Saturday, February 02, 2008

B.A.D. 2008

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Two of my favourite bloggers, Skippy and Jon Swift, have organized this admirable effort, Blogroll Amnesty Day. What's it all about? Well, it's about what Jon calls "the Golden Rule of Blogging: Blog unto others as you would have them blog unto you." Which is to say, in this respect: link, link, link! It's about linking to other blogs, supporting smaller blogs, and otherwise making connections and, even more, friends. Links are the "capital" of the blogosphere, but they are also what the blogosphere is really all about. Unfortunately, as I know well, it's hard for many bloggers to get the links they so badly want, namely, links from the A-listers, the big blogs that with a single link can generate enormous traffic. We all want those links from Kos and Atrios and Drum and C&L and all the rest, but, alas, those links aren't always forthcoming. And so we do what we need to do, linking to each other, supporting each other, forging connections, making friends, and otherwise building up the liberal/progressive blogosphere into a genuine network. That's what this is all about.

Here at The Reaction, we link frequently to the non-A-listers, and, of course, we will continue to do so -- and will do so in other posts this weekend. Stay tuned.

Some of my favourite non-A-listers have become co-bloggers here -- and I encourage you to check out their home blogs, if you haven't already. Click on their names over on the right sidebar. You'll go to their profiles, from which you can go straight to their various blogs. They're all fantastic.

As well, have a look through our extensive blogroll, further down on the sidebar. There are the A-listers in there, of course, but I've made a concerted attempt over the past couple of years to connect with some of the smaller blogs, too. I recommend all the blogs on the blogroll. Seriously, check them out. Click on the ones you don't know.

A huge thank you to Skippy and Jon for doing this. And a huge thank you to everyone who has ever linked here.

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What's in an endorsement?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Perhaps not much.

As Steve Benen put it yesterday, as he has before, "there's little evidence that endorsements actually translate to votes," let alone to electoral success generally. Still, they don't hurt -- the good ones, anyway. The media report on them with disproportionate gravitas and, in general, they contribute to what all candidates, and especially candidates on the national stage, candidates running for the White House, need, namely, media-driven momentum derived from positive media coverage.

Consider the positive coverage John McCain received this past week, a result not just of his victory in Florida but from what followed, namely, endorsements from two high-profile political celebrities, Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger. That coverage boosted his momentum, propelled him onto the front pages, and allowed him to project the image of a winner going into Super Tuesday. Mitt Romney has his endorsers, of course, particularly among the purificationist conservatives of the far right, but McCain seems to have the advantage on this front.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has her endorsers, too, including The New York Times and some high-profile figures in her own party, but it is Obama who seems, at least recently, to have attracted the big names: Ted Kennedy (and the Kennedys generally), John Kerry, MoveOn.org, etc. Indeed, as Steve shows, Obama has attracted endorsers from across the Democratic spectrum: liberals like Kennedy, Kerry, and Patrick Leahy; centrists like Tim Kaine and Kathleen Sebelius; and conservatives like Ben Nelson. He even has the support of an Eisenhower.

And now, with the California primary coming up on Super Tuesday -- the biggest primary of all, with by far the most delegates to be won -- Obama has secured the support of both the L.A. Times, the state's biggest and most influential newspaper, and La Opinión, the biggest Spanish-language newspaper in the country, the second biggest newspaper in Los Angeles, and, needless to say, the state's most influential Spanish-language newspaper. Given how important both California and the Hispanic vote are, these are significant endorsements.

Of course, two of the biggest prospective endorsers remain uncommitted: John Edwards and Al Gore. I suspect that Edwards will announce his endorsement after Super Tuesday. Gore, who is now above politics and who will need to work with the next president on climate issues, would be wise not to endorse anyone.

As for me, I remain uncommitted. But I feel left out. I think I'll announce my endorsement -- a Democrat, of course -- on Monday or Tuesday.

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Lots of big changes will demand lots of adjustments

By Carol Gee

More and Better? Google has a tremendous amount of power, despite it's current 8.5% drop in stock market price to $515.90. Yahoo! does not have quite as much clout, though their stock is up 47.8% to $28.35. Microsoft is trying to take over Yahoo! According to the San Francisco Chronicle headline there is "Uncertainly on Microsoft, Yahoo campuses." To quote:

But at each campus Friday morning, the mood was very different, reflecting uncertainty as two corporate giants embark on a possible merger.

. . . Unsettling is a good word to describe the effect of Microsoft's surprise, $44.6 billion offer for Yahoo Friday. From corporate campuses to the halls of academe, the people and players of Silicon Valley were having a hard time digesting the momentous move. And, from the looks of things, the true import of Microsoft's proposal will not be known for months and years to come.

The intersection of the Internet, politics and leadership -- The United States is in the middle of one of the biggest elections in recent history. For the first time the Internet is an integral and powerful part of the election process. OCP (our current president), is a lame duck, and, despite all his efforts, he is becoming less and less powerful. I am awed by the fact that Bill Gates is trying to give up power at Microsoft.

The inherent new power of the blogosphere is also an awesome change. Just prior to the recent Democratic debate on CNN, I went online to Politico.com to actually vote for my favorite questions to be asked of the two contenders. Here I am, just a "little blogger," able to directly participate. I am able to participate also a blog writer with a regular audience of a few devoted readers, as well as many readers who find my posts as a result of a Google or Yahoo! searches. For example, a few hours ago a visitor from Pakistan spent over 15 minutes reading a blog post of mine written just over a year ago on leadership and foreign policy. The reader found it as a result of a Google search on "leadership qualities in politics in pakistan." That is an incredibly powerful statement about the reach of the blogosphere. Who in Pakistan wants to learn more about politics vs. leadership, and why? Halfway around the world my speculations about our leadership dilemma are read. This brings me to one of those "six degrees of separation" stories.

The election of a new president could change the situation in Iraq. Because of the current election we are distracted away from the war. But some of us are not. I post regularly about it and so do others. There are other readers such as Eric, a fellow Texan and a minister, who also post about it. Coincidentally Eric just recently "stumbled upon" a year-old (12/17/07 ) South by Southwest post pertaining to his blog. He left a comment last night that was touching to me. I, in turn, left a comment on his most recent post, which was a thoughtful exploration of the story of Saddam Hussein and his interrogator. Here is the dilemma I posed in my comment:

Eric, thanks for your comment on my post about "da judge." We Texans need to keep in touch.

Thanks for your kind words about my writing. I might say the same to you. This was a very effective post. I remain very interested in this war and the high, high costs of it.

I want to encourage you, out of your deep spirituality, to write about a terribly convoluted moral dilemma. Here it is.

I was sick to my stomach when I heard that yesterday's two "suicide??" bombers in Baghdad were developmentally disabled. I have to use the old cliche, "What is the world coming to?"

Hearing the news, I have to honestly say my first thought was, "We need to be far, far, away from a place like this." I know that is not the morally responsible answer, but I don't know what the answer is. I would be interested in seeing you write a post about this "devil's bargain" of a question. Thanks, Eric. I'll be back.

Carol Gee

The terrorists in Iraq have changed tactics trying to adjust to the U.S. so-called "surge." The tragic event to which I pointed is in my comment to Eric, "Toll rises in Baghdad market blasts," according to Aljazeera's headline, referred to twin bomb blasts yesterday in Baghdad. To quote:

At least 98 people have been killed and about 208 injured by bomb blasts in two crowded markets in Baghdad, police have said.

. . . Brigadier-General Qassim al-Moussawi, Iraq's chief military spokesman in Baghdad, said the women who carried the explosives were mentally handicapped and may have been unaware they were on a suicide mission.

"We found the mobiles used to detonate the women," he said, referring to the remote detonated devices that were used in the attack.

An official at Baghdad's al-Kindi hospital said in the wake of the blasts: "We have a disaster here. There are too many bodies to count. Many of them are just pieces of flesh."

My initial reaction to the story was gut-wrenching disbelief. But the reaction of Iraq's Prime Minister was a study in understatement. At least our ambassador's statement was more appropriate. I quote further from Aljazeera's story:

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, said in a statement: "Terrorists are aiming to prevent normal life from coming back to Baghdad, and turn it back to the pre-surge period."

. . . Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, said the bombings showed that al-Qaida had "found a different, deadly way" to destabilise Iraq.

"There is nothing they won't do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that," he said.

The fact that lots of big changes will demand lots of adjustments relates to the six-degree convergence of the issues covered in today's post:

  1. Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft are now in a huge corporate readjustment period that will demand adjustments by all of us as the Internet resettles its power ratios. It will demand good corporate leadership if it is to be successful.

  2. Google runs the search engine in Pakistan where presidential politics marred by terrible violence and weak leadership is deeply in play. Al Qaeda's seat of power is in the mountains of Pakistan, seemingly out of the reach of the military forces of both Pakistan and the U.S. Pakistan will not survive unless changes are made.

  3. The violence and struggles for power by AlQaeda in neighboring Iraq will also be influencing presidential politics -- in the United States as well as Iraq. The Iraqi government will not survive unless they exercise leadership in making fundamental changes to the internal power ratios.

  4. Over time the people of the United States have decided that we want our military forces out of Iraq, because the costs have been and continue to be too high. What military adjustments will be made next year in Iraq depend on who we select to be the next President.

  5. The attitudes of a majority of the people towards what they feel should be the future direction of the United States will determine who is elected. The process is moving faster than ever this election cycle. Power ratios vary from week to week. "Change" is the name of the game. Thus the candidates who use the Internet better and more successfully gain definite leadership advantages.

  6. Voters want to learn what traits make good leaders. A Google search on "leadership qualities" currently yielded 9 readers out of 200 (source - SiteMeter report) from this old post of mine in 2005. The presidential election process outcomes depend on the candidates' abilities to adjust to changing circumstances, or to convince the electorate they can successfully lead the circumstances of change themselves.

Who will inherit the mantle of leadership? Not even Google can tell us that. It is up to us to choose. What power!

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Breaking News! Bush sees shadow, another year of lawbreaking predicted

Oval Office event draws thousands; Top hat and tails, and an outcome "Just like the movie"

By J. Thomas Duffy

In what started out as an inside joke, among just a few staffers, has now grown to a full-scale event, with thousands of government employees gathering around the West Wing, and the grounds of the Bush GrindHouse, to see the spectacle.

For the past seven years, as soon as The Commander Guy walks into the Oval Office on February 2nd, hearts are stopped and breath is held -- will he see his shadow, a bona fide indicator of continued disregard for the laws of the country -- or not.

Reports are just coming in, over the roar of the crowd -- The Commander Guy saw his own shadow ... Another year of lawbreaking lays ahead!

Often timed with the other famous prognosticator, Puxsutawney Phil, the legendary Pennsylvania groundhog, who also saw his own shadow this morning, the Oval Office event has grown to almost the same, frenzied, party-atmosphere as takes place in Gobbler's Knob.

Government employees from the State Department, Pentagon, Transportation, FBI, CIA, including some who travel to Washington from federal offices around the country, and a few from international posts, all begin gathering at and around the Bush Grindhouse in the pre-dawn hours, some staking out positions days in advance.

For the occasion, as like the crew at Gobbler's Knob, those that work in the West Wing, don tails and top hats, and only a chosen few handle The Commander Guy after he's seen his own shadow.

A cottage industry has grown around the Oval Office event, with trinkets, tchotchkes, and t-shirts -- this year's showing, being the last Bush Shadow event, on the front, an outline of hand, holding a pen over a document, and, on the back, a listing of The Commander Guys' Signing Statements.

Vice President Dick Cheney, sources have told The Garlic, was at the event, wearing last years' official T-Shirt, simply the image of a pair of headphones embracing the country at both coasts, with the words "We're Listening" underneath.

"This really has come to emulate the movie," offered Hildy Johnson, editor of the monthly newsletter "What Did He Say Now?" that tracks and reviews President Bush's speeches and interviews, referring to the comedy classic, Groundhog Day.

"Bill Murray goes through the same day, over and over, and nothing happens to him," continued Johnson. "He doesn't get injured or hurt ... Arrested ... Nothing happens ... And Bush, it's the same thing ... He breaks law after law and nothing happens to him ... It's amazing, just like the movie."

**********

Bonus Groundhog Riffs

Groundhog Lied; Investigation Launched

Breaking News! Bush Administration To Tap Punxsutawney Phil To Bolster Foreign Policy; Gobbler's Knob Appearance Tomorrow Will Be Last For Famous Prognosticator

More Discord In The White House; White House At Odds With Groundhog Hire, Handlers Over Cheney Shooting; Bush Said To Be "Livid, As Famous Prognosticator 'Never Tipped Us Off"; UK's Blair Said To Be Frantic For Direction























For the occasion, as like the crew at Gobbler's Knob, those that work in the West Wing, don tails and top hats, and only a chosen few handle The Commander Guy after he's seen his own shadow.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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I get e-mails

By Capt. Fogg

Hillary Clinton, they say, is the only one who can beat McCain. At this stage, who knows? Others landing in my inbox have called Romney "A night in shining armor" which I find an interesting way of portraying a pathetic striver who would look more at home modeling a golf shirt in some resort-wear catalog. He'd be more qualified for that than he would be to be president of Eddie Bauer or Tommy Bahama, much less the United States. Of course our evaluations of candidates is just that superficial in this great land of idiots, that such appearances are sufficient while intelligence and knowledge or even mental stability are not. In a better America, Dennis Kucinich could beat John McCain, but Americans don't often vote in a way that reflects their best interests. Americans overwhelmingly reject Bush's objectives to build a pro-American and unified Iraq regardless of the expense, time, blood and improbability of success, yet the mad blood stirs when McCain, who believes that our Vietnam debacle was both noble and in some indefinable way "winnable," waves the flag and talks of
"victory" in Iraq and anywhere else it's possible to invade a third world country.

There's a tendency to impute nobility of purpose and character to victims, and McCain's victim status serves him well and takes away attention from the fact that while he was being tortured, we were skinning Vietnamese patriots alive, killing civilians by the millions, collecting severed ears as suovenirs and filling the air with the smell of napalm and burning children. It makes taking notice of this seem unpatriotic. It makes us somehow fail to notice that despite the overwhelming public aversion to another year of war, much less the hundred he finds acceptable, this is a man who sings "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," to the tune of the Beach Boys'"Barbara Ann" and says North Korea should be threatened with "extinction." The image of another deranged jingo at the helm of the most heavily armed and belligerent nation on Earth is more than I and most of the world can call a nightmare. It would be the genesis of a world that hates America and is willing to attack America far more than it already does. It would be a world far more likely to be at war for
another 100 years. Is this what heavily anti-war America will settle for rather than Clinton or Obama? Is this the man we need to restore fiscal responsibility to a nation up to it's eyeballs in debt?

How much does the public know, or care to know about McCain other than that he was shot down and tortured? Not much, as long as he fits the ecstatic vision of a man on a white horse waving a flag. Do we consider it important to know that he ranked 894th out of 899 in his class at the Naval Academy, was rejected by the War College and had to use family connections to worm his way in? Do we remember that reminiscent of the current beneficiary of nepotism in the White House, he never ran a successful business but married into a family rich enough to finance a political career? Like Bush, like Nixon, he's also a brat; prone to temper tantrums. In his own words, he writes:


At the smallest provocation I would go off into a mad frenzy, and then suddenly crash to the floor unconscious. When I got angry I held my breath until I blacked out.

Just the man to lead us in a crisis, and no problem as long as he's "pro-life."

We seem to have forgotten the
Keating Five scandal, too. McCain took vary large contributions from Charles Keating in return for using his influence to block investigations of that con-man "for no other reason than I valued support."

According to
The Independent, McCain comes from generations of war-mongers. His grandfather helped crush the Philippine resistance to US occupation by herding the population into concentration camps and exterminating the rest. McCain describes it as "an adventure."

His father led "Operation Power Pack," the
US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and successfully crushed the democratically elected government in favor of a compliant dictator to teach a lesson to "the natives" and bragged of a new "world empire." Our shining hero hasn't said a word to disassociate himself from such tyrannical imperialism. Only if a war has some humanitarian goal, like our intervention in Kosovo, or proposed intervention in Rwanda will John disagree and usually with mockery.

Yet this is a man many in his party dismiss as a "liberal" and whom
many liberals find acceptable in some misguided spirit of compromise. God help us if he's elected.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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And so it goes

By Carl

While we all struggle to come to grips with the twin news stories of the economy and the election, it's easy to lose track of stories that will affect our news in
years to come:

N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chadian rebels seeking to overthrow President Idriss Deby battled their way into the capital N'Djamena on Saturday and fought government troops around the presidential palace, diplomats and residents said.

The sound of machine gun and heavy weapons fire could be heard in the capital as foreign embassies advised their citizens to stay in doors and take cover. Fighting was reported to be taking place around the presidential palace and the parliament.

"I can confirm they (the rebels) are in the city," a foreign diplomat told Reuters. The situation was confused and mobile phone networks were not working.

"Rebels are headed for the palace and are about two blocks from here. The rebels are winning," one foreign resident said in an email sent from the compound of a western embassy in N'Djamena, adding she could hear tank and mortar fire.

OK, it's, you know, Chad! What's that got to do with the price of eggs?

Well, nothing today, but...

Chad says the rebels, who advanced rapidly this week across the country from the eastern border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, are armed and backed by the Sudanese government. Khartoum routinely denies such accusations.

Now, scroll back, say, twelve years and substitute Afghanistan for Chad.

That's the kind of trouble this could conceivably foment for us. The Darfur region of the Sudan is beset by Arab Islamist fundamentalists (the Janjaweed) who are attempting to drive out the ethnic Africans.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see what happens next: Al Qaeda and its wealthy patricians ask for and are granted asylum in Darfur, Chad and neighboring regions as the Janjaweed press their "influence" outward, backed by the Sudanese government, possibly cutting a deal with Qaddaffi as well.

This would give Al Qaeda a base of operations within striking distance of Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, and yes, Israel. Iran and Syria on one side. Al Qaeda supported by Sudan on the other, and then the fist closes on the Middle East.

Where's the uproar from the rabidly anti-Islamist right in this country? Where are the more Zionist neo-cons like Pamela "Atl-ass" Geller, always screeching about Israel's security, yet never saying word one about how we have squandered our military and financial resources fighting a war against people who once looked to us as an example of what it means to be free? Where's the "you're either with us or with the terrorists" bravado of 2002?

We on the left have been screaming about the tragedy of Darfur, yet here's a strategic as well as humanitarian crisis, and all this administration can do is embarrassedly clear their throats and mutter vague words of support for some nebulous United Nations attempt at putting a band-aid on a fracture.

Truly, "and so it goes.." -- until it is gone and too late.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Vienna Teng: "Recessional"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At the end of a long and busy week, let's slow things down tonight with some Vienna Teng -- as some of you may know, she's one of my favourite singer-songwriters around, with one of the most beautiful voices in the world. Suffice it so say, I still adore her immensely.

Last June, I put up a video for "Pontchartrain," one of the best songs off her most recent album, Dreaming Through the Noise. This song, "Recessional," follows that song on the album. It is less haunting, perhaps, but no less moving, a fitting conclusion to an amazing album. It was recorded, and added to YouTube by, Klaorman -- Bazaar Café, San Francisco (June 12, 2008).

**********

it's so beautiful here, she says, this moment now. and this moment, now. and I never thought I would find her here: flannel and satin, my four walls transformed. but she's looking at me, straight to center, no room at all for any other thought. and I know I don't want this. oh I swear I don't want this. there's a reason not to want this but I forgot. in the terminal she sleeps on my shoulder, hair falling forward, mouth all askew. fluorescent announcements beat their wings overhead: passengers missing, we're looking for you. and she dreams through the noise, her weight against me, face pressed into the corduroy grooves. maybe it means nothing but I'm afraid to move. and the words: they're everything and nothing. I want to search for her in the offhand remarks. who are you, taking coffee, no sugar? who are you, echoing street signs? who are you, the stranger in the shell of a lover, dark curtains drawn by the passage of time? oh words like rain, how sweet the sound. well anyway, she says, I'll see you around...

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Why John Edwards mattered

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I was iffy on him for much of the campaign, I admit, but John Edwards was my clear preference for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Back in December 2006, when he got into the race, I wrote two posts explaining why -- sere here and here. In the first of those posts, I wrote this:

I'm confident that the more you learn about John Edwards the more you'll like him and, yes, the more you'll support him. Indeed, I have come to admire John (and Elizabeth) a great deal over the past few years. John fights the good fight for working families, social justice, and a better America. He has been an active supporter of a minimum wage increase. He has worked to put an end to poverty. He has launched a grassroots effort to support Democrats at the state level. And he has elaborated a foreign policy that envisions America as a moral leader once again and that addresses the key challenges ahead: Iraq, Islamic terrorism, North Korea, Iran, Russia, HIV/AIDS in Africa, nuclear proliferation, energy supply.

I was a blogger at his One America Committee, and this blog, The Reaction, was the fourth featured blog there. And although I wanted Al Gore to get into the race, and although I would have supported Gore enthusiastically, I maintained by admiration for Edwards and, ultimately, supported his candidacy. But I was realistic about his chances from the start, writing this early on:

To be sure, it won't be easy for him. Though he benefits from having run with Kerry in '04 and from not being in Washington at a time when Washington is extremely unpopular and voters may be looking for an outsider, Clinton is the clear frontrunner and has distinct advantages in terms of organization and money, and Obama is, for now at least, the sexy candidate who is fuzzy on policy but abundant in ideas and inspiration.

Well, there we are again: Clinton is the frontrunner and Obama is the inspirational candidate -- and Edwards has suspended his campaign. But did Edwards fail? In the obvious sense, yes. He didn't win. And yet he contributed a great deal to the campaign, so much, in fact, that he has been a significant influence on both Clinton and Obama, as well as on the substance of the debate within the Democratic Party. As Libby put it the other day, Edwards was "invaluable in injecting progressive issues into the debate". Like Edward and Capt. Fogg, I was sad to see him drop out.

Yes, he mattered. Here's Krugman in today's NYT: "Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform [he] built." His key contribution, Krugman suggests, was in the area of health care (which I wrote about almost a year ago), but there were many other "less dramatic examples of leadership," including on climate change, which I consider to be the most pressing issue of our time. Krugman continues: "If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, however, polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank."

And if the next president, hopefully either Clinton or Obama, succeeds in getting something significant done on health care and climate change, as well as on poverty and Edwards's other key issues, they will know where to look for the ideas and inspiration that made it happen.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXXIV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's a bad day in Baghdad:

More than 70 people have been killed by two bombs in Baghdad, attached to two mentally disabled women and detonated remotely, says a security official.

*****

The death toll in Friday morning's attacks at two animal markets was the highest in months in Baghdad.

Yes, you read that correctly: the two suicide bombers were mentally disabled women -- although one wonders whether suicide is the right word for it. Did they act on their own volition, or where they coerced into it? For that matter, aren't most suicide bombers coerced into it?

Regardless, there is no doubt that the U.S. surge has contributed to the decrease in violence in some parts of Iraq, including Baghdad. There are other factors, too, though, and, on the whole, the surge has failed to meet its critical political objectives, including political reconciliation between and among Iraq's sectarian groups.

And the fact is, Iraq is still an incredibly violent place. And it could soon get much worse. Basically, the convenient alliances between the U.S. military and Sunni insurgent groups are won't hold up and the Shiite militias, including Sadr's, will rise up once again. The sectarian violence will escalate, plunging Iraq back into the abyss, or, rather, further into the abyss. And, of course, there's al Qaeda. Bush may think the U.S. has it on the run, but it is still, needless to say, a potent force capable of immense violence.

As I have suggested before, there has been a calm before the storm in Iraq. That relative calm was broken today, as it has been repeatedly even as the war's proponents have been gloating with delusional optimism these past months. There has been no political reconciliation and the blood continues to flow in the streets.

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Glenn Beck is a nativist asshole

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Okay, I know what you're thinking: why the qualifier? Beck isn't just a nativist asshole, he's an asshole period. Which is to say, his assholery is essential to his being.

And, you know what? You're right. And I've previously said precisely that.

What I want to look at here, however, is the specifically nativist component of his assholery. For what a significant component it is.

Here's one of his latest public outbursts of nativism, courtesy of Think Progress:

Discussing [Wednesday] night's GOP debate on his radio show [yesterday], Glenn Beck and fill-in host Pat Gray mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by derisively calling him "Juan McCain." Beck, who considers McCain's sponsorship of a comprehensive immigration bill and the Mexican background of his national director of Hispanic outreach to be "an audacious slap in the face to the American people," proudly advertised the segment in his daily e-mail to listeners [yesterday].

And there's more. Read the full TP post.

As much as I dislike McCain, even if I have a bit of a soft spot for him, he doesn't deserve this sort of abuse. But of course he's viciously loathed by many on the right -- including Hugh Hewitt (who thinks he'd destroy "the Reagan Coalition," even though, in truth, he's stridently conservative) and Ann Coulter (who, believe it or not, has gone so far as to say she prefers Hillary over McCain, just like Michelle Malkin) -- and he's one of the few Republicans with (relatively) sensible views on illegal immigration.

In other words, with McCain now the frontrunner, and looking more and more like the GOP nominee-to-be, this is what we can expect not just from assholes like Beck but from the wide swath of purificationist ideologues on the right generally, those purge-leading neo-Stalinists of the conservative movement.

I would just remind you that Beck is on CNN, the network that gives Lou Dobbs an even more prominent platform from which to spew his nativist populism.

"The Most Trusted Name in News"? -- I think not.

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"The Democratic Party won tonight"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Whatever our reservations about Clinton and Obama -- and I have expressed them strongly, I know, as have others here at The Reaction -- we do need to keep in mind that they are both highly impressive candidates for the Democratic nomination. And the debate between the two in Hollywood last night showcased just how impressive they can be. They both have their flaws -- and some of them were on display -- but, well, here's Steve Soto, who is more positive than I am but who puts it well:

Both Obama and Clinton made a convincing case tonight that both of them are infinitely better presidential choices than either McCain or Romney. Both Obama and Clinton showed a command of the facts and a grasp of the real concerns facing everyday Americans, so much so that both McCain and Romney seem sophomoric by comparison. Both were still able to make their "change versus experience" arguments, and yet they still came across as far better prepared to take office than any Republican. They were able to make their differences known and still did so while the media noticed how nice they were to each other, thereby turning on its head the ready-made media narrative of the last several weeks that a bitter rivalry was set to destroy the party.

*****

After seeing the divisiveness and looming train wreck of the last several weeks, tonight's debate should give the party faithful and independent voters a renewed confidence that either Democratic candidate is the far superior choice this fall over any of the Republicans. That is the real answer to the question of "Who won tonight?"

See also John Dickerson: "[I]t was a substantive debate, perhaps the most substantive so far." And they seemed to get along, quite well: "Before leaving the stage, the two embraced, smiled, and had a close conversation with their faces almost touching. For a second, it appeared they might exchange an Eskimo kiss." Surely that wasn't entirely an act, right?

Is Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama possible?

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The McCain Presidency -- Day One

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"It's a tough war we're in. It's not going to be over right away. There's going to be other wars... I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars."

-- Sen. John McCain (Jan. 27, 2008)

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Place: The Oval Office
Time: January 20, 2009

Scene: Just hours after being inaugurated, enjoying a moment of quiet in the eye of a storm of Beltway mayhem, President John McCain and Vice President Fred Thompson are having a private conversation, seated in armchairs in the center of the room. We join them in progress...

John: Billy K. is telling me to take preemptive action against Iran.
Fred: I still can't believe you made him secretary of state.
John: He's always stood by me, unlike the rest of the bastards in our party.
Fred: (nodding off) Hmmph, hrrph.

John: Wolfie agrees with him.
Fred: (shaking awake) He's an asshole. Nice move giving him the Pentagon.
John: I'm so tired of you second-guessing me. Just tell me, what should I do?
Fred: (old scripts coming back to him through a haze of consciousness) Iranians don't take a dump, son, without a plan.
John: What the hell do you mean by that? (anger flaring) Wake up, goddamn you!
Fred: This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.
John: Are you telling me I don't know what I'm doing?
Fred: That stupid, arrogant son-of-a-bitch!
John: (flabbergasted) Who? Me? Jesus Christ, I knew I should have picked Huck. Or Rudy. He's just so insufferable. Maybe Loser... er, Lieberman. The point is, mistakes may have been made. I'm telling you straight.
Fred: What the hell is that supposed to mean? I know we're all dummies up here, McClane, but give us a little taste of your brilliant genius!
John: It's McCain, not McClane, jackass. And here's a taste of my brilliant genius. You're fired!
Fred: This a just a big joke to you, Horrigan?
John: Who? What? Who the hell's Horrigan? (pause) Oh, right. (finally getting it) You know, Fred, maybe your senile laziness will come in handy one day. It's very… Reaganesque. Now where's that Secret Service detail to escort you back home for a nap before all the parties tonight? (looking around)
Fred: What's all this top secret business I've been hearing about over at the Pentagon?
John: (putting his arm around Fred and walking to the door) Never you mind, Freddy-boy, never you mind. I'll take care of everything.
Fred: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………….


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Fred was quoting lines from four of his finest movies: The Hunt for Red October, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, In the Line of Fire, and No Way Out. I'll let you figure out what was what.

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Is Hillary Clinton a theocrat?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think it's a question that needs to be asked -- and answered. Like this one, posed by Mother Jones: "Is she triangulating -- or living her faith?" Or both. Consider:

Clinton's God talk is more complicated -- and more deeply rooted -- than either fans or foes would have it, a revelation not just of her determination to out-Jesus the gop, but of the powerful religious strand in her own politics. Over the past year, we've interviewed dozens of Clinton's friends, mentors, and pastors about her faith, her politics, and how each shapes the other. And while media reports tend to characterize Clinton's subtle recalibration of tone and style as part of the Democrats' broader move to recapture the terrain of "moral values," those who know her say there's far more to it than that.

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. "A lot of evangelicals would see that as just cynical exploitation," says the Reverend Rob Schenck, a former leader of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who now ministers to decision makers in Washington. "I don't... there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk, and open Bibles, and prayer."

Make sure to read the entire piece. It's quite long, but it's also extremely important.

I have no doubt that Clinton is a solid liberal, progressive on some issues, less so on others, and is not some sort of christianist theocrat out to impose a right-wing religious agenda on America. And yet, one wonders:

When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.

Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.

It would be good to know what Clinton's views are with respect to this "spiritual war," would it not? Surely there are other faith groups she could have joined. Why this one? Was it all an act of triangulation, an effort to reach out to conservatives -- and in particular to her conservative colleagues in the Senate? Or does she actually believe in the Fellowship and its goals, in bringing Jesus, the christianist Jesus, into public life, into her public life, into whatever office she holds? If so, what specifically does she believe? Or is she somehow being duped, an victim of the christianist strategy of "cobelligerency," whereby "conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them," pulling them to the right and turning them into allies, witting or otherwise, of their noxious agenda?

More urgently, what would any of this mean if she were elected to the White House in November? Are we confident we know the real Hillary Clinton? Would she work to guide the country in a more progressive direction, or would she be, in essence, the Fellowship's liberal in the Oval Office, a friendly liberal willing and eager to do some christianist bidding?

I'm not at all confident. For a long time, my reservations about Clinton had largely to do with her triangulating positions on Iraq, Iran, and foreign policy generally. More recently, I have been appalled by some of what I have heard from her on the campaign trail. But there is this other Hillary, the Hillary who reaches out to, and cozies up with, the likes of Brownback and Santorum, the Hillary who attracts Newt Gingrich, the Hillary who wants to work with Republicans to get things done, things Republicans but not her fellow Democrats may want done. This other Hillary is hardly someone I want in the White House.

Again, we need answers to the questions posed above. But since there likely won't be any answers forthcoming, and certainly not satisfactory answers, we need to think carefully about what a Clinton presidency, a second one, would mean.

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As I have said before, I think that both Clinton and Obama could be good, even great, presidents but that I do not much care for either one. (For a thoughtful critique of Obama, see here.)

Just days before Super Tuesday, I'm still not sure where I stand. (It was with Edwards, alas.) Which is perhaps for the best. I'll support whoever emerges as the nominee, no matter what. (There's no way I'm supporting a Republican.)

It's just that these reservations are tough to overlook. And they seem, on both sides, to be growing.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The foreign policy of George W. Bush, "the man who learned too little"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's the title of Fred Kaplan's excellent analysis of President Bush's comments on U.S. foreign policy, including the Iraq War and Occupation, in Monday's SOTU. It's a must-read, and I've been meaning to post on it all week as a sort of follow-up to my live-blogging of the SOTU, which included a few remarks on Iraq, but, alas, the SOTU was quickly forgotten, more or less, put aside, tossed into the dustbin, a lame address from a lame-duck president, more of the same delusional drivel that hast come to characterize so much of this presidency. And we all moved on to seemingly more important things, like the Florida primaries -- yes, Bush has been eclipsed by Clinton and Obama, McCain and Romney, two close races, fascinating politics, and we are all, or so it seems, looking ahead eagerly to the end of the Bush presidency and the start of whatever is to come.

But not so fast. Bush offered up more of the same happy-talk, but the Iraq War and Occupation is very real, and what is going on there still matters, lest we forget.

And so I turn to Kaplan. His dissection of Bush's comments asks the right questions and makes the right points -- for example, Bush's talk of democracy and freedom is just that, talk, with nothing to back it up, a reflection of ignorance and delusion, self-righteousness and complacency, gross negligence and utter cluelessness -- but, Bush aside, his examination of the situation in Iraq is brilliant. I rarely post such long excerpts from other sources, but here it is, the truth about Iraq:

On Iraq, Bush had some genuinely good news to tell, but he overstated it and distorted its implications. The past few months have witnessed a dramatic decline in casualties (civilian and military, Iraqi and American). The "surge" — which Bush ordered into effect nearly a year ago, in the face of much skepticism — is indisputably one cause of these trends. But it is just one cause, and the effects being celebrated, salutary as they are, are not the effects that were intended.

Certainly the additional 25,000 troops that the surge has brought to a few areas of Iraq — along with Gen. David Petraeus' more aggressive strategy of using them (putting troops out on the streets instead of retreating to the superbases) — has increased security in the areas they've been able to occupy.

However, much of the reduced violence is related to the "alliances of convenience" between U.S. forces and Sunni insurgents against the common enemy of al-Qaida in Iraq. These alliances were initiated by the Sunnis and antedate the surge. There is also the matter of Muqtada Sadr's moratorium on violence (which, in fairness, might be due in part to the surge). And there is the simple fact that U.S. forces are paying insurgency groups not to attack them (a wise use of money, until it runs out).

More to the point, Gen. Petraeus said at the beginning that there is no strictly military victory to be had in Iraq; that the point of the surge was to provide "breathing space" to Iraq's political leaders, so that, amid improved security in Baghdad, they might settle their sectarian disputes. This political settlement does not appear to be happening; the political objectives of the surge are not being met.

President Bush said the proof of our strategy's success is that "more than 20,000 of our troops are coming home." (The congressional crowd went wild with applause.) These are the 20,000 troops that were sent over as part of the surge. The simple fact is that, by the summer, the 15-month deployment tours of the last of these surge brigades will have run out. There are no brigades ready to replace them. So, they will come home — and this would have been the case, no matter what had happened in the past year. The surge has always been short-term; that's why they called it a surge.

As for the prospect of future withdrawals, Bush said, "Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders." He added, "Gen. Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in the disintegration of the Iraqi security forces, al-Qaida in Iraq regaining lost ground, a marked increase in violence."

Don't bet on any more troops coming home for good before Christmas. And if a reduction from 160,000 to 140,000 puts the situation back on the precipice, below which further cuts trigger disaster, then the situation cannot be considered at all stable.

And it isn't stable, not really. Violence has been reduced in certain areas, that is true, but the surge has not worked -- certainly not as intended, and only temporarily, and Iraq remains not just deeply divided but in a state of relative calm before the coming storm. And, yes, the storm is coming.

Kaplan is right that it will take another president to demonstrate that Americans are "a compassionate people," as Bush put it in his address, but it will also fall to the the next president to deal with Bush's mess in Iraq.

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How can we reclaim a sense of security in this climate?

By Carol Gee

Several forces conspire to steal our sense of security. They are man-made, not natural forces. These forces, however are not conspiring with each other to steal from us. I say that to allay any suspicion that I am a conspiracy theorist or that I am paranoid. I am sane and rational, though not always perfectly so. But these are truly dark times.

Today I am relieved that one of the conspirators, Rudy Giuliani, will no longer be as active among us. His endorsement of another of the current players of the "fear card," Senator John McCain, reminded me that they do not want us to relax. The forces of aggression that set in motion the loss of a million Iraqis, are now supported by McCain's seeming commitment to a "forever war." Because our nation is an integral part of such violence, his candidacy does not allow us normal folks to feel at ease.

Other maladaptive psychological traits in and out of our current administration tend to keep us agitated. Let me give you another example example. You could see much agitation on C-SPAN yesterday when Attorney General Michael Mukasey (the 3rd member of Mr. Bush's Tough Guy Triumvirate that includes Mike McConnell-DNI and Michael Hayden-CIA Director) testified before the Senate yesterday. The most prevalent questions from Senators to our nation's most senior legal official, were about water boarding. Mukasey, seemingly in absolute psychological denial, refused to rule it out, at the same time as he termed it "repugnant." How are we to feel he will staunchly defend the rule of law? He will not, according to the New York Times story on 1/31/08. To quote:

The legality of waterboarding, in which a prisoner experiences a sensation of drowning, has been come under fierce debate since the acknowledgment by Bush administration officials that a small number of prisoners who were members of Al Qaeda had been subjected to it after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Mukasey said in a letter delivered to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night that he had been authorized by the White House to reveal that waterboarding was no longer being carried out and, for now, was considered an unapproved interrogation technique within the C.I.A. He repeated that assurance in his testimony Wednesday.

Legislative leaders formulate the laws that are then to be executed by another branch of government. The U.S. Constitution assures us of those basics. It does not make me feel more secure to suspect that the CIA sees itself as above the law. How am I to believe that my civil liberties and those of others will be protected as the agency goes about its business? The following story is another example of ignoring the basic rules of evidence. The headline reads, "Detainee's Lawyers Rebut C.I.A. on Tapes" -- NYT 1/19/08. To quote:

Lawyers for Majid Khan, a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have challenged the Central Intelligence Agency’s assertion that videotaping of interrogations stopped in 2002, saying that Mr. Khan’s interrogations after that time were recorded on videotape.

In papers filed Jan. 4, Mr. Khan’s lawyers challenged a Dec. 6 statement by the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden, addressing agency employees after being told that The New York Times was about to publish an article about the tapes, wrote that the taping stopped in 2002.

Having a responsible position and years of experience does not necessarily endow a man with integrity or the ability to do well by his subordinates. General Mike Hayden's predecessor, Porter Goss was a high ranking legislator just prior to his appointment to head the CIA. And he left his staff member hanging out to dry with a decision on the side of the law, that should have been his own to make. We should have been able to trust him to do the right thing. Goss chaired the House Intelligence Committee; Rep. Jane Harman was the Democratic ranking Member. Headlined Porter Goss and the tapes (1/17/08), the story came from the AP. To quote:

Former CIA Director Porter Goss never criticized plans to destroy interrogation videotapes, a lawyer said Thursday as the investigation began shaping up as a matter of competing storylines.

Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who gave the order to destroy the tapes, is at the center of Justice Department and congressional investigations into who approved the plan and whether it was illegal. His attorney, Robert Bennett, said Goss and Rodriquez met several times to discuss the tapes and Goss was never critical of Rodriquez' decision.

Many of us began to feel more secure back in December when Congress sought to ban torture altogether. The NYT headline read, "House Votes to Ban Harsh C.I.A. Methods." It was by AP from December 13, 2007. To quote:

The House approved an intelligence bill Thursday that would prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh interrogation methods.

The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before it can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.

The bill, a House-Senate compromise to authorize intelligence operations in 2008, also blocks spending 70 percent of the intelligence budget until the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on Israel's Sept. 6 air strike on an alleged nuclear site in Syria.

The 2008 intelligence budget is classified, but it is more than the $43 billion approved for 2007.

The New York Times editorialized at about the same time with this headline: "In Arrogant defense of torture."

According to GovTrack.us, HR. 2082 has not been signed by the president. So, despite passing laws, an active opposition from a leading newspaper, and with yesterday's AG refusal to disavow torture, we cannot yet feel secure that our government is operating under the rule of law.

Update: Senator Whitehouse told us -- during his very effective C-SPAN call-in this morning -- that the Conference Report on the Intelligence bill must still be accepted by the Senate. So it is not yet on the President's desk, to be fair.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Bush balances budget on backs of the elderly

By Libby Spencer

So let me get this straight. We're in a health care crisis in this country. Almost 50 million Americans can't afford health insurance and Bush recently told us that it's not a problem because anyone can go to the ER for critical care. We'll leave aside that this still leaves millions without the ability to get preventive care that would keep them out of the ER in the first place.

Now comes Bush with his budget proposal designed to cure the deficit he created by 2012 and how does he propose to do that? Our compassionate conservative came up with the brilliant plan to cut billions in spending from the two programs that assist those who have to rely on near death experiences in the ER for their health care, namely Medicare and Medicaid.

The cuts won't be made to corporate welfare payments to private insurers who offer overpriced supplemental plans. No, he wants to slice the guts out of the safety net that the poor literally rely on to stay alive. He proposes to kill Medicare by cutting already inadequate reimbursements further.

Most of the Medicare savings in the budget would be achieved by reducing the annual update in federal payments to hospitals [especially teaching hospitals], nursing homes, hospices, ambulances and home care agencies.

So I guess the plan is that the elderly and the poor are supposed to wait until their health has critically failed to go to ERs that won't exist because hospitals will fail without proper reimbursement, which will solve the problem of the doctor shortage since there won't be there any place for them to practice. I don't know if Bush has come up with one of those pithy Orwellian names for this proposal, but I think I'm going to call it the Genocide Budget. I can't think of more accurate description.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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The politics of unity

By Carl

"If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he'd [Clinton] be gone. This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."- Congressman Dan Burton (R: Indiana)

It's nice to see that the bitch doesn't fall far from the tree. I'll bet her mother is very, very proud of her. - Support Your Local Gunfighter (Moron: Blogosphere)

I draw your attention to the above quotations of two of the more, um, OK, less polite Republicans on this planet, and ask you to consider the politics of unity that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both espouse.

Why?

After all, much sport has been had with Obama's middle name already and he hasn't even won the nomination. And of course, Hillary herself has such groups as CLIT and CUNT on her trail.

How long would it take for the Monica Crowleys and Roger Stones of the world to create National Investigative Group: Get Erudite Race-baiters or some other rejiggering (FReeper alert!) of the word?

These kind of attacks will continue and it's still early. I suspect there will be many more and many worse slights to come. Which raises the issue: should the lamb lie with the lion (or in this case, the jackals)?

I think it depends. And this is where Hillary has an huge advantage over Barack Obama.

Obama has revealed a very thin skin. Remember Clinton's "fairy tale" comment?



Obama surrogates unloaded their guns at Clinton, drawing the race card, and in the process, making Barack Obama look foolish AND spilling blood into the water for the sharks of the right wing to smell. Dumb. DUMB move. Obama didn't do much to dissuade them, nor did he do much to mend fences until days later.

This is one of a couple of slights to Obama that he's gone "drama queen" on. The Clintons have kept the gloves on, yet they've managed to take Obama off message and into the gutter. That has dampened his message of hope and unity.

The right wing, particularly Karl Rove, is paying attention. Yes, the cocaine story was a nothing deal, but it came out in the Democratic primaries before three-fourths of the country was even paying attention. Imagine nominee Obama being asked by moderator Chris Wallace in an October debate, "Sir, how many times did you do cocaine and did you ever sell it?"

We'll all be sitting for a McCain inauguration, to be sure, if Obama's answer to that lacks candor and forthrightness. After all, he put it in his book that he used, as opposed to Dubya, who ducked, weaved, and denied.

Hillary has shown she is more than tough enough to take the right wing hate-mongers on, and beat them. It concerns me that we might select a man who's going to get thrown off course for the lack of a backbone and stiff upper lip.

Too, Hillary's "sins" for what they are, are out there for all to see. There's no real October surprise (hell, they even found a boyfriend for her assistant!) here. We can't say the same about Barack Obama, particularly when his truth can be so easily twisted (madrassah in Pakistan, Muslim father, yadayadayada...you can work that one out on your own).

This is not to suggest that "thick skin" is the only criterion on which to base the selection of a nominee, and as I've said before, despite my endorsement of Senator Clinton, I would be as fervent in my support of Senator Obama as nominee as I would her selection.

But the two are so much alike in so many policy arenas despite their reported differences and the notion that Obama is running neck and neck with her. People who are reading the papers and looking at issues are seeing no difference and thinking about the '90s and seeing the early attacks, and I think they're thinking like I am: We need someone who can shrug off the attacks, and put forth a case to elect Democrats in 2008.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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"My mission is to protect you."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Uh-oh. More trouble for the Hugh Hewitts of the world, the purificationist ideologues of the conservative movement. They hate McCain and are pitching Romney as the saviour of "the Reagan Coalition," but McCain is now the frontrunner, Huckabee's still in the race, draining much-needed christianist support from Romney, who has his own impurity problems, and Giuliani and other insufficiently conservative Republicans are enthusiastically lining up behind McCain, who, by the way, is stridently conservative, whatever the maverick myth, don't let them fool you.

And one of the next big additions to the McCain fold could be one of the superstars of the GOP, the insufficiently conservative Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, CNN is reporting, is in talks with the McCain campaign regarding a formal endorsement -- which, if the governator is to be believed, may not come before Super Tuesday, which includes California's primary, but which would, I think, be a major boost for McCain. I'm hardly an admirer of Arnie the Politician (except on global warming), but it's probably worthwhile to have him on your side.

And just imagine how much more enraged McCain's conservative enemies would be.

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Update: MSNBC is reporting that Schwarzenegger will endorse McCain today. Yes, a huge boost for McCain. Romney will look awfully small next to the McCain-Schwarzenegger combo. As will the Hugh Hewitts of the world.

See here for a wrap-up of Wednesday's GOP debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

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The title of this post is taken from what may be Schwarzenegger's best movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

As for the photo below, maybe they're talking about Skynet. You never know.

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Kennedy for Obama

Guest post by Greg Prince

I'd like to welcome back one of the good friends of The Reaction, Greg Prince, who hasn't guest-posted here in some time but who, hopefully, will do so more frequently once again.

In this post, Greg raises serious concerns about Obama -- concerns I share, for the most part, and that have prevented me from a) being more enthusiastic than I am about his candidacy and the whole phenomenon that has built up around him, and b) supporting him in a two-way race with Clinton, particularly now that my preference, Edwards, is out of the race. Back when he first jumped into the race, I wrote that he had a lot of potential but also a lot to prove. He has proven to be a viable, exciting, even inspirational candidate with a good shot at the nomination, but, to me, he still has a lot to prove in terms of substance. And it's getting awfully late in the process to do much more proving of anything. -- MJWS

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Obama has received the endorsement of the Kennedy dynasty, and the media's hearts are a flutter. Here's a very well done ad featuring Caroline Kennedy (h/t: MNPublius):



It's a well-done ad, and at a very fundamental level I "get" the excitement over Obama's candidacy. Indeed, I have myself been looking forward to his greater exposure in the national media and his viability as a candidate for higher office for some time.

It goes without saying, if he's the candidate for the Democrats this go-around, he'll have my vote. But I'm afraid at this point in time he's still my third choice, not my first. For all his motivational rhetoric and bipartisan platitudes, there are some genuine concerns about what it might all mean in terms of an Obama administration.

Melissa McEwan has also been thinking in this direction and has compiled a list of concerns that is a wonderful place to start. She begins by pointing out that Obama says he wants to be applauded by both sides of the aisle in the annual SOTU ritual. She observes:

1. Why will the Republican members of Congress rise to applaud you, and the conservative half of the nation tune in to support you, unless you pursue an agenda that appeals to them? How do you pursue an agenda that appeals to conservatives, but is also progressive?

2. What is the common purpose around which you envision the country rallying? Do you regard "transcending partisanship" an end in itself, and do you foresee the GOP rallying around this goal? If so, how and why do you imagine that will happen?

These are important. The vision thing is wonderful and exciting to behold. But what do you actually plan to DO that is different in a meaningful way from what has been done before? I'm sick of partisanship getting the short end of the stick, particularly when it comes about in part due to legitimate and significant disagreement on major issues, and a desire to bring about policy change for the better.

What the hell does "bipartisanship" mean anyway? As practised by the Republican'ts since 1994, it means, "You be bi, while we are partisan," and unless one is in the habit of bending over and saying "ahhh" on every substantiative policy debate, you're criticized as a partisan hack and divisive. Bipartisanship is not a virtue in and of itself but only as a means to an end, and the only thing it's accomplished over the last eight years is a spasmodic dance toward the extreme right in terms of policy.

Look at the Senate. A Democratic "moderate" is one who votes with Republicans an unfortunate percent of the time. A Republican "moderate" is one who quietly thinks unkind thoughts about Bush before falling into line and voting like a good doobie. The whole reason Arlen Specter's recent (correct) vote on FISA closure is noteworthy is precisely that he actually DID instead of just talked.

3. Assume for a moment that you are nominated and subsequently elected, and, despite being "the kind of president" in whom Americans can believe, the profound partisan rancor that currently plagues the nation doesn't evaporate, that Americans fail to rally around a common purpose. What is Plan B? Do you move ever rightward trying to find support among those who refuse to rally, or do you say, "Screw 'em," and go leftward to honor those who voted for you?

This is a question that simply MUST be addressed. Look, there are a lot of people out there with a process fetish. These are the "Unity '08" nerds who whine about partisanship and conflict but lack any signature issues -- other than the process itself -- to drive their campaign forward or give it meaning.

Dialogue for the sake of dialogue, negotiation for the sake of negotiation, compromise for the sake of compromise... it's all moot if the end result isn't defensible policy. We've been working for years to find a happy middle, a reasonable compromise. And the results are not pretty.

So Obama, I'm not interested in compromise and discussion with the wingnut caucus. Been there, done that. It's time to recalibrate and I want to defeat them utterly. Can you be trusted to use your bully pulpit to move things in the correct direction? And don't feed us the lines about limited presidential power, congressional responsibility, etc. Clinton and Reagan both had hostile Congresses during parts of their administration, and they made progress on their agendas notwithstanding.

What are YOU willing to go to the mat on?

4. Noting that the most bitter partisan divides on domestic policy regard issues of basic rights, such as reproductive rights and marriage rights, and noting further that the two sides of these issues are unlikely to come to spontaneous agreement, those subjects are likely to continue to play a divisive role in American politics. How do you plan to prevent such bedrock divisions from undermining the national unity you imagine? Do those of us on the progressive side of these issues have reason to worry that you will not be a vociferous advocate for any controversial or ideologically discordant issues?

Obama, let's be brutally honest here. You've thrown gays under the bus, you've attacked your primary rivals using the same right-wing talking points that would be used against you in the fall, you've fallen into scaring people about Social Security... Your track record here doesn't lend itself to optimism. What are the issues on which you have distinguished yourself as a real leader, and what are your policy goals in those areas?

Don't get me wrong -- there are legitimate concerns about Hillary, too. But at least she has a lengthy record on the national stage. We have a sense that there are lines she's willing to draw in the sand, battles she's willing to fight. Obama... still hearing crickets chirp in the background.

So what are we to make of the Kennedy endorsements? Certainly, they're significant in terms of nostalgic yearnings for Camelot and a passing of the torch of sorts. But we can't get starry-eyed and forget that the Kennedy mystique is what it is in large part because JFK was assassinated. In objective terms, his record was mixed, and the real accomplishments of the times were driven by LBJ.

Which isn't to say Caroline and Teddy didn't do a good job -- they did, and the symbolism is powerful. But let's not lose our heads and think it means more than it does.

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