Friday, December 28, 2007

Chris Matthews' Take: Odd but Predictable

First, the transcripts from Chris Matthews' interview with Senator and presidential hopeful Joe Biden (D-Delaware). Bold faced my emphasis:


Tonight, we will hear what all the major presidential candidates had to say about today‘s horror. Who sounded like a real leader today, if anyone? Who sounded like a cynical pol, and will voters decide experience really does matter in these times?

We will talk live to Senator Joe Biden in just a minute.

Also, what does the tragedy in Pakistan today mean for U.S. interests and the terrorist threat?

We will hear some remarkable insights from Bhutto in an interview I did with her on the eve of the war in Iraq. And, of course, we will hear how the politics of our own country is affected. The sharpest roundtable around of experts will be joining us at the end of the program for the last part of HARDBALL tonight to talk about what the implications are in the presidential election, which is coming so quickly now.

But, first, presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden.

Senator, you have said for months that this was the most important country in the world for us to keep an eye on. Where do we go now?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think we better go clear and steady, Chris.

Look, the most important thing that has to happen now is, they have got to hold these fair and free elections. You know, Bhutto, I‘m convinced, would have won a significant majority. I spoke to her several times, like you did. My staff is over there with her—was over there talking to her.

I had written two detailed letters to Musharraf laying out the kind of security needs that she needed and types of vehicles, the protection she—and she didn‘t get that protection. This was foreseeable. And it was—I will argue it was avoidable. But no one seemed to want to listen.

MATTHEWS: You know, a—a good leader is dead. And they‘re very hard to find, Senator.

You‘re a politician. As much as people are tough on politicians, I keep reminding myself how much we need them. We need democratic leaders in this world, because, without democratic leaders, we‘re stuck with the choice between dictators and terrorists. The only good leaders are the elected ones. She‘s an elected leader.

How are we going to find another Benazir Bhutto in that part of the world?

BIDEN: Well, I think you have to start off with the basic, I think, truth of the—of Pakistan. And that is the vast majority of Pakistan is secular and moderate. That‘s why she would have won.

That‘s why you cannot begin to get things in order in Pakistan until you end this tyranny of a single man being able to run the country. That‘s why we need elections, as imperfect as they are. There is no obvious leader. The leader who was part of her party who is the leader of the lawyers now, who is a really talented guy, he may very well emerge as an alternative within her party.

But you have got to have these elections, and you have to have them relatively soon, Chris. Otherwise, you justify a continuation of martial law. You continue to drive underground what I would argue would be 65 percent to 70 percent of the population of Pakistan, which, again, is secular and moderate.

So, as imperfect as it is, I think you have to move forward with free elections. And we should be putting extreme—I have spoken to him twice and been very blunt with him—extreme pressure on Musharraf to hold transparently fair elections.

MATTHEWS: Connect these dots, if you can, Senator. And you have been foresightful in this case. Connect these dots.

Bin Laden is somewhere in the hills, in the mountains, somewhere on that border, perhaps in the country itself of Pakistan. That country of Pakistan, an Islamic republic, controls a lot of nuclear weapons and has an unelected government, or really an unelected—an unpopular government, if you will. Put all that together.

BIDEN: Well, here‘s two things, Chris.

Number one, if we do not have full and free elections, you‘re going to drive underground that moderate majority. You‘re going to see Musharraf continuing to make his deal with the very people who are hiding and supporting bin Laden, the Taliban and al Qaeda. You are going to see the rest of that area deteriorate in a way that is very, very dangerous for us.

I remind people, Pakistan is larger than Russia. There are more Pakistanis than Russians, number one. Number two, they‘re bristling with nuclear weapons. They have delivery systems, that is, missiles that can deliver those weapons.

You must begin to establish some stability by giving that large majority of secular, moderate Pakistanis a voice in the parliament. That‘s the beginning. It won‘t be perfect, but I know what will happen absent that. Absent that, you will see a deterioration, and you will see a further deterioration of the Indian and Pakistani relationship.

You will see Afghanistan begin to falter beyond what it is now..


BIDEN: ... because of what is going on in Pakistan.

This is all connected, as you well know. The key, to me, is giving an outlet for that vast middle secular Pakistani population to be represented in an electoral process in Pakistan.

MATTHEWS: Does President Bush trust democracy in Pakistan?

BIDEN: I hope to God he does, instead of trusting Musharraf. He keeps talking about Musharraf being a democrat, with a small D. I have seen very little evidence of that.

My last conversation with Musharraf was about a week ago. And I wanted to make it clear to him, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a prospective possible president, that there would be consequences for failure to have transparent elections.

MATTHEWS: So, we expect—you expect, Senator, there will be elections; those elections will be democratic; there will be an opposition from the people who supported Benazir Bhutto, even after her death; there will be a real winner who...

BIDEN: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... could actually take on—I‘m sorry—a real contender who could take on Musharraf and perhaps beat him in a—in a clear, clean election?

BIDEN: The answer is yes.

I was with a guy who has been campaigning for me, a guy you know, Ed

Joseph. He and O‘Hanlon of the Brookings Institution wrote the report on -

on Iraq. He left the campaign out here to go into Pakistan. He sent me an extensive e-mail last night.

He had spent an hour-and-a-half with Bhutto the night before. And he told me, she was extremely optimistic. He delivered a message from her to me and what he hoped that would—a message that would get to Bush.

He—she believed, as I believe—she‘s convinced me. I have known her since 1988. This is a personal loss. I mean, I don‘t want to exaggerate it. She was a very good acquaintance. This was an incredibly, incredibly brave woman.

She was optimistic, if you just get the elections under way, have them transparent and basically free, not perfect, that you would see a turnout among this secular middle class that would begin to be an anchor for...


BIDEN: ... the requirement to force Musharraf to make some of the changes that are necessary, because it would generate world support as well.

Who that leader will emerge, who they elect, because they will win a majority if there is an election, who it will be, I don‘t know. Will it be a Bhutto? No. One will have to be developed. But it‘s the first step. Absent that, Chris, I don‘t see anything good happening.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, coming from Iowa.

Andrea Mitchell is NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent.

Andrea, I want you to take a look at some of these comments made by other candidates.

Here‘s Hillary Clinton with her reaction today.

OK. How about here‘s Senator McCain with his reaction today?

A few graphs down:

"Isn‘t it amazing to watch how the cosmos changes, like a Norman Mailer novel, where, in peacetime, you put more attention to the Baptist minister? You know, Huckabee looks good. And, then, all of a sudden, we get back into a wartime situation, and you go, wait a minute. We may—we may need somebody in there who knows what they‘re talking about in foreign policy.

And, all of a sudden, you start listening to Rudy, perhaps, on the outside. You certainly listen to McCain. You certainly listen to Hillary."

Odd isn't it? Chris Matthews was listening to Joe Biden because he acknowledges at least implicitly that Mr. Biden is one of the go-to people with the connections and inside information as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; he did not interview Hillary Clinton and yet towards the end of his segment with Andrea Mitchell, he says we look to Senator Clinton for the answers. It just didn't sound right.

The Weekend Preview

Yet again, the shorter version.


Just a note: What follows may be an incomplete list since the expected guests on "Face The Nation" and "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" have not been published.

The Democrats

1. Senator Hillary Clinton on "This Week"
2. Senator Barack Obama on "Meet The Press"

The Republicans
1. Senator John McCain on "This Week"
2. former Governor Mike Huckabee on "Meet The Press"
3. former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) on "FOX News Sunday"


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - Fred Thompson's Campaign for the White House, Iowa Politics as viewed by David Yepsin, the presidential candidates and Bhutto's assassination.

(a) Choosing The President Series - former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) on his campaign for the White House. The former senator started his late campaign with high approval ratings but he declined in the polls. Focus will be on Pakistan (for obvious reasons) and how his campaign will regain its momentum coming out of Iowa.

(b) David Yepsin of The Des Moines Register, the media's favored political expert on Iowa's politics, about the candidates who are moving up, those going down, and potential surprises.

(c) FOX News Sunday Panelists Brit Hume of FOX News, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio will opine about the political fallout following Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Questions about which candidates gain from the evolving crisis in Pakistan and how they reacted to it to be discussed.

This show, which Chris Wallace generally hosts, is repeated at 6:00 PM ET on the FOX News Channel.

2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on the Philadelphia ABC affiliate and 10:30 AM ET on the New York ABC affiliate).
Topics This Week - "On The Trail" with Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain on the Benazir Bhutto assassination and Pakistan's political stability, a look back at those who died this year.

a. "On The Trail" - The host travels to Iowa to hear Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) make her "final campaign pitch" and hear what she says about the state of her campaign and her "closing argument." (The Political Heretic hopes the host grills the wife of his former boss as much as he grilled the former mayor of New York.)

(b) Exclusive - Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), now campaigning in New Hampshire, speaks about the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the potential crisis in Pakistan, and the state of his campaign for the White House.

(c) "Roundtable" - David Brooks, Donna Brazile, and George Will debate this week's politics with an obvious focus on the political assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

(d) "In Memoriam" - a look back on those who died in 2007.

This show is hosted by George Stephanopoulos.

3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):
Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama "Meet The Candidate" series interviews.

(a) "Meet The Candidate" Series - former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) sits down with the host to discuss his stances on the political issues facing Americans today and his surprisingly successful campaign for the White House.

(b) "Meet The Candidate" Series - Senator Barack Obama sits down to discuss his stances on the political issues facing the country and the tight race for Iowa.

This show, which Tim Russert hosts, is repated at 6:00 PM ET on MSNBC.

4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):
not posted yet. Hosted by Bob Schieffer.

5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):
The host talks with the presidential candidates before Iowa voters head to the caucus held next week. No mention, as of yet, which candidates he is speaking to but one hopes he gives some of the ahem, "second tier" and "third tier" candidates some prominent air time. Hosted by Wolf Bitzer.


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:00 PM ET):
Topic This Week - The Countdown to Iowa, Pakistan.

(a) the countdown to Iowa - the co-panelists predict who will "win, place, and show" in the Iowa Republican and Democratic caucuses.

(b) Pakistan - the impact Benazir Bhutto's political assassination and the "chaos" that follows will have on the "war on terror."

Co-panelists are Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke.

2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:30 PM ET): Topics This Week - 2007 in Review. The panelists look back at the Iraq War, celebrity, and election 2008 media coverage. Panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Jane Hall, Neil Gabler and host Eric Burns.

3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): Topics This Week - Democratic Caucus winner predictions, John McCain's rise in New Hampshire and his nomination prospects.

(a) prediction: the Democrat whom Iowa voters will caucus for. Panelists will focus on Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, and former Senator John Edwards at the expense of candidates Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel.

(b) John McCain: the story behind Senator John McCain's political comeback and the prospects that he may win the nomination talked about.

Panelists this Sunday include Howard Fineman of Newsweek, Michele Norris of National Public Radio, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Joe Klein of Time Magazine, and host Chris Matthews.

4. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): CNN does not offer potential viewers a preview of this show, which is hosted by Howard Kurtz.

Reaction from the Candidates

Basically, excerpts from their press statements, brought to you from their web sites.
Bold-faced words my emphasis. Alpha order.


1. Senator Joe Biden:

"This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.

Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”

Very statesmanlike. Biden expresses his condolences, praises the late Bhutto for her work, urges the Pakistanis to remain calm and urges the president to extend his good will to the Pakistanis by offering our investigative services. Not a bad use of soft power, or is it the gentle use of the stick? Hmmm. Cleverly done.

2. Senator Hillary Clinton:

"I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto's concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.

"Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan."

I hate go give her credit for anything but in this case she offered a pretty good statement. My only concern - she did not, unlike Biden urge the Pakistanis to continue the fight for democracy for the late Bhutto. Seems heartfelt.

3. Senator Chris Dodd:
"Today's news from Pakistan is both shocking and saddening. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan and come to know Former Prime Minister Bhutto very well over the years. I spoke to her personally several weeks ago and have stayed in close contact with her since. She was a respected leader who played an important part in moving Pakistan toward democracy.

As we recognize the loss of a leader today, we must also recognize the implication of today's tragedy to the security of the region and to that of the United States.

At this critical time we must do everything in our power to help Pakistan continue the path toward democracy and full elections. Our first priority must be to ensure stability in this critical nuclear state.

The United States should also stand ready to provide assistance in investigating this heinous act. And as Pakistan perpetrators to justice, it should also demonstrate that it will not allow such violence to derail democracy and proceed with elections in a timely manner."

Not Dodd at his best. We needed a leader who would convey our sorrow, and our hopes. Bhutto died so Dod needed to convey how much he admired her courage more than his acknowledgment that she was merely "respected" and more of where Dodd would lead us with less on the "implications" this has. Move us forward Dodd.

4. former Senator John Edwards:

"I want to say a word about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Pakistan earlier today. It's a terrible thing for the process of democratization in Pakistan, it's a terrible thing for the stability of Pakistan, and it's very important that we, America, and those of us who are running for president of the United States, be a strengthening and calming influence in these kinds of times.

I met the former Prime Minister a few years ago. We spoke together at a conference. And she spoke then about the importance of the democratization process, her personal commitment and risk of her own life, which she recognized, and how the democratization process in Pakistan was, I think her words were, 'baptized in blood.'

I spoke to President Musharraf a few minutes ago and I urged him to continue the democratization process because of how important it is to the Pakistani people and how important it is to his country. I also urged him to allow international investigators into Pakistan so that, for the rest of the world, there can be credibility in determining what the facts were and what actually occurred.

It's very important for the Pakistani people, for the stability of the world and for America's interests, that the democratization process continue, and I believe this is the time for America to be a strong and calming influence in a difficult and unstable environment."

Like the first paragraph but am concerned about the second. We don't want to make the president look bad by inferring, as Mr. Edwards does here, that Musharraf does not want our help in the investigation. Biden's statement was far better because he offers it.

5. former Senator Mike Gravel offered no press statement. I am not sure if he expects the media to pay attention but he should at least try to make it seem like he cares about what is happening around the world.

6. Representative Dennis Kucinich:

"This is a very dangerous moment for the world. Benazir Bhutto represented a courageous effort to bring principles of liberty to Pakistan. She was truly dedicated to the people of Pakistan. The United States must change its policy direction in the region. It must stop adding fuel to the fire. Kucinich met with Bhutto several times over the years in both Washington, D.C. and New York City."

short and simple but how are we "adding fuel to the fire."

7. Senator Barack Obama:

"I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world," said United States Senator Barack Obama."

Short and to the point but a little vague as to how we should respond. Biden, and Edwards move us forward toward a path; Obama has yet to do so. By the way, this was not the time to blame the other candidates for shifting the focus from Afghanistan to Iraq.

8. Governor Bill Richardson:

"Benazir Bhutto was a courageous woman. Her death, and the deaths of so many of her supporters, is more than just a tragedy. It is a testament to the will of the Pakistani people to see democracy restored. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died today.

Ms. Bhutto knew the dangers to her safety. But she would not be intimidated. We also must not be intimidated.

A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan's return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence.

We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible.

It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go."

Forceful but he may be shoving Musharraf out the door too quickly. Better to let the Pakistanis call the shots lest we gain more negative press. I'm with him on the military aid suspension.


1. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani:

“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”

Not bad. This is one of those few moments where Giuliani could use the 9/11 quote without it seeming tasteless. Here it was called for. We see Giuliani the prosecutor calling for justice.

2. Governor Mike Huckabee:

“I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation.

The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.”

He doesn't get it. Really, he doesn't. If we were the "shining beacon of hope" the Pakistani militants would not have killed Bhutto. Yes, we should be thankful for what we have and what the Pakistanis lack but yet again we see Huckabee behaving like a pastor and not like the president he wants to be. The governor should speak more of Bhutto's fight and how we should respond to the struggle in Pakistan and less of what is in our hearts.

3. Representative Duncan Hunter should issue a press statement.

4. Senator John McCain:

"I was deeply saddened today to learn about the death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. My deepest condolences go out to the family and supporters of this remarkable woman, an individual who paid the ultimate price for her embrace of moderation and rejection of extremism.

The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

Given Pakistan's strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.

In my numerous visits to Pakistan - to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan - I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today's tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them."

Forceful though vague. I wouldn't refer to the implications Pakistan's stability have for us at this moment either. Better to stick with the condolences and the vow to stand by those "brave individuals" who "seek to lead their country ... into the light of a better day." Focus on our honor for it highlights his own. One other problem - which moderates would McCain support - Pakistan's democrats or Muxharraf?

5. Representative Ron Paul doesn't get it either. He didn't say anything about the assassination or Bhutto's call. He shouldn't "disagree" with the Islamist terrorists; he should be outraged.

6. Governor Mitt Romney:

"We are still learning the details of today's tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe. Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the War on Terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation – the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.

"At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today."

He started out okay with his cautious "we are still learning the details" comment but he essentially flubbed the answer. Romney says we should be engaged and we are. The question is not whether we should remain engaged but how we are engaged and here he offered no opinion as to what we should do. And where was the expression of condolence? Bhutto died. It would have been nice if he had a few words of praise for this former prime minister and devotee to the cause against Islamic fundamentalism.

Romney's answer to the questions (link 2) suggests he thinks more like an administrator and less like a commander in chief. Sorry Mitt Romney; that doesn't cut it.

7. Former Senator Fred Thompson My comments were inserted within the interview.

HARRIS FAULKNER : Senator, your reaction, first, to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

FRED THOMPSON : It is a tragedy, of course. It reminds us that things can happen in faraway places (so that's what Pakistan is to us, a "faraway place?") of the world that can affect the United States. I think this should be of great concern to us. It is almost a perfect storm in a very bad sense because two forces are operating against each other that are both desirable. One is democracy: they were making progress in that regard in that country. Former prime minister Bhutto was an important part of that process. (so this is how our would-be spokesman thinks of Bhutto, as an "important part of a process." How nice.) But the other is stability. Pakistan is a nuclear country, and we cannot afford to let nukes fall into the hands of dangerous Muslim radicals. We are hoping those two things can be balanced out. We can see the continued progress toward a democratic society but also maintain stability in the country, which seems to be very much in doubt right now.

FAULKNER: I know you are running for the White House, so I don't want to put you in a position to second guess the president. But I'm interested in your opinion. President Bush is due to talk with Pervez Musharraf shortly. What do you anticipate that conversation should be like?

THOMPSON: Those two things that I mention probably would be high on the agenda. What could be done to not impose martial law, to not crack down, but be mindful of the fact that there are radical elements in that country, and perhaps even within the government, that would like to see instability and chaos and see those weapons fall into the wrong hands. This is part of a bigger problem. We need to understand that this is not a criminal investigation any more - so we find the bad guys and bring them to justice - it's a war.

This proves again the mindset of the radical elements that we are dealing with. We are seeing this all across Northern Africa and various places. We're seeing it across the Middle East and in parts of Asia including Indonesia and other places. We have to come to terms with that and do the things necessary to prevail. One of the things we need to be talking about is what Musharraf can do, additionally, to crack down on the Taliban. I think they have been insufficient in that respect.

FAULKNER : Taliban also supporters of al Qaeda in that country. Pakistan has been an important ally in the war on terror, so have do you walk that line?

THOMPSON: You just walk it. (What kind of an answer is that?) No one said it has been easy and simple. Pakistan has never been easy or simple. I had a chance a few years ago to talk to Musharraf before things got quite as complex as they are now. But it has always been an important part of the world. They're next door to India. They've had a crisis after crisis with regard to them. They're next door to Afghanistan, and they're important to us. They've been helpful to us. But we' re going to have to walk that line between democracy on the one hand and stability on the other. But I think it's possible.


"Today all New Yorkers, including the more than 100,000 who can trace their heritage to Pakistan, are saddened to learn about the assassination of Pakistan's Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Hers was a voice for democracy, and the silencing of it -- by such brutal means - is a shock to us all. Ms. Bhutto's death -- and the deaths of the many other Pakistanis who were killed today simply for expressing their views - is a great loss for friends of democracy and for everyone who is united in the fight against terror. It's also a grim reminder that many people consider the freedoms we cherish a threat. The perpetrators of this violent act must be brought to justice, and it is my hope that President Musharraf will follow through on free and fair elections in January as a testament to Ms. Bhutto's legacy." - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The Political Candidates that Benefit?

Rod Dreher is buying into the conventional wisdom of who within the election race will benefit from the Bhutto assassination:

"Pakistan is almost certainly going to go into a severe political crisis because of today's killing. Less than a week before the Iowa caucus, the images playing out on American TV screens will likely be of street riots in Pakistan, tanks in the streets, talk of nuclear missiles falling into the hands of al Qaeda, and suchlike. The political advantage will swing toward Hillary Clinton and John McCain. I don't know that it will do McCain much good in Iowa, but he'll almost certainly win New Hampshire now. Obama and Huckabee will suffer. And what about Giuliani, who has campaigned all along as a tough-on-terrorism figure who can be trusted in a crisis? I believe Pakistan, if the lid comes off, will seal the end of his candidacy by coalescing the anti-Huckabee forces around McCain post-New Hampshire. It could also be the death of the Romney candidacy for the same reasons, though Romney has more campaign cash than Giuliani, and hasn't placed all his chits on a Florida-and-beyond strategy.

If I were buying political futures, I'd move my investments this morning to Clinton and McCain. Not saying that's what I'd like to see happen politically, but what I think is going to happen, given this morning's headlines."

The Republicans should turn to John McCain to handle these matters since he is by far the candidate with the most credentials on foreign policy and national security. The Democrats however, should not be fooled and forget what this article in The New York Times suggests - she hyped her foreign policy and national security credentials big time. Bhutto's assassination may have moved the Clinton resume controversy off the talk shows for now, but that doesn't absolve the voters from challenging her claims.

Democrats looking for a man with the experience and sound judgment to get us through crises like these should opt for Joe Biden while the Republicans should look to John McCain.

"“That is not what a nation needs in a president. The person that is president of the United States we look to have leadership skill. Which is the ability to assemble a great team of people, to be able to guide and direct them to understand what decision has to be made on the basis of data and analysis and debate and deliberation. An individual who knows how to make difficult decisions.”" - Governor Mitt Romney

So then why didn't Mitt Romney get "go down to the state department and pick up any one of the tens of thousands of people who spent all their life in foreign policy,” or call someone with national security credentials up on the phone to get information he could "guide and direct" us and the president as to what we should be done instead of, let's say, referring back to these generalities. And why, given what had occurred, would he give his typical stump speech about heterosexual marriages and the other domestic issues at a time like this? Apparently he lacks the "judgment" he says a president will need.

No Aid to Pakistan, Yet

Whatever doubts the Bush administration had gutting an aid package to those we'd enlist in the fight against the militants in Waziristan should dissipate at this point. Musharraf's government has no constituency from which to launch this campaign. When the president said he was declaring a state of emergency, placed the high court's justices and the late Benazir Bhutto under house under house arrest, and indefinitely suspended democratic elections, he lost whatever good will he had. They don't trust him; the Islamic militants he made peace with don't trust him and we don't trust him. His government could collapse at any moment so any aid we give could fall into the hands of enemy so we should wait and see if at minimum:

(a) Musharraf survives this latest crisis,
(b) he purges his administration of Islamist supporters,
(c) he launches a nationwide military campaign against the Islamists,
(d) he lets an international body, preferably through the United Nations, conduct a
thorough investigation into the assassination of the late Benazir Bhutto.

Musharraf's support for the United States in this war on terrorism has been spotty at best. We need him to launch a sustained military campaign against Al Qaeda. We can't send aid if we cannot account for how it is being used and if we cannot vouch for the administration's commitment to the war on terror.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pakistan and the Bhutto assassination

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a former Pakistani Prime Minister and leading democratic opposition leader, raises serious questions about President Pervez Musharraf.

Bhutto returned to Pakistan in mid-October after the president agreed to a power sharing agreement that would allow her party to compete in free and open elections if she wouldn't contest his push for a third term. The president signed a National Reconciliation Ordinance, granting her among others, amnesty from corruption charges.

She vowed to crack down on terrorism, making her the scourge of the Islamic fundamentalists now hiding in the mountains near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Bhutto survived an assassination attempt conducted on October 18, the day she returned to Pakistan from exile. Though she did not blame President Musharraf, the former prime minister blamed some Pakistani officials for supporting the Islamic militants who later claimed her life. The state's security apparatus was compromised from the start.

Nawiz Sharif, another opposition leader, said his party will not participate in the national elections on January 8. Mr. Sharif did not welcome our role in the negotiations between Musharraf and Bhutto. The National Reconciliation Ordinance Musharraf signed did not absolve Sharif from corruption allegations leveled against him so his threat can be in part attributed to his effort to undermine Musharraf's hold on power.

President Musharraf doesn't have the leeway to declare the state of emergency he may need to launch an in-depth investigation into the assassination and the infiltration of Islamic radicals in his government now that he was pressured to back down from one that was conveniently implemented last month to replace justices that did not support his administration with some that will do his bidding.

Any military endeavors launched against militants in Waziristan will be met by accusations that President Musharraf is using Bhutto's assassination to strengthen his grip on power. The deal they made fell apart when he placed her under house arrest and declared a state of emergency last month. His failure to launch one, however, will undermine his credibility as an ally we could rely on.

And On The Other Side: New Hampshire Papers from Both Sides of the Political Divide Consider Mitt Romney a Fraud

Mitt Romney thought he could dismiss the anti-endorsement coming from The Concord Monitor because it generally sides with the left on the issues while endorsing Democrats. Fair enough but now he is getting it from the conservative Manchester Union Leader as well.

This paper's editorial board takes the conservative position on the economic and social issues - abortion, gay rights, the environment, tax cuts, school choice, amnesty, gun rights and immigration. Mitt Romney is running as the conservative the editorial board would support but it backed a candidate whose conservatism is less purist. Why? The writers think he is the real deal that Mitt Romney is not.

He backs a war the public in general does not like, and then all but sabotages his campaign by co-sponsoring (let alone voting for) an immigration bill that provides the illegal population with an unearned "path to citizenship." His views on gay rights earns him points from neither the gays nor the religious rights. He votes against gay rights but opposes an amendment to ban states from recognizing gay marriages.

Not one newspaper in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, conservative or liberal, has endorsed Mitt Romney as of yet. The editorial boards in these states know him from his unsuccessful campaign from the senator and they watched him run for then govern Massachusetts.

"And after a year of comparing Romney to McCain, of sizing up the two in person and in the media, Granite Staters are turning back to McCain. The former Navy pilot, once written off by the national media establishment, is now in a statistical dead heat with Romney here.

How could that be? Romney has all the advantages: money, organization, geographic proximity, statesman-like hair, etc.

But he lacks something John McCain has in spades: conviction.

Granite Staters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth. John McCain has done that day in and day out, never wavering, never faltering, never pandering.

Mitt Romney has not. He has spoken his lines well, but the people can sense that the words are memorized, not heartfelt.

Last week Romney was reduced to debating what the meaning of "saw" is. It was only the latest in a string of demonstrably false claims -- he'd been a hunter "pretty much" all his life, he'd had the NRA's endorsement, he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that call into question the veracity of his justifications for switching sides on immigration, abortion, taxes and his affection for Ronald Reagan."
- the editorial board for The Manchester Union Leader

"Romney's main business experience is as a management consultant, a field in which smart, fast-moving specialists often advise corporations on how to reinvent themselves. His memoir is called Turnaround - the story of his successful rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City - but the most stunning turnaround he has engineered is his own political career.

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."
The Concord Monitor

Hillary and the Experience Question

"But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda. ...

... An interview with Mrs. Clinton, conversations with 35 Clinton administration officials and a review of books about her White House years suggest that she was more of a sounding board than a policy maker, who learned through osmosis rather than decision-making, and who grew gradually more comfortable with the use of military power. ...

Associates from that time said that she was aware of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and what her husband has in recent years characterized as his intense focus on them, but that she made no aggressive independent effort to shape policy or gather information about the threat of terrorism.

She did not wrestle directly with many of the other challenges the next president will face, including managing a large-scale deployment — or withdrawal — of troops abroad, an overhaul of the intelligence agencies or the effort to halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Most of her exposure to the military has come since she left the White House through her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "

and how long was the senator from New York touting her 35 + years "experience" in the campaign? How often did she tell American Democratic primary voters they cannot afford to nominate a candidate who will need on-the-job training? Why, oh why is her "experience" being challenged this late in the election cycle? Why did not the journalists, talk show hosts, and political pundits challenge her credentials before? The Political Heretic did.

Senator Hillary Clinton, a read from the article suggests, got the experience one would normally expect of a First Lady. She would let her husband, the president know what she was thinking and on occasion meet with such foreign leaders he saw fit in fulfillment of her ceremonial duties.

Perhaps she can back her questionable claim to experience up if and when her husband allows grants the reporters access to the National Archives.

In the meantime, Democratic primary voters who want someone whose "on the job" training will be minimal to consider Senator Joe Biden, Senator Chris Dodd, or New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Some Favorable Mentions for My Favored Candidates

Senator Joe Biden to date has won virtually no favorable horse race coverage on the cable channels but he gets some coverage in the press and on the blogs.

Michael Crowley
of The New Republic says he might be able to spin a fourth place showing in Iowa into a moral victory and could stay in the race while John Edwards is being pressed to withdraw after losing a state he was expected to easily win as of several months ago.

Joe Biden said he'd withdraw from the race if he doesn't place third but the senator should reconsider if, as Crowley says, he comes in fourth in Iowa. Favorable media coverage might come his way if he did, giving him some time to capitalize on the campaign. The press ignored Huckabee because he wasn't expected to do well in Iowa but he is now being given significant press coverage now that he is giving rival Mitt Romney the fight of his life in Iowa. Giuliani's favorable ratings have gone down, so the press isn't covering him as much.

The senator from Delaware should capitalize on a fourth place showing and chastise the media if press coverage remains light.

Editorial boards that have endorsed one of his rivals, after all, are impressed with his candidacy.

See here.

"Obama's lack of experience is most notable in the realm of foreign policy. His assertion, however, that experience can�t match sound judgment has merit. Obama opposed the war in Iraq early, predicting a scenario that closely resembles the situation today. Now, he understands the complexities prohibiting immediate withdrawal. Instead, he has called for a phased, responsible withdrawal that may not be completed until 2010.

He�s been a hawk on the war on terror, criticizing the Bush administration for its failure to find Osama bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda leaders. There is no negotiating with these "hard-core jihadists," Obama maintains, "all we can do is hunt them down." He won't, however, abandon diplomatic efforts abroad and maintains we must enhance our image elsewhere in the world.

Still, Obama has been wise to surround himself with an impressive group of foreign policy advisers. A running mate with a strong foreign policy track record would be the perfect complement. If nominated, we recommend Obama consider one of his competitors - U.S. Sen. Joe Biden. An Obama-Biden ticket would offer an intriguing mix of fresh ideas and measurable achievement."

Biden isn't an also-ran; he's a man with a plan, one that it is hoped might get us out of the Iraq War and set us on a path towards the negotiated disarmament of Iran or, as an alternative, that country's isolation.

McCain too, hasn't done so well but he might be making a comeback in New Hampshire.
The senator from Arizona has won some favorable mentions from The Dallas Morning News, which almost endorsed him (but then chose Mike Huckabee) and the Iowa Citizen-Press which nearly endorsed him by suggesting that he merely lost it by not showing up.

The talk has focused on the battle between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee but McCain was the first candidate to critique the president's war strategy.

"Particularly, we wish that Arizona Sen. John McCain had taken us up on our offer for at least a conference call. Viewing McCain from afar, we find him to be the Republican candidate with the most moral authority and foreign policy experience to lead the nation. Democratic candidate and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, during his editorial board interview, went as far as to say, "That's why, on the Republican side, even though I strongly disagree with him, I hope to hell it's McCain. Because none of the rest of them knows anything about foreign policy."

Quoting Biden as the editorial board's source of proof concerning McCain's expertise, by the way, says a lot about what they think of Biden as well.

Huckabee and gays

Good piece on Huckabee's anti-gay credentials. He seems like a nasty bigot.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why No Attention?

"In the comments to my piece several people marveled at the fact Biden didn't get more attention in this race. I think there are a handful of reasons for that--and this is my analysis, not a justification: One is the media's respect for fundraising. Another is the way the race was framed around Hillary as a quasi-incumbent, and Biden's inability to offer a sharp sexy contrast to that narrative the way Obama (anti-war, fresh start) and Edwards (anti-DC populism) have. Biden may also have killed his candidacy in its cradle with his famously verbose and occasionally eccentric performances during his Judiciary Committee's Supreme Court confirmation hearings. (Remember the Princeton baseball cap?) And finally there were his early gaffes--"clean and articulate," Indian 7-11 owners--which further reinforced the loose-cannon image from those hearings. The result of all these factors was that, despite his substantive virtues, the media simply never took Biden seriously." - Michele Crowley on The New Republic web site

A Not Romney editorial

This pretty much sums up my chief concerns about Mitt Romney. I just put it a little nicer.

Republican Voting Preference: John McCain

As the Political Heretic noted when he voiced his support for Joe Biden for the Democratic primaries, our next president will inherit the geopolitical mess Bush created when he invaded Iraq.

The Maliki administration is no closer to resolving the political disputes between Arab and Kurd over Kirkuk, oil revenue distribution among Iraq's Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites, or de-Baathification. Iranians openly support Shiite-backed militias in the south while open war threatens to break out between our Kurdish and Turkish allies in the north at any moment. The next president will have to press Iraq’s central government to resolve these disputes in a satisfactory manner or remove our troops from Iraq. . .

Since the campaign in Afghanistan has languished with a back and forth battle for the south, the incoming administration will have to .reformulate its strategy for winning the war. The next president will have to bolster NATO’s troop presence mainly by enlisting the support of our allies since our forces were diverted to Afghanistan.

Pakistan's somewhat chastened president had done little to capture Al Qaeda terrorists hiding in the mountains bordering Afghanistan so our next president will need to encourage President Musharraf to recommit itself to the war on terror without undermining its regime.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran says Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 while continuing its uranium enrichment program which can be used for energy and nuclear weapons. Faulty intelligence was used to justify our current president’s bellicose statements towards Iran just as it was used to justify our war with Iraq. Our next president will have to restore our nation’s credibility.

No “leading” presidential candidate has distanced himself significantly from the president’s strategy for winning this “war on terror.” They oppose the Democratic leadership’s calls for a troop “redeployment” from Iraq, backed the president’s hard line negotiating tactics with Iran and North Korea and oppose any effort to rush the Israelis and Palestinians into a peace settlement commitments neither side is prepared to enforce so voters who are seeking a major shift in direction will be disappointed.

We nevertheless can have a say in the party’s standard bearer so the Political Heretic believes they should look for the candidate who at the very least can fight this war on terror more efficiently and cleaner.


More Right About the Surge

This priority above all leads him to back Senator John McCain’s bid to be the Republican's nominee for the White House. The senator from Arizona has the battle-tested credentials to see this war through. Though he has not wavered from his support for the Iraq War, John McCain was the first to call for a troop surge and the first to call for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. The troop surge he pushed for provides the Maliki administration and this president the “breathing space” they need to resolve ongoing political disputes among Sunnis Shiite, and Kurdish Iraqis and stabilize Iraq. However, this troop surge merely buys the administration time.

As president, John McCain would have to develop the political plan B should the Maliki government, as expected, fail to deliver what had been promised.

Restoring This Nation’s Intelligence and Fighting Capabilities

Our National Intelligence Agencies saw their credibility undermined when the American troops sent to recover Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” found none. The latest National Intelligence Estimate findings that pushed the date Iran could have a nuclear weapon back several years undermined the intelligence community further.

John McCain offers a plan to bolster their credibility, and relieve the National Guard that is now supplementing our nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Senator McCain will bolster our troop levels by 150,000 troops, create a 20,000-strong Army Advisory Corps specifically assigned to work with military units abroad, create a police force that would be sent abroad to train and maintain law and order, and most importantly, create a program that would offer students language classes in Farsi, Arabic, Chinese, and Pashto – languages used in some of the Muslim-dominated countries terrorists hide in.

A new administration could use this pool of fluent Faris, Arabic and Pashto speakers could provide future administrations which could save us from the wars we can otherwise avoid.

Notable Supporters

The senator from Arizona commands the respect and the support of some very prominent national security conservative realists. He counts among his supporters the distinguished former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former Secretary of State George Schultz, Alexander Haig and Lawrence Eagleburger as well as former 9/11 Commission Chairman Governor Tom Kean and former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Right on Torture

Aside for Representative Ron Paul, no Republican candidate running for the White House would roll back the president’s claim to unchecked executive war powers. They all, to their discredit, backed the president when aspects of national security surveillance program were leaked to the press and they all support the indefinite detention of war combatants at Guantanamo Bay but in one respect, Senator John McCain will restore the honor which this president forfeited by condoning water boarding and CI rendition practices overseas. McCain, a former POW himself who survived torture at the hands of his captors, adamantly opposes water boarding and the practices that have cast some doubt on our claim to respect human rights.

Some Disagreements on Cultural Issues: Abortion, Gay Rights, Immigration

The Political Heretic’s support for McCain does have its caveats, however. Senator John McCain has an anti-abortion and anti-gay voting record. He consistently voted against laws banning sexual orientation-based discrimination and laws extending hate crime coverage to gays. Though he opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage nationwide, McCain endorsed the Arizona unsuccessful ballot measure that would have banned gay marriage and civil unions. The senator from Arizona says Roe v Wade should be overturned so the battle for abortion rights could be fought at the state level.

His far less divisive rhetoric, however, helps him stand apart from his rivals, former Governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Romney touts his heterosexual “family values” in every speech he delivers while Huckabee stands by his statements that he views homosexuality as an "aberrant" and "sinful" lifestyle. The former governor from Arkansas at one time supported the quarantining of those afflicted with AIDS.

In one respect the senator’s voting record is far too liberal for the Political Heretic’s taste. Senator John McCain co-sponsored the misleadingly described “comprehensive immigration bill” which would have provided illegal immigrants the undeserved “path to citizenship” others still waiting in line should have first.


Giuliani’s Accomplishments and Moderate Social Liberalism Appealing

Giuliani was the Political Heretic’s prohibitive favorite going into this election. The former two-term mayor of New York City earned his respect for his tenacious way he fought crime in New York City. and the heroic command he displayed on 9/11. He taught his successors that New York, a city more diverse and heavily populated than many states of the Union, can be governed.

Crime had fallen during his tenure. His employment of CompStats to measure criminal trends neighborhood to neighborhood should be commended. He removed the filth from Times Square, and the squeegees that hurt store front businesses from the streets. As mayor, Giuliani sued gun manufacturers for selling some of the guns used to commit crimes in New York. The Political Heretic largely disagreed with the mayor on the lawsuit issue but it showed New Yorkers he would aggressively fight the crime that brought the quality of life down in the city.

On 9/11 the mayor calmed the city down with statesmanlike leadership one would expect from a president. He was justifiably angry, but he calmed the city down. No one can take that away from him.

Giuliani’s social liberal views, not notably his support for abortion rights and gay rights, posed a challenge to the religious fundamentalists in the Republican Party, making the Political Heretic's support for him even more tempting. Giuliani marched in gay pride parades, and vigorously pushed for New York City's gay-inclusive domestic partnership law.

But the qualities that made Giuliani seem appealing weakened as the mayor distanced himself from his mayoral record to appeal to the conservative evangelical base.

Giuliani waffled on the abortion rights questions in the first Republican primary debate before reverting to his original position while minimizing its importance by promising to nominate the “strict constructionist” justices that may overturn Roe v. Wade.

He distanced himself from statements in which he supported civil unions by coming out against New Hampshire's civil unions law though, according to his web site, he still supports domestic partnership legislation.

Positions on National Security Surveillance, Guantanamo Bay and His Weak Points as Mayor Reinforce Are Related and Troubling

As the mayor was pressed to answer questions concerning this president’s, war detention and national security policies, the appeal for supporting him declined further. Giuliani said he would not, as president, rule out the use of water boarding and other techniques our president does not consider torture to extract confessions and information pertaining to the next terrorist attack.

These tactics, it should be noted, have severely weakened this country's image, an image Al Qaeda uses to recruit new jihadists.

New York’s former mayor adamantly defended the police department against the worst offenses. In one instance, he released the juvenile record of a police shooting victim. Giuliani refused to appoint civilian boards to oversee police apprehension tactics. One must question how a mayor with this reputation would deal with scandals like Abu Ghraib.

McCain was tortured. The world will believe him when he says he will conduct investigations concerning the rogue tactics employed by some of our troops in uniform.

The Racial Divide

Giuliani's crime fighting techniques hurt his standing within the African American community. The stop and frisk tactics which he employed led to charges of racial profiling from the offended African American constituents in New York City. His refusal to meet with responsible moderate African American religious leaders would come back to haunt him when he backed the police department against the racial profiling charges that followed high profile police brutality cases.

When confronted with this issue, Giuliani said there were things that he "regretted" but tried, as mayor "very hard to treat everyone in New York City the same." Giuliani would need to heal the wounds that he contributed to while serving as New York City's mayor.

The Question of Loyalty

In his latest interview on “Meet The Press” the mayor was confronted with questions surrounding his then mistress’ publicly financed security detail as well his pick of Bernard Kerik, a loyal friend, to serve as his police commissioner. The mayor's emphasis on loyalty is particularly disconcerting given this president's penchant for prizing loyalty above all else. President Bush appointed Alberto Gonzalez, a friend whose knowledge about criminal law was limited to Texas' state law, as his general counsel and then Attorney General John Ashcroft's successor. Bush's pick for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, was as a Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse's Association.

Giuliani is running as the national security conservative in the race, the one who would prepare and shield us from the next attack. The mayor's claim is undercut by his failure, during his tenure, to force the police and fire departments to use the same frequency and his decision to resign from the 9/11 commission.


Romney the Interest-Group Run Campaign

The other candidates lack the profile of courage and foreign policy credentials John McCain have. Governor Mitt Romney no doubt has the prerequisite administrative experience required to lead this country into the next century. His understanding of fiscal matters is probably unmatched by anyone in the race and well-polished rhetoric would serve him well in any debate against the Democratic nominee in the general election debates but he has run from his record having flip-flopped on his views concerning gay Americans, abortion rights, gun control and health care, to appeal to the Republican's special interest groups. Romney is providing the typical stump speech one would expect from a Republican candidate. He challenges the other candidates' for their lack of adherence to Republican orthodoxy. Romney offers no vision of how he would fight the war on terror , disarm the Iranians, and end the Iraq War in our favor.

Fred Thompson's Lackluster Campaign

The former senator from Tennessee, Fred Thompson, has been competing with Romney by running as a traditional conservative as well but he has failed to capture his party's imagination. His lackluster campaign makes the Political Heretic wonder if really wants to be our next president.

Huckabee the Firebrand

Governor Mike Huckabee is, himself running a strong campaign but he has built that lead by appealing to one religious group above all others and lacks the prerequisite skills to govern. We should be electing the next president of the United States, not the next pastor of the United States. He challenges Mike Huckabee's Christianity at every turn he gets and in one news article, associated Mormonism with the belief that Jesus and the devil are brothers.

Ron Paul, the Idealist not in tune with Reality

U.S. Representative Ron Paul earns the respect of the Political Heretic for his adherence to fiscal discipline and his firm support for civil liberties but his call for the return to the gold standard and foreign policy isolation seems far-fetched.

Tancredo and Hunter's One Interest Campaigns

His colleagues from California and Colorado are fervent supporters of the border restrictive policies that the Political Heretic supports. Hunter's concern our trade deficit deserves more air time then it usually gets but neither he nor Tancredo have moved beyond their particular concerns to address the other problems facing this country.

This leads the Political Heretic back to John McCain. He has the war-tested character, the expertise, and the vision to lead this country for the next four years.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Weekend Preview

An abbreviated edition of the preview this weekend.


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - Iraq Quarterly Report, Joel Olsteen, Morril Worcester's wreaths. (a) General David Petreaus on trends in Iraq and the latest quarterly report on the country. (b) "American Leader" Series with Reverend Joel Olsteen if the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. (c) FOX News Sunday Panelists Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams of The National Public Radio. (d) Power Player of the Week - Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreaths hands wreaths out to veterans. This show, which is hosted by Chris Wallace, is repeated at 6:00 PM ET on the FOX News Channel.

2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on Philadelphia's ABC and 10:30 AM ET on New York's ABC affiliate):
Topics This Week - Rudolph Giuliani's campaign for the White House, Caroline Kennedy's new book, the developments in the primary election horse race. (a) "On The Trail" series - on the trail with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on his campaign for the White House. (b) Round table on this week's politics from E.J. Dionne, Torie Clarke, Cokie Roberts and George Will. (c) Voice - Caroline Kennedy on her new book "A Family Christmas." This show is hosted by George Stephanopoulos.

3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):
Topic This Week - U.S. Representative Ron Paul's race for the White House. An in-depth interview with U.S. Representative Ron Paul about his stand on the issues facing America and his race for the White House. This show, which is hosted by Tim Russert, is repeated at 6:00 PM ET on MSNBC.

4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):
Not posted yet. Hosted by Bob Schieffer.

5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):
Not yet posted. Hosted by Wolf Blitzer.


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:00 PM ET):
Topic This Week - the Democratic Congress and Hillary Clinton. (a) Democratic Congress' work. (b) Senator Clinton's decline in the polls. Co-panelists include Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes.

2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:30 PM ET): Topic This Week - Christmas. Christmas and the Candidates - the media goes after former Governor Mike Huckabee for his Christmas ad. (b) Senator Hillary Clinton's looks - the press goes after Senator Hillary Clinton for looking old. (c) Quick Takes on the Media. The regular panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Jane Hall, Neil Gabler and host Eric Burns.

3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): Topics This Week - the best and worst campaign moves of 2007 and the defining news event of 2007. (a) the best and the worst campaign moves of this year. (b) the defining news event of 2007. Panelists will include Katty Kay of the BBC, Dan Rather of HD Net, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC and host Chris Matthews.

4. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): CNN does not provide its potential viewers with a preview of this show which airs on Sunday mornings before Late Edition. Howard Kurtz hosts this show.

Who Would Have Thought

Believe it or not, there is a paper out there that will endorse Governor Mike Huckabee.

Go figure.

Tom Tancredo

So ends the campaign of presidential candidate who garnered no press attention. Whatever you think about his stances on the issues, this conservative U.S. Representative from Colorado was never given the air time to make his case for the White House. Debate moderators focused their questions on former Governor Mitt Romney, Senator John McCain, former Senator Fred Thompson, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Candidates deserve to rise and fall on their own. We don't need press reporters boosting their campaign by giving them prominent news coverage or sabotaging their campaigns by ignoring them.

Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani gets more press coverage he'd like to do without. Oh well. Press coverage can work both ways, for those whom the journalists choose to focus on.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Note: the Republicans

Change of plans. It wouldn't be fair for the Political Heretic to state his preference for the Republicans during the week when he gave his preference for the Democrats (Joe Biden) last Saturday. Expect his preference for the Republicans to be revealed on Saturday.

Campaign Attacks: Plausible Denial

Addendum: Credit for links goes to Wikipedia.

Remember this exchange? Note the bold-faced words (my emphasis).

IFILL: The next question goes to you, Mr. Vice President.

I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: "Freedom means freedom for everybody." You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions. And you used your family's experience as a context for your remarks.

Gwen Ifil was indirectly referring to Mary Cheney, the vice president's gay daughter.

IFIL: "Can you describe then your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions?"

CHENEY: "Gwen, you're right, four years ago in this debate, the subject came up. And I said then and I believe today that freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It's really no one else's business.

That's a separate question from the issue of whether or not government should sanction or approve or give some sort of authorization, if you will, to these relationships.

Traditionally, that's been an issue for the states. States have regulated marriage, if you will. That would be my preference.

In effect, what's happened is that in recent months, especially in Massachusetts, but also in California, but in Massachusetts we had the Massachusetts Supreme Court direct the state of -- the legislature of Massachusetts to modify their constitution to allow gay marriage.

And the fact is that the president felt that it was important to make it clear that that's the wrong way to go, as far as he's concerned.

Now, he sets the policy for this administration, and I support the president."

Cheney didn't mention his daughter by name here. Clearly this was an uncomfortable issue for either his family or for his boss.

IFILL: "Senator Edwards, 90 seconds."

EDWARDS: "Yes. Let me say first, on an issue that the vice president said in his last answer before we got to this question, talking about tax policy, the country needs to know that under what they have put in place and want to put in place, a millionaire sitting by their swimming pool, collecting their statements to see how much money they're making, make their money from dividends, pays a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving on the ground in Iraq.

Now, they may think that's right. John Kerry and I do not.

We don't just value wealth, which they do. We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us.

Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.

And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry.

I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships.

But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country.

No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state's marriage.

This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it's wrong."

So there you have it. What Ifil referred to indirectly was directly spelled out by John Edwards. Conservative Republicans feigned outrage. Mary Cheney and her family, they suggested, were entitled to their privacy (a right conservatives generally do not support when gays claim the right to have it). Edwards, they said "outed her" in a cynical attempt to suppress conservative evangelical turnout. (Conservative evangelicals might, it was assumed, express their dissatisfaction with the vice president's reaction to their daughter's "sinful lifestyle" by declining to show up at the polls. It didn't work).

The Democrats came to Edwards' defense. They said Edwards was praising the vice president for supporting their daughter, a decision that would not be accepted by the Republican voting base that considers "homosexual conduct" sinful. Moreover, they said Edwards was personalizing an issue the conservatives like to debate in the abstract, reminding would-be viewers that conservative stances on discrimination, civil unions, and hate crimes legislation hurts people.

So whose explanation is believable?

And this one?

SCHIEFFER: "Mr. President, let's get back to economic issues. But let's shift to some other questions here.

Both of you are opposed to gay marriage. But to understand how you have come to that conclusion, I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?"

BUSH: "You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know. I do know that we have a choice to make in America and that is to treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity. It's important that we do that.

And I also know in a free society people, consenting adults can live the way they want to live.

And that's to be honored.

But as we respect someone's rights, and as we profess tolerance, we shouldn't change -- or have to change -- our basic views on the sanctity of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I think it's very important that we protect marriage as an institution, between a man and a woman.

I proposed a constitutional amendment. The reason I did so was because I was worried that activist judges are actually defining the definition of marriage, and the surest way to protect marriage between a man and woman is to amend the Constitution.

It has also the benefit of allowing citizens to participate in the process. After all, when you amend the Constitution, state legislatures must participate in the ratification of the Constitution.

I'm deeply concerned that judges are making those decisions and not the citizenry of the United States. You know, Congress passed a law called DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.

My opponent was against it. It basically protected states from the action of one state to another. It also defined marriage as between a man and woman.

But I'm concerned that that will get overturned. And if it gets overturned, then we'll end up with marriage being defined by courts, and I don't think that's in our nation's interests."

Once again, no word about Mary for that would have again raised questions about the tension between the Cheney family and the president's campaign posture.

SCHIEFFER: "Senator Kerry?"

KERRY: "We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.

I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it.

And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them.

I think we have to respect that.

The president and I share the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

But I also believe that because we are the United States of America, we're a country with a great, unbelievable Constitution, with rights that we afford people, that you can't discriminate in the workplace. You can't discriminate in the rights that you afford people.

You can't disallow someone the right to visit their partner in a hospital. You have to allow people to transfer property, which is why I'm for partnership rights and so forth.

Now, with respect to DOMA and the marriage laws, the states have always been able to manage those laws. And they're proving today, every state, that they can manage them adequately."
Senator John Kerry in one of the 2004 presidential debates.

Again, Kerry can say he is showing how conservatives who stick to anti-gay policies are hurting people like Mary Cheney while discouraging evangelical conservatives from voting for Bush.

Fast forward to today.

In one ad, former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) refers to himself as a "Christian leader" to win Iowa's evangelical Republican caucus voters and in another one wishes everyone a "Merry Christmas" while reminding us that Christmas is the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The former governor said he wasn't trying to impugn anyone else's Christian credentials by declaring himself to be a Christian leader but he wouldn't say whether Mormonism is a Christian religion or not. Then he asks the reporter interviewing him for a New York Times' magazine article published last week if Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil were brothers.

Conservative evangelicals who might like former Governor Mitt Romney on the issues of a characteristic they might not like about him - his Mormon religion. Huckabee's critics think he is deliberately smearing Romney while Huckabee's supporters say he is merely touting his own Christian credentials.

One more:

"It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."" - former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska), who endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York), on her rival, Senator Barack obama (D-Illinois)

Again. Democrats could say Kerrey is appealing to his party's respect for diversity but he might also be firing a warning shot at Democrats who want to vote for the most electable Democratic candidate for president. Republicans, Kerrey might be saying, will use Obama's name and background against him in a general election.

Welcome to the new world of campaigning, where two people with two different world views will react to what is said differently. You can't say they are smear jobs for those who employ them can point to an altruistic principle which they are defending but effect is the same. It reinforces the supporters' world view while playing to the opponents' fears.

The EPA Standard and the Lawsuit

“Climate change affects everyone regardless of where greenhouse gases occur, so California is not exclusive,” - Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen L. Johnson as quoted in The New York Times

question: but wouldn't a heavily populated state like California where traffic doesn't move and cars are sitting idle, or a heavily-industrialized state like New Jersey, cause further harm to the environment than a sparsely populated Kansas?

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) plans to sue in federal court as he should. The administration's opposition is clearly driven by the automobile industry and not the one size fits all rhetoric coming from the EPA administrator. The EPA standards California would have pushed the automotive industry into making more fuel efficient cars sooner and in all likelihood the companies would not have produced one two different sets of cars with different fuel standards since other states would have followed.

According to this article in The Washington Post, lawyers for the EPA believe the states would lose any lawsuits they file in the federal courts.

They might be right if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case but potential litigators know this battle will first be addressed by district courts and the liberal-leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals first, By the time California's lawsuit reaches the Supreme Court, we might have a more environmentally-friendly president with an EPA administrator who would grant the waiver, rendering the appeal to the Court moot.

It's a gamble.