Monday, December 18, 2006

Powell Speaks Out; Unfortunately, It's Too Little, Too Late

Yesterday on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Colin Powell continued his barrage of criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq, going so far as to tell Bob Schieffer, "So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing. We haven't lost, and this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around."

Powell joins a growing list of former Bush administration war architects, including neo-conservatives Ken Adelman and Richard Perle, who all of a sudden find fault with one or more aspects of how the current Bush team is conducting the Iraq war. "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work," Powell said. "It is the D.C. police force that guards Washington, D.C., not the troops that are stationed at Fort Myer, and in Baghdad, you need a police force to do that, and in the other cities, you need a police force to do that, and not the American troops."

Powell has been relatively quiet since leaving his position as Secretary of State in January, 2005, but in recent months he has been much more willing to comment on the direction the war is heading. While it has been documented that Powell opposed military action in Iraq, a stance that put him at odds with most in the Bush administration, his address to the United Nations Security Council in February, 2003, increased the drumbeat to remove Saddam Hussein by force. It is a moment he himself admits is a “blot” on what was an outstanding career. "It will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now,” Powell has said.

Now, Powell is no longer shy about speaking to what the United States must do in Iraq to turn things around. "I think that what we should do is to work with the Iraqi government, press them on the political peace, do everything we can to provide equipment, advisers, and whatever the Iraqi armed forces need to become more competent, and to train their leaders so that those leaders realize their responsibility to the government."

While that all makes perfect sense, it’s still difficult to hear it coming from a man who is as culpable as anyone in the Bush administration as it pertains to our situation in Iraq. You can resign, or effectively be fired like Donald Rumsfeld, but your fingerprints will forever be at the scene of the crime. As much as Americans might hate what the war in Iraq has become, they won’t forget the players that got them there. Powell is one of them and while what he says now might be accurate, it also seems disingenuous.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Obama Should Be Cautious Discussing Safety Fear

I was only six months old when John F. Kennedy was killed. Therefore, his murder and the assassinations of RFK, MLK, Malcom X and Medgar Evers don’t register with me and millions of others my age or younger as they do for those who lived through that era. So when I heard that Barack Obama and his wife fear the potential for violence, whether he runs for president or not, it makes me wonders if fear of another assassination will become a cause of great concern for supporters contemplating an Obama candidacy.

“Being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option,’’ Obama said. “I think it is something that will have to be addressed if I ran. You are not assigned Secret Service protection until you are effectively the nominee.”

Now, in addition to the question of whether America is ready for a Black President, we now have to question, along with Obama and his family, if America is ready to cope with the possibility of a Black presidential contender being assassinated. It is a reality of just not our time but of all time. It is one of the realities that Colin Powell’s wife spoke to years ago when she issued her concerns about her husband’s potential presidential candidacy.

Every presidential candidate must address personal and family safety issues on the campaign trail and afterwards but a potential Obama candidacy obviously raises the stakes. For the candidate himself to speak to the issue, specifically before he’s made a decision to run officially, may be a political mistake. America has seen far too many young, bright flames extinguished prematurely. She may not want to face the thought of that ugliness happening again.

Missing Hiker's Dumb Decisions Put Others At Risk

American’s don’t hope for harm to come to others but many are growing tired of stories about individual’s idiotic decisions which put other lives at risk. The missing hikers on Mount Hood are a perfect example of people venturing into danger for no reason, especially when they knew difficult conditions were coming.

The storm that hit Oregon was not a surprise. It caused damage that hadn’t been seen in that state for some time and at least six people were killed while millions more are still without power. For these three individuals to purposefully place themselves in harm’s way and then force others to do the same to rescue them is unacceptable. Out of that storm that hit the Pacific Northwest, one woman died drowning in her basement. A man was killed in his sleep when a tree fell on his house. At least two other people died in traffic accidents. What’s sickening is that most people will never know those victim’s names but for the next three months we’ll be inundated with news stories about these foolish hikers, we’ll be hearing from their grieving wives and should they survive, every talk show will have the “Hero Hikers” front and center, ad nauseam.

It’s not news and it shouldn’t be treated as such. You want to be stupid and climb a mountain in a storm, good luck. I just wish the media would do us all a favor and keep it off our television screens.

Bayh Won't Run, Which Helps...Vilsack?

Senator Evan Bayh has decided to drop out of the 2008 presidential race and while the first conclusion most Democrats will draw is there will be less competition now for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Tom Vilsack is the candidate who stands to gain some momentum from Bayh’s withdrawal.

Vilsack, Bayh and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner were the potential Democratic contenders who would have run as Centrists. Vilsack, like Bill Clinton was before him, chairs the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. When Warner decided not to run a few weeks ago, Bayh’s camp saw a huge opportunity to gain some of the support that would have gone Warner’s way. Now, with Bayh probably not getting the bounce he expected or more importantly not being able to see where he was going to raise the money necessary to compete with Hillary and Obama, Vilsack becomes the last man standing of these three.

The question now is whether Vilsack will be able to raise enough money to remain a viable contender. He is already a declared candidate and he looks to be committed to staying in the race through the end. Monday night he will be making a stop on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart which can’t help but raise his profile with the millions of voters who don’t have any idea who he is.

There’s another potential contender lurking in the background who has to be taking notice of Bayh’s withdrawal: Al Gore. Can Al Gore really stand by and see this race come down to a battle between Clinton and Obama? Will he be able to resist the calls to jump in? We may not know that answer until late, 2007.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Random Thoughts

* Tony Blankley writes an interesting article comparing Bush to Abraham Lincoln in 1861, with Lincoln having to stand alone, many times against the advice of his military advisors at the beginning of the Civil War. Unfortunately for Bush, he's not newly elected, as Lincoln was in 1861. For him, there's no longer any room for error.

* Lawrence Kudlow points to some of the problems that will face Barack Obama as voters take a closer look at him:

"The senator is liberal to the core. He voted against Supreme Court Justices Sam Alito and John Roberts. (Even liberal Sens. Russ Feingold and Pat Leahy voted for Roberts.) He said no to Patriot Act wiretap extensions, despite their proven effectiveness in halting terrorist attacks over the past five years. He collaborated in blocking John Bolton's appointment to the United Nations. He earned a perfect 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. He voted against a ban on partial-birth abortions twice as a state senator. He opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and stood against the Federal Marriage Amendment, despite acknowledging his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman."
* Joe Klein looks at the Democratic frontrunner...and it's John Edwards, so the early poll says. Not a great place to be all the time. Just ask Dick Gephardt.
* Pat Buchanan writes about the coming "war" within the GOP and the real meaning behind the Iraq Study Group report:
"This ISG report is less about saving Iraq than about saving the U.S. establishment from being held responsible for the worst strategic blunder in U.S. history. It is about giving Bush and Congress a "decent interval" before Iraq goes down and a Saigon ending ensues."
* Eleanor Clift pens an article on why Jeb Bush was the favored son and how that went wrong. Jeb may not have a shot at the White House which is probably why Daddy George was crying recently.

Kucinich Will Be a Thorn in the Side to Democratic Contenders

The last thing any Democratic presidential contender wants to do is to have defend their initial support for the current war in Iraq, especially if the criticism is coming from another Democrat. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden and any other Democrat who voted to give President Bush authorization to go to war, Dennis Kucinich is now in the race.

“It is not credible to say you’re opposed to the war and keep funding it,” Kucinich said on Tuesday while announcing his bid for the presidency. “If the Democrats — going into the November election — had told the people, ‘Look, we’re going to vote to continue to fund the war,’ I doubt very seriously we would have gained control of the House and the Senate.”

Kucinich has called for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and while that may not be realistic, it will put pressure on many of the Democratic contenders to not only defend their initial support for the war but also offer realistic proposals for the way forward. Most Democrats and Republicans have run fast and far away from the Iraq Study Group proposals and now we know that any new ideas coming from the Bush administration won’t be out until after the year is over.

There’s still some time before the Democratic presidential candidate forums begin but Kucinich has the potential to make those affairs difficult for the top contenders when he pressures them on the issue of Iraq. "I am not going to stand by and watch thousands more of our brave, young men and women killed in Iraq," said Kucinich. "We Democrats were put back in power to bring some sanity back to our nation. We were expected to do what we said we were going to do -- get out of Iraq."

Good luck to the guy or gal having to stand next to Kucinich on stage.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Don't Be Fooled by Early Polls

There's a great deal of new presidential polling data coming out every day and most of it places Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani at the top. In Iowa, where it seems John Edwards has been since John Kerry conceded in 2004, a recent poll had Edwards leading Clinton 36 percent to 16 percent.

It is far too early for polling to be considered more than a battle for name recognition. In December, 2002, an Iowa poll had Dick Gephardt with 26 percent and Howard Dean at 1 percent. Iowans had no idea who Dean was but by the time the caucuses rolled around, Gephardt was on his way home in the losing column, again.

The frontrunners have nowhere to go but down. The likes of Evan Bayh and Tom Vilsack on the Democratic side and Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee on the Republican side, who are all pretty much polling in single digits, have yet to be heard from. They will be eventually and the polls you see today will look eerily like those in 2002 after the results come in: very much off the mark.