Monday, March 31, 2008

The Question The Republicans Have to Answer

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) may like to cast ongoing support for the war in Iraq as an honorable act designed to protect the people of Iraq from an unstable situation of our own making and as an act to deprive Al Qaeda from a potential safe haven but his likely Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) posed the question journalists should ask him after every stump speech. How much can the the United States afford to spend in terms of money, time, and troops, before we say to ourselves "enough is enough" and cut our losses?

As the junior senator from Illinois noted in the two Iraq War speeches he delivered this month, our government is diverting its valuable resources from the ongoing search for Al Qaeda terrorists, entitlement reform, universal health care, and investments in education and an energy independence program.

The war has cost this nation 4,000 + lives as well as an even larger number of wounded personnel whom we are pledged to care for. This number, while tolerable to some Americans now, may rise but even if we are lucky and that figure does not rise by much, the financial costs of this war are stark. Money squandered propping up an unstable, corrupt, and incompetent government can not be spent repairing broken down public schools or repairing this nation's highways or fortifying homeland security. National Guard troops patrolling Iraq's Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish neighborhood are for obvious reasons not patrolling our borders, letting potential terrorists, drug runners, and illegal immigrants enter this country unauthorized. The troops who are fighting Sunni insurgents, and Shiite militias in Iraq can be used for the ongoing search for Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At some point in time, our journalists and the voters must ask the Republican nominee why the fight for Iraq trumps the search for Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and why we must squander our resources rebuilding Iraq when we have problems of our own to take care of. If the Iraqi government is not prepared to meet its own political benchmarks, the public must ask whether propping it up for the next 50 - 100 years is worth the effort.

Hitchens on the Sniper Fire Lie

Christopher Hitchens, it should be noted is a liberal hawk and known Clinton hater (though again, he is neither a conservative, religious fanatic, or a Republican).

(To prove his credentials as an equal opportunity chastiser, one need only look at his comments regarding the Reverend Wright controversy.)

He makes two claims about the Senator Hillary Clinton's sniper lie (ahem, pardon me, "misspoken" comments).

First, the obvious, which I have already noted:


"First, and even though I admit that I did once later misidentify a building in Sarajevo from a set of photographs, I can tell you for an absolute certainty that it would be quite impossible to imagine that one had undergone that experience at the airport if one actually had not."


Getting shot at isn't forgettable. Anyone who had been in the line of fire would remember whether they heard gun fire, or whether they had to take cover so Clinton not only lied when she claimed to have survived sniper fire, she lied when she claimed to have misspoken about surviving sniper fire.

Second, the more controversial claim and one that, alas, the Political Heretic concedes is open to interpretation:



"In the event, President Bill Clinton had not found it convenient to keep this promise. Let me quote from Sally Bedell Smith's admirable book on the happy couple, For Love of Politics:

Taking the advice of Al Gore and National Security Advisor Tony Lake, Bill agreed to a proposal to bomb Serbian military positions while helping the Muslims acquire weapons to defend themselves—the fulfillment of a pledge he had made during the 1992 campaign. But instead of pushing European leaders, he directed Secretary of State Warren Christopher merely to consult with them. When they balked at the plan, Bill quickly retreated, creating a "perception of drift." The key factor in Bill's policy reversal was Hillary, who was said to have "deep misgivings" and viewed the situation as "a Vietnam that would compromise health-care reform." The United States took no further action in Bosnia, and the "ethnic cleansing" by the Serbs was to continue for four more years, resulting in the deaths of more than 250,000 people.

I can personally witness to the truth of this, too. I can remember, first, one of the Clintons' closest personal advisers—Sidney Blumenthal—referring with acid contempt to Warren Christopher as "a blend of Pontius Pilate with Ichabod Crane." I can remember, second, a meeting with Clinton's then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin at the British Embassy. When I challenged him on the sellout of the Bosnians, he drew me aside and told me that he had asked the White House for permission to land his own plane at Sarajevo airport, if only as a gesture of reassurance that the United States had not forgotten its commitments."



Priorities are of course priorities and presidents must choose where they will focus their attention. Mr. Clinton's failure to intercede can be attributed to the domestic priorities he and his wife shared and for obvious and understandable reasons, those were to be addressed first (American needs should come first).

With that qualification noted, Hitchens' argument still stands. Taking the credit for a mission she objected to is disingenuous.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Obama's Speeches on The War on Iraq

Sometimes the media's focus on the horse race can be quite maddening. This week we heard of Senator Bob Casey's Obama endorsement, the debate concerning calls by some Obama surrogates campaign for Senator Hillary Clinton's withdrawal from the race, Clinton's vow to fight through to the convention, Hillary's sniper fire, and the fight over Michigan and Florida. Left uncovered were the substantive speeches the three remaining candidates gave.


I. "THE WORLD BEYOND IRAQ" by BARACK OBAMA

BARACK ON THE MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS IN IRAQ


"If you believe we are fighting the right war, then the problems we face are purely tactical in nature. That is what Senator McCain wants to discuss - tactics. What he and the Administration have failed to present is an overarching strategy: how the war in Iraq enhances our long-term security, or will in the future. That's why this Administration cannot answer the simple question posed by Senator John Warner in hearings last year: Are we safer because of this war? And that is why Senator McCain can argue - as he did last year - that we couldn't leave Iraq because violence was up, and then argue this year that we can't leave Iraq because violence is down.

When you have no overarching strategy, there is no clear definition of success. Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely."
- Senator Barack Obama


BARACK OBAMA ON MCCAIN'S SURRENDER ARGUMENT


"Now we know what we'll hear from those like John McCain who support open-ended war. They will argue that leaving Iraq is surrender. That we are emboldening the enemy. These are the mistaken and misleading arguments we hear from those who have failed to demonstrate how the war in Iraq has made us safer. Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades."


THE WAR ON TERROR AND REFOCUSING OUR PRIORITIES

"The central front in the war against terror is not Iraq, and it never was. What more could America's enemies ask for than an endless war where they recruit new followers and try out new tactics on a battlefield so far from their base of operations? That is why my presidency will shift our focus. Rather than fight a war that does not need to be fought, we need to start fighting the battles that need to be won on the central front of the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is the area where the 9/11 attacks were planned. This is where Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants still hide. This is where extremism poses its greatest threat. Yet in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have pursued flawed strategies that are too distant from the needs of the people, and too timid in pursuit of our common enemies."



ON PAKISTAN

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot. Senator Clinton, Senator McCain, and President Bush have all distorted and derided this position, suggesting that I would invade or bomb Pakistan. This is politics, pure and simple. My position, in fact, is the same pragmatic policy that all three of them have belatedly - if tacitly - acknowledged is one we should pursue. Indeed, it was months after I called for this policy that a top al Qaeda leader was taken out in Pakistan by an American aircraft. And remember that the same three individuals who now criticize me for supporting a targeted strike on the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks, are the same three individuals that supported an invasion of Iraq - a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

It is precisely this kind of political point-scoring that has opened up the security gap in this country. We have a security gap when candidates say they will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but refuse to follow him where he actually goes. What we need in our next Commander in Chief is not a stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality or empty rhetoric about 3AM phone calls. What we need is a pragmatic strategy that focuses on fighting our real enemies, rebuilding alliances, and renewing our engagement with the world's people."


And then, the cost of the war

II. "THE COST OF WAR" by BARACK OBAMA

"But we also have to understand that the more than $10 billion we're spending each month in Iraq is money we could be investing here at home. Just think about what battles we could be fighting instead of fighting this misguided war.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and who are plotting against us in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We could be securing our homeland and stopping the world's most dangerous weapons from falling into terrorist hands.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting for the people of West Virginia. For what folks in this state have been spending on the Iraq war, we could be giving health care to nearly 450,000 of your neighbors, hiring nearly 30,000 new elementary school teachers, and making college more affordable for over 300,000 students.

We could be fighting to put the American dream within reach for every American - by giving tax breaks to working families, offering relief to struggling homeowners, reversing President Bush's cuts to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and protecting Social Security today, tomorrow, and forever. That's what we could be doing instead of fighting this war.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to make universal health care a reality in this country. We could be fighting for the young woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. For what we spend in several months in Iraq, we could be providing them with the quality, affordable health care that every American deserves.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to give every American a quality education."
and of course, the goes on.

There is no doubt, in the Political Heretic's mind, that Obama makes the Democratic Party's case for the U.S. troop withdrawal in these two speeches. We cannot win this war; the Iraqi people must. Preserving the stalemate, something which our troops can do, merely delays the inevitable while diverting our resources from the real war against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the economic problems we are facing at home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):


Topics This Week - surge in violence in Iraq, the fight for the Democratic Party's super delegates, impact political infighting could have in the general election.

(a) The War In Iraq: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) on the latest "flare up" in violence. Questions concerning the U.S. troop surge's purported success and the Iraqi government's involvement will be brought up.

(b) The Democratic Party Nomination: "Key" but unannounced strategists from the Obama and Clinton campaigns talk about the infighting's potential affect on the winning candidate in the general election.

(c) FOX News Sunday Panel: Brit Hume of FOX News, Jill Zuckman of The Chicago Tribune, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio on the fight over the Democratic Party's super delegates.

(d) Power Player of the Week: Washington Nationals Team President Stan Kasten talks about "America's pastime" and the new ballpark.

This show, which Chris Wallace hosts on Sunday mornings, is repeated at 2:00 PM ET and 6:00 PM ET on the FOX News Channel.


2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on the New York affiliate and 10:30 AM ET on the Philadelphia affiliate):

Topics This Week - The Democratic Primary fight, Lieberman's support for the Republican and the war in Iraq.

(a) Democratic Primary: Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts)of the Obama campaign and Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pennsylvania) of the Clinton campaign talk about the Democratic Party's primary race and their candidates' strengths and viability.

(b) Republican Primary: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) on his support for Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and their trip to Iraq.

(c) Roundtable: Paul Krugman of The New York Times, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, ABC News consultant and Democratic Party "super delegate" Donna Brazile, and columnist George Will of ABC News and The Washington Post on this week's political news.

(d) In Memorium and Sunday Funnies: names of those who died, the best political jokes from the comedy shows.

George Stephanopoulos hosts this show on Sunday mornings.


3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):

Topics This Week - round table on the Democratic primary fight and the CIA Director's perspective on the war in Iraq, our relationship with Iran, the state of U.S. intelligence and the war on terror

(a) Sunday Exclusive: CIA Director General Michael Hayden on the war in Iraq, our standoff with Iran, U.S. intelligence, and the war on terrorism.

(b) Political Roundtable: David Brooks of The New York Times and Peter Beinart of The New Republic and Time Magazine on the political fallout over Reverend Jeremiah Wright's incendiary comments, the potential need for Clinton to drop out, and John McCain's general election preparation.

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


4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):


Topics This Week - the Democratic Primary Race.

(a) The Surrogates on the Primary Race: Obama supporter and Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) and Clinton supporter and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D-Pennsylvania) on the campaign for the nomination.

(b) The Talking Heads on the Primary Race: Political strategist Joe Trippi and John Dickerson of Slate Magazine on the Democratic Primary Race.

Bob Schieffer hosts this show on Sunday mornings.


5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):

(a) Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on the economy.

(b) Talking Heads on the Democratic Primary Race: Clinton supporter James Carville and Obama supporter Jamal Simmons on the Democratic Primary race.

(c) The Middle East: Former State Department Adviser Aaron David Miller on the developments in the Middle East.

(d) The Middle East: Tel Aviv Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher of NBC News on developments in the Middle East.

(e) Interview with an ambassador: Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations Heraldo Munoz.


II. THE WEEKEND PREVIEW


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Sunday at 6:00 PM ET):

Topics This Week - Senator John McCain's "up" and the Democratic race gets nastier.

(a) The Republican: why Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) is doing well this week - probably due to the Democratic infighting.

(b) The Democratic Primary: the race gets nastier and yet there seems to be no end in sight.

Co-panelists are Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke.

(c) This Week's Ups and Downs: quick takes on the campaign trail.


2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News (Sunday at 6:30 PM ET):

Topics This Week - Bosnia sniper fire blunder, and the Monical Lewinsky question to Chelsea.

(a) Hillary's Bosnia Blunder: why it took the press so long to catch Senator Hillary's mistake concerning her made-up sniper incident.

(b) Chelsea's Tough Question: How Chelsea Clinton handled the question concerning her mother's take on the Monical Lewinsky scandal.

Panelists are Jane Hall, Cal Thomas, Richard Lowry and host Jon Scott.


(c) Quick Takes: the panelists offer brief comments on the other news clips that are selected.


3. "The Chris Matthews Show on NBC" (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):


Topics This Week - the first black president and the end of the baby boomer White House.

(a) the first black president: the prospect of electing our first black president forty years after Rev. Martin Luther King's death.

(b) the baby boomers: whether the era of baby boomer presidents is coming to an end.

(c) predictions: the panelists tell the host something he does not yet know.

Panelists will include Tom Brokaw of NBC News, Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and host Chris Matthews.


4. "Reliable Sources" on CNN: CNN does not offer its potential viewers with a preview of this show which is hosted by Howard Kurtz on Sunday mornings.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Partisan Cheap Shot Potential

"I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war. However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us." - Senator John McCain at the Los Angeles World Affairs Counsel


This isn't a bad quote but if I were writing a partisan anti-McCain ad for a Democratic-leaning 527 I'd have McCain singing "Bomb Bomb Iran" after McCain says he "detests" war.

Would it further the debate on Iraq? No. Would it contribute to the ongoing debate over the role our troops should play in promoting stability or democracy? No. But it would raise questions about McCain's authenticity. Does McCain really detest all wars? I think he might hate all wars but that clip from Iran won't help him make that case.

Clinton Team Swtich Again: Apparently Voters Do Not Count

"Super-delegates, like all delegates, have an obligation to make an informed, individual decision about whom to support and who would be the party’s strongest nominee." - from the much now read Talking Points Memo

So, Senator Hillary Clinton's rich donors threaten to gut (however implicitly) their financial support to the Democratic Party if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not "clarify" her position on the role super delegates play in the primary process. Note too, their claim concerning the pledged delegates' role at the convention - they could "make an informed, individual decision" independent of the will of the people that gave them front row seats at the convention because they vowed to back the candidate who won in their state or territory's respective primary or caucus.

Did Clinton not ask the party to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations or have re-votes so that the residents in those states would have their votes count? Why would Clinton and her supporters concern themselves with the self disenfranchisement (remember, the states did it to themselves) the pledged delegates could defy the will of the people who would vote in the do-over primaries?

The Political Heretic urges his readers against finding a principle to justify the Clinton campaign's support for "letting the people vote" while letting the pledged delegates negate their vote for no such principle can or would be found. Senator Clinton doesn't care for the Democratic National Committee's rules concerning the primary schedule. She doesn't care for will of the people in states that her remaining rival won. (She never acknowledged or thanked the voters in those states for participating in the Democratic National Primary). The senator from New York cares about one thing and one thing only - power. She doesn't care how it is obtained as long as she gets it.

Those who want our next president to respect the rule of law and the separation of powers won't see the return to constitutional jurisprudence if she is voted into the White House.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Clinton's Embellishments

Senator Hillary Clinton's foreign policy credentials are finally getting the scrutiny the Political Heretic suggested it deserved before he endorsed Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) for the Democratic Party's nomination. In December, The New York Times ran an article that noted that the former first lady lacked national security clearance.

Mrs. Clinton apparently claimed that she "helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland" even though she took no part in the peace talks. She claimed to have urged her husband to intervene in Rwanda even though it had not been confirmed by former Clinton administrative officials.

She finally backed off of a statement in which she claimed to have landed in Bosnia amid sniper fire. Clinton said she "misspoke." No she did not; she lied and on more than one occasion as The Washington Post article makes clear.

Mrs. Clinton would have remembered quite clearly if she was was being fired at. She would not have taken her daughter on the trip if she thought it was dangerous. She would not have spent her time with the crowd had the troops been instructed to rush her to safety and they would have instructed her to wear a helmet just in case someone did try to kill her.

The Political Heretic hopes the average voters in the upcoming primary contests are paying attention so that when they do go to the polls they will remember to question Clinton's assertion that she is "ready to be commander-in-chief" on day one.

Senator Clinton on Wright

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) said she would have left her church if its pastor made inflammatory remarks like the ones Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor at her rival's church, made.

Her denouncement came way too late to appear, let alone be, credible. No thought was needed to disown or defend Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. since his incendiary comments were posted on YouTube and the mainstream media web sites for all to see.

This story concerning Obama's pastor broke approximately two weeks ago. The Political Heretic believes she is trying to change media's focus away from her latest embellishments concerning her role in the Northern Ireland peace agreement and the non-existent sniper fire she endured landing in Bosnia. To their credit, the talking heads aren't buying it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Onion

The Onion's on our politicians and the war in Iraq.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frisking Bush's Press Conference

President George W. Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq this Wednesday. His speech, which can also be found here, is posted in its entirety below with my comments inserted in bold. The Political Heretic didn't think too much of it.

"Thank you all. Deputy Secretary England, thanks for the introduction. One boss may not be here, but the other one is. (Laughter.) I appreciate your kind words. I'm pleased to be back here with the men and women of the Defense Department.

On this day in 2003, the United States began Operation Iraqi Freedom. As the campaign unfolded, tens and thousands of our troops poured across the Iraqi border to liberate the Iraqi people and remove a regime that threatened free nations.

Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision -- and this is a fight America can and must win.

The men and women who crossed into Iraq five years ago removed a tyrant, liberated a country (and now the country is left with theocrats), and rescued millions from unspeakable horrors (only to be replaced by new ones). Some of those troops are with us today, and you need to know that the American people are proud of your accomplishment -- and so is the Commander in Chief. (Applause.)

I appreciate Admiral Mullen, the Joint Chiefs who are here. Thanks for coming. Secretary Donald Winter of the Navy. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is with us. Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard is with us. Ambassador from Iraq is with us -- Mr. Ambassador, we're proud to have you here. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastmen -- Coast Guardmen [sic], thanks for coming, thanks for wearing the uniform. Men and women of the Department of State are here as well.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was a remarkable display of military effectiveness. Forces from the UK (45,000 troops for the invasion), Australia (2,000 troops), Poland (200 troops) and other allies joined our troops in the initial operations. As they advanced, our troops fought their way through sand storms so intense that they blackened the daytime sky. Our troops engaged in pitched battles with the Fedayeen Saddam -- death squads acting on the orders of Saddam Hussein that obeyed neither the conventions of war nor the dictates of conscience. These death squads hid in schools and they hid in hospitals, hoping to draw fire against Iraqi civilians. They used women and children as human shields. They stopped at nothing in their efforts to prevent us from prevailing -- but they couldn't stop the coalition advance.

Aided by the most effective and precise air campaign in history, coalition forces raced across 350 miles of enemy territory -- destroying Republican Guard Divisions, pushing through the Karbala Gap, capturing Saddam International Airport, and liberating Baghdad in less than one month.

Along the way, our troops added new chapters to the story of American military heroism. During these first weeks of battle, Army Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith and his troops came under a surprise attack by about a hundred Republican Guard forces. Sergeant Smith rallied his men; he led a counterattack -- killing as many as 50 enemy soldiers before being fatally wounded. His actions saved the lives of more than a hundred American troops -- and earned him the Medal of Honor.

Today, in light of the challenges we have faced in Iraq, some look back and call this period the easy part of the war (well, easy when compared to what followed). Yet there was nothing easy about it. The liberation of Iraq took incredible skill and amazing courage. And the speed, precision and brilliant execution of the campaign will be studied by military historians for years to come.

What our troops found in Iraq following Saddam's removal was horrifying. They uncovered children's prisons, and torture chambers, and rape rooms where Iraqi women were violated in front of their families. They found videos showing regime thugs mutilating Iraqis deemed disloyal to Saddam. And across the Iraqi countryside they uncovered mass graves of thousands executed by the regime.

Because we acted, Saddam Hussein no longer fills fields with the remains of innocent men, women and children (Quite true but Al Qaeda and Iraq's militias followed in the late dictator's footsteps). Because we acted, Saddam's torture chambers and rape rooms and children's prisons have been closed for good. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer invading its neighbors or attacking them with chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. (No. He last invaded a country 11 years before he was removed from power). Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer paying the families of suicide bombers in the Holy Land. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer shooting at American and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones and defying the will of the United Nations. Because we acted, the world is better (This must be an overstatement since the world did not revolve around Saddam Hussein)and United States of America is safer (highly doubtful that Saddam Hussein's removal helped in this regard). (Applause.)

When the Iraqi regime was removed, it did not lay down its arms and surrender. Instead, former regime elements took off their uniforms and faded into the countryside to fight the emergence of a free Iraq. And then they were joined by foreign terrorists who were seeking to stop the advance of liberty in the Middle East and seeking to establish safe havens from which to plot new attacks across the world.

The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated (that's an understatement)-- but it is a fight we must win (how is beyond me). So our troops have engaged these enemies with courage and determination. And as they've battled the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they have helped the Iraqi people reclaim their nation (what nation when they don't see each other as one people?) and helped a young democracy rise from the rubble of Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

Over the past five years, we have seen moments of triumph and moments of tragedy. We have watched in admiration as 12 million Iraqis defied the terrorists and went to the polls (to vote along sectarian lines), and chose their leaders in free elections. We have watched in horror as al Qaeda beheaded innocent captives, and sent suicide bombers to blow up mosques and markets. These actions show the brutal nature of the enemy in Iraq. And they serve as a grim reminder: The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of America. Defeating this enemy (we are dealing with three or four different rival enemies, not one) in Iraq will make it less likely that we'll face the enemy here at home.

A little over a year ago, the fight in Iraq was faltering. Extremist elements were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos. They had established safe havens in many parts of the country. They were creating divisions among the Iraqis along sectarian lines (these divisions existed long before Al Qaeda exacerbated them). And their strategy of using violence in Iraq to cause divisions in America was working -- as pressures built here in Washington for withdrawal before the job was done.

My administration understood that America could not retreat in the face of terror. And we knew that if we did not act, the violence that had been consuming Iraq would worsen, and spread, and could eventually reach genocidal levels (to a large extent that occurred and now neighborhoods are separated along ethnic lines). Baghdad could have disintegrated into a contagion of killing, and Iraq could have descended into full-blown sectarian warfare.

So we reviewed the strategy -- and changed course in Iraq. We sent reinforcements into the country in a dramatic policy shift that is now known as "the surge." General David Petraeus took command with a new mission: Work with Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people, pressure [sic] the enemy into strongholds, and deny the terrorists sanctuary anywhere in the country. And that is precisely what we have done.

In Anbar, Sunni tribal leaders had grown tired of al Qaeda's brutality and started a popular uprising, called the "Anbar Awakening." (well, we paid them in part, but yes, point taken) To take advantage of this opportunity, we sent 4,000 additional Marines to help these brave Iraqis drive al Qaeda from the province. As this effort succeeded, it inspired other Iraqis to take up the fight. Soon similar uprisings began to spread across the country. Today there are more than 90,000 concerned local citizens who are protecting their communities from the terrorists (Bush is conflating the fight on Al Qaeda with the fight against Iraqi terrorists in general here) and insurgents and the extremists. The government in Baghdad has stepped forward with a surge of its own -- they've added more than 100,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police during the past year. These Iraqi troops have fought bravely, and thousands have given their lives in this struggle.

Together, these Americans and Iraqi forces have driven the terrorists from many of the sanctuaries they once held. Now the terrorists have gathered in and around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul -- and Iraqi and American forces are relentlessly pursuing them. There will be tough fighting in Mosul and areas of northern Iraq in the weeks ahead. But there's no doubt in my mind, because of the courage of our troops and the bravery of the Iraqis, the al Qaeda terrorists in this region will suffer the same fate as al Qaeda suffered elsewhere in Iraq.

As we have fought al Qaeda, coalition and Iraqi forces have also taken the fight to Shia extremist groups -- many of them backed and financed and armed by Iran. A year ago these groups were on the rise. Today, they are increasingly isolated, and Iraqis of all faiths are putting their lives on the line to stop these extremists from hijacking their young democracy.

To ensure that military progress in Iraq is quickly followed up with real improvements in daily life, we have doubled the number of provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq. These teams of civilian experts are serving all Iraqi -- 18 Iraqi provinces, and they're helping to strengthen responsible leaders, and build up local economies, and bring Iraqis together so that reconciliation can happen from the ground up. They're very effective. They're helping give ordinary Iraqis confidence that by rejecting the extremists and reconciling with one another, they can claim their place in a free Iraq -- and build better lives for their families.

There's still hard work to be done in Iraq. The gains we have made are fragile and reversible (particularly since the progress on the political front is lacking). But on this anniversary, the American people should know that since the surge began, the level of violence is significantly down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down, attacks on American forces are down. We have captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives. Our men and women in uniform are performing with characteristic honor and valor. The surge is working. And as a return on our success in Iraq, we've begun bringing some of our troops home.

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaeda out (an instance of defining victory down, since we had no Al Qaeda problem in Iraq before we invaded the country). In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his murderous network (what planet is Bush on? The Iraqis were never fighting against Osama bin Laden). And the significance of this development cannot be overstated.

The terrorist movement feeds on a sense of inevitability, and claims to rise on the tide of history. The accomplishments of the surge in Iraq are exposing this myth and discrediting the extremists. When Iraqi and American forces finish the job (what is that job?), the effects will reverberate far beyond Iraq's borders. Osama bin Laden once said: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." By defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, we will show the world that al Qaeda is the weak horse. (Applause.) We will show that men and women who love liberty can defeat the terrorists. And we will show that the future of the Middle East does not belong to terror -- the future of the Middle East belongs to freedom (the fight for Iraq is not a fight between the forces of tyranny against the forces of freedom; it is a fight among various ethno-sectarian groups vying for power).

The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists' defeat (this can only be done politically). We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast -- the terrorists and extremists step in, they fill vacuums, establish safe havens, and use them to spread chaos and carnage. General Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in such an unraveling -- with al Qaeda and insurgents and militia extremists regaining lost ground and increasing violence (yes but could it not be said they would than turn on each other?).

Men and women of the Armed Forces: Having come so far, and achieved so much, we're not going to let this to happen.

Next month, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will come to Washington to testify before Congress. I will await their recommendations before making decisions on our troop levels in Iraq. Any further drawdown will be based on conditions on the ground and the recommendations of our commanders -- and they must not jeopardize the hard-fought gains our troops and civilians have made over the past year.

The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable -- yet some in Washington still call for retreat. War critics can no longer credibly argue that we're losing in Iraq -- so now they argue the war costs too much. In recent months we've heard exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war. No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure -- but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq.

If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate -- and Iraq would descend into chaos. Al Qaeda would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones (this assumes they won't have to vie with the other sectarian groups for those sanctuaries)-- fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq's borders, with serious consequences for the world's economy.

Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened -- with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq's oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations. Iran would be emboldened as well -- with a renewed determination to develop nuclear weapons and impose its brand of hegemony across the Middle East (the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons does not depend upon our failure or success in Iraq). Our enemies would see an America -- an American failure in Iraq as evidence of weakness and a lack of resolve.

To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and make it more likely that America would suffer another attack like the one we experienced that day (conflating the ongoing struggle in Iraq with the terrorists who bombed us yet again) -- a day in which 19 armed men with box cutters killed nearly 3,000 people in our -- on our soil; a day after which in the following of that attack more than one million Americans lost work, lost their jobs. The terrorists intend even greater harm to our country. And we have no greater responsibility than to defeat our enemies across the world so that they cannot carry out such an attack (the war in Iraq did not stop some terrorists from trying to hijack British airplanes).

As our coalition fights the enemy in Iraq, we've stayed on the offensive on other fronts in the war on terror. Just a few weeks before commencing Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. forces captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September the 11th terrorist attacks; we got him in Pakistan. About the same time as we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces, thousands of -- hundreds of miles away launched an assault on the terrorists in the mountains of southern Afghanistan in an operation called Operation Valiant Strike.

Throughout the war on terror, we have brought the enemy -- we have fought the enemy on every single battlefront. And so long as the terrorist danger remains, the United States of America will continue to fight the enemy wherever it makes its stand. (Applause.) We will stay on the offense.

But in the long run, defeating the terrorists requires an alternative to their murderous ideology. And there we have another advantage -- we've got a singular advantage with our military when it comes to finding the terrorists and bringing them to justice. And we have another advantage in our strong belief in the transformative power of liberty.

So we're helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. A free Iraq will fight terrorists instead of harboring them. A free Iraq will be an example for others of the power of liberty to change the societies and to displace despair with hope. By spreading the hope of liberty in the Middle East, we will help free societies take root -- and when they do, freedom will yield the peace that we all desire.

Our troops on the front lines understand what is at stake. They know that the mission in Iraq has been difficult and has been trying for our nation -- because they're the ones who've carried most of the burdens. They are all volunteers, who have stepped forward to defend America in a time of danger -- and some of them have gone out of their way to return to the fight.

One of these brave Americans is a Marine Gunnery Sergeant named William "Spanky" Gibson. In May of 2006 in Ramadi, a terrorist sniper's bullet ripped through his left knee -- doctors then amputated his leg. After months of difficult rehabilitation, Spanky was not only walking -- he was training for triathlons.

Last year, at the "Escape from Alcatraz" swim near San Francisco, he met Marine General James Mattis, who asked if there's anything he could do for him. Spanky had just one request: He asked to re-deploy to Iraq. Today he's serving in Fallujah -- the first full-leg amputee to return to the front lines. Here's what he says about his decision to return: The Iraqis are where we were 232 years ago as a nation. Now they're starting a new nation, and that's one of my big reasons for coming back here. I wanted to tell the people of this country that I'm back to help wherever I can.

When Americans like Spanky Gibson serve on our side, the enemy in Iraq doesn't got a chance. We're grateful to all the brave men and women of our military who have served the cause of freedom. You've done the hard work, far from home and from your loved ones. We give thanks for all our military families who love you and have supported you in this mission.

We appreciate the fine civilians from many departments who serve alongside you. Many of you served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and some have been on these fronts several times. You will never forget the people who fought at your side. You will always remember the comrades who served with you in combat [but] did not make the journey home. America remembers them as well. More than 4,400 men and women have given their lives in the war on terror. We'll pray for their families. We'll always honor their memory.

The best way we can honor them is by making sure that their sacrifice was not in vain. Five years ago tonight, I promised the American people that in the struggle ahead "we will accept no outcome but victory." Today, standing before men and women who helped liberate a nation, I reaffirm the commitment. The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage, the battle in Iraq will end in victory. God bless."

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):

Topics This Week - the Pennsylvania Primary, the state of the economy, Obama's speech on racism, and keeping the president physically fit.

(a) The Pennsylvania Primary: Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pennsylvania) of the Clinton campaign on the importance Pennsylvania will have in selecting the Democratic Party's nominee and the seating of the Michigan and Florida delegations.

(b) Debate on the Economy: former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers (Clinton administration) and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Glenn Hubbard (Bush Administration) on the state of the economy.

(c) FOX News Panel: Brit Hume of FOX News, Jill Zuckman of The Chicago Tribune, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio on the political fallout surrounding Senator Barack Obama's speech on racism.

(d) Power Player of the Week: Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning on getting the president physically fit.

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


2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on the New York affiliate and 10:30 AM ET on the Philadelphia affiliate):

Topics This Week - the economy, Hagel on the Republican Party and the war in Iraq, punditry on this week's political stories.

(a) Debate on the Economy: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) on the state of the economy after the Bear Stearns collapse and slashed interest rates.

(b) State of the Republican Party: Senator Chuck Hagel(R-Nebraska) on the war in Iraq and the future of the Republican Party.


(c) "Roundtable:" Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Carney of Time Magazine, Claire Shipman of ABC News, and George Will of ABC News and The Washington Post on this week's political stories - Obama's race issue and the breach at the State Department.

(d) In Memorium/Sunday Funnies: snap shots of the comedians' jokes, names of notable people who died recently.

George Stephanopoulos hosts this show on Sunday mornings.


3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):


Topics This Week - the state of the economy, the politics of race, religion, and gender.

(a) The state of the Economy: Erin Burnett of CNBC's "Street Signs" and Maria Bartiromo of CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo" on the state of the American economy.

(b) Political "Roundtable:" John Meacham of Newsweek, Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, and Chuck Todd of MSNBC the politics of race, gender, and religion.

This show, which Tim Russert hosts on Sunday mornings, is repeated at 2:00 PM ET and 6:00 PM ET on MSNBC.


4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):

Topics This Week - the war in Iraq, race for the White House.

(a) Political Debate: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) on the war in Iraq and the presidential campaign.

(b) Political Punditry: Ana Marie Cox of Time Magazine, and Roger Simon of Politico.com on the race for the White House.


Bob Schieffer hosts this show on Sunday mornings.



5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):
Nothing posted yet.

This show is hosted by Wolf Blitzer on Sunday mornings.



II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET):
nothing posted yet. Co-panelists are Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke.



2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET):


Topics This Week - Obama's race speech, the credit crisis.

(a) Obama's Race Speech: how Senator Barack Obama's (D-Illinois) speech on race and his pastor's comments play in the media.

(b) the Credit Crisis: whether the media is telling us what we need to know about the state of the economy and the credit crisis.

(c) Quick Takes: brief commentary on other stories that may or may not be getting coverage in the media.

Panelists are Jane Hall, Cal Thomas, Richard Lowry and host Jon Scott.


3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):

Topics This Week - race in the general election, McCain's national security campaign strategy

(a) Barack Obama and the Race Question: whether the debate on race will hurt Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) in the general election.

(b) John McCain's National Security Focus: whether Senator John McCain's national security interest-driven campaign is the one needed to win the election.

Panelists will include Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC, John Heilermann of New York Magazine, and host Chris Matthews.


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

State Files

Last night the State Department admitted that it fired two contract employees and disciplined a third after they viewed at minimum, Senator Barack Obama's (D-Illinois) passport records on three separate occasions - once on January 3 (day of the Iowa caucuses) of this year, a second on February 21 (approx. one week before the Texas and Ohio primaries), and once on March 14.

At the time this information was disclosed no one knew why these files were breached for we didn't (and still don't) know who actually fired the two employees and "discipline" the third nor do did we (and still don't) know why those files were accessed in the first place. The employees in question might have accessed those files at their own volition to either satisfy their sense of curiosity, or find information they can sell to opposition researchers to the "opposition researchers" at one of his rival's campaigns. We don't know if the employees in question are in anyway associated with one of his opponents.

U.S. Secretary Condoleeza Rice told reporters she offered an apology to Senator Obama and promised a thorough investigation but left it to State Department spokes person Sean D. McCormack to reveal the latest embarrassing information - that files on all three remaining presidential candidates were breached.

Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-New York) file, we are told, was breached an employer during a training session last summer (when Clinton's nomination was all but considered a shoe-in). We still don't know whether Senator John McCain's (R-Arizona) files were breached before or after he won his party's nomination or if any of the employees who reviewed his or Clinton's records were fired or otherwise "disciplined" (assuming they were not already the ones that were "disciplined")

Since we don't know who accessed these files, we can't say whether someone within the administration was seeking information to give would-be opposition researchers the clues they need to smear the eventual Democratic nominee (Obama and Clinton) or a disfavored Republican candidate (McCain before he won the nomination).

The Political Heretic does not believe for a second that the unauthorized breach into the three remaining candidates' passport files can be tossed aside as a coincidence.

Obama on Gays

"But I do think it's important just to recognize that this has been a church that's been the pillar of the community, that is part of a 99 percent white denomination, the United Church of Christ. People come to visit from within the denomination. They come from all across the country, mostly white visitors, always feel welcome. There are white members of the church.

And so there has been some distortion, in terms of what this church is about. It's engaged in tremendous ministries, in reaching out to people with HIV/AIDS. It has been very progressive on issues, for example, related to gays and other social issues that are difficult, but the church has dealt with in a generous, and hopeful, and welcoming way.

So some of this, I think, has been a distortion. But really what this did was open up, I think, a larger set of issues, which is there are still suspicions and misunderstandings, anger and resentments that bubble up between the races."
- Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) on Larry King

One glimmer of hope here. Brief that it was, Senator Obama mentioned gay rights in a positive light without prompting before an audience that includes those who will be glad that he raised the topic and those who won't be glad that he raised it.

Don't count on Senator Clinton to bring bring it up without prompting and then only with a canned response.

Richardson to Endorse Obama

Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) must be really grateful. Two weeks of bad press coverage surrounding his commander-in-chief potential, Jeremiah A. Wright's incendiary comments, and a widening Clinton lead in PA as a result, has been followed by (a) a State Department fiasco revolving around the unauthorized review of his passport records and (b) a major endorsement from a super delegate in spite of the Jeremiah Wright Jr. controversy. That football game meeting with former President Bill Clinton apparently didn't sway Richardson enough. I was beginning to wonder though, why he didn't endorse the senator when he promised to back the candidate with the most pledged delegates after Vermont, Rhode Island, Ohio, and Texas voted.

E.J. Dionne, for his part, quotes Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. questions whether the conservatives would be defending Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had they known about some of his more controversial, "anti-American" remarks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Speech

When he first entered this race, Senator Barack Obama thought he could run on a message of change while largely sidestepping this nation's racial divisions and he forged a winning coalition of young college students, independents, African Americans, and disillusioned Republicans.

His pastor's fierce, bitter, and at times, hate-filled invective however, was posted on YouTube, raising doubts about his judgment and his true feelings about the racial divide in the United States.

The red phone was ringing in the week hours of the campaign. Democratic super delegates who may ultimately decide who their party's nominee for the White House, is, were questioning whether Obama could had the stamina to survive this increased scrutiny from the media. Conservative Republicans and working class whites questioned Obama's commitment to a post-racial America.

Obama answered his red phone moment yesterday. He distanced himself from the pastor that married him and his wife without disingenuously disowning him. Without excusing Reverend Wright's incendiary rhetoric, Obama put it in context and in a way that many of us can relate to and he spoke of the the African Americans' and working class white Americans' particular grievances while inviting us to unite behind a shared vision for "a more perfect union."

The Speech - Links

Video and transcripts here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Two Way Affair and a Three-Way Affair

Great. Husband cheated on wife. Wife on husband. Now, on to more important questions like why this governor, as a state legislator, sponsored legislation (a) giving non-citizens the right to vote, (b) giving would-be suspects the right to resist arrest physically, and (c) barring the police from using deadly force.

Meanwhile, former Governor James McGreevey (D-New Jersey) not surprisingly confirms what his wife denies - the far more interesting three-way affair innvolving both McGreevey's and campaign aide Teddy Pedersen. I wonder how much their answers have to do with the ongoing child custody battle.

Senator Barack Ready to Get Vetted By the Media

Senator Barack Obama had two bad weeks of press coverage where he was forced onto the defensive. His victories in Wyoming and Mississippi were overshadowed by media reports surrounding the red telephone ad and his pastor's incendiary remarks concerning the United States and Senator Hillary Clinton's whiteness. Coverage surrounding former U.S. Representative and Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro's (D-New York) controversial racial comments was understandably eclipsed by Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright's remarks damning the U.S.A. and belittling the struggles career-oriented and independent women face to this day.

Last week, Obama was on the defensive. He made appearances on "Countdown" (a pro-Obama show) and "Hannity and Colmes" (Republican news network, anti-Obama) where he faced questions concerning his ties to the reverend and church. On both shows, he compared the reverend to the uncle who makes the embarrassing and controversial comments at the holiday dinner table. "He‘s like an uncle who has talked to me," Obama told Keith Olbermann. "This is somebody who I have known for 17 years. He helped bring me to Jesus and helped bring me to church."

Senator Obama says he was absent when Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. made his incendiary comments - a claim this blogger finds hard to believe given his 20-year old membership with the church. Obama is on stronger ground when he points to the fact that one can be a member of but disagree with the political stances held by a church. Mr. Obama won't be the first American to go to a church where the pastor or reverend's views diverge from his or her own. Catholics who support abortion rights, birth control, female priests, married clergy, and gay rights can be found worshiping in the pews every Sunday. He's on even stronger ground when he asks us to compare his tone and message on the campaign trail to the tone and message delivered by Reverend Wright. The former presents himself as a uniter; the latter as a divider.

Tomorrow the senator from Illinois will deliver a major speech outlying his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ. Like former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts), the senator will account for his association with a controversial religious group.

Last week. the editorial board for The Chicago Times called on Senator Barack Obama to answer questions concerning an associate and fund raiser of his, Antoin "Tony" Rezko. To his credit, Senator Obama met with the editorial boards of both, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun Times last weekend. He did not, unlike Senator Clinton, stonewall by promising to answer such questions after he wins the nomination.

Senator Hillary Clinton says she was vetted by the media even though she has not as of yet released her tax returns and documents from the National Archives relating to the donations made to it and her involvement in the Clinton administration's policy debates. Obama has released his tax returns for the last year, has met with the editorial boards of two major newspapers concerning his political ties with a man to trial, and has faced the media over his association with a former pastor. We don't know how he will fair after this intense scrutiny, but at least he is letting the media vet him for the public. Clinton is not.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Defending Obama

"Americans, however, tend to think of religion in a very Protestant way (even Jews and Catholics make this mistake). And Protestantism, especially the Calvinist kind that set the tone for so much of our history and historiography, is the religion of belief par excellence. In that mold, ritual hardly matters, culture doesn't matter--what matters is unmediated faith in the Word.

In that American paradigm, attending a church whose pastor you disagree with is total folly. But try telling that to the millions of Catholics who see no contradiction between fidelity to Rome and selective use of its teachings (how many Catholics do you know today with ten children?). Try telling it to Muslims with modern wives and daughters who attend a mosque with an old-world imam whose own daughters cover their heads; they may be worlds away from their imam on religion, even on culture, but attending prayer at the only mosque for miles around can still be a meaningful act."


Mark Oppenhaimer - defending Barack Obama (D-Illinois) on the Jeremiah Wright connection in the Huffington Post.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):


Topics This Week - Florida and Michigan re-votes, the U.S. Treasury Secretary on the economy, Barack Obama's pastor woes, press secretary profile.

(a) the Florida and Michigan delegations: Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) for the Obama campaign and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) for the Clinton campaign on potential re-votes, the seating of the delegations as is, or the potential split in delegations.

(b) the administration's plan for the economy: U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson on the housing market, a possible recession, and the administration's actions in protecting the taxpayer's pocketbook.

(c) FOX News Sunday Panel - Brit Hume of FOX News, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams of National Public Radio and Mara Liasson of National Public Radio on Senator Barack Obama's efforts to distance himself from his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah White Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ.

(d) Power Player of the Week - White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, the second woman to hold this post.


This show, which Chris Wallace, hosts, is repeated at 2:00 PM ET and 6:00 PM ET on the FOX News Channel.



2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
(Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on the New York affiliate and 10:30 AM ET on the Philadelphia affiliate):

Topics This Week - the Democratic primary, the war in Iraq, the state of the economy.

(a) Sunday Exclusive - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on the Democratic Primary, the war in Iraq, and the economy.

(b) Protecting the Economy - U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson on rising oil prices and the plummeting dollar.

(c) "Roundtable" - Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, Mark Halperin of Time Magazine, Donna Brazile of ABC, and George Will of ABC and The Washington Post on this week's politics.

(d) In Memorium/Sunday Funnies

This show is hosted by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings.


3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):

Topics This Week - the Democratic Primary fight with special attention directed at the Florida and Michigan delegations, the politics of the war in Iraq and the economic downturn.

(a) the Democratic Primary Fight and the delegation seating fight - Senator Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey) for the Obama campaign and U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-New York) of the Clinton campaign.

(b) Political Roundtable - David Broder of The Washington Post, David Gregory of NBC, and Michele Norris of National Public Radio on the political ramifications surrounding the economic downturn and the war in Iraq.

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


4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):


Topic this Week - the Democratic Primary race.

(a) the surrogates - former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta for the Clinton campaign and Governor Deval Patrick (D-Massachusetts) of the Obama campaign.

(b) Roundtable - David Brooks of The New York Times and Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune.

This show is hosted by Bob Schieffer on Sunday mornings.


5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):

Topics This Week - the state of the economy and the latest on the Democratic Primary campaign.

(a) the administration's perspective on the state of the economy - U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson on the administration's economic policy prescriptions for the economic downtown.

(b) the campaigns' view on the economy - Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling and McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin offer their reaction to the administration's comments and tout their candidate's competing messages.

(c) Interview - "Dreams and Shadows" author Robin Wright of The Washington Post.

(d) The Campaign Trail - Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) on the latest political news and the battle over the Florida and Michigan delegates.

(e) Roundtable - expected CNN panelists not yet posted.

This two hour show is hosted by Wolf Blitzer on Sunday mornings.


II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS



1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET):


2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET):


Topics This Week - the Spitzer prostitution ring scandal and racial insensitivity in the Democratic Primary battle

(a) the Spitzer Sex Scandal - debate over whether it is media overkill or the appropriate level of coverage.

(b) Race, the Press, and the Democratic Campaign - the coverage surrounding the controversial statements made by Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro (D-New York) and Obama pastor Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Panelists are Jane Hall, Cal Thomas, Rich Lowry, and host Jon Scott.


3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):


Topics This Week - political sex scandals, racial politics within the Democratic Party.

(a) The Democratic Party's Race Problem - whether the the Democratic Party's racial divisions will imperil their chance for victory in the fall.

(b) Politics and Sex - why politicians will risk their careers for extra-marital and/or illicit sexual activity.

Panelists will include Rick Stengel of Time Magazine, Andrea Mitchell of NBC, Michelle Cottle of The New Republic, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, and host Chris Matthews.


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

Friday, March 14, 2008

Senator Barack Obama's Achilles Heal

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) was soundly criticized by many within the mainstream press for her tepid and qualified confirmation of Senator Barack Obama's (D-Illinois) Christianity. When pressed to distance herself from assertions that her opponent was a practicing Muslim, Senator Clinton said she that "as far as" she "knows," she "had no reason to believe" in those assertions.

The senator from Illinois says he worships at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. served as its pastor until recently. As Brian Ross's report on ABC News suggests, Reverend Wright is no stranger to controversy. In his latest, and, thankfully, last sermon, the Reverend belittled Senator Hillary Clinton, as "a rich, white person," did not face.

I have typed, to the best of my ability, the relevant part of his speech for those who do not have YouTube. At one point I inserted the name of the unnamed person Reverend White was referring to. Please forgive anything lost in translation:

"It just came to me with, with, within the past few weeks y'all why so many people are hatin' on Barack Obama.

He doesn't fit the mold. He ain't white; he aint' rich and he ain't privileged.

Hillary fits the mold. Europeans fit the mold. Giuliani fits the mold. Rich, white men fit the mold. Hillary never had a cab whiz past her and not pick her up because her skin was the wrong color.

Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in her car as a black man driving in the wrong ne....

I am sick of Negroes who just DO NOT get it!

Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single-parent home Barack was.

Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by RICH, WHITE PEOPLE! Hillary can never know that!

Hillary AINT' NEVER BEEN CALLED A NIGGER! Hillary was never had a people defined as non-persons! Hillary ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run every thing get a passing grade when you are smarter than that C student [President George W. Bush] sittin' in the White House.

Oh I am so glad that I have a god who knows what it means to be poor, black man in a country and a culture that is controlled by and run by rich white people. He taught me Jesus did how to love my enemies. Jesus taught me how to love the hell out my enemies and not be reduced to their level of hatred, bigotry, and small-mindedness.

Hillary ain't never had her own people say she wasn't white enough.

Jesus had his own people siding with the enemy. That's why I love Jesus y'all. He never let their hatred dampen his hope."


Taken literally, word for word, the reverend is of course right. Senator Clinton is white and as such won't get pulled over by the police, won't be told that she isn't white enough, and won't be called a nigger.

But that is besides the point. I have heard these objections raised before whenever an African American civil rights supporter seeks to belittle a discrimination claim made by gays. This canard that some groups must not face discrimination because they face less of it must be repudiated in no unclear terms.

Discrimination has many faces. Both, institutionalized segregation (in the case of Native Americans, African Americans, and most ethnic/racial groups) and institutionalized integration (religious minorities, and gays) and sometimes both (women) have been deployed to oppress the disfavored groups in question.

African-Americans faced slavery and segregation. They could not eat in the same restaurants, drink from the same water fountains, or go to the same schools. A black man or woman had to get up to offer a white man a seat on the bus if all the other seats were taken.

Native Americans saw their land taken from them. They were pushed onto reservations that no white settler wanted only to see more land taken from them at the white settlers' convenience.

Women were denied the right to vote and barred from holding most jobs (forced workplace discrimination), forcing them to depend upon their bread winner husbands (forced integration). The man of the house could divorce his wife at will knowing he could fall back on the income he gained from his job but the woman of the house could not because she was not raised to have a career. No one today should wonder why many feminists who struggled in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to have the laws of this nation equally applied to them looked upon marriage as an inherently oppressive institution.

Jewish, Muslim, pagan, and agnostic children were forced to pray to a god or in a manner that violated their core beliefs (forced integration in the public schools). Jehova Witnesses were required to say the pledge until 1948. Employers recognize and give their employees off the Christian holidays without penalty while others who wish to observe their day of worship are forced to use their paid time off.

Gays were/are (depending upon where you live) shamed into silence as their heterosexual counterparts rebuke(d) them when they fail to live up to the excruciatingly hard (if not impossible) hetero-centrist moral standards imposed upon them. To "pass" in this world, gays married a member of the opposite sex (forced integration). Police in some jurisdictions arbitrarily raided gay-frequented bars to arrest those who were not dancing with an opposite-sex partner (forced integration). Police stings were conducted in public bathrooms with the hope of entrapping and then incarcerating in-the-closet homosexuals (segregation). Some were forced into therapy designed to change their sexual orientation (forced segregation).

"Hillary," as he dismissively refers to her as (I guess women should be referred to by their first name?), faced challenges of their own. Career-oriented women had to "work twice as hard" to move beyond the clerical positions and win the upper-level management positions traditionally held by men. To this day women who want to rise in politics have to overcome the stereotype of being weak-minded and hysterical. The senator from New York herself, may have voted to authorize the war in Iraq in part to show that, even though she is a woman, she will as president be tough on terrorists. It is not an excuse but it is an explanation or at least a partial explanation.

To his credit, Senator Obama is running what is, for the most part, an issue-driven, positive, and uplifting message which has little if anything do with his mixed racial heritage but his failure to "denounce and reject" the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ undermines that message of unity.

The man who is running to bridge the divide worships at a parish that foments them. The man who aspires to lead a nation with people of all colors seeks moral guidance from a pastor who sees oppressed blacks living in a white-centered nation. The man who wants to be our president prays at a church where the minister condemns America. Voters will question why Obama, knowing that his pastor makes controversial and needlessly divisive comments, would continue to pray at that church.

I have, as frequent visitors of this blog know, repudiated Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign tactics. The wounds that infect this country are too deep for any candidate of either party to prey upon the fears, distrust, grievances, prejudice and in some cases hate of any group of Americans. Her refusal to put to rest claims that Obama is Muslim and her failure to, on the other hand, dissuade people from thinking of every Muslim as a walking Jihadist, deserved universal condemnation from every leading member of the Democratic Party and every one within the media establishment.

Her cynical campaigning had led the Political Heretic to deem her unworthy of the office she now seeks.

Those same standards must, however, must be applied to all of the candidates in the race, including those which the Political Heretic favors.

Senator Obama must repudiate Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his poisonous message in no uncertain terms. Then Obama must somehow account for why, in spite of all of what he knows of this man's past controversial statements, he deemed this particular United Church of Christ parish worthy of his presence.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kudos to Olbermann

Here.

Transcripts
here.

Kudos to Keith Oblermann for delivering this much needed special comment. Some campaign tactics are beyond the pale. This country is divided by race, divided by religion, divided by sexuality, divided by gender, divided by class, and divided by political ideology.


These grievances past and present must be acknowledged if the wounds that divide this country are to be healed. One need only look at primary races in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to see that we have not put our racial complexion differences aside. For exasperating these wounds for political gain, the Clinton campaign deserves universal condemnation and repudiation. To date no leading Democrat has publicly rebuked her and her campaign staff for engaging in this cynical game of divide and conquer.

If there is one complaint - it is that he blames the campaign advisers more than the candidate herself. Senator Clinton, "as far as I know" is a bright and informed woman who knows of this country's racial, ethnic, religious, and gender divisions. And "as a candidate who is willing to "fight for you," "Meet me in Ohio" Clinton shouldn't, "as far as I know," need her campaign advisers goading her to "denounce and reject" campaign tactics that are are morally wrong.

No. Mrs. Clinton knows what is going on. She is, after all, the candidate who is "ready to serve on day one." We know from the way she has conducted this campaign, that Clinton is ready to fight for herself. We have not seen Mrs. Clinton display a readiness to fight for the Muslim who knows that some Americans will see in him or her a potential Jihadist or for the African Americans when lower class rural white Americans blame them for their economic woes or for the gay Americans when evangelicals fight to ban them access to gay affirming books in school libraries across America.

Mr. Olbermann deserves credit for repudiating this cynical campaign strategy but she deserves this repudiation as much as her advisers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer the Super Delegate

Chris Matthews of "Hardball" had been using Governor Eliot Spitzer's (D-New York) sexual indiscretions to poke some fun at the Democratic Party's super delegate process. Here we are, he notes, watching one of those whom we are expected to make wise political decisions ruining his political career.

I would like to add another problem which is getting way too little press coverage in light of the timing of this scandal - the potential abuse in the primary nomination process the Democrats have set up for themselves.

The super delegates of course have the right to vote for whoever they want, whether their states vote for their favored candidate or not and they need not explain how they reach that decision.

A politically experienced pol who knows the ropes can overturn an election determined by the voter-elected pledged delegates by acquiring the super delegates' support through patronage or worse, blackmail.

Let's say Governor Spitzer wasn't caught by the FBI. Let's say he wasn't being wiretapped by the FBI but a member of one candidate's opposition research team uncovered photographs showing him escorting a high class prostitute into a hotel. Could not the candidate who obtained that damning information swing the super delegate's vote towards his or her side using blackmail? I brought this up before.

Patronage and blackmail can be utilized to usurp the will of the people who voted in the Democratic Party. Perhaps the party could do its constituents a favor and have their nominees elected through the state primaries next time.

The Press Not With Spitzer

It looks like the New York media establishment is turning against Governor Spitzer.


"Eliot Spitzer brought his once-promising governorship to a crashing end with a display of recklessness and hypocrisy of such magnitude that you had to question his sanity.

Three words to the man: Just get out."
- from The New York Daily News


"He can't plausibly run the state while defending himself against federal criminal prosecution and a possible impeachment effort. Maybe technically he can stay in office for now. But as a practical matter, he's finished."
- from Newsday


"To put it bluntly, Mr. Spitzer must either resign immediately or explain why he deserves to continue in office. It is almost impossible for us to imagine how he can survive this scandal and provide the credible leadership that his state needs.

New York’s government cannot afford to be paralyzed while Mr. Spitzer games his political prospects or, as many suspect, tries to work out a better legal deal with federal prosecutors."
- from The New York Times


"This scandal isn’t like Troopergate, which involved charges that Spitzer used state troopers in an attempt to smear his Republican nemesis, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. Nine months after that scandal broke, questions remain about who did what and when.

This time, the state’s chief executive, who is a lawyer and former attorney general, is accused of breaking the law."
- from the Democrat & Chronicle


"It would have been a cowardly performance by anyone, really. The boilerplate apology to the humiliated family. The acknowledgment that the public that employs him deserves better. And then the hasty exit, no questions and no explanations.

But this was Gov. Eliot Spitzer, chosen by an already disgusted electorate to clean up state government, not to further diminish it."
- from the Times Union


"If true, his behavior was not only illegal but goes directly against his hard-earned reputation as a law-and-order attorney general and reformist governor. And it raises devastating concerns about his judgment and his apparently unlimited hubris."
- from The Post Standard

"If true, this leaves him open to prosecution under the Mann Act, which makes transportation of someone across a state line for prostitution a federal crime.

So much for cleaning up Albany.

Yes, Spitzer has been convicted of nothing. But the level of specificity in the complaint is such that, as a practical matter, he can't possibly remain in office."
from The New York Post.


Governor Eliot Spitzer's successor is blind. One problem avoided, I think.