'm sorry, it's necessary to say this, and I wanted to separate myself from the others on the air about this. If at this late date any television network had of its own accord, showed that much video tape and that much graphic video tape of 9/11, and I speak as somebody who lost a few friends there, it, we, would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican Party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead and perhaps even for trying to invoke that pain again. If you reacted to that video tape the way I did, I apologize. It is a subject of great pain for many of us still and was probably not appropriate to be shown."

Crazy 911 video: The conversion into George Bush is complete
Posted by Max Bergmann

Well John McCain's conversion into George Bush is compleete. The convention just played a video that was the most incendiary and politically exploitative thing I have seen since, well, George Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. In this video apparently Iran was responsible for 9-11 (hmmm...) and claims that if McCain is elected "we will" have a president that knows how to win the war against terrorism. Too bad the war in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan have yet to be mentioned at this convention. And isn't that quite a swipe at George Bush?

Strengthening the message
Posted by Max Bergmann

By giving a far right speech, Palin  - as well as the convention itself - has made the job of defining McCain a lot easier. The past two nights have vividly confirmed what progressives have been saying for the last nine months - John McCain is the same as George Bush. While refusing to mention Bush's name last night, the convention speakers supported all of his policies and even went a bit further on some. The convention to this point has served to strengthen the progressive message and has left McCain's independent "maverick" image in tatters.

Despite the heaps of past evidence and almost all of McCain's policy positions lining up with Bush, the press has been fairly resistant to this line of argument. They remember their times at the back of the bus and the few moments many years ago when McCain seemed genuinely independent. The message of McCain = Bush played much better with the public then with the press, since the public lacked the same biases.

But that has changed. The McCain campaign lost the press last night. The resentment had been building since the McCain campaign decided to end the gaffe-prone conversations on the straight talk express and run a more tight-lipped and disciplined campaign. It was furthered this week by the ridiculous crying from the McCain campaign about the press' coverage of Palin's record. And then last night, having been endlessly badgered by the McCain campaign to lay off poor gentile Palin, the press sat through one of the most vicious speeches in our lifetime. You could sense the betrayal. John McCain once an "independent straight talker" that worked with them, had not only fully embraced the right but had done so at their expense. 

The space is now open for a full-on Bush-McCain ad offensive. The press finally buys it and I bet the number of press references to McCain being a maverick starts to decline. And after this week's convention, independents will likely find such an argument even more persuasive.

The big winner last night was not Sarah Palin, it was McSame.

Wrap up on the Palin Speech
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So we clearly did a lot of rapid response blogging last night on the Palin speech.  But it's worth reflecting the next morning.  Yes.  She delivered an effective, hard hitting, vicious and I would say over the top attack speech against Obama.  The base clearly loved it.  She is clearly a talented speaker.  But that doesn't change two very basic problems.

1.  Her speech didn't address any of the issues that swing voters really care about.  Instead it focused solely on the Republican base. Where was any talk of:

  • Real economic ideas for the middle class that aren't same old misleading "they're going to raise your taxes" argument
  • Healthcare
  • Global warming
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan and the real threats that are facing us

2.  There are still many many questions about Sarah Palin's experience and positions.  Speech or no speech.   She still:

In the end of the day Sarah Palin was still the mayor of a town of 8,000 people two years ago.  Despite her attempt to compare that job to what Barack Obama was doing twenty years ago, she just doesn't appear all that qualified to be the Vice President of the United States.  And her views and speech yesterday don't appeal to mainstream swing voters. 

September 03, 2008

Celebrity vs. Reality Celebrity
Posted by Adam Blickstein

If Obama is a celebrity, than John McCain and his campaign have just become the reality celebrity candidate in the campaign. The air of authenticity occluded the fact that nothing at all tonight was in fact, genuinely authentic.


8.1 Billion Hours
Posted by Patrick Barry

Seriously, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin's relentless attacks on community organizers is a massive, massive insult to volunteers and public servants across the country.  Their basic insinuation was that Barack Obama, and public servants like him spend their days twiddling their thumbs, a massive burden to society.  This in a country where selfless civic engagement is highly prized.  According to, 60.8 million Americans contributed over 8.1 billion hours in of unpaid service to the country last year.  8.1 billion hours, and Republicans decided to trample on it. 

Posted by Max Bergmann

Her speech is full of snide remarks and falsehoods about Obama. Standard wing nut fare and to be expected. It also makes all the media badgering seem completely ridiculous. She's throwing rocks but won't do an interview? Maybe then we can find out more about her views on Alaskan secession, Pat Buchanon, Jews for Jesus, her abuse of her power, her lack of belief in global warming, etc. etc.

Palin's Right
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Harry Reid isn't much of a fighter. Not like he was an actual boxer back in the day or anything like that:


Sarah Palin Doesn't Get Terrorism
Posted by Patrick Barry

Sarah Palin said that Barack Obama isn't equipped to deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism, but in the only state where there are both terrorists and nuclear weapons, John McCain is the candidate who doesn't want to be bothered:

"I'm not going to go there  ... because Pakistan is a sovereign nation."

McCain and the Glitterati II
Posted by Adam Blickstein

And remember, John McCain is a man who appeared in...Wedding Crashers. "You old sailor, you!"

Liar, Liar,
Posted by Max Bergmann

Obama has not passed one law... hmmm someone is a liar... Remember Lugar-Obama Nonpro legislation...

John McCain and the Glitterati
Posted by Patrick Barry

Actually for John McCain life in Washington is just a series of shiny parties, cocktail hours, and glamor-fests:

"Mr. McCain was captivated, recalled Jeffrey Record, then an aide to former Senator Sam Nunn , the hawkish Georgia Democrat. 'He thrives on competition, and he thrives on political combat,' Mr. Record said. 'He saw the glamour of it. I think he really got smitten with the celebrity of power.'"

John McCain is the Same Man?
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Someone cue the YouTube. McCain vs. McCain. The Senator has changed more times than Rudy Giuliani at a drag show:

Don't forget Secessionist!
Posted by Patrick Barry

Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Cindy McCain just stood up to applaud a registered secessionist.  Let me repeat that.  A registered SECESSIONIST. 

Don't Forget...
Posted by Adam Blickstein

...Joe Biden's son Beau is also being deployed to Iraq in October.

Actually John McCain Did Break Faith w\ the Troops
Posted by Patrick Barry not showing up to vote for increased education benefits for them.

Rudy attacks Bush on Georgia
Posted by Max Bergmann

Rudy is a crazy man. He just attacked Obama's initial position on Georgia - which was similar to the Bush administration's which called for a cessation of violence. John McCain on the other hand came out with an inflamed incindinary statement. And the statement "we are all Georgians" would have essentially committed us to war with Russia. McCain and Rudy are blow hards that would get us into conflict after conflict, confrontation after confrontation.

"Islamic Terrorism"
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Rudy Giuliani claims that Democrats are too afraid to talk about terrorism.  But how about Republicans talking about Afghanistan?  Republicans start by talking about terrorism but then they move on to Iraq and forget about the fact that 7 years after 9/11 we still haven't caught Bin Laden.

What is wrong with having 300 foreign policy advisors.  It's surely better than a small cadre of extreme neoconservative foreign policy advisors.

Rudy Giuliani Doesn't Get Terrorism
Posted by Patrick Barry

See Mitt Romney Post. 

Hope is Not a Strategy?
Posted by Adam Blickstein

I implore Giuliani to reread Republican messiah Ronald Reagan's 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate. The whole thing is based in part on such so-called fruitless "hope."

Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate people, to create a safe, freer world. And surely there is no better place than Berlin, the meeting place of East and West, to make a start. Free people of Berlin: Today, as in the past, the United States stands for the strict observance and full implementation of all parts of the Four Power Agreement of 1971. Let us use this occasion, the 750th anniversary of this city, to usher in a new era, to seek a still fuller, richer life for the Berlin of the future. Together, let us maintain and develop the ties between the Federal Republic and the Western sectors of Berlin, which is permitted by the 1971 agreement.

Drill, Baby Drill
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Could someone please explain to me how cutting government will increase the value of the dollar??

Also, is it just me or does it lay bare a fundamental lack of respect when you have a roomful of people chanting "zero" about a sitting U.S. Senator, led by someone who, ummm, couldn't get elected Senator himself?

A noun a verb and 9/11
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Rudy Giuliani talking about scandals and machine politics.  Hmmmm....from the man whose opposition research folder is so long that Tim Russert spent a full hour grilling him on his shady relationships and dealings

And by the way.  What's wrong with being a community organizer and you know helping people?  Republicans don't seem to get that.

Rudy voted present on first four primaries...
Posted by Max Bergmann

Sore subject... Iowa - present, New Hampshire - present, Nevada - present, South Carolina - present...

Community Organizer...
Posted by Max Bergmann

Ha ha ha ha .... helping poor African ridiculous and funny.  I love how that is a laugh line at a Republican convention. And they seriously wonder why 90 percent of African Americans don't vote for them.

Dark Clouds
Posted by Adam Blickstein

So, looks like the Rothko painting's now been replaced by ominous and brooding dark clouds. Seems perfect for Giuliani. Ah, and once again mocking community organizers. How elitist!!!

Voting Absent
Posted by Patrick Barry

Rudy Giuliani is laying into Barack Obama for voting "present." He may want to look closer at John McCain's senate record, since Senator McCain voted "absent" 60% through spring of this year:

"Through last week, McCain had missed a nice, round 60.0 percent of Senate votes so far in the 110th Congress. After Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who was absent for several months following a brain hemorrhage, comes Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who lay well behind McCain with 41.8 percent of votes missed. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a former presidential candidate, was fourth, followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who had missed 31.7 percent.

One of McCain's most egregious absent votes came this past May, when he missed the vote on the GI bill to provide veterans returning from Iraq with better education benefits.  Absent a lot and doesn't support education benefits for veterans.  Not exactly a record that inspires. 

9-11 is speaking now
Posted by Max Bergmann

Eastern Elite Meets Western Elite
Posted by Adam Blickstein


Continue reading "Eastern Elite Meets Western Elite" »

Friends And Enemies
Posted by David Shorr

Kinda strange to hear the Lieberman and Thompson testimonials last night. The fleeting foreign policy case for McCain -- you had to pay reeaaallly close attention to catch it -- seemed to argue for a continuation of the past eight years. Silly me, I thought that rest-of-the-world-be-damned-we've-got-to-stand-up-to-the-bad-guys had gone out of style as a response to today's world and its challenges. (Actually it was McCain himself who helped give me that idea, but more about that below.) Any way, there were two of Senator McCain's closest friends, telling us that a President McCain would gain the world's respect by standing firm.

First Sen. Lieberman:

I can tell you from these travels how much he's respected and admired and liked by leaders across the globe. John McCain will be a president our allies will trust and our enemies will fear. And that's the kind of president we need in today's world.

Then Sen. Thompson:
The respect he is given around the world is not because of a teleprompter speech designed to appeal to American critics abroad, but because of decades of clearly demonstrated character and statesmanship.

Continue reading "Friends And Enemies" »

Eastern Elitists
Posted by Max Bergmann

When I think of eastern elites I think of these guys...

The Romneys


The Bushs


The Giulianis


Scary European Ideas
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So Mike Huckabee is scared about Barack Obama bringing those scary ideas back from Europe.   What is this 1787?

European Ideas?
Posted by Patrick Barry

So Mich Huckabee took the jingoistic route by assaulting Barack Obama for bringing European ideas back from his trip.  Huh?  Because John McCain's approach toward Europe has been soo helpful.

Palin's Holy War in Iraq
Posted by Max Bergmann

The AP has further evidence that Sarah Palin is a radical radical extremist. We should all be afraid. Not only does she have close relations and sympathies with a secessionist party, but she also believes that the Iraq war is in fact holy war. She said just a few month ago that:

"Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God," she said. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

When George Bush said that the U.S. was on a "crusade" as war against Afghanistan was imminent, the statement was met with revulsion throughout the Middle East. Placing the war in a religious context represented a propaganda victory for Al Qaeda and played into their propaganda that Islam was at war with the Christian west. That was bad. Real bad for our troops and for the United States. But Sarah Palin's comment is way more extreme than George Bush's statement. She basically called the war a holy war. This is extremely dangerous language that undermines the United States and our troops.

Henry Gets Down
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

It's not every day you see Henry Kissinger grooving (?) to country music... and Abraham Lincoln grooving to country music...  So umm, what points of McCain's worldview exactly does Kissinger endorse?

Mitt Romney Doesn't Get Terrorism
Posted by Patrick Barry

Tonight Mitt Romney argued that John McCain understands the nature of the terrorist threat faced by the U.S., stating:    

"And at Saddleback, after Barack Obama dodged and ducked every direct question, John McCain hit the nail on the head: radical Islam is evil, and he will defeat it! Republicans prefer straight talk to politically correct talk!"

Language like this is appalling, and Romney has a history of these kinds of disgusting remarks, but Romney's careless words also demonstrate his complete misunderstanding of the terrorist threat.   

Romney uses this "straight talk" to lump Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood into one big scary monster.  But, by confusing these various groups, conservatives make it impossible to pursue effective policies. Their ideological approach has caused the United States to miss numerous opportunities, where it could have played these groups off of each other to America’s benefit.

Romney's words are not only bigoted, they betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the terrorist threat.


China's Acting Like Adam Smith on Steroids?
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Isn't that kind of free market capitalism Conservatives can only dream of? Is Rommey jealous of China unbridled capitalism? (One which has given us such healthy and safe toys and toothpaste?)

Washington Washington Washington!
Posted by Adam Blickstein

As Romney, et al, rail against Washington, it's good to remember that John McCain has been in Washington for 26 years. That's not change we can believe in! Oh, and we've had at least a partially Conservative Washington since 1992, so I have no idea what Mitt Romney is talking about...

Post it On the Internet
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Carly Fiorina just said "John McCain will post it on the internet for everyone to see." John McCain will, this John McCain???

Chris Matthews is Wrong
Posted by Patrick Barry

Chris Matthews is completely wrong.  On MSNBC tonight he said that John McCain was right to cite Russia's closeness to the tip of Alaska as having given Sarah Palin national security expertise.  He falsely argued that Palin, as part of her responsibility as chief of Alaska's National Guard, is briefed regularly on foreign policy matters pertaining to Russia by members of the armed forces, owing to the country's close proximity to the Yukon state.  This is wrong. 

But, in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, he said he and Palin play no role in national defense activities, even when they involve the Alaska National Guard. The entire operation is under federal control, and the governor is not briefed on situations.

So John McCain claims that Russia's proximity to Alaska has given Sarah Palin national security credentials, and Chris Matthews not only supports this utterly baseless claim, but legitimizes it using a totally false assertion. 

Posted by Adam Blickstein


I didn't know the Republicans were so well versed in abstract expressionism, but their video screen seems to frame each speaker in front of what appears to be a giant Rothko painting. How postmodern!

Who's the Elitist??
Posted by Adam Blickstein

As a follow-up to Max's post: So Sarah Palin wants to belittle someone for sacrificing money and prestige and a cushy and steady job in order to work on behalf of those less fortunate than himself in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago? Obama could have done anything he wanted after graduating from Columbia, but he chose to work with residents in the South Side's more disadvantaged communities. Not only is Palin's argument  elitist, but for someone so devout, it also seems patently Un-Christian.

Zinger... oh wait
Posted by Max Bergmann

Palin has a zinger in tonight's speech:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities.

Umm... Obama was a community organizer 20 years ago. You were Mayor of a small town 2 YEARS AGO!!!

Palin Never Issued an Order to Alaska Guard
Posted by Adam Blickstein

There goes the Commander-in-Chief argument:

When presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate last Friday, the Arizona senator emphasized her role as the commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard...

"Can you tell me one decision that she made as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard?" CNN journalist Campbell Brown asked Monday while interviewing McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Just one?"

Bounds couldn't, because Palin has never personally ordered the state guard to do anything.            

So what did she do in this capacity?

"We've deployed individuals in state service all over the state under Sarah Palin," he said. “We had defense men down in Seward for the (Mount) Marathon run doing security.

"Out west and northwest we had erosion problems, and the National Guard was involved in some of the protection out there. About three days ago, the Army National Guard picked up a lady from Little Diomede (Island) . . . at the request of state troopers."

Did Palin directly approve each of those activities?

No, Campbell said. The governor has granted him the authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies — when a quick response is required — and minor day-to-day operations.

Ah erosion problems, makes you able to handle international crises and vexing national security dilemmas without breaking a sweat.

Denver vs. St. Paul on Torture
Posted by Moira Whelan

There are some stark contrasts here in St. Paul from what I experienced in Denver. It could be the lack of crowds…anywhere, the absence of big stars at the One Campaign event, or just the general lack of enthusiasm.

I attended events in both Denver and St. Paul hosted by the Human Rights First folks. In both cities, they brought in groups of retired Generals and Admirals to urge leaders in both parties to commit to ending torture in the name of the United States. Human Rights First started about 18 months ago reaching out to all of the presidential candidates and gathering flag officers to talk to them privately…8 took them up on it, and to the credit of the flag officers, none of the many I’ve spoken with have revealed those conversations.

Many eloquent speakers in both cities, and a number of committed former military officers who are doing this simply because they believe strongly in the issue. In Denver, more than 10 former flag officers attended. In St. Paul the number was smaller, but still excellent. I’d never heard from Bud McFarlane talk about his experience in a POW camp before, and I’d recommend it. It’s pretty moving.

One thing that stood out to me was the audience:  In Denver, I spoke with key advisers to the Obama and Biden camps at the event, as well as Members of Congress and even movie stars who came out to support the issue. In St. Paul, none of McCain’s top advisers dropped by, despite the fact that it was blocks from the Convention area, and if there was a Member of Congress in the room, I missed it.

Now, I understand at convention there are many things that one can do, but in this case it seems to me that either other issues or competing parties won out.  In both cases, the event was in the afternoon when little else is scheduled, and those who attended in both places did so because they are committed to the issue.

It said a lot to me that the party with the POW at the top of the ticket –a fact they brag about all the time--had a much lighter showing. Perhaps it has something to do with McCain backing down on the issue when it mattered most. Regardless, if conventions are about influence, the influential who brag about their POW candidate, weren't listening to the generals on the ground in this case.

What Palin needs to do tonight
Posted by Max Bergmann

There is a lot riding on Palin's speech tonight. It is not simply good enough for Palin to give a good speech that further develops her bio. Nor is it good enough for her to deliver campaign one-liners on various issues. Since we know very little about her views on the crucial issues confronting this nation, she needs to do more. She needs to lay out what her positions are on a number of policy areas, specifically on foreign policy - the area of biggest concern.

  • What are her views on Iraq? Does she still believe that we need an exit strategy, or does she agree with John McCain's calls to stay indefinitely?
  • Will she mention Afghanistan? There is a war there too, which is increasingly going badly. Does she believe that troops must be taken from Iraq and sent to Afghanistan?
  • What are her views on global warming? She said she didn't think that global warming was impacted by human activity - a position that McCain disagrees with. How will she address this difference?
  • What about Russia? This is the one country that conservatives claim she has some knowledge about. What does she think about the current crisis?
  • What about Iran? Does she think that war with Iran may be inevitable or does she think we should attempt to negotiations?

This are important questions that in today's world any nominee for vice president must address.

Sarah the Surrogate
Posted by Patrick Barry

Juliet Eilperin and Robert Barnes inadvertently make an interesting structural observation about Sarah Palin's preparations for tonight's big speech:

"Since Sunday night, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been holed up in her suite in the Hilton Minneapolis while a parade of Sen. John McCain's top advisers have briefed her on the nuances of his policy positions,.."

"Sitting around a dining room table, the McCain team has talked to her about Iraq, energy and the economy, but has focused on what she should say in her speech, struggling almost as hard as she has to prepare for what will be, along with a debate in October, her main opportunity to shape the way she is viewed by voters."

I'll refrain from wondering too loudly about why Palin is stuck getting lectured by McCain's advisers, and not learning from the master himself, but this whole story does raise an important question about how the hasty way manner by which John McCain selected Sarah Palin may impact her ability to serve as an effective surrogate for the candidate.   

I'm sure that the impression that McCain's advisers meant to give off is of a nominee, diligently toiling in preparation for the biggest political speech of her life, but what it actually amounts to is an admission that Sarah Palin just isn't very familiar with McCain's policies.  She's basically been cramming 24/7 for a test in McCain 101.

There is a clear knowledge gap that exists here, both personal and political, which will be difficult to bridge in time for the election.  Palin only met McCain once before accepting his invitation to serve as VP, and apparently she only did her first interview with him last Wednesday.  On policy, this knowledge gap is most apparent when it comes to foreign policy, where on Iraq she said that her focus on state government has meant that she hasn't "really focused much on the war," but it extends to other policy areas as well, like energy and the economy.  How can she expect to credibly advocate for McCain's positions on Iraq for the next two months if she's still learning those positions?

Compare this to Joe Biden, who not only spent months presumably getting comfortable with Barack Obama as he was being vetted for the VP position, but also spent countless hours studying Obama's policies when he was running against him!  Joe Biden knows Barack Obama and can be his advocate.  It's far from clear whether Sarah Palin can do the same. 

September 02, 2008

Republicans (and Lieberman) Fail Afghanistan Test
Posted by Patrick Barry

Tonight, two leaders of the Republican Party and one Democrat who has lost his way failed their rhetorical test on National Security by failing to mention the war in Afghanistan.  Not once did they draw attention to the fight against the Taliban.  Not once did they focus on the problem of a resurgent Al Qaeda.   After a month that saw the 500th U.S. casualty there, President Bush, Fred Thompson, and Joe Lieberman highlighted the Republican's party national security deficit, a deficit I dear will grow worse under a President McCain.  Want to see for yourself? Check the transcripts.  You won't like what you find.

McCain: A President Our Allies Can Trust?
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

That's what Joe Lieberman says.  Interesting because a guy with this record sure doesn't seem to inspire confidence from our allies.

McCain called our allies “vacuous and posturing” for opposing war in Iraq. “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that "Iraq is the test" of both the U.N. and NATO. He charged that the alliance is failing the test because of the "flawed calculations" and "vacuous posturing" of Germany and France. McCain and Rumsfeld both said that recent French and German foot-dragging over even discussing the possible deployment of NATO assets, such as Patriot anti-missile batteries, to Turkey also threatened to damage the alliance.” [Washington Post, 2/9/03]

John McCain engaged in the anti-French bashing of the far right because they opposed the invasion of the war. "The Lord said the poor will always be with us, and the French will be with us, too," said McCain, a member of the Armed Services Committee. "This is part of a continuing French practice of throwing sand in the gears of the Atlantic alliance. But now they're playing a dangerous game, and coming close to rendering themselves irrelevant." A few days later he even said that, “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) likened France to an aging '40s starlet "still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it."  [NY Times, 2/14/03. NY Daily News, 2/17/03]

McCain attacked Germany for opposing the war – saying they lacked “political courage.” McCain said that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder “looks little like the ally that anchored our presence in Europe throughout the Cold War…A German Rip Van Winkle from the 1960s would not understand the lack of political courage and cooperation with its allies on the question of Iraq exhibited in Berlin today.” [Washington Times, 2/14/03]

At German security conference in the run up to the war McCain echoed Rumsfeld’s notorious attacks on our European allies. “Rumsfeld has made headlines across Europe in recent weeks for a series of barbs at those who oppose U.S. policy.” McCain clearly echoed Rumsfeld’s statements, “McCain accused the Germans and French of "calculated self-interest" and "vacuous posturing" that left NATO with a "terrible injury." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Germany would support its ally Turkey, but the question was one of timing. Both German and French officials have said that such a vote is tantamount to admitting war's inevitability. The conference's most emotional moment came from Fischer…he told how three times he had led the charge for German troops to be deployed: in Kosovo, Macedonia and Afghanistan…His voice rising, and beginning to speak in English, he addressed Rumsfeld directly: ‘My generation learned you must make a case and, excuse me, I am not convinced.’ Rumsfeld sat against the wall, sipping water and watching without expression. Much was said at the meeting about the strident tone of U.S.-European discussions.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/9/03]

Lieberman sinks to a new low
Posted by Patrick Barry

This is how John Lieberman began his speech tonight:

"We meet tonight in the wake of a terrible storm that has hit the Gulf Coast but that hurts all of us, because we are all members of our larger American family."

"At times like this, we set aside all that divides us, and we come together to help our fellow citizens in need."

So wait, John Lieberman spends 1/5 of his speech using a natural disaster to call for the U.S. to put the good of the country ahead of cheap partisan politicking, and then proceeds to spend the remaining 4/5 of his speech to indulge in cheap partisan politicking? Am I missing something?

Seccession first
Posted by Max Bergmann

How can they possibly say country first after Palin?

As John McCain runs on one of the most jingoistic, xenophobic, and insulting slogans in the history of American politics - by claiming he will put "country first," while Barack Obama will presumably will not - it has been revealed that Sarah Palin was a supporter (or at least tacit supporter) of a party that calls for secession from the United States and her husband was a member of the party that called for Alaska's secession from the United States. This begs the question, why do they hate America?  Why do they curse the flag? And why is she on the ticket when she has not condemned people who want to take a star off the flag and weaken the union?

In fact Palin has something in common with John C. Calhoun. If we remember our history John Calhoun won the vice presidency in 1824. He later became a major supporter of secession from the United States. Palin is not for the confederacy, but it does seem that she has a long history of putting Alaska first, not the United States.

One secessionist to another...



Bush's Lessons for McCain
Posted by Patrick Barry

Tonight at the RNC, President Bush argued that John McCain is ready to lead America in the 21st century, in part because he "understands the lessons of 9-11."  If what Bush means  is that McCain understands his Administration's lessons of 9-11, then yes, the senator from Arizona has been a quick study.  Here are just a few of the things Senator McCain has learned from President Bush following 9-11: 

Immediately after September 11th, McCain's focus wasn't on those who attacked us.  He looked instead to Syria, Iran and Iraq.

“That's where the tough part of this whole scenario is going to begin. And that is that, after the Taliban are overthrown -- which I believe they will be -- I have very little doubt in my mind -- after bin Laden is either taken prisoner or killed and his network is destroyed, then what's next? Obviously, Iraq is still bent on -- Saddam Hussein is still bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the Iranians are still supporting terrorist organizations, as are the Syrians. That's where the tough choices and decisions are going to be made.”

McCain and the Bush Administration’s decision to turn from the terrorist threat to Iraq has resulted in the death’s of over 4,000 Americans, a cost of over $1 trillion dollars, and the loss of good-will around the world.

After September 11th, McCain insisted on connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda, allegations which turned out to be completely false.

"Sept. 11, 2001 showed that al-Qaeda is a grave threat. Saddam Hussein has the ability to make a far worse day of infamy by turning Iraq into a weapons assembly line for al-Qaeda's network.”

Of course, the bi-partisan 9-11 commission came to a very different conclusion, finding no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda.

In the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan region, home to those who attacked us on September 11th, McCain said that the U.S. could afford to simply “muddle through.” 

“I am concerned about it, but I'm not as concerned as I am about Iraq today, obviously, or I'd be talking about Afghanistan. But I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that -- in the long term, we may muddle through in Afghanistan.”

Today, the consequences of McCain's "muddling through" are dire. The Taliban are resurgent, and Al Qaeda “is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.”

Looking at this list, there is a very clear difference between learning Bush's lessons' from September 11th, and learning the right lessons. John McCain has learned plenty of the former, but of the latter, he falls pretty far short.

Laura Bush
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

The Bush Administration has done some good things on development and disease... but they often can't resist making it sound better than it actually is.

So, how many people are sleeping under malaria-preventing bednets the US government has distributed?  1 million adults plus infants and toddlers, says the government's website, maybe not the "millions" the First Lady says -- and a number that pales next to the 59 million bednets the Global Fund is financing.  Also, for what it's worth, the Global Fund says we need to spend $2 billion a year to cut malaria in half by 2010.  The Bush Administration's contribution is a $1.2 billion increase over five years to an annual $30 million contribution for a total of $1.35 billion against a need of $10 billion -- an eighth of what's needed, from a country with well more than an eighth of the world's wealth.

*thanks to commenter yt for catching my typo.

Reagan Tribute
Posted by Moira Whelan

Was just noticing that in the Reagan tribute video at the RNC, they talk about Reagan being a dedicated leader, and show him in a military uniform...that he wore in a movie.

McCain Voted Against the Troops
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Joe Lieberman will say today that:

When Barack Obama was voting to cut off off funding for our troops on the ground, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide.

As I've said before this voting against the troops is a completely false argument. 

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.   

So basically according to Republican logic John McCain voted against the troops before he voted for them.  Barack Obama voted for the troops before he voted against them.  This is plain out ridiculous.  The fact that when Republicans vote against funding for our troops it doesn't count, but when Democrats do it, it is somehow unpatriotic is simply the height of hypocrisy.

If we want to have a real debate on Iraq let's have it.  But the supposedly independent Joe Lieberman (Who for the purposes of tonight's speech is suddenly once again a Democrat) should know better.  Enough with the troop funding red herring.  It is a flat out lie. 

Joe Lieberman's Short Memory
Posted by Patrick Barry

Joe Lieberman apparently has an incredibly short memory.  Either that or his audacity of deception is reaching for new heights.  Take a look at what he just said at the RNC:

"When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge"

Obama? Cutting off funding for the troops? I wonder if Lieberman is thinking about H.R. 1591, an emergency bill that would have approved $1 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Actually that can't be it because John McCain decided not to support the troops by voting against that bill. Barack Obama on the other hand, supported the legislation.  Or maybe Lieberman is referring to the 2nd version of the bill, the one approved by the Senate 51-46?  Well that can't be it either, since John McCain didn't show for that vote.  Barack Obama did though, and again, he voted for it.   

Looks like Lieberman needs some new fact checkers.

HT: Media Matters, for dropping these nuggets into my lap by pure coincidence.

Yer doin a heck of job
Posted by Moira Whelan


I'd be remiss if I didn't note the anniversary of one of the seismic moments in American history.

Three years ago, George Bush told FEMA Director Mike Brown he was doing "A Heck of a Job"...just a few hours after celebrating John McCain's birthday with him. All this, while New Orleans was under water.

New Orleans dodged a bullet this time, and the state and local authorities did a great job clearing out the city. Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna looms off coast...

Thin Ice on National Security Experience
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Just to follow-up on Moira's post, one of the major talking points GOP operatives recite to tout Gov. Palin's experience is her role as Commander-in-Chief of the Alaskan national guard. Too bad even that is a complete fabrication:

Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, considers Palin “extremely responsive and smart” and says she is in charge when it comes to in-state services, such as emergencies and natural disasters where the National Guard is the first responder.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, he said he and Palin play no role in national defense activities, even when they involve the Alaska National Guard. The entire operation is under federal control, and the governor is not briefed on situations.

Hollow talking points from a increasingly desperate, unprepared and cornered campaign.

Palin Foreign Policy
Posted by Moira Whelan

Taking a step back from all of the gossip about Palin (drip, drip, drip), we now have enough evidence to start putting together an understanding of her foreign policy credentials. It really speaks to McCain’s judgment that he, a person who claims to be an expert on these issues, would actually choose as his running mate someone who couldn’t even converse about basic foreign policy issues.

What we know:
Palin got a passport in 2007. She claims to have visited Germany, Kuwait and Ireland…but we’re now learning that the Ireland “trip” was a refueling stop. Oh, and she has been to Canada.

She sees the war in Iraq as “A mission from God”…but really hasn’t focused on it…but she favors an exit plan.

The campaign is pretty thrilled with Palin’s national security experience. Cindy McCain stressed how Palin knows what she’s talking about because Alaska is near Russia.

When VP nominee Joe Biden took the stage in Denver, he spent a good amount of time talking about America’s foreign policy…something he knows a lot about as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Given that Palin would be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and would presumably be counseling the President on these difficult decisions, I’m looking forward to what she has to say.

I'm sure the press will be doing a true comparison here, and not lower the bar on the issues that are, after all, the most important to voters.

Greetings from St. Paul
Posted by Moira Whelan

Given the strong foreign policy focus up here in Minnesota this week, I’m up here doing some work for NSN. I’ll have more throughout the week, but in the meantime, check out NSN’s work on tonight’s via-satellite keynoter, President George Bush (who incidentally, bumped Rudy “Noun+Verb+9/11” Guilliani)

The U.S. Dept. of Treasury Won't Let Me Support My Country
Posted by Max Bergmann

20060608usfans_2 On Saturday the United States men's soccer team will play the Cuban national team in Cuba for just the third time in 51 years. The U.S. and Cuba were drawn into the same qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Every world cup qualifying game is incredibly important and playing games away - even against a smaller country is incredibly difficult - just look at the bloody highlights from the U.S.-Guatemala game two weeks ago. So any support from traveling fans is much appreciated by the players. Against Guatemala there were a surprising number of American fans who braved considerable danger - to vocally support the United States. One would think that by playing a Caribbean island nation in September, just 90 miles from the United States that the U.S. would have fairly sizable fan support. In fact, I looked into tickets earlier this summer. Unfortunately, the U.S. government won't let me support the United States of America.This is from the US Soccer Federation's website - which often helps coordinate fan travel:

U.S. Soccer has been informed by the United States Department of Treasury (the United States Government agency of jurisdiction with respect to regulating travel to Cuba), that travel to Cuba for tourism or for the purposes of observing specific public performances, including sporting events, is prohibited under U.S. law... U.S. Soccer is unable to assist fans wishing to make the trip.

So let me get this straight - it is against U.S. law for me to travel to Cuba to support the United States. Ridiculous.

Having now adopted a hardline position on Cuba, does John McCain agree with the Bush administration's travel ban that prevents Americans from supporting other Americans? Not exactly putting country first is it.

Where did all the Republican experts go?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I'm sure some of you have already stumbled on David Brooks' recent column on McCain's governing philosophy, or lack thereof. This sentence, in particular, jumped out at me:

There simply aren’t enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats.

Can this really be true? If it is, where did they all go? There are a couple possibilities: a) the current crop of Republican experts are getting old, and there aren't enough younger experts to replace them, b) there were never many Republican experts (relative to Democrats) in the first place, or c) so many of them got disillusioned by Bush/Rove/Cheney that they filtered en masse into the private sector. I don't know. I'm not an expert on Republican experts (is anyone?). But I will say this - if you're a budding "expert" in your 20s or 30s and are thinking about your political future, it probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to explicitly identify yourself with the Republican party, even if you are fairly conservative.

And I suspect you're going to see a lot of semi-conservative twenty and thirty-somethings leaning Democrat or at least holding their nose and leaning Democrat for the foreseeable future, simply because being Republican probably isn't so good for your career these days. On the other hand, if Republicans are suffering from a lack of experts, as Brooks claims, then I imagine a young Republican who actually knows his stuff could rise pretty quickly in the conservative think tank world and establish a name for him/herself.

Readiness Factor More Important for VP
Posted by Shadi Hamid

"Readiness to lead" is a more important qualification for the Vice President then the President. While, at first blush, this may not make a whole lot of intuitive sense, I'm becoming convinced that it does. That's why a lot of us feel uncomfortable with the Palin pick at such a fundamental level, although this unease isn't always fully understood by us or others. Fortunately, Nate Silver at TNR explains it all quite well. Here at DA, my colleague Max Bergmann makes a similarly excellent point that the office of the VP, in today's globalized world, demands a higher level of experience in general and foreign policy expertise/deftness in particular. Taken together, these two posts help explain why we should be even more frightened about the prospect of VP Palin  than we already were.

"Engaging" the Middle East
Posted by Shadi Hamid

In response to my post last week on the need to "engage better" rather than "engage less" with the Middle East, Greg Scoblete at RealClearWorld comments:

At what point will the failure to finesse properly the politics of hundreds of million of people of varying cultures, sectarian devotions and tribal loyalties half a world away be credited to the impossibility of the task and not the inadequacy of the tools?

To the extent that the Middle East is "screwed up," it's because the region has been the scene of so much "engagement" by great powers throughout its history. Why not try something novel for a change?

Two good questions, and I think some of commenters here at DA had similar concerns. I'll answer the second one first. Yes, "why not try something novel for a chance?" That's exactly what I've been asking for a long time. Over the past five decades, the U.S. has had a fairly consistent approach to the Middle East - support pliable "pro-West" dictatorships at the expense of Arab publics. We helped overthrow at least one democratically-elected government in 1953, and we stood silently while another one was overthrown in 1991. Today, even under the supposedly pro-democracy Bush administration, the vast majority of Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes receive economic, political, or military support from us (including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, and now, it seems, Libya).

There was only one very brief period of around 10 months in 2004-5 when the U.S. actually tried to pressure Arab regimes to democratize. The results were positive, but we never followed through. In short, with only one real exception, the U.S. has not tried something novel. We haven't yet given democracy promotion a chance. Getting serious about democracy is precisely the kind of novel change we should be pushing for. Anything else is just business as usual, and, as Greg notes, it hasn't worked. 

As for Greg's first question, the goal, in my view, is not to "finesse" the politics of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims. The goal is simpler (at least in theory): it's about helping give Arabs and Muslims the right to make their own choices, to choose their own governments, and to raise their kids the way they see fit without fear of government persecution. I don't see this as "meddling," because it's something Arabs themselves want. For example, somewhat remarkably, 90% of Jordanians agree or strongly agree that “democracy may have problems, but it’s better than any other form of government" (World Values Survey). Strong support for democratic governance is the case across the board. The Project on Middle East Democracy actually just released a report on this issue, discussing Middle Eastern attitudes toward democracy and U.S. democracy promotion policy. It's worth looking at if you have some time.

Continue reading ""Engaging" the Middle East" »

August 31, 2008

“Not as Bad as Katrina”
Posted by Moira Whelan

Current reports indicate that the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas have evacuated over a million people. Kudos to them: this is a tremendous effort and an excellent result. It looks to be roughly 90% at this point which is tremendous. In many respects, the impact on human life will hopefully be better than we saw three years ago.

However, we need to remember that by using Katrina as a measure for how this country handles disasters, we’re setting the bar far too low. The goal needs to be—at all levels of government—to do things as well as we can do them. That means resources where they need to be and preparedness, response and recovery happening the way it should.

If the media wishes to serve the interest of the people in the case of a natural disaster, they should stop using the worst example we have seen of government in years as the benchmark. Surely, the Bush Administration likes the frame because they’d have to work hard to get it worse than they did in 2005, but in reality, this is not political. People have a right to expect their government to help them when they cannot help themselves in situations like these. If that is the perspective we use, then “not sucking that bad” is not an acceptable frame from a public leader.

Think about it this way: if a terrorist attack happened, it would be reprehensible to measure it as “not as bad” if not as many people died as did on September 11. We simply would not accept that as an answer, and we can’t accept it as an answer regarding Gustav. By pushing leaders at national, state and local levels to answer to a standard of excellence, we’re simply pushing them as hard as I believe they’re pushing themselves right now. The end result is that they’ll make people safer, and that’s really the priority here.

Begging for an Attack Ad
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Buried in today's NY Times piece on how Joe Lieberman, not Sarah Palin, was really John McCain's first choice for VP, is this nugget:

The selection was the culmination of a five-month process, described by Mr. McCain's inner circle and outside advisers in interviews this past weekend, and offers a glimpse into how Mr. McCain might make high-stakes decisions as president.

At the very least, the process reflects Mr. McCain's history of making fast, instinctive and sometimes risky decisions. "I make them as quickly as I can, quicker than the other fellow, if I can," Mr. McCain wrote, with his top adviser Mark Salter, in his 2002 book, "Worth the Fighting For." "Often my haste is a mistake, but I live with the consequences without complaint."

Ah, quick draw McCain. Nothing says putting country first and effective, experienced leadership than bragging about being brash, quick, first but wrong. Just what we need after 8 years of Bush, another leader who crows about being a good decider, regardless of the final outcome. To his credit, at least McCain admits he's usually wrong. And while he can live with the consequences, the American people, let alone the rest of the world, simply cannot.

The Importance of the Office of VP in a Globalized World
Posted by Max Bergmann

With the pick of Sarah Palin as Vice President, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of the Vice President's office. Many pundits and conservatives have claimed it isn't that important. McCain after the 2000 primary campaign made his thoughts clear on the office when he said the main job of the VP was to check every day on the health of the president and attend funerals for dead dictators. And even Sarah Palin asked out loud in an interview "what does a vice president even do?" Well, they do foreign policy.

The notion that the Vice President's office is irrelevant represents a highly outdated view of the world that fails to recognize both the increasing complexity of global affairs since the end of Cold War and the high demand for U.S. involvement in crisis after crisis. In fact,  the Vice President's office is most relevant, not on domestic policy, but on foreign policy - where a Vice President can effectively represent the administration and the country.

With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has had a role in almost every international issue and crisis, which has placed heavy demands on the American foreign policy appartus. Additionally, the rise of an increasingly interconnected world after the Cold War has led to a dramatic proliferation in high-level international meetings and forums that require high-level U.S. participation and attention. There are currently so many high-level foreign policy issues to tackle that any single one could completely dominate a President's time. From Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan-Pakistan-Kashmir-India, Iraq, Iran, energy, climtate, North Korea, disease and development in Africa, and Russia and reinvigorating the NATO alliance.

There is little doubt that Joe Biden as Vice President will have a key role in addressing these issues and will perhaps take the lead on any one of them, while the Secretary of State addresses another. For instance, instead of Obama spending from day 1 almost all of his time on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, perhaps Obama puts Biden in charge, so he can focus on domestic issues and Iraq, etc. Gore and Cheney both did this - Gore most notably on the environment, and Cheney was critical to Bush administration (albeit crazy) foreign policy, especially during the first term - when he traveled extensively meeting with with leaders in the Middle East and with President Musharraf in Pakistan.

But there is almost no possibility - and I have not heard any conservative suggest - that Palin could be used in a similar way. If a foreign policy crisis erupts no one expects Palin to be involved in the decision-making or the implementation of U.S. policy. Is McCain really going to ask her for advice when she has presicely zero foreign policy experience? As Michael wrote below, this pick is not about putting the country first, it is about doing anything possible to become president. 

McCain’s Disastrous Politics of Gustav
Posted by Moira Whelan

Today, Obama stated that he would stay out of the way as Hurricane Gustav once again threatens the Gulf Coast. Even Bush, who three years ago celebrated Katrina’s landfall at John McCain’s birthday party, is staying away.

What does McCain do? Just like he did when he traveled to a market place in Baghdad, he puts the lives of Americans in danger, and diverts the mission for his own personal political gain. He will travel to the Gulf Coast to give a speech while emergency professionals are urging people to leave.  Not only is it political grandstanding, it’s a disgusting display of the type of bad leadership we would see if John McCain became President.

Preparedness for hurricanes is serious business. When it’s done right, emergency managers control the airwaves, the message, and urge political leaders to stay out of the way so they can make sure people and property are safe. Senators and Congressmen are briefed, but told to stay out of the way and wait until they find out what resources are needed, and then make it happen. The governor takes cues from the Emergency Management director of the state: brief people to get out, show leadership, be honest, and make the calls for resources that need to be made. The President turns the keys to government over to the FEMA director to make sure resources flow properly and stands by to twist arms if needed. The business of disasters is left to disaster professionals with politicians playing a supporting role.

Now admittedly, we haven’t seen that in recent years, but when government works for people, this is how it happens.

But not in 2008, and not when John McCain is sucking wind on a political campaign.

Now, some Americans will see McCain’s trip as “leadership” but just as John McCain’s visit to a marketplace in Baghdad resulted in three Blackhawk helicopters and hundreds of soldiers being ordered to protect his photo op stroll through the market, this could be deadly.

It’s a complete disregard for the mission and the government professionals at all levels attempting to keep people safe.

John McCain’s mere suggestion that he should go there shows his horrific and dangerous judgment. If it actually happens, which hopefully it does not, then he will actually be doing harm. Because he is a presidential candidate, air traffic stops when he lands, roads are closed, and press follow him. Secret service and law enforcement personnel have to make sure everything is secure. That means all of these things STOP WORKING to make the area safer for the people getting out and protecting their homes. The only thing working in the favor of emergency management professionals are the noticeably small crowds at McCain events…so perhaps people will not be motivated to stay around.

These are the very reasons Obama and Biden dismissed the suggestion of travel immediately when asked. He’s talked to Jindal—a man on McCain’s short list for veep—and has expressed help. Trips of politicians often happen after major storms, but when doing these, the main goal is to highlight the devastation in order to secure the resources needed to fix it. It appears these gentlemen get it, and McCain is out of touch in a truly dangerous way.

McCain’s suggestion of a visit will waste precious hours in getting resources in at a time when hours and minutes make all the difference. It will impact news coverage which should otherwise be used to urge people to get out through the proper channels, not political parties.

The Republican suggestion that they may postpone their convention is understandable in some ways. This is, after all, a major emergency. I do think there are many who see this as a political opportunity to not have an embarrassing show that follows one that was amazing the Democrats had this week. They’ve floated the idea of a telethon to raise money. Political grandstanding? Sure, but at least it could do some good and you’re not in the way.

But a visit? Senator McCain, that would be a disaster for the country. Your truly reckless act would show once and for all that you actually would be worse than President Bush.

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