Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bush Foreign Policy Under Seige

For six years, the Bush administration has remained committed to playing hardball with the communist government of North Korea, one of the nations in the President’s axis of evil. However, after announcing the main points of the accord reached Tuesday between the United States and North Korea regarding the latter’s nuclear program, conservatives inside and outside of the administration have been quick to label the deal a huge mistake.

“It is rewarding bad behavior of the North Koreans by promising fuel oil,” said John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “It’s a bad signal to North Korea and it’s a bad signal to Iran. It will say to countries like Iran and other would-be proliferators, if you just have enough patience, if you just have enough persistence, you’ll wear the United States down. They’ll give up on point after point after point.”

To say that the criticism leveled by Bolton and other conservatives regarding the deal with North Korea is a troubling sign for President Bush would be an understatement, but it is further evidence that there is growing angst within the GOP towards the President’s overall foreign policy efforts. The White House is certain to suffer a public rebuke Friday when the House of Representatives passes a resolution opposing the military surge in Iraq, and there will be close to thirty Republicans voting in favor of the resolution. The growing rift with Iran is also making many in the GOP uneasy as observers see an administration starting to make a case for war, similar to the one made prior to the invasion of Iraq.

“There are weapons (IED’S) in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the (Iranian) Quds force,” Bush said at his press conference yesterday. “And as you know, I hope, that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there, and I intend to do something about it. And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops.”

Yet, on Tuesday, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, was not as confident that the upper levels of Iranian leadership were behind the influx of weapons. “That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this,” Pace said.

Since his State of the Union address in 2002 when he first used the term “axis of evil,” Bush has remained aggressive in his rhetoric towards Iran, Iraq and North Korea and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and support of global terrorism. Now, unfortunately, Bush finds himself bogged down militarily in Iraq, giving North Korea the same deal he criticized the Clinton administration of proffering in 1994, and publicly flailing in his attempt to find the right course of action against Iran.

After defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bush’s foreign policy and military decisions have been bungled. Adding insult to injury, the Taliban is preparing for a huge spring offensive and many military observers are predicting that the troop levels currently in Afghanistan may be insufficient in preventing the Taliban from regaining the military upper hand in many areas thought to be secure. The idea of opening up a third theatre of military operations in Iran, even if only the United States were to bomb strategic targets, would be folly.

“Presidents have to weigh different options all the time,” Bush said yesterday. “Look, I fully understand there are some who are -- don't agree with every decision I make. I hope the American people understand I make those decisions because I believe it's going to yield the peace that we all want.”

It becomes more evident every day that this President’s decision to invade Iraq will not yield peace. It’s now up to Congress to make sure that decision isn’t compounded while also making certain that Iran doesn’t become another Bush blunder. It’s time to get “Little King George” out of the sandbox that is the Middle East.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Message to Congress: Stand Up and Be Counted

March 20th, 2007, will mark the four year anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. In those four years, Americans have come to realize three things. First, the United States still possesses the most fearsome fighting force on the planet. Former dictator Saddam Hussein and his army, if you can call it that, knew as much, and made the smart decision not to test our military. Second, Americans learned that no matter how strong our military might be, there are limits to what it can do when it is opposed by a determined insurgency which grows more sophisticated every day. It would take more than five hundred thousand troops to properly quell the violence in Iraq, and that still might not be enough to get the job done.

Finally, Americans determined in the last two weeks that the men and women who they elected to serve them in the United States Senate lacked “guts.” There are other words that could be used which might be fancier, and others yet that would be politically incorrect, but guts cuts right to the heart of the matter. Words like courage and fortitude must be saved for the brave men and women that serve in Iraq and around the world, not for men and women who lack the intestinal fortitude to debate and vote on a simple non-binding resolution regarding one of the most important issues of our time: war in the Middle East.

If Americans had little faith and trust in government and their elected officials before this bipartisan debacle, and poll after poll shows that to be the case, the impotence that the Senate displayed this week will cause the public to become even more distrustful of its so-called leaders. Voters sent a clear message to politicians in the mid-term elections, and the message was vivid and to the point: we may not completely agree on the way forward in Iraq, but we expect you, the Congress and the President, to work together to figure out what must be done. Isn’t a critical step in that process being able to debate the matter on the floor of the Senate?

Instead, Senators on both sides of the aisle spent the last week debating and voting on procedure. When Democrats and Republicans couldn’t, or wouldn’t, agree on how the debate should be debated, they voted not to debate at all. Now, a group of Republican Senators have sent a letter to Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell stating that they want to ensure that the Senate brings the issue of Iraq to the floor. Led by John Warner and Chuck Hagel, they wrote: “We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate.”

While soldiers die every day, as the situation continues to worsen, the Senate proceeds to do exactly what voters have said they despise the most: play politics. For the White House, this must be viewed as a victory, since President Bush has said that any resolution which opposes his Iraq surge would embolden the enemy and harm the morale of our troops. Unfortunately for Bush, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace don’t necessarily agree with him. Testifying this week in front of the House Armed Services Committee, Pace said, “From the standpoint of the troops, I believe that they understand how our legislature works and that they understand that there's going to be this kind of debate. They're going to be looking to see whether or not they are supported in the realm of mission given and resources provided. As long as this Congress continues to do what it has done, which is to provide the resources for the mission, the dialogue will be the dialogue, and the troops will feel supported.”

Very soon, the discussion will turn from resolutions to funding. The President has requested a $100 billion supplemental to cover the cost of the war for the rest of this year, and some Democrats have come to the conclusion that the only way to stop this war will be to deny those funds. “Congress has the duty to stand up and use its power to stop him,” said Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, referring to Bush. “If Congress doesn‘t stop this war, it‘s not because it doesn‘t have the power. It‘s because it doesn‘t have the will.”

Former Iowa governor and current Democratic presidential contender Tom Vilsack has also staked out a position that goes further than any of his rivals. “Those in Congress who voted for the war, those in Congress who have voted to continue the war, and those in Congress who have funded the war, can surely vote to end the war,” Vilsack said at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting. “Congress has the constitutional responsibility and a moral duty to cut off funding for the status quo. Not a cap — an end. Not eventually — immediately.”

Feingold decided against running for president and Vilsack is a long shot, and it’s also a long shot that Congress will cut off funding for the war. But if Americans continue to see politics get in the way of pragmatism, Senate procedure get in the way of Senate debate, the idea of cutting off funds is sure to gain some traction. President Bush needs to see clear progress in Iraq in the coming months in order stave off a growing anti-war chorus. If not, Congress may finally do what the Constitution says it must: check and balance. On that, there should be no debate.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bad Things Happen When Your Mute Button Is Broken

Republican pollster Frank Luntz has released a new book called, “Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear.” Unfortunately, no one in presidential contender Joe Biden’s camp got the book in front of their man in time because Biden has already damaged, if not derailed, his bid for the White House. Luntz’s book is selling well since it debuted at the beginning of the year, now sitting in the top 100 on Amazon, although one could take issue with the title. Frankly, in politics today, it definitively is a matter of what one says, because everyone is listening, or filming, as George Allen found out, and Joe Biden once again forgot to turn on his verbal filter.

Back in July of 2006, Biden made the first of what could be called racial gaffes while pressing the flesh in New Hampshire. The C-Span series, “Road to the White House,” was filming as Biden was speaking with a man in the audience about his support in the Indian-American community. “I've had a great relationship,” Biden said. “In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking.”

We can only wish you were joking, Joe. If someone's ten and eleven year old sons were watching an episode of “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy” on television, you might have heard a similar comment delivered as one of many off-color jokes from a cartoon character, but to have something so ridiculously stereotypical come out of the mouth of a man who has been in the senate since 1973 is, if not shocking, disappointing. A Biden spokeswoman tried to clean it up. “The point Senator Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades,” said Margaret Aitken. “It has primarily been made up of engineers, scientists and physicians, but more recently, middle-class families are moving into Delaware and purchasing family-run small businesses.”

Maybe Biden’s spokeswoman needs to be the one running for president. What was most interesting was the look on Biden’s face as he spoke those unfortunate sentences. He was looking directly, intently, at the man, and Biden seemed as if he really believed what he was saying. He was smiling broadly and you could almost sense that Biden felt he was giving someone a kernel of information that he, and only he, just happened upon. Could he really be that out of touch?

While Biden was able to recover from his mistake at that moment, it’s unlikely he’s going to be as successful this time around as it pertains to comments he recently made about his colleague, Barack Obama. On the day he announced his candidacy for president, Biden said of Obama, “I mean, you've got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a story-book, man.” In a matter of ten seconds, Biden insulted Obama, Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun and African-Americans at large.

Again, could he really be this dense? Biden just hit the superfecta. Did he mean to say that Chisholm, Jackson, Sharpton and Braun were not “articulate, bright and clean,” like Obama? Are Jackson and Sharpton not as “nice-looking” as Obama? What does Biden mean by “mainstream?” One definition of mainstream is, “belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc.” Were Chisholm, Jackson, Sharpton and Braun that far out of the mainstream? Were they planning the overthrow of the government and forget to tell us?

For his part, Obama was slow to react to the backhanded compliment. At first, he told the press that Biden’s comments didn’t upset him. A day later, after surely hearing from those in the African-American community that his tepid response was unacceptable, Obama released a statement saying that Biden’s words were “historically inaccurate.” It’s another example of the difficulty facing Obama as he tries to build political support among African-American voters while remaining attractive to White voters.

Biden is going to have difficulty building support anywhere in his Party now. He’ll still likely remain in the race, but it was clear from the beginning that his candidacy was a long shot, and it’s been made even longer now. Many of Biden’s friends and colleagues have come to his defense and said, in no uncertain terms, that Biden is not a racist, but all Biden needs to do is remember what happened to former Virginia Senator George Allen when his verbal slip helped to get him kicked out of his senate seat. After a while, the stench just starts to get harder to ignore.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.” Twice now, the words of Joe Biden have betrayed him. At what point do people not begin to believe that those words are not actually what he truly believes?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Religion Is The Least Of Mitt Romney's Worries

The presidential candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have brought the issues of gender, race and religion front and center during the early stages of the race for the White House. Most major polling organizations have, and will continue to, poll voters on three specific questions: Is America ready to elect a woman president? Is America ready to elect a black president? Is America ready to elect a Mormon president?

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll delivered daunting news for Clinton and Obama. 60% of American voters believe that Democrats are likely to nominate a white male for president in 2008, and that includes 81% of black voters. Overall, 80% say that the next president is likely to be a white male. In Romney’s case, there have also been polls that are sure to cause concern, such as one recently that showed 37% of the respondents would not vote for a Mormon; only a Muslim had a higher percentage.

While convincing voters that his faith will not affect his ability to govern effectively and independently, which is exactly what John F. Kennedy had to do when questions were raised regarding his Catholicism in 1960, Romney will have to deal with additional charges that will cause comparisons to another Democrat from Massachusetts: John F. Kerry. If Kerry previously held the record of a presidential candidate accused of having the most flip-flops on his record, he may have met his match in Romney, which will doom any chance Romney has of winning the Republican nomination for president.

It’s not simply that Romney will be accused of being a flip-flopper. More importantly, he has changed his positions on issues that are not exactly up for debate within the Republican Party, specifically abortion, gay rights and gun control. Rudy Giuliani will have his own difficulty garnering the Republican nomination being that he’s pro choice, pro gay rights and pro gun control, but at least he can say that he’s always held those positions. Romney has tried to have it both ways, and his previous stances on those critical issues are coming back to haunt him.

“I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” Romney said in a 1994 debate when he ran against Senator Ted Kennedy. “I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.”

In 2002, when he was running for governor against Democrat Shannon O’Brien, Romney responded to the National Abortion Rights Action League's candidate survey by writing, “I respect and will protect a woman's right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government's.”

In 1994 and 2002 Romney received the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian political action committee. In the middle of his campaign against Kennedy, Romney wrote the LCR a thank you letter. “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to talk with you and to meet many of you personally during your September meeting,” Romney penned. “I learned a great deal from those discussions and the many thoughtful questions you posed. As a result of our discussions and other interactions with gay and lesbian voters across the state, I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.”

Finally, when it comes to gun control, Romney, when asked what he thought of the Brady Bill, which required waiting periods for handgun purchases, replied, “I don't think [the waiting period] will have a massive effect on crime but I think it will have a positive effect.” Romney also previously supported the federal assault weapons ban.

Today, at the beginning of a long race for the presidency, Romney has changed his tune. On abortion: “I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view.” Responding to a court ruling handed down in 2004, on gay marriage: “Last year the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck a blow against the family, as I'm sure you know. The court forgot that marriage is first and foremost about nurturing and developing children. Its ruling meant that our society is supposed to be indifferent about whether children have a mother and a father.” On guns: “I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I'm a member of the NRA and believe firmly in the right to bear arms.”

All of the prospective presidential candidates have begun the process of pandering to their respective liberal and conservative bases, but none of them will have to do as much stroking as Romney. Conservatives, evangelicals and the NRA could have eventually overlooked questions about Romney’s faith, much like most of the country did Kennedy’s in 1960, but his conflicting stances on the big three issues of abortion, gay rights and gun control are unforgivable. Interestingly, Romney may be sharing the doghouse with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani when all is said and done since those two also have serious skeptics in the GOP regarding the big three issues. Which is why although the names Brownback and Huckabee aren’t making many Republicans jump for joy just yet, it’s a long, long way to November, 2008. Twenty one months is more than enough time for the dark horses to get saddled up.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Congressional Black Caucus Should Lead By Example

In 1971, two years after Representatives Shirley Chisholm, Louis Stokes and William Clay recognized the need for formally organizing the increasing number of black lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Black Caucus was officially begun. In addition to those three representatives, Charles Rangel, John Conyers and Ron Dellums were part of the original twelve founding members of the CBC.

Today, there are over forty black members of the CBC in the 110th Congress, and as was reported recently, the CBC will remain exclusively black, at least for the foreseeable future. Freshman Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, who is white and who represents a majority black district, will not become the CBC’s first white member. According to Cohen’s spokeswoman, Marilyn Dillihay, “Representative Cohen never asked to join and was never denied access to the Black Caucus.” Whether that is true or not, it hasn’t stopped many observers, including Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo, from making the issue front page news.

"It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a colorblind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race," Tancredo said this past week. "If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses.”

While some will rightly say that Tancredo’s overly public stance is aimed at increasing exposure for a long shot presidential candidate who has made a name for himself through his opposition to illegal immigration, he raises a legitimate question. Should the Black Caucus deny membership to a member of Congress who wants to join, based on race?

There is nothing in the CBC’s bylaws that officially excludes membership based on race, however some members in the CBC today, and in years past, have admitted to an unwritten rule that only black lawmakers are encouraged to join. Before Steve Cohen, the last white House member that openly attempted to join the CBC was Pete Clark of California in 1975, who also was denied membership. Further, three black Republican members of Congress, Senator Edward Brooke, and Representatives Gary Franks and J.C. Watts, did not join the CBC because of its Democratic Party-leaning ideology.

In the previous 109th Congress, the CBC stated its formal Agenda as follows:

“Since the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus, the core mission of the CBC has been to close (and, ultimately, to eliminate) disparities that exist between African Americans and White Americans in every aspect of life. These continuing and troubling disparities make it more difficult, and often make it impossible, for African Americans to reach their full potential. In pursuing the core mission of the CBC, the CBC has been true to its motto that “the CBC has no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”

The CBC concludes its Agenda statement with this:

“The mission and objective of the CBC and our Agenda for the 109th Congress continues to be improving the condition of African American people. However, the CBC has never sought to limit the benefits of its endeavors to African Americans. Indeed, the members of the CBC firmly believe that the priorities outlined in this Agenda will benefit all Americans and will make our country better for all people. We invite all Americans to join us in the quest to remove disparities and barriers that increase the burden or make it impossible for individuals to achieve their full potential. African Americans will be better for it and America will be better for it, too.”

There’s no question that the CBC has been, and remains, an important part of the legislative process that makes sure issues relevant to the needs of blacks are addressed, but one must ask if denying membership, written or unwritten, based on race, lives up to its goals? Why would the inclusion of a white member, whose constituents are predominately black, derail the CBC’s stated objectives? Ironically, Representative Cohen replaced the popular Harold Ford Jr. who lost to Bob Corker in the Tennessee senate race, and Cohen did so by defeating Jake Ford, Harold’s younger brother. Cohen received the critical endorsements of the mayors of Memphis and Shelby County, both of whom are black, along the way.

Responding to the decision of the CBC, Cohen said, “It's their caucus and they do things their way. You don't force your way in." Fortunately, Americans of all races and colors who have fought for civil rights and equality since that struggle began decades ago didn’t walk away from opposition as quickly as Cohen has. If his intent to better serve the people of his district by joining the CBC was genuine, and there’s no evidence to prove that it was otherwise, it is incumbent upon the CBC to let him, and any other lawmaker who wants to join, into its caucus.

The CBC talks about reducing disparities of all types between blacks and whites, but recent health studies have shown that disparities are actually growing in relation to breast and prostate cancer. Serious work needs to be done, here and in many other areas, where disparities exist. Just how ridiculous does it look that in 2007, our elected officials are still fighting the silly battle of who can or can’t join this club or that club because of the color of their skin when more important struggles remain.

When she was running for president in 1972, Shirley Chisholm was asked what she expected to gain from her candidacy; what was it that she wanted for herself and her supporters. “My God, what do we want?” she replied. “What does any human being want? Take away an accident of pigmentation of a thin layer of our outer skin and there is no difference between me and anyone else. All we want is for that trivial difference to make no difference.”

Thirty five years later, we recognize we still have some distance to go.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jim Webb: Is A Star Born?

In the 2006 mid-term elections, six key victories by Democratic senatorial candidates helped change the face of Congress, including Whitehouse in Rhode Island, Casey in Pennsylvania, Brown in Ohio, McCaskill in Missouri and Tester in Montana. None, however, was as critical to the Democrat’s success as was Jim Webb’s unlikely victory over George Allen in Virginia. Webb’s triumph not only furthered the growing evidence that the changing demographics of northern Virginia will make the Old Dominion state a battleground in the 2008 presidential election, but it also destroyed any aspirations Allen had of becoming the Republican presidential nominee.

Less than three months following Webb’s win, he was chosen by his Party’s leadership to deliver the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address; not an insignificant honor for a freshman senator. Webb is not your typical freshman senator, however, and the tone and text of his response proved that he is not only going to be a serious, relevant politician, but also a powerful force within the Democratic Party for years to come.

Webb possesses an impressive background: United States Naval Academy graduate; highly decorated Marine Corps infantry officer in Vietnam; Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration. It was that background, and of course, Allen’s “macaca” moment, that turned the Virginia campaign into the close contest almost no one expected. Webb won by a margin of less than 8000 votes out of the almost 2.3 million votes cast.

In many ways, Webb was the logical choice to deliver the Democratic response, specifically because of the icy exchange he and President Bush shared at a White House reception for new members of Congress. It may be a while before the president asks “How’s your boy?” to anyone who has flesh and blood serving in Iraq. That moment was a defining one for Webb and the Democrats in that a man who has served his country in the military, whose son is serving, and who rode into his senate seat on the national wave of frustration with the Iraq war stood toe-to-toe with the Commander-In-Chief. Democrats were already feeling froggy after the election. This Bush versus Webb fight was enough to make them want to leap.

Webb kept the pressure on Tuesday night in his speech. “With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years,” Webb said. “Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.”

Unlike many of his respected senior colleagues in the Senate, including most of the ones running for president, Webb doesn’t carry the baggage of having voted to give Bush authorization to mismanage the war. And unlike Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama who, like Webb, was also not in the Senate at that time, Webb has the inherent toughness, the gravitas to call Bush on the carpet. What other Democrat can pull that off?

“The president took us into this war recklessly,” Webb stated. “He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable — and predicted — disarray that has followed.”

“The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq¹s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.”

Strong, certain words like those coming from a military man are critical if the Democrats are to seize and hold the higher ground on the issue of Iraq. Non-binding resolutions may be a good, safe start, but at some point, if Lt. Gen. David Petraeus isn’t able to pull off the miracle of miracles and bring some stability to Baghdad in the next six months, the calls will grow louder for lawmakers to take more urgent steps, like cutting off funding for the war. The majority of Americans are not in support of that action at the moment, and Webb has been vocal in his opposition to it as well, having lived through it when Congress cut funding during the Vietnam War. The country, however, grows more and more uneasy with the status quo.

Whatever actions Democrats take in the future regarding Iraq, you can be sure Senator Jim Webb will be front and center. If a young Democratic senator with only two years of experience can decide to run for the presidency, a freshman Democratic senator that possesses a resume like Jim Webb’s will be pressed to take on a leadership role in his Party. Four years from now, don’t be surprised to see Webb’s name mentioned as a potential presidential candidate if the Democrats don’t take back the White House in 2008. He’s mature, intelligent, and rugged. While those first two adjectives say much about any man, it’s been some time since a Democrat could lay claim to the last.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bush State of the Union Address Gets "A" for Style, "C" for Substance

While there were some expectations that President Bush’s State of the Union address in front of a Democratic-controlled Congress was going to be an uncomfortable affair, the president actually turned in one of his better performances. Not since Richard Nixon’s State of the Union speech in 1974 has a president addressed the nation with such low standings in public opinion as well as within his own Party. Unlike Nixon, Bush turned in a workman-like performance that while short on substance, it was long on style.

From the beginning, Bush set the stage and showed that this was going to be a kindler, gentler State of the Union address. Everyone watching knew the historical significance of the evening in that it was the first address presided over by a female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Bush wasted no time honoring that fact. “Tonight, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: "Madame Speaker," Bush said. “In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as speaker of the House of Representatives. Congratulations, Madame Speaker. Congratulations.” Very classy moment.

He proceeded to recognize the politicians who were not in attendance due to illness. “Two members of the House and Senate are not with us tonight, and we pray for the recovery and speedy return of Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood,” said Bush.

In most of Bush’s previous speeches, he likes to extend a hand of friendship to the opposition and then give them a little backhand slap before he finishes his train of thought. Last night was no different, but it was clear that this wasn’t the same combative president we’ve seen in years past. “Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate — and I congratulate the Democratic majority,” said the President. “Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions — and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we are all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this Nation’s prosperity; to spend the people’s money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil, and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.” That got a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

But just a few moments later, he was able to get the Democrats to do the old “stand up and clap, then sit down really quick” tango. “Tonight, I want to discuss three economic reforms that deserve to be priorities for this Congress,” he said. “First, we must balance the federal budget (everybody up). We can do so without raising taxes.” Some of the Democrats surely hurt themselves from sitting down as violently fast as they did.

Most of the address contained proposals that both Democrats and Republicans would generally find agreeable, but whether or not any of those proposals go anywhere is debatable. Bush wants to revamp the earmark process, address the issue of entitlements, reauthorize “No Child Left Behind,” offer a standard tax deduction for health insurance, and diversify America’s energy supply, to name a few. The one area where he and Democrats may find some common ground, to the dismay of many in the GOP, is immigration. “Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America, with laws that are fair and borders that are secure,” Bush said. “Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.”

While immigration reform may be the one domestic proposal Bush finds some success in the next twelve months, this State of the Union, however, was still about one thing: Iraq. Though the President was not afraid to attack the issue head on and stick to his guns, you could see and feel the change in attitude among the lawmakers present. Amazingly, Bush still continues to attempt to link 9/11 to the battle in Iraq. “Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists,” Bush said at one point. Yes, that is true, and it’s also a slick way to keep that completely discredited 9/11 link alive in the minds of some Americans as they continue to see the daily carnage out of Iraq, at the hands of those “Shia and Sunni extremists.” Once and for all, Bush should put an end to that charade.

Bush is much better served when he plays to the pride of an America that, while war-weary, does not want to leave a greater mess in Iraq than already exists. “This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in,” said the President. “Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.” This was Bush’s strongest moment of the night.

The most emotional moment came at the end of the speech when Bush, as has become the custom in State of the Union addresses, recognized four ordinary citizens for their extraordinary efforts. The most heartwarming had to be the story of New Yorker Wesley Autrey who jumped onto subway tracks and saved a man who had fallen into the path of an oncoming train. Bush did a great job weaving Autrey’s heroism into the bravery of our troops in Iraq. “He insists he’s not a hero,” Bush said. “He (Autrey) says: “We got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We got to show each other some love.” There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey.”

It was a smart way to end an address that had begun to collapse under the weight of Iraq. Today, we see that lawmakers remain unmoved by the President’s speech with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting 12-9 in favor of the non-binding resolution opposed to sending more American troops to Iraq. It was clear from the Democratic response given by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran who was Navy secretary during Republican President Reagan’s administration, that Democrats, and a growing list of Republicans, would yield no ground. After speaking glowingly of respected economic and military deeds by Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, Webb ended by saying “These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.”

Those definitely sound like fighting words from a man who won’t be to dinner at the White House in the near future. Bush’s speech broke no new ground nor did it add to his woes, which may have been the most he could ask for. While it may not be the equivalent of the inmates running the asylum, Congress now stands ready to flex its muscle, and Democrats will have plenty of help from many disgruntled Republicans along the way. For President Bush, his only hope for making the last two years of his presidency bearable is if his new best friend, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, can significantly alter events on the ground in Iraq. By summer’s end, we will know the answer.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Political Report: Week of January 22nd, 2007

*Hillary can win, but it won’t be easy.
*State of the Union address will prove to be a chilly affair for Bush.
*More Republican lawmakers set to begin to break with Bush over Iraq.
*Gingrich wants to be “drafted” into presidential race.
*Deadly weekend in Iraq further affects “surge” public opinion.

1. On Saturday, Hillary Clinton announced her intention to run for and win the presidency. “I’m in, and I’m in to win,” said Clinton. “I’m not just starting a campaign, though. I’m beginning a conversation with you, with America. Let’s talk. Let’s chat. The conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don’t you think?” Clinton joins the other frontrunners for the Democrats, Barack Obama and John Edwards, on the campaign trail. Most national polls have her well ahead of all Democratic challengers and now she can start to concentrate her efforts in Iowa, New Hampshire and the rest of the critical primary and caucus states. She is the favorite and the race is hers to lose, but don’t count out any of the dark horses just yet. Clinton, Obama and Edwards are not only going to attack each other but they will have to defend themselves from the rest of the Democratic field as those dark horse candidates struggle to get some ink.

2. Many are holding their breath to see what type of reception President Bush is going to receive from Congress as he makes his State of the Union address. It’s unlikely that Democrats won’t stand as Bush enters the chamber but expect to see very limited applause coming from the Democratic side of the aisle during Bush’s speech. There is likely to be strong support shown Bush from lawmakers who still back his war policy but this may be one of the iciest State of the Union addresses since Richard Nixon’s in January, 1974.

3. It’s beginning to look like Republican Senator Chuck Hagel may have some additional high-profile company in his opposition to President Bush’s troop escalation. There are reports that Virginia senator John Warner, former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will be introducing a resolution that criticizes the President’s decision to send more troops to Iraq. Also, word is that Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina is beginning to express deep concerns over Bush’s handling of the war. These defections would further support evidence of extremely serious erosion for Bush in his Republican base. You may be looking at a situation where very soon, Senator Warner will make that trip up to the White House to tell, not ask, the President to significantly change course in his Iraq policy or prepare to deal with the most severe opposition that both houses of Congress can muster.

4. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace that he would run for President only as a “last resort.” He says he wants to be an important influence in the race to make sure that issues he feels are critical are addressed, like health care, energy, education, national security and immigration. “If, in that process, it becomes necessary to run, then I’ll run,” Gingrich said. Gingrich, like Al Gore for the Democrats, is waiting to see if there is a groundswell from the Republican base to have a staunch conservative enter the race and “save” the GOP. But, with Sam Brownback in the race and Mike Huckabee likely to enter, Gingrich may just be stroking his own ego.

5. This weekend in Iraq, the U.S. military reported that 27 American combat troops had been killed, 12 of them when a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Today, more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed in increased violence in and around Baghdad. Public opinion, which has already soured significantly on the situation on the ground in Iraq, will no doubt take another negative hit as the troop surge becomes reality. Bush’s State of the Union address will further strengthen the growing national opposition to putting more American troops in harm’s way.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is A Military Draft Inevitable?

Late last year, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker warned that his fighting force was on the verge of breaking down unless thousands more active duty members were added. He also detailed the necessity for the increased use of reserve soldiers. "Over the last five years, the sustained strategic demand is placing a strain on the Army's all-volunteer force," Schoomaker told The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves in a Capitol Hill hearing. "At this pace we will break the active component."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also recognized the need for an increased military and plans to grow overall troop levels over the next decade in both the Army and Marines, with the Army approaching 600,000 active duty soldiers. But will that even be enough to address the ongoing situation in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the increased threat from Iran and North Korea? In 2000, there were 510,000 active duty soldiers in the Army which was 12% less than the number of soldiers in 1995. Gate’s request will bring the force back to 1995 levels, but if President Bush’s unfortunate decision to invade Iraq has opened the floodgates and set the stage for more military conflicts, it will still be far too few troops.

In March, 2005, Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris penned an article in The Washington Monthly titled “The Case for the Draft.” In it, they wrote:

“In short, America's all-volunteer military simply cannot deploy and sustain enough troops to succeed in places like Iraq while still deterring threats elsewhere in the world. Simply adding more soldiers to the active duty force, as some in Washington are now suggesting, may sound like a good solution. But it's not, for sound operational and pragmatic reasons. America doesn't need a bigger standing army; it needs a deep bench of trained soldiers held in reserve who can be mobilized to handle the unpredictable but inevitable wars and humanitarian interventions of the future. And while there are several ways the all-volunteer force can create some extra surge capacity, all of them are limited. The only effective solution to the manpower crunch is the one America has turned to again and again in its history: the draft. Not the mass combat mobilizations of World War II, nor the inequitable conscription of Vietnam--for just as threats change and war-fighting advances, so too must the draft. A modernized draft would demand that the privileged participate. It would give all who serve a choice over how they serve. And it would provide the military, on a "just in time" basis, large numbers of deployable ground troops, particularly the peacekeepers we'll need to meet the security challenges of the 21st century. America has a choice. It can be the world's superpower, or it can maintain the current all-volunteer military, but it probably can't do both.”

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld firmly believed that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan could be won with limited ground forces, a small boot print so to speak. What we have seen, and what was clearly communicated by former Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric Shinseki, is that at a minimum, several hundred thousand soldiers were necessary to efficiently invade Iraq, and more importantly, control Iraq after that invasion. That did not happen, and it’s unlikely that the additional 21,000 troop surge proposed by the President will change the situation on the ground much at all.

The United States needs more active duty combat troops. Reservists are an integral part of the military, obviously, but combat troops, ground troops, battle-ready troops are going to be the difference between success and failure in military theatres in the present and the future. Desert combat, door-to-door combat of the sort we may see in Sadr City, require massive force. The boondoggle in Iraq has buoyed extremists worldwide, specifically in Africa where the necessity of U.S. involvement grows every day. Re-enlistment rates for reservists will continue to fall and most reservists perform support operations for combat soldiers as it is.

Where will the U.S. get quality combat troops? The Army has added more recruiters, raised enlistment cash bonuses, spent millions on advertising and marketing and yet it still barely reaches it recruitment goals. More importantly, the Army has lowered the strict recruiting standards that were a critical part in making an all-volunteer Army a success in the first place. In 2006, over 2000 soldiers were recruited under new lower aptitude standards.

Over the next few weeks, the argument over whether to increase troop strength in Iraq or begin the process of bringing our soldiers home will rage. Either way, a significant number of troops will remain in Iraq for decades to come and now that President Bush has let the genie out of the bottle, potential conflicts with Iran and Syria, as well as the ongoing struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, have made it necessary for a continued U.S. presence in the region.

President Bush has consistently said that he has no plans to re-institute the draft, and with two years left in his final term, he will most likely leave office not having to do so. However, for the next occupant of the Oval Office, a military draft of some form will have to be a serious option. If the invasion of Iraq has truly expanded the global war on terror, the United States is going to need significantly more qualified, highly-trained combat troops. We don’t have enough now. If we’re to continue to be the world’s policeman, we may, unfortunately, have to get them against their wishes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Political Report: Week of January 15th, 2007

Obama set to throw his hat in the ring.
* Republicans will have to go on record about Bush troop surge.
* Edwards swipes at frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
* Bush willing to spend remaining political capital on troop surge.
* Libby perjury trial unlikely to contain many surprises.

1. Democratic Senator Barack Obama said Tuesday morning that he was filing a presidential exploratory committee, the first step towards committing to an all out run for the White House. In a video posted on his official website, Obama said "I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago. I've been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics. So I've spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need." He said he’ll announce his final decision on February 10th.

2. While it’s far from attempting to de-fund the war in Iraq, Democrats are preparing to introduce non-binding resolutions in both the House and Senate that will force Republican lawmakers to go on the record regarding President Bush’s decision to authorize a surge in troops. Republicans have used these types of resolutions in the past with great success, most notably the Iraq War Resolution in the Senate in 2002 which many Democratic Senators are still feeling the negative effects from. This new resolution should occur next week, just in time for the State of the Union address.

3. Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards traveled to Hillary Clinton’s home turf in New York City to address 1200 Riverside Church parishioners on Martin Luther King Day. In what was clearly a subtle slap at Clinton, Edwards said "Silence is betrayal, and I believe it is a betrayal not to speak out against the escalation of the war in Iraq,” after which the audience gave him a 60 second standing ovation. "We need to show we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to start leaving," Edwards also said. The Edwards-Clinton battle is revving into high gear.

4. President Bush is clearly digging in his heels on what is setting up to be continued opposition to his decision to send more troops to Iraq. In an interview on “60 Minutes,” Bush said “I fully understand they could try to stop me but I’ve made my decision, and we’re going forward.” Although his base of support is low among lawmakers in his own Party and the public at large, unless Congress votes to de-fund the war, the surge, which is already underway, will continue. Bush will have another chance to sell his plan and gain support at the upcoming State of the Union speech.

5. Jury selection begins this week in the perjury and obstruction trial against former White House aide Lewis “Scooter" Libby. Libby is accused of lying to federal investigators regarding the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to be a witness for the defense, the first time that a sitting vice president would have testified in a criminal case. Don’t expect the prosecution to attempt to stray far from the specific charges against Libby and try to tie Cheney or any other high-profile administration figures directly to Libby’s actions.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What The President Said, What The President Meant

Watching an address by the President of the United States to the nation means one must have the ability to read between the lines. Last night’s speech by President Bush regarding his new strategy for the Iraq war was rife with hidden meaning…what the President said and what he really meant. Let’s take a look:

What the President said: “The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.”

What the President meant: “I know you, the American people, are losing your patience for this war but this plan really can work this time, and don’t forget, even though there may not have been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it is the central front of the war on terror. We’ve been putting this one over on you for years so please don’t stop believing us now”

What the President said: “When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together — and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.”

What the President meant: “I really thought those elections would make those Iraqis more like us Americans and we could start moving our troops out. That didn’t happen and I’m not sure why.”

What the President said: “The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people — and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me. It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.”

What the President meant: “I heard what the voters said in the mid-term elections but I’m still the President and I’m going to give this thing one more try. Oh, and those mistakes that were made: I’m not saying I made them but, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops here”

What the President said: “Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.”

What the President meant: “Our troops are now going to kick butt like never before…the kid gloves are off. And I could care less what the Iraqi government thinks about it.”

What the President said: “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods — and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.”

What the President meant: “Muqtada al Sadr is in big, big, big trouble.”

What the President said: “I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this.”

What the President meant: “Prime Minister Maliki better understand that I’m out of office in two years and I’m not going to let my legacy be tarnished because the American people thought I failed in Iraq. I’ve got a $500 million dollar library to build.”

What the President said: “This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering.”

What the President meant: “Iraq is going to get much bloodier before it gets better, if it gets better.”

What the President said: “Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity — and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

What the President meant: “Don’t be surprised if I decide to bomb Iran and Syria. I know I can’t send in ground troops but I can sure bomb the living daylights out of them. That might get people’s minds off Iraq too.

What the President said: “We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists — and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors — and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government.”

What the President meant: “Those Middle East countries better start working a little harder to stop their citizens from financially supporting the bad guys in Iraq or else their countries might start to implode as well.”

What the President said: “Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue — and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties.”

What the President meant: “100 American troops dying every month will look like a tiny number compared with what’s coming in the next year. It’s going to get ugly.”

What the President said: “Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.”

What the President meant: “I wish I had never given that speech on that battleship with that stupid “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging behind me.”

What the President said: “Our new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States — and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al-Qaida. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad — or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.”

What the President meant: “Thanks you folks in Congress but I’m still the President and I’m going to do this my way.”

What the President said: “Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.”

What the President meant: “I sure like Joe Lieberman. I wish he was a Republican. Hopefully he can help me sell my new plan to some skeptical Democrats.”

What the President said: “Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a Nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can and we will prevail.”

What the President meant: “Stick with me folks; stick with me, just a little while longer. We can do this. We can win. And if we don’t while I’m in office, it will be the next guy’s problem.”

Now you know the real deal.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Political Report: Week of January 8th, 2007


*Bush speech will define the final two years of his presidency.
*Pelosi and Democrats look to outmaneuver Bush on troop surge.
*Romney fundraiser shows he’s a candidate to be reckoned with.
*GOP civil war regarding Iraq looks imminent.
*McCain-Lieberman ticket not out of the realm of possibility.


1. President Bush will be delivering the most important speech of his presidency Wednesday night as he addresses the nation about the way forward in Iraq. His administration discounted the recommendations put forth by the Iraq Study Group and they have taken two weeks to develop the last plan that the American people are going to realistically consider from this president regarding the conflict. That there are already grumblings from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers has to be a sign of trouble for the president.

2. While new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi won’t recommend cutting off funding for the troops already in Iraq, it’s clear that the tact Democrats might be attempting to take will be to find a way to limit funding for any additional troops should Bush recommend a surge. This angle might find a significant amount of support from public opinion which could be disastrous for the president. Democrats would be seen as supporting the troops already there and protecting any additional men and women from being put into harm’s way.

3. Mitt Romney raised $6.5 million dollars at a Boston fundraiser on Monday, dwarfing the recent fundraising totals by potential presidential rivals John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. The original goal for the event was $1 million. Although the Boston fundraiser may not be indicative of Romney’s popularity outside his home state, it does prove that he can raise funds, which at this stage in the presidential sweepstakes is more important than popularity or name recognition. McCain and Giuliani will have to take notice.

4. The fissure lines are clear to see in the Republican Party and it’s likely that should President Bush recommend a troop surge in Iraq, many prominent GOP lawmakers will openly distance themselves from Bush on his Iraq war policy as well as his overall approach to the war on terror. Senator Chuck Hagel has been and remains a fierce critic of Bush and his administration. GOP lawmakers also realize that while the 2006 mid-term elections hinged on Iraq, 2008 looks to also be a referendum on the events on the ground there. Republicans, especially those in the Senate, could see an even worse outcome two years from now if the situation in Iraq remains grave.

5. While John Kerry wasn’t able to convince John McCain to join him on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004, McCain may have more success convincing Joe Lieberman to join him on the 2008 Republican ticket. The two have been in a love-fest for the last three years and now that Lieberman is an “Independent Democrat” who still harbors resentment towards many in his Party for abandoning him during his recent re-election campaign, there’s nothing to prevent him from giving it serious consideration. Win or lose, Lieberman would continue to increase his popularity among Republicans in his state and it would be four more years until he had to defend his seat again. Whether or not it helps or hurts McCain is another question. The Netroots who tried to defeat Lieberman in Connecticut would pull out all the stops to defeat a McCain-Lieberman ticket.

Friday, January 05, 2007

For Bush, Troop Surge Is Last, Best and Worst Hope

President Bush and his brain trust still have the weekend to put the finishing touches on his new Iraq war initiative but it’s evident that an increase in ground troops of at least twenty thousand and possibly forty thousand will be the main piece to the puzzle. Unlike in the past, this current Bush White House is showing deep divisions over whether this is the right policy but the President has made the decision to go forward with the troop surge as soon as his new diplomatic and military teams are in place.

Today, Bush will announce that Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus will replace Gen. George W. Casey Jr. as commander of the multinational forces in Iraq. Also, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon will be nominated to replace Gen. John P. Abizaid as the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East. For his diplomatic team, Bush is set to appoint Ryan C. Crocker the new ambassador to Baghdad. Zalmay Khalilzad, who is the current ambassador to Iraq, will be nominated to become the top U.S. envoy at the United Nations, replacing John R. Bolton.

The decision by Bush to send more troops to Iraq, which he will present to the American people on Wednesday, will be severely criticized by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel calls the plan to increase troops “Alice in Wonderland. I’m absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly.” Joe Biden, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, is even more critical of the decision. "I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost," Biden said. "They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally, not figuratively."

There are no good options left for this President. Although the American voters showed their displeasure and unease with the situation on the ground in Iraq at the voting booth in November, he is not, nor will he ever, be willing to admit that his administration’s handling of the war has been catastrophic. Twenty thousand more troops deployed in 2006 will not be sufficient to change the situation, especially after his military leaders plainly told him he needed more troops on the ground from the beginning. Think back to what Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric Shinseki, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, 2003: “I would say that what's been mobilized to this point -- something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground- force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.”

At the time, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, threw Shinseki under the bus, calling his estimate “far off the mark.” Four months later Shinseki was gone, but his prediction has more than stood the test of time. Twenty thousand or forty thousand, whatever the final number is, will still be far below what is necessary to control Iraq. After four years, the insurgency has perfected its killing machine and it would take a minimum of one hundred and fifty thousand more American and Coalition troops to have any chance of stopping that machine from churning. Winston Churchill said, “Never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.”

Bush is unmoved. “One thing is for certain: I will want to make sure the mission is clear and specific and can be accomplished,” Bush said Thursday. This is the same rhetoric that has been coming from his administration for the last three years but what other choice does he have? Any other decision would be an acknowledgement he, Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the neo-conservatives were wrong, so the only choice left is to fight on.

Philosopher Simone Weil said, “The great error of nearly all studies of war... has been to consider war as an episode in foreign policies, when it is an act of interior politics.” President Bush and his White House failed in their Iraq policy from the start; failed to anticipate the sectarian violence that plagues Baghdad today. Yet, they were clearly told what would be necessary to secure the peace in 2003. Now, more American troops are going to be sent into harm’s way by a President who vows to remain relevant during his last two years in office. To say it’s “too little, too late” would just be piling on.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Peace Activists Could Become Pelosi's Worst Nightmare

While the first 100 hours look to be quite successful for Nancy Pelosi and her House of Representatives Democratic majority, the first 100 days may prove to be much more difficult. Earlier this week, Left wing activists, including Cindy Sheehan, gave incoming House leaders a little taste of what’s sure to become an ongoing battle within the Democratic Party.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and other House Democrats had gathered in the Cannon Caucus room to discuss changes to House rules, including new travel restrictions, gift bans, legislative procedures and earmarks; all issues that Democrats had campaigned and won on in the fall elections. As Emanuel was speaking, Sheehan and the group she was with began shouting, “De-escalate, investigate, bring our troops home now!”

Emanuel attempted to continue his discussion over the shouting but when it was clear that Sheehan’s group was not going to back down, he and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and incoming Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) decided to finish the discussion elsewhere and left.

“They are not including the peace movement’s voice,” Sheehan later told reporters. It is a statement that is definitively a shot across the bow for Democrats in the House as well as the Senate. As President Bush is set to speak to America and push for a troop surge in Iraq, Sheehan and the peace movement are gearing up to demand payment on the IOU’s they feel Congressional Democrats wrote to them during the elections.

“I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people,” Pelosi said after accepting the Speaker’s gavel. “In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country.”

While working with House Republicans is going to be a challenge for Pelosi, the tougher fight will come with the Left wing Democrats who are sure to call on Congress to de-fund the Iraq war if Bush calls for an escalation. That won’t happen, but peace activists want blood and Congressional investigations may not be enough to satisfy their hunger.

So where does that leave Pelosi? She obviously realizes that the war is still Bush’s war and she doesn’t want to leave any of her fingerprints at the scene. But if the situation on the ground in Iraq gets any graver, and most independent observers think it will, it won’t only be the Left wing of the Democratic Party that will be pressing for meaningful action out of the House leaders. Voters spoke in November and the status quo will not suffice.

“Today I thank my colleagues. By electing me as speaker you have brought us closer to the ideal of equality that is America’s heritage and America’s hope,” Pelosi said. “This is an historic moment — for the Congress, and for the women of America. It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights.”

Yeah, but the question most Americans want answered is, "What are you going to do about Iraq?"

Political Report: Week of January 3rd, 2007


* Gerald Ford funeral magnifies the internal disconnect in the Republican Party.
* Bush decision to implement Iraq troop surge could mark the figurative end of his presidency.
* Democrats first 100 hours may not be enough to satisfy the extreme Left wing of their Party.
* Giuliani’s potential campaign takes a huge hit…from itself.
* Saddam’s execution will hurt anti-terrorism efforts for a significant amount of time.


1. Gerald Ford’s death left many in the Republican Party yearning for his centrist approach to politics. The battle rages on between the social, religious Conservatives, the Ronald Reagan wing, and the fiscal, traditional Conservatives, the Barry Goldwater and Gerald Ford wing. Ford was never a fan of Reagan and like Goldwater, he was suspicious of the direction of the Republican Party after Reagan’s election in 1980. For the GOP to see any success in the future, they will need to move to the political center.

2. A troop surge in Iraq will put President Bush out on a weak limb by himself. If the violence in Iraq continues after more American troops are introduced, which most military analysts say will be the case, Bush will see any support he has remaining disappear in a matter of months. With Donald Rumsfeld gone, military success in Iraq has become Bush’s and VP Dick Cheney’s last stand.

3. While boosting the minimum wage and supporting stem cell research will most likely be legislative victories for the incoming House Democrats, the extreme Left wing will be pressing for significant action on Iraq, specifically with the Bush administration planning for a troop surge soon. Many of those extremists, and some moderates, will soon begin calling for Democrats to de-fund the war. Since that won’t happen, Speaker Pelosi will have no choice but to ramp up investigations into the Bush administration’s war policy in the hopes of appeasing her Party’s Left wing.

4. Rudy Giuliani’s misplaced dossier shows just how vulnerable his own advisors think a presidential campaign would be for him. While his political positions will be enough fodder for his opponents, it’s the personal and business issues that may be the most damaging. Multiple marriages and divorces will not play well in the heartland and his relationship with the disgraced Bernard Kerik will be investigated thoroughly. Rudy may want to bow out gracefully before it gets really ugly.

5. The bungled Saddam Hussein execution and the video afterward will have a profound negative effect on the Iraq war specifically and anti-terrorism efforts generally. Sunni tensions have been inflamed throughout the region and it is likely that high profile Shiite leaders will be targeted for kidnapping and execution, and surely those will make their way onto the internet. The dueling execution videos have begun.