Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Link

Good article on the young gay Americans marrying in Massachusetts.

Clinton the Machiavellian

Lest we let her off the hook. Here's the question for Clinton. Will she "renounce and reject" Dr. Barbara Reynolds? Why would she help Reverend Wright get a platform to spew his ilk?

What would Hillary do if Reverend Wright wanted to speak?

Obama and the Pastor Redux

Last month, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ilinois) was forced to respond after some of his spiritual adviser's controversial comments were found circulating around the airwaves. Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., the former pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, excoriated the United States for known and perceived sins past and present and downplayed the struggles women faced when fighting for their equal rights.

The aspiring presidential candidate's response was unconventional. He distanced himself from Wright's remarks without repudiating the man he once claimed to look up to for spiritual guidance.

"I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms," Senator Barack Obama said in his first press conference devoted to this topic, "the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused controversy, and in some cases pain." Reverend Wright, he said, professed a "profoundly distorted view of this country." Obama, however, however stood up for Reverend Wright's personal integrity. "He (Wright) contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years. ... I can I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."

His refusal to throw the former pastor under the bus was risky. The reverend's incendiary remarks were used to call into question not only his, but also Obama's patriotism, particularly since his wife was caught on tape claiming that this was the first time she felt proud of this country.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright reiterated some of his controversial comments while speaking to the NAACP and once again Senator Obama was forced to respond.

This time, Obama took the opportunity to distance himself from Reverend Wright, the person. "Reverend Wright does not speak for me," the senator from Illinois said. " He does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks."

Obama credits his shift in position to Reverend Wright's latest comments but nothing but the former minister's self-aggrandizing act of betrayal, and the senator's political expediency, substantially justified the change in tone and strategy. Wright's praise for Nation of Islam Minister Farrakhan, and his accusations concerning our government's supposed involvement in the spread of HIV, have been mentioned before, and they are no more controversial than his comments "damning America." Assuming that Obama did not hear of and then listen to his former "spiritual adviser's" "God damn America" clip (and this is a big "if"), he certainly heard of them before he delivered his speech on race.

The media no doubt is imposing upon Senator Barack Obama a double standard. It is requiring him to account for his association with controversial a religious leader without requiring his rivals to do the same. Obama was asked why he stayed in a church led by a pastor he disagrees with even though many pro-choice and gay Catholics get their children baptized in and then receive communion in a church which opposes abortion rights and homosexuality. Obama was asked to account for Wright's "God damn America comment" but Senator John McCain was not asked why he sought Reverend John Hagee even though he blamed Hurricane Katrina on New Orlean's annual gay festival or why he sought to make amends to the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, the man who said "God lifted the veil" protecting us from Al Qaeda terrorists because we have supported feminists, gays, secularists, pagans, and members of the ACLU. Senator Clinton had not been called for her association with a Christian denomination that condemns homosexuality.

Questions concerning the uneven treatment of these associations can and should be raised to those covering the race for the White House. These questions should not however, be used to let Senator Barack Obama off the hook. Obama chose the parish he would attend and the pastor he would seek religious and moral guidance from. Obama was being far more honest about his association with the reverend when he chose not to disown his spiritual adviser then he was in finally disowning the man he should never have aligned himself with.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Worth To Note

The latest in political gossip from Robert Novak.

The Weekend Preview

No point in giving the weekend political talk shows since I'm late putting this out:


Presidential Candidates:

1. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) on "FOX News Sunday"

Clinton Surrogates:

1. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee + Senator Evan Bayh on "This Week"

2. Senator Charles Schumer on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer"

3. Campaign Communications Director Howard Wolfson on "Face The Nation"

4. Jamie Rubin on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer"

Obama Surrogates

1. Representative Artur Davis (D-Alabama) + former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) on "This Week"

2. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer"

3. Chief Strategist David Axelrod on "Face The Nation"

4. Susan Rice on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer"

Other Guests:

1. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) and Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) comment on Syria's North Korean connection on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

2. Peter Peter Bergen and Steve Koll on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer"

3. Former CBS News Correspondent Roger Mudd on "Face The Nation."

THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


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

Topics This Week - interview with Senator Barack Obama, the battle for Indiana.

(a) Interview with a Presidential Candidate: Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) will be asked how he will regain the political momentum for the remaining primaries after his near double-digit loss in Pennsylvania and for his perspective on the long drawn-out primary fight with Senator Hillary Clinton.

(b) Punditry on the Battle for Indiana: FOX News 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 react to the interview with Senator Obama and talk about Indiana as the next test for who is the more electable of the two remaining Democrats.

(c) "On The Trail:" A weekly look of this week's ups and downs on the political campaign trail.

This show, which Chris Wallace 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 New York affiliate but 10:30 AM ET on the Philadelphia affiliate):

Topics This Week - the Democratic primary fight.

(a) the Surrogates on the Primary Battle: Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) of the Clinton campaign debate former Senator Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Representative Artur Davis (D-Alabama) of the Obama campaign on the campaign strategies for both candidates here on out.


(b) "Roundtable:"
Maureen Dowd, Matthew Dowd, Donna Brazile, and George Will on this week's politics.

(c) In Memorium: a look at the notable celebrities, politicians, American soldiers, and cultural icons that died this week or on the anniversary of this week.

(d) Sunday Funnies: a look at the late night shows' political jokes for the week.

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 - Howard Dean on the primary fight, punditry from the political analysts.

(a) The Party Chairman: Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Governor Howard Dean on the Clinton-Obama primary fight. He will be asked if the extended primary season is negatively affecting the party's chances of regaining the White House and if it will be decided at the convention in August.


(b) Political Roundtable Analysis:
David Broder of The Washington Post, John Dickerson of Slate Magazine, Gwen Ifil of PBS, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, and Richard Wolffe of Newsweek on "the latest delegate totals, vote counts, and expert analysis."

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 10:00 AM ET):


Topic This Week - the Democratic Primary Race


(a) the Surrogates:
Obama Campaign Chief Strategist David Axelrod and Clinton Campaign Communications Director Howard Wolfson on the primary battle fight.

(b) Interview: Former CBS News Correspondent and author Roger Mudd on the campaign season and his new book, "The Place To Be."

This show is hosted by Bob Schieffer on Sunday mornings.


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


(a) the alleged Syrian-North Korean nuclear connection:
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) on the U.S. officials' allegations that there is a nuclear arms deal between Syria and North Korea.

(b) Two Surrogates on the May 6 Democratic Primary Fights: Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) of the Obama campaign and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) of the Clinton campaign on the Indiana and North Carolina primaries held on May 6.

(c) Two Surrogates on the Candidates' Foreign Policy Views: Obama Foreign Policy Adviser Susan Rice and Clinton Foreign Policy Adviser Jamie Rubin offer their candidates' political perspectives on the pressing issues of the day and their global vision for America.

(d) Foreign Policy/National Security/War on Terror: Steve Coll of the radically centrist New America Foundation and CNN Terrorist Analyst Analyst Peter Bergen.

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

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Daily Show Clips

Since the strike Jon Stewart hasn't been as funny as he used to be but for the last two nights he was on a roll. First, he excoriated the three remaining presidential candidates for humiliating themselves by offering canned, meaningless and senseless statements to WWE wrestling fans. Senator Hillary Clinton said they could refer to her as "Hill-Rod" while Obama asked the fans if they are "smelling what he is "cooking." The presumptive Repulican nominee, Senator John McCain, asked the viewers what they will do when Senator John McCain and the McCainiacs "run wild." Our nation is involved in two wars. Gas prices have gone up. We may be headed toward a recession. Entitlement reform has not been implemented and immigration is out of control.

They deserve the beating Jon Stewart gives to them.

Yesterday, Jon Stewart joked about Senator Hillary Clinton's shifting primary rule standards. The clip is not up on the web site yet but it was good.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton's Interests

As much as I would like to agree with the editorial writers at The New York Times on this one, I can't. Senator Hillary Clinton's strategy has worked and she won in the Philadelphia suburbs that were supposed to go to Obama. Her self interest leads to to either (a) scare the super delegates into voting for Clinton by damaging Obama's general election prospects or (b) sabotage Obama's chance of winning in the general should he be the nominee.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Really Bad News for Obama

If there is any silver lining for Senator Barack Obama it looks like he kept his loss within 10 percentage points - barely under 10 but still single digits - in spite of his poor debate performance on ABC and questions concerning his claim that "bitter people" worried about their jobs "cling to" guns and religion.

The bad news, the once Republican-leaning Philadelphia suburbs appear to be voting for Clinton. She'll use that as a talking point. Obama can't say he will offset potential losses among blue collar voters by winning the once-Republican Philadelphia suburbs if they are ready to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton anyway. Her surrogates will say, with some justification, that these voters could vote for either candidate so the super delegates should vote for Clinton to keep the blue collar voters within the Democratic coalition and keep Pennsylvania's electoral votes in the general election.

Suggestion for Obama's Team: Don't ever raise the expectations for your candidate again. Don't ever say it will be close when it might not be that close.


Update: No more silver lining. With 85% of the vote in, she's ahead by 10%. Obama had a bad night.

Clinton's Answer to Obama's Yes We Can

"Yes we will."

I think I will barf.

Clinton's New Word

y'all.

Never knew she was a hick.

"With Two Wars Abroad"

Senator Hillary Clinton basically started her speech suggesting that, "with two wars abroad" and the economy headed towards a recession, voters in Pennsylvania chose the candidate who "is ready to serve on day one."

This, the Political Heretic considers particularly galling since she errantly voted for a war based upon faulty intelligence. She did not capitalize upon this claimed experience and access to greater intelligence on the Armed Services Committee when the time to vote on a matter concerning life and death came to the senate floor. Now she is using her mistake or, perhaps more accurately, the situation created in large part because of her mistaken vote, as a reason for voters to support her. Oh, and she said we should commit ourselves to defending the Arabian peninsula from Iran, even if their governments let the madrassa schools teaching their children to hate America stay open. Let's hope she isn't ready to do that on day one.

Will anyone in the media call her up on that?

Senator Clinton Won

Update

Senator Hillary Clinton won the battle for Pennsylvania tonight. Though the former First Lady said she was fighting an uphill battle against the candidate with who grossly outspent her, the state's demographic breakdown clearly favored her.

We still don't know if her margin of victory is large or small. As expected Obama appears to be winning Philadelphia's precincts by a 3:2 margin with 66% of precincts reported in and he won approximately 40% of the vote in Lancaster County so any hope of keeping the race close will now depend upon the results coming from the city's suburbs in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware Counties. Early results in those counties, however do not bode well for Obama.

Voting tallies in perceived Obama and Clinton strong holds have yet to report in. The conservative talking heads on MSNBC say Obama's loss raises the question of whether the the senator from Illinois can win the rights of working class, populist leaning Democrats if, after pouring so much money into Pennsylvania, he still as reported, lost the state.

This argument fails for at least two reasons:

(1) Senator Hillary Clinton entered the race for Pennsylvania with at >= 20% point lead in the polls. Obama could say he closed the gap substantially with his money in spite of verbal gaffes of his own making.

(2) This is a race between two Democrats. We don't know how the race will shape up when Pennsylvania's working class Democrats have to choose between Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain.

Moral Waivers

This should make us wonder about two things:

a. why are we fighting two wars to a standstill and our presidential candidates threatening another country with a potential war if the Department of Defense is desperate enough to overlook one's conviction for robbery, manslaughter, theft, grand larceny, and drug possession (not including marijuana)?

b. why does the DOD consider a person's known convictions for these crimes less scandalous and more acceptable to military fitness than one's perceived or actual sexual orientation?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

HIllary Portraying Herself As the Wrong Rocky Character

She's Ivan Drago and Bill Clinton as Ludmilla Drago.


"Like Drago, Clinton is calculating and emotionless, a product more of laboratory science than organic growth. Drago was designed by the Soviet system to be a ruthless fighting machine. You could say the same about Clinton and the Wellesley of the '60s. In Rocky IV, Drago's Soviet handlers bill him as "the most perfectly trained athlete ever" and "the future," presaging the "inevitability" argument Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn were peddling on Clinton's behalf 12 months ago.

We never get a look inside Clinton's war room. She doesn't have her husband's exhibitionist streak. But think of the training facility Drago uses in Rocky IV: high-tech equipment with men in white lab coats studying him while making notations on their clipboards. It's easy to picture Clinton hooked up to electrodes, walloping a little padded machine while James Carville cackles about the amazing psi numbers she punches up with older Latino voters.

And Bill Clinton makes a fair Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), Drago's beautiful, manipulative spouse who's always inserting herself into the action and demanding attention. If you'll recall, she does a lot of Drago's speaking for him. At one point, she even complains about the U.S. media's unfair treatment of Drago: "All I want is for my husband to be safe and to be treated fairly."

But the real clincher is Drago's attitude toward Apollo Creed's health, which roughly approximates Clinton's regard for Obama's political future. After laying waste to Creed, Drago famously croaks: "If he dies, he dies."

By the way, it's a testament to Dolph Lundgren (who has a master's degree in chemical engineering and was a Fulbright scholar - seriously) that he created such an iconic movie character with only a few bits of dialogue. His only other memorable line comes when he finally faces off with Rocky and tells the champ: "I must break you."

Which, incidentally, is a perfect distillation of the Clintonian worldview."
- Jonathan V. Last

No argument here. Clinton would rather see her party's chances of retaking the White House squandered if Obama is leading the charge. If she can't have it; no Democrat can.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Clinton and the Enemy List

Drawing up an enemies list of those who, for some reason or another, prefer another candidate is, well, is it elitist? She reminds me of former President Richard Nixon minus the accomplishments.

A Way to Avoid Campaign Finance Laws

Well, maybe only the spirit of them, which is to curb the influence of donors so that the people we elect don't owe them any favors:

How avoid them: give speeches.

"Many of Bill Clinton's six-figure speeches have been made to companies whose employees and political action committees have been among Hillary Clinton's top backers in her Senate campaigns. The New York investment giant Goldman Sachs paid him $650,000 for four speeches in recent years. Its employees and PAC have given her $270,000 since 2000 -- putting it second on the list of her most generous political patrons." The Washington Post

Who will get Senator Clinton's ear more? the people who elected her or the people who gave her husband six figures for speaking to them.

Yes, the Clinton muck continued after former President Bill Clinton left office.

Questions for ABC

Why would ABC question Obama's affiliation with a former Weather Underground terrorist member without also confronting Senator Hillary Clinton about her husband's relationship with "Canadian mining tycoon" Frank Giustra. Giustra, who also serves as a trustee for the Clinton Foundation, lent Clinton his private plane for his four-day $800,000 Latin American speaking tour for Colombian-based Gold Service International, a business development group which supports the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

By the way, Clinton introduced Guistra, who was looking for a share in mining profits to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who in turn, gave Guistra a right to invest in three uranium projects in that country.

Would not the Republicans pounce on the former president's association with the Kazakh dictator and Canadian business tycoon? And why didn't ABC News challenge Senator Clinton's anti-free trade credentials since she is far more associated with her husband (duh) than Obama ever was to Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers?

Maybe Clinton lapdog George Stephanopoulos peed in his pants while dreaming about his possible return to the White House.

Which raises another question: Why on earth would ABC News allow someone with such close ties to one of the remaining candidates in the race, moderate the debate. Do the network executives have an image problem? Did they not see the potential conflict of interest or at least, the appearance of such a conflict of interest?

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Weekend Preview

One Presidential Candidate on This Week:
1. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on "This Week."


Surrogates:

1. David Axelrod vs Geoff Garin on "Meet The Press"

2. Senator Charles Schumer vs. Senator Dick Durbin on "FOX News Sunday"

3. Senator Bob Casey v. Governor Ed Rendell on "Face The Nation"

4. Former Senator Bill Bradley v. Governor Jon Corzine on "Late Edition Sunday with Wolf Blitzer"

5. U.S. Representative Chuck Fattah + Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on "Late Edition Sunday with Wolf Blitzer" (not sure if they face off or are interviewed one on one).


I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


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

Topics This Week - the surrogates on the Pennsylvania primary, Karl Rove's analysis of the Pennsylvania primary, and the panelists on the papal visit to New York City.

(a) the surrogates on the latest news and the Pennsylvania Primary: Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) for the Clinton campaign and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) for the Obama campaign on the race for the Keystone State.

(b) campaign analysis: Republican strategist Karl Rove on what key areas of Pennsylvania Senators Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton need to win.

(c) the papal visit: FOX News Sunday panelists Brit Hume of FOX News, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio talk about the impact Pope Benedict's visit to Ground Zero.

(d) "On The Trail:" weekly look at the ups and downs from the candidates on the campaign trail.

This show, which Chris Wallace hosts on Sunday mornings, 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 New York ABC affiliate):


Topics This Week - McCain on his campaign strategy and possible match ups with Clinton and Obama, political punditry on the Obama gaffes and the debate, a look at the Newseum.

(a) The Republican Nominee: Senator John McCain on his strategy for winning the race for the White House and how he compares in match-ups with his Democratic rivals.

(b) "Classic Roundtable:" - Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, and George Will talk about this week's politics, with the focus on the Pennsylvania debate broadcast on ABC News and Senator Barack Obama's comments regarding the "bitter" Americans who "cling" to guns, and religion.

(c) the Newseum: ABC News' "This Week" goes high-tech and high-definition with a look at the Newseum, where its new studio is located.

(d) In Memorium: names and photographs/clips of prominent celebrities and politicians who died.

(e) Sunday Funnies: excerpts from the late night talk shows.

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 - surrogates on the Democratic Primary fight, round table on the long primary fight and the Democratic Party's chances of recapturing the White House.

(a) Surrogates on the Democratic Nomination: Obama chief strategist David Axelrod and Clinton chief strategist Geoff Garin on who should win the Democratic Party's nomination.

(b) Effect of a Long Primary Fight on the General Election: David Brooks of The New York Times, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, and Michele Norris of National Public Radio on the effect a long Democratic primary effect could and will have on the Democratic Party's prospects of capturing the White House in 2008.

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


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


Topic This Week - the Pennsylvania Primary.

(a) Pennsylvania surrogates on the Pennsylvania Primary: Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania for the Obama campaign and Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pennsylvania) for the Clinton campaign on the Pennsylvania primary handicapped.

(b) the Pennsylvania primary handicapped by pundits: Roger Simon of Politico.com and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi on the Pennsylvania primary.

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 pope's visit to the United States, two debates on the fight for Pennsylvania.

(a) the surrogates on the Pennsylvania Primary: Governor Jon Corzine (D-New Jersey) for the Clinton campaign and former Senator Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey) on the fight for Pennsylvania.

(b) more surrogates on the Pennsylvania Primary: U.S. Representative Chuck Fattah (D-Pennsylvania) for the Obama campaign and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D-Pennsylvania) on the primary fight.

(c) the Republican candidate's economic message: McCain economic adviser Carly Fiorina on the state of our economy and McCain's plan to get us out of a potential recession.

the Papal Visit: Wolf Blitzer live from Yankee stadium with the latest on the pope's visit.

(d) Pope's trip to the US: Catholic University President Reverend David O'Connell on the pope's visit.

(e) Vatican journalist Delia Gallagher.



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


II. THE WEEKEND PREVIEW



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


Topic This Week - nothing posted yet.

Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard and Morton Kondracke offer their analysis (or spin) of the prior week's political news stories on Saturday evenings.


2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET): will be pre-empted this weekend to bring special coverage of the Pope Benedict XVI visit to the United States of America.


3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC:

Topics This Week - Pennsylvania Primary and the Upcoming Fight, McCain and the young voters.

(a) The Pennsylvania Race: whether it will end the Democratic primary fight or extend it.

(b) McCain: whether Senator John McCain can do what few Republicans have done - win the votes of those under 30.

Panelists this week will include David Gregory of NBC News, Katty Kay of British Broadcasting Company, Renee Chenault-Fattah of WCAU-TV Philadelphia, Howard Fineman of Newsweek, and the 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.

Gays and the Campaign

At least one mainstream newspaper cares.

Just Some Fun

Former Senator John Edwards won, on the Colbert Report that is. Senator Hillary Clinton's Mrs. "Fix it" and rival Senator Barack Obama's distractions "on notice" skits could not match former Senator John Edwards' "Ed Words" word of the day.

Seeing the pope visit our country makes me pine for the "This Week" on God skit Colbert used to do on John Stewart's once funny "The Daily Show."

Oh well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Endorsement

Well, the bitter Pittsburgh Post endorsed Obama

ABC News - The Washington Post Writer's Take

The Washington Post's Ann E. Kornblut didn't think the debate was fair on Barack Obama and the headline writer didn't think the moderators devoted enough time to the issues this country will face.

Key Excerpt:


"But it was Obama, now his party's front-runner, who was pressed most persistently by moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News to answer questions that have dominated the Democratic race in the weeks since the last major contests, held March 4 in Texas and Ohio.

The encounter, particularly in the early stages, seemed more like a grilling of Obama on a Sunday-morning talk show than a debate between the two candidates."


Headline: "Pa. Debate Stresses Politics Over Policy"

Obama was rightly challenged on the flag pin, Ayers, and the Reverend Wright controversy but the moderators failed to press Clinton on her adviser and husband's associations with the Colombians.

Kornbluch wasn't alone:

"NEW YORK In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent "bitter" gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue) and not wearing a flag pin while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations.

Then it was back to Obama to defend his slim association with a former '60s radical -- a question that came out of rightwing talk radio and Sean Hannity on TV, but delivered by former Bill Clinton aide Stephanopolous. This approach led to a claim that Clinton's husband pardoned two other '60s radicals. And so on."


Go figure.

But, then again, George Stephanopoulos did work for Senator Clinton's husband in the White House. Don't expect him to be fair when moderating a debate that she participates in.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Clinton's White House

looks grim.

"Let's hope it never comes to that. We can do better.

What will a Hillary Clinton presidency look like?

The answer by now seems obvious: It will look like her presidential campaign, which in turn looks increasingly like the first Clinton presidency.

Which is to say, high-minded ideals, lowered execution, half truths, outright lies (and imaginary flights), take-no prisoners politics, some very good policy ideas, a presidential spouse given to wallowing in anger and self-pity, and a succession of aides and surrogates pushed under the bus when things don’t go right. Which is to say, often.

And endless psychodrama: the essential Clintonian experience that mesmerizes the press, confuses the citizenry, confounds members of both parties in Congress (not to mention the Clintons themselves, at times) and pretty much keeps the rest of the world constantly amused and fixated."
- Carl Bernstein

Censorship Redux

The whole notion of having someone present an alternative point of view is questioned and then, suddenly denied. So much for academic diversity. Don't conservative bloggers moan about the lack of intellectual diversity on public universities? The same reasoning applies here. Inviting a dissenter to speak for an hour or so could not possibly be deemed a moral threat to a religious institution with a captive audience.

Yes, church-affiliated institutions like Aquinas College may ban speakers who espouse viewpoints that are in conflict with its religious teachings but they are depriving their students from an opportunity of being exposed to someone with a different point of view. Intellectual discourse thrives when there is disagreement.

The " Compassion Forum"

AMENDMENT: AN UPDATE ON THE FORUM

well, no bonus points to award I guess.


Tonight, Messiah College, a will host a "compassion forum" where the two Democratic candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, will respond to questions posed by Campbell Brown of CNN and Jon Meachem of Newsweek concerning the role of faith in politics. (Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the Republican nominee, declined to participate in this forum, which will air on CNN at 8:00 PM ET). CNN expects Obama and Clinton speak about "poverty, human rights, and the world's AID's crisis."

It will be interesting to see if the matter of gay rights is brought up and if so, who, be it the journalists, other questioners, or the candidates, brings it up. Messiah College, a self-described Christian college (hence the name), opposes gay rights (warning, PDF file). In its student handbook, the college "supports the position that neither sexual intercourse outside of marriage nor homosexual behavior is considered proper for Christians."

Will Obama or Clinton "renounce and reject" that point of view? Will they challenge that view's proponents to find the "compassion" that supposedly backs it up? Or will they, at minimum, state if they disagree with that viewpoint (this last option only works if it is brought up by the candidate him or herself).

Bonus points to the candidate who speaks up for closeted gay Messiah students (the exclusion of the word "College" was purposeful). I'm sure they

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Obama's Psychoanalyzing Gaffe

Senator Barack Obama got himself into trouble today when he tried to psychoanalyze the blue class working men and women he needs to appeal to if he is going to pull the upset in Pennsylvania. Here is the transcript:

"So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people are most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work -- don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.

Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long. They feel so betrayed by government that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism.

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What is the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- to close tax loopholes, you know, roll back the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing."


Why did he say that? The senator from Illinois had to know these remarks would be used against him in blue collar states like "um, now" Pennsylvania? Hmmm. Is the gun owner who keeps a hunting rifle naturally bitter? If double barrel Joe wasn't laid off he wouldn't be at the firing range?

Those Pennsylvania voters must be scratching their heads asking themselves what "religion" has to do about their bitterness (if they have any). Most were religious long before the manufacturing jobs left Pittsburgh.

His political opponents obviously pounced on these statements. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-Pennsylvania) said the voters she meets are "resilient, optimistic and hardworking" Americans who "need a president who looks up for them."

McCain spokesperson Steve Schmidt said Obama unveiled a degree of "elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking." "It would be hard," he added, "to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

And why not? Psychoanalyzing American voters' decision-making behavior does sound elitist. They don't, for good reason, consider themselves to be the equivalent of lab rats whose behavior is closely monitored by the more level-headed scientists who perform experiments on them.

Senator Barack Obama disputed the Clinton and McCain campaigns' suggestions that he is "out of touch" by referring to McCain's slow response to offer a solution to the house mortgaging crisis and Clinton's vote on a bankruptcy bill but he expounded upon his remarks in Terre Haute, Indiana:

“And for 25, 30 years Democrats and Republicans have come before them and said we’re going to make your community better. We’re going to make it right and nothing ever happens. And of course they’re bitter. Of course they’re frustrated. You would be too. In fact many of you are. Because the same thing has happened here in Indiana. The same thing happened across the border in Decatur. The same thing has happened all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up- they don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms."

In other words, the blue collar voters will turn their attention away from issues that can't or won't, in their opinion, be solved in their favor to issues where their votes can make a difference.

Fine. One can agree or disagree with this latest assertion coming from the Obama campaign. I'm sure there will be some voters out there he vote for the candidate who will best protect their right to bear arms because they grew up in the gun culture and consider the hunting a significant part of their life and there may be some Americans out there who vote the candidate who opposes abortion because they consider the "unborn" homo sapien's "right to life" to be a human right just as there are some "pro-choice" voters who consider abortion rights too fundamental to ignore. His remarks are disputable but within the bounds of rational discourse.

Now, if only he made those remarks in San Francisco.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Summary: The Armed Services Committee Hearing - Part II

from where the Political Heretic left off:

Senator Jack Reed's Questions:

1. The senator from Rhode Island asks the general what it would take to get the Shia to disarm or if the Iraqi government can force it to disarm. It is clear, from the the back and forth, that the senator does not believe we can disarm Moqtada Al-Sadr's militia without undermining the country's stability nor does he believe they can, as the general claims, be turned by offering them some means of "legitimate" employment (as in the military).

Petraeus says militia men "standing down" while political leaders associated with Sadr's militia are negotiating because, in his opinion, he they stared into the "abyss" and didn't see what they liked.

The dispute over the 60,000 (or 90,000) militia men that apparently did "stand down" shows a clear divide in emphasis. The general uses the higher figure to highlight the progress we have apparently made in turning some away from the militia's objectives. Reed deems the progress insufficient since the Iraqi government had not yet incorporated them into the state's apparatus.

2. His next question is directed to the ambassador. The senator asks Crocker who, aside from the JAM and Mahdi army, the Iranians are backing. Crocker says they are supporting and negotiating with several militias, including the Tharallah ("Vengeance of God" group though he makes a point of noting the Badr Brigades' incorporation into the government in order to bolster Petraeus' argument that such militias can be integrated into the security apparatus.

Reed abruptly ends his questioning by suggesting that his time was up.

Senator Jeff Sessions Questions:

1. Senator Jeff Sessions uses his some time to make a statement declaring his support for the ongoing mission, congratulates American troops for their efforts, and suggests that his colleagues listen to the general's suggestions since most Congressmen and women voted to go to war. One statement stands out for its comprehensively meaningless essence:

"And I think we should listen to you about how to enhance that progress, because this is a policy of the United States of America, it's a policy we voted on by three-fourths of both houses of Congress, and we're making progress toward success and we need to listen to those who helped get us there about how we can maintain it."

2. He then asks the ambassador if he would view Maliki's assault on Basra as a milestone or as a sign that the government is willing to defend its sovereignty even if confronting a part of its base is required. (Those seeking intellectual discourse would be discouraged since the answer could be found, at least in part, to a response the general gave to a question posed by Senator Reed). Note the bold faced part.

"Basra did go much more suddenly than we expected, Senator. There's no two ways about it. And again, you heard, in fact, the report as a good account.

I think that it is accurate to say that he thought perhaps it would be a bit more like when he went to Karbala, back last year, and the sheer presence, and so forth, would be adequate. And that was clearly not the case in Basra.

Now, again, in Basra, what has to be done -- and they have just announced, for example -- what is it? -- hundred-million-dollar program to begin addressing these kinds of issues and, again, to get some alternatives to the young men down there, too, toting a gun on a street corner."
- Petraeus to Reed.

The ambassador obviously told the senator with the friendly question that this was an important move but would not consider it a milestone since that can only be viewed as such in retrospect.

3. Inhofe asked the general about Iran's influence in Basra. Most of the weaponry, the general claimed, came from Iran. He could not say whether the Iranians' arbitration role could be attributed to their renewed strength or their own fear of the "abyss."

The ambassador said there might be some limits to Iran's destabilizing policies in Iraq given the public's negative view towards militias (his assertion).


Senator Daniel Akaka's Questions


1. The senator from Hawaii devotes some time to the troops' tour of duty and the ratio between troops serving abroad and those at home. His first asks the senator to acknowledge if in fact, American soldiers are getting 6 months of family time within a 3 1/2 year period. The general seeks to minimize the number of soldiers who are asked to serve extra tours of duty but says he did did consider the extended tours of duty when recommending the troop draw down. He says most American soldiers recognize the "importance of what they are doing."

2. Senator Akaka expresses his concern, a concern he claims is shared by Commission of the National Guard and Reserves and others within the Department of Defense, that the current troop deployment in Iraq is unsustainable since it leaves us ill-prepared to handle crises that may develop over time.

3. The senator then asks Petraeus when he thinks we must hand the bulk of Iraq's security responsibilities to their armed forces so we can "reset our forces" and leave but the general dodged that question, noting only that Iraq's forces are already performing "a vast number of tactics."

Senator Susan Collins' Questions

1. Senator Collins was one of the more skeptical Republicans on the Armed Services Committee. Claims of progress in training the Iraqis were, she noted, and still we hear of the Iraqis who abandon their posts. She questioned whether the Iraqis would ever stand up so long as the American forces took the lead. Collins asked the general and ambassador to justify our decision to take the lead in military operations when our government had committed billions of dollars in training and equipping American troops.

The general says the Iraqis are taking the lead and in particular, refers the senator to the combat operations in Basra and Anbar.

2. Collins then asks the ambassador if it is time to ask the Iraqis to pay for employment projects and the salaries of those fighting Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. Ambassador Crocker said he and the general are negotiating with the Iraqis to have them contribute more to the cost of the war.


More will be posted over the weekend. The Political Heretic probably won't post this weekend's preview given time constraints.

Feel free to look for yourself at:

www.msnbc.com for "Meet The Press"
www.cnn.com for "Late Edition Sunday with Wolf Blitzer"
www.foxnews.com for "FOX News Sunday," "Beltway Boys," and "FOX News Watch"
www.abcnews.com for "This Week"
www.cbsnews.com for "Face The Nation" and
www.thechrismatthewsshow.com for "The Chris Matthews Show."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Summary: The Armed Services Committee Hearing - Part I

The transcripts for the full hearing can be found here.


Now, a summary of statements


Senator Carl Levin: Need to shift Iraq's nation-building responsibilities to the Iraqis themselves to end the "invitation to continuing dependency." Major political benchmarks (election reform and hydrocarbon oil distribution bill specifically mentioned) which the Iraqis themselves have created, were not met. Claims Iraq is sitting on billions of dollars worth of surplus funds but the United States spent $27 billion to date on reconstruction, job training, education, and Iraqi military equipment. Burden of fighting left to the Americans in spite of Iraqi troop force size parity.

Senator John McCain: Four years of this war's "mismanagement" had led this country to "stare into the abyss" but the troop surge and a change in tactics had pulled us out of a quagmire and given us hope that success "is within reach." Violence is down and the political factions backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's fight for Basra. Violence is down and the civil war forestalled. More needs to be done.
Opposes calls for a troop withdrawal time table. Withdrawal without a regard for the political consequences is an "failure in political and moral leadership."

General David H. Petraeus:
"Significant but uneven progress" made since the last time he appeared before the committee seven months ago. Success is attributed to (a) the U.S. troop surge, (b) an Iraqi troop surge, (c) a shift to counterinsurgency tactics, (d) the shift in allegiance of Sunni insurgents, (and (e) the cease-fire agreed to by Moqtada al-Sadr's militia. Task for the future left undefined - "to build on the progress achieved and to deal with the many challenges that remain."

a. Challenges cited:

- Terrorists, militias, criminal gangs, and insurgents push the ethno-sectarian conflict towards warfare.

- Al Qaeda funds foreign fighters, considering it a central theater in the war on terror.

- Iraq's neighbors: Syrian cooperation insufficient, Iranian mischief significant

b. Progress cited:

- "Security incidents" (this is the euphemism)
down to levels not seen since 2005. (civilian deaths down, ethno-sectarian attributed deaths down, high profile attacks down, neighborhood volunteers up)

Recommendation: to follow through on the expected draw down and commence with a "process for assessment" (this has not been done as we fight?) before any further troop reductions. No time table for withdrawal

UN Ambassador Ryan Crocker: Positive developments that require sustained efforts though reversible.

- Cites Legislation: pension law that includes those once serving under the prior regime, de-Baathification law, provincial powers law, all major parties supporting elections, change in Iraq flag design led to it being flown all over

- Attitude shifts: Sunni awakening confronting Al Qaeda in Anbar, the marijya (Shiia clerics) in Najaf, less tension and more acts of cross ethnic displays of kindness in Baghdad)

- Basra: demonstrates Maliki's determination to fight the extremists, widespread support from Iraq's ethno-sectarian factions, Moqtada al-Sadr's moderate response (opposition to the possession of "heavy weapons" and his continued support for the cease-fire)

- long term commitment required and a troop withdrawal would lead to failure in Iraq.


Carl Levin's Three Questions:


1. Senator Carl Levin asks General Petraeus about the next stages in the administration's process, which includes (a) a 45-day period for "consolidation and evaluation" followed by an open-ended "assessment" before more troops can be withdrawn. Senator Carl Levin tried, but failed to get him to ask when this "assessment" would be completed since. Bottom line - The "assessment" does not refer to a snapshot in time for evaluation. It refers to the administration's case for an open-ended commitment.

2. Levin then asks how many troops would remain in Iraq at the end of the year if everything goes according to plan. General Petraeus said he could not answer the question.

3. He asks the general if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took his advice to plan for the battle of Basra carefully (this seems to be an unimportant question from my standpoint). Answer - no.


Senator John McCain's Questions:


1. Senator McCain presses forward on the Basra assault in a manner that is designed to lay the blame on the Iraqis and not on General Petraeus. Petreaus says mistakes were made and yes, he would not have recommended this assault though he notes that the battle for Basra is not yet over and progress had been made.

2. McCain moves to the Green Zone attacks and asks what the United States is going to do about the militia attacks. General Petraeus says they have secured the area where these rockets came from but then delivers what should be the bomb shell headline in every story - the Iraqi government, not the US will have to deal with the Sadr militia.

The money quote from Petraeus: "Beyond that, again, Iraqi security forces are going to have to come to grips both politically as well as militarily with the issue of the militia and, more importantly, the special groups."

3. McCain pivots to the cease-fire agreement between Sadr and the Iraqi government - what does Petraeus "make of it?" Petraeus attributes Sadr's cooperation to the need to preserve his religious movement's positive image.

4. McCain asks Petraeus if Al Qaeda still poses a threat. The general says it does, though its power is diminishing. Petraeus says it is trying to maintain its control in Mosul and Nineveh province. Senator McCain at one point misspeaks again by referring to Al Qaeda as a Shia group.

5. He asks Ambassador Crocker to speak about the status of forces agreement. Ambassador Crocker says it will have some "unique aspects" that allows coalition forces to continue their operation past the 2008 expiration date and a "strategic framework agreement" covering the political, economic and cultural aspects of our relationship with the Iraqis. He does not offer any specifics as to what would be agreed to but Senator John McCain does not press him any further on this point.

6. Senator McCain asks Petraeus about the fight for Mosul and and the various groups we are fighting there. He asks the general if Al Qaeda needs Mosul and Petraeus said the organization definitely considers the city to be an important strategic or symbolic asset.

7. The ranking minority leader offers brief comments in which he asks his colleagues to ask about Iran's influence among the Shia factions.


Senator Edward Kennedy's Questions

1. Asks about the status of forces agreement and the role Congress will have in approving it. Ambassador Crocker says it will be treated like an executive agreement that does not require Congressional approval. He says future administrations won't be bound to the agreement. Kennedy disputes the administration's choice of strategy and raises one instance where a former president sought Congressional approval. Crocker would only vow to "keep Congress fully informed."

2. Senator Kennedy then appears to read from a prepared statement in which he claims that the president and the American people have two different understandings concerning Iraq's progress or lack there of. He says the American people are entitled to know when our commitment to Iraq will end.

3. He then asks General Petraeus when the Iraqi forces will be prepared to fight the insurgents and Shia militias since we spent $24 billion in the last five years training them. The general disputes Kennedy's assertion that the Iraqis are not fighting. Iraqi ally casualties, he asserts, are far more numerous than ours.

4. Kennedy then turns his focus to Basra and asks Petraeus if the Iraqis are fighting Al Qaeda forces in Basra. The general said the Shia-populated city of Basra never had a significant Al Qaeda presence. He asks Crocker, and then Petraeus if they were at any meetings with the vice president where the Basra siege was discussed. Both say they did not attend any meetings.

(I don't know where the senator is going with this line of questioning. He appears to be questioning the wisdom of taking on the Shia militias, something that must be done if the Iraqis are to unify their country).

Senator John Warner:

1. The Republican senator from Virginia first thanks the ambassador and general for their public service, praises them for their "very informative" statements, then "adds a word" for those caring for the wounded.

2. He asks the ambassador and the general if the war in Iraq is making us safer. (Background note: The ambassador and general could not provide an answer when Senator Warner first asked them this question seven months ago).

The general prefaces his remarks by noting that he believes this question is better addressed to those higher up in the chain of command but then suggests that we have (a) removed a dictator from power and (b) planted "the seeds of democracy." (He did not, however, say anything that would concern us). All of this, again, has come at great cost. I recognize that the overall weighing of the scales is more than difficult, and believe it is best done, at this point, by someone up the chain with a broader perspective.

"Ultimately, it can only be answered by history, once the outcome in Iraq has been determined," Petraeus said.

Warner apparently wasn't satisfied and repeated the question to see if it was worth it. General Petraeus said he does believe it is worth it (though he seems to make it sound as if staying there, as opposed to first invading the country was worth it):


"Senator, I do believe it is worth it, or I would not have, I guess, accepted -- I mean, you do what you're ordered to do, but you sometimes are asked whether you would like to, or are willing to take on a task.

And I took on the task of -- the privilege of command of Multi- National Force-Iraq because I do believe that it is worth, and I do believe the interests there are of enormous importance, again, to our country, not just to the people of Iraq and the people of that region and the world."


Warner than asks Ryan Crocker if he believed this war is making us safer. The ambassador said it does to the degree that it lessons the capacities of this nation's "mortal enemy," Al Qaeda. He also says Iraq is a "work in progress" and that the consequences of our departure or an alternative strategy might be catastrophic.

3. Warner than turns to the "strategic forces agreement" and the "status of forces agreement", both which he considers "very important." He asks Crocker if the negotiations over these two will be leveraged for political reconciliation. The ambassador said he sees room for using the "strategic forces agreement" negotiations might be a good time to bring up political reconciliation but note, he does not include any reference to the "status of forces agreement." (This exclusion should not surprise us since linking the "status of forces" agreement to political reconciliation would undermine the president's own argument that we are staying no matter what the cost as long as we are needed).


Senator Joseph Lieberman's Questions:

1. Senator Lieberman chastises his colleagues from the Democratic Party he once belonged to, for their refusal to see, in his opinion progress in Iraq:

"What I'm about to say, with respect to my colleagues who have consistently opposed our presence in Iraq, as I hear the questions and the statements today, it seems to me that there's a kind of hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, and most of all, speak of no progress in Iraq.

The fact is, there has been progress in Iraq, thanks to extraordinary effort by the two of you and all those who serve under you on our behalf.


2. Lieberman then uses the Basra incident to point to another strategic goal of ours in Iraq - building up a "self-governing, self- defending Iraqi government." Petraeus readily agrees to this analysis and points to the capture of a Hezbollah commander who was working with Iranian Quds Forces to train and equip Iraqi extremists. The Iranian-backed "special forces," he asserts, have the "expertise to shoot rockets more accurately."

Lieberman than asks Petraeus if the Iranians are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American troops and thousands of Iraqi troops. Petraeus says they are responsible for the murders.

3. The independent Democrat than asks Crocker if the Basra attack can be viewed as a sign that the Iraqi government is ready to fight the militias. Crocker says Maliki's action did "that this Iraqi government is prepared to go after extremist militia elements, criminal elements of whatever sectarian identity they may be." (One problem: the ambassador misspoke for the Iraqi government opted to support one Shia militia by taking on the other.) He then said that political council of national security declaring its support for the prime minister's decision to retake Basra was supported by "two vice presidents, the speaker, the two deputy speakers of Parliament, the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, and the heads of all major parliamentary blocks."

Senator Jim Inhofe's Questions

1. Senator Inhofe asks everyone to remember the sacrifices of those lost, then uses his time to defend the American troops from the "far left" and its supposed accusations that the United States armed forces torture its detainees. He said he interviewed prisoners held at Camp Cropper and Camp Buka.

General Petraeus agreed with Inhofe's statement and noted that many prisoners receive job training, religious training and/or civilian education when locked up.

2. The senator from Idaho then returns the focus to Iran but with a different angle. He asks the two administration representatives if they believed Iran would fill the political vacuum once we left.

Ambassador Crocker said Iran is pursuing a strategy not unlike the one it utilized in Lebanon, whereby it supported and consequently co-opted armed Shi'ite forces to use whenever it needs to.

3. Senator Inhofe asked the general to respond to his general assessment of Basra - that the Iraqis approved of Maliki's actions. Petraeus agreed.

Reading these transcripts is definitely time consuming. This posting was started on Wednesday morning and being posted on Thursday. I'll continue with a second post either tomorrow or Friday but am not sure if it will come before or after I comment on President George W. Bush's speech.

In the meantime please note my observations that were in bold. Once again, General David Petraeus couldn't answer Senator Warner's question of whether this war is making us safer, leaving it to Crocker to spout the administration's talking points that we are fighting Al Qaeda forces there and not here.

The Political Heretic isn't convinced. One need only look at the failed attempts of some to hijack jetliners in Britain. Their plan's failure in no way caused or enhanced by our troop deployment in Iraq.

The Question

The Question:

"And so my final -- and I'll even pose this as a question and I won't -- you don't necessarily have to answer it -- maybe it's a rhetorical question -- if we were able to have the status quo in Iraq right now without U.S. troops, would that be a sufficient definition of success?

It's obviously not perfect. There's still violence, there's still some traces of Al Qaida, Iran has influence more than we would like. But if we had the current status quo, and yet our troops had been drawn down to 30,000, would we consider that a success? Would that meet our criteria, or would that not be good enough and we'd have to devote even more resources to it?"
- Senator Barack Obama at today's hearing

The Answer:

"Senator, I can't imagine the current status quo being sustainable with that kind of precipitous drawdown." - Ambassador Ryan Crocker

The Retort:

"That wasn't the question." - Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware)


Not it wasn't the answer to Obama's question. Ambassador Ryan Crocker was predicting what he believes would happen if there was a further U.S. troop reduction. Senator Obama was asking the ambassador and general whether they would consider to be a doable end result for Iraq.

I think this question was, to some indirect degree, answered above when General Petraeus said the goal was to "chip away" at Al Qaeda so that there is, as Obama described it, a "manageable situation where they're not posing a threat to Iraq or using it as a base to launch attacks outside of Iraq."

No such answer was given with respect to Iran's growing influence, though again the ambassador and general said Iran will have an influence in Iraq, whether we like or not and the question is whether there will be "a good, constructive relationship between Iran and Iraq" (Crocker's words) or a negative one in which Iran arms the militias.

This raises several questions:

1. If we can accept the status quo, what is the end game for us? What will it take for the status quo to be maintained and how would we know it was secured? This brings us back to a mutually-agreed upon political solution that, it is hoped, would hold without the constant supervision of American troops.

2. Would the Iranians contribute to Iraq's militia weapon proliferation regime if we left? If the only reason they are merely seeking to deny us a new military launching pad from which we could threaten them, then we can expect more cooperation from them once we leave. They'd have no interest in contributing to Iraq's instability if the Iraqi government proved itself incapable of suppressing Kurdish Iranian dissidents.
Our departure, in that case, may lead Iran to provide the "good, constructive relationship" that has been missing up to now.

3. If the Iranians were to switch their tactics once we left, would there be any need to negotiate with them? Iran's bargaining price might be too high nuclear weapon rights) for us to accept. Negotiations might commence if only to see if they are willing to cooperate but we might get away with it by calling their bluff (threat to add to the chaos) by withdrawing from Iraq, forcing them to fix the mess it helped exacerbate.


The Full Armed Services Committee transcripts are here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Penn Still There

What? The Clintons trying to have it both ways? Nooooo.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

McCain's Needs

While watching CNN's "ballot bowl" the Political Heretic found himself questioning whether Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the Republican's presidential nominee, needs an image czar. Excerpts from the Martin Luther King tribute he gave at The Lorraine Motel showed that he was being filmed on the side. Why the senator would deny himself a full frontal picture where he can establish and maintain eye contact with those who may potentially watch excerpts of the speech from their home TV set is beyond me. But it gets worse, for on the day he was delivering his rather gloomy though honorable speech about self sacrifice at the motel it was raining and a black man, was holding the umbrella.

So there you have it. The image of an old, white dote (sorry McCain) reading from a scripted speech commemorating Martin Luther King's sacrifice for equal rights while a black man holds the umbrella for him.

He definitely needs an image czar.

Editorial Interviews

One practice newspaper editorial boards should get in the habit of doing is posting their candidate interviews online or in the actual newspaper, like The Express-News did here.

That provides readers a chance to evaluate the editorial board's judgment when it endorses a candidate. Did it ask the candidates' tough questions? Was it comprehensive enough? What issues seem to concern them the most? Once John or Jane Q. Public can answer these questions to his or her satisfaction he or she would know how much weight, if any, to give to the editorial board's endorsement.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Weekend Preview

Featured Presidential Candidates

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on FOX News Sunday

Featured Debates

1. Senator Lindsey Graham v. Senator Jim Webb on the Petraeus Report (This Week)

2. Senator Bob Casey v. Governor Ed Rendell on the Pennsylvania Primary (Meet The Press)

3. Senator Chris Dodd v. Representative John Murtha on the Democratic Primary fight between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Late Edition Sunday with Wolf Blitzer)

4. Senator John Cornyn v. Representative John Murtha on the struggling economy.


Interviews


1. Senator John Kerry on the Petraeus Report (FOX News Sunday)

2. Democratic National Committee Chairperson and former Governor Howard Dean (This Week, Face The Nation)


I. THE SUNDAY TALK SHOWS



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

Topics This Week - presidential candidate John McCain, Democratic view on the upcoming Petreaus Report, a museum dedicated to the news industry.

(a) "Choosing the President" - Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on what he needs to do in order to win the White House for the Republicans in 2008. His thoughts on the Democratic primary and the national campaign (or how he will try to influence the debate)

(b) The upcoming Petraeus Report - Senator and Obama campaign surrogate John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) presents the expected Democratic viewpoint on General David Petraeus' upcoming report on the progress that has or has not been made in the war in Iraq.

(c) The Pennsylvania Primary - FOX News 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 debate who they believe has the upper hand in Pennsylvania.

(d) The News Museum - Executive Director Joe Urschel opens up the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the news.

This show, which Chris Wallace hosts on Sunday mornings 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 news station):

Topics This Week - the Petreaus report, a drawn out Democratic Primary, punditry on this week's top political stories.

(a) Iraq War/Petraeus Report Debate: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carlina) and Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) on the war in Iraq with the focus of attention on the upcoming reports U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus will present before Congress.

(b) Impact of a Drawn Out Democratic Primary: Democratic National Committee Chairperson Howard Dean (D-Vermont) on the party's plans to determine the party's nominee, the superdelegates' role, and the impact a long, drawn out primary may have on the party's chances for winning back the White House in 2008.

(c) "Roundtable:" Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, Cokie Roberts of ABC, campaign strategist Dan Senor for the Republicans, and George Will of ABC and The Washington Post on this week's top political stories.

(d) In Memorium: the names of soldiers and famous celebrities who died this month released.

(e) Sunday Funnies: excerpts of the late night comedians' jokes are replayed.


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 Pennsylvania primary, Martin Luther King's legacy.

(a) The Democratic Pennsylvania Primary Fight: Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) for Obama and Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pennsylvania) for the Clinton campaign on who is best prepared to battle Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) for the White House.

(b) The Legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr: Ambassador and former King aide Andrew Young, Georgetown University sociology Professor and book author Eric Dyson, and Tom Brokaw of NBC News on the late Reverend Martin Luther King's life and legacy.

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 - Long Democratic Primary Fight, foreign policy.

(a) The Democratic Primary: Democratic National Committee Chairperson and former Governor Howard Dean (D-Vermont) on resolving his party's primary fight between Senators Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

(b) Foreign Policy: National Editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post, chief Pentagon correspondent Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers, and chief foreign policy correspondent Larry Logan of CBS News.

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 - Debate on the Economy, debate on the primary fight, April papal visit.

(a) Debate on the Democratic Pennsylvania Primary: Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) for the Obama campaign and Representative John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) of the Clinton campaign on the candidates' "fight to the finish."

(b) Debate on the "Struggling" Economy: Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) on the economy.

(c) The Papal Visit: Catholic University President and Reverend David O'Connell on what we can expect from Catholic Pope Benedict's upcoming visit.

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


II. THE WEEKEND TALK SHOWS


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET):
nothing posted as of 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 - Senator John McCain's Biography Tour and the Paucity in Haditha Investigation News Coverage.

(a) McCain's Biography Tour: How Senator John McCain's effort to reintroduce himself to the American voter is being covered by the news outlets.

(b) Haditha Investigation: Paucity of news coverage now that more charges relating to the Haditha investigation have been dropped.

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: Clinton accepting defeat, McCain's age problem.

(a) The Clinton Family: whether it could accept defeat in this primary should it come to that.

(b) Senator John McCain's age: whether his age would be a factor that hinders him from winning the general election.

Panelists are Ron Allen of NBC News, Katty Kay of the BBC, Gloria Borger of US News & World Report, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic Magazine, and host Chris Matthews.


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

Friday, April 04, 2008

Obama's Other Minister Problem

"Reverend" James T. Meeks, according to Gay Wired.

In his book "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, And The Future of Reason," Sam Harris said "the dang4er of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy."


The Political Heretic largely agrees with Sam Harris' claim but this will be saved for another day. Anyone who wants to see where we are going should read his book or Christopher Hitchens' book "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."

True belief requires the suspension of reason in matters concerning belief and our knowledge of the world and seek guidance from those whose knowledge, intellectual acumen and sense of morality are highly questionable.

He does not believe, however, that Obama's associations with Meeks or Wright is damning. One can associate with or work with a person on any given issue or for any particular reason while agreeing to disagree on other matters. Think again, of the cafeteria Catholic and those church pews. How many Catholics really practice natural birth control? A link must be made between Obama's association with these perverse religious leaders and his voting record. No such link would be found on matters concerning abortion rights and gay rights.

The Political Heretic leaves you with the rest of Harris' excerpt on the link between madness and religion.


"Jesus Christ - who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heaven - can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, an dyou can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad? Rather, is there any doubt that he would be mad? The danger of religious faith ... ."
(well, you know the rest.)

Politicians of right and left are inconvenienced by statements made by the religious leaders that endorse them and whether they agree with the statements made by these figures or not they cannot disown them without offending this (unfortunately) largely religious country of ours.

Not Laughing

“I was worried I wasn’t going to make it," she [Senator Hillary Clinton] said as she walked onto the set (to the theme from “Rocky”). “I was pinned down by sniper fire at the Burbank airport.”

Meanwhile, some 160,000 American troops wake up every day wondering if they are "going to make it."

4,000 Americans and counting died in Iraq since we invaded the country in 2002.

Lying about dodging bullets isn't funny, nor is joking about it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NATO Enlargement and Bush's Missplaced Priorities

Yesterday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided it will formally invite Albania and Croatia into their alliance but did not extend an invitation to the Ukraine and Georgia.

According to the news article, which appeared in The Washington Post, Ukraine and Georgia sought "membership action plans" which are viewed as a stepping stone for nations seeking an invitation into the world's largest military alliance. "Membership action plans" are drafted with the intent of helping prospective members bring their military apparatus into conformance with NATO standards.

President George W. Bush unwisely backed the two rejected nations' quest for "membership action plans" during the NATO summit. "NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine into the Membership Action Plan," the president said in Romania.

"Welcoming them into the MATO [sic] -- into the Membership Action Plan would send a signal to their citizens that if they continue on the path to democracy and reform they will be welcomed into the institutions of Europe. It would send a signal throughout the region that these two nations are, and will remain, sovereign and independent states."

The latter claim could only have been directed at Russia, which had been an unreliable partner for regional stability in the Middle East and the Balkans. Attributing to Russia, however indirectly, the willingness to invade a neighboring state, was counter productive. Though our interests have diverged from Russia's on Bosnia, Kosovo, NATO expansion, the breakaway province of Chechenya, and the Ukraine though we need to enlist their aid in solving the nuclear arms standoff with Iran.

We had serious disputes with the Russians concerning its diplomatic relationships with its neighbors. Russian President Vladimir Putin treated his counterparts in Belarus, Ukraine, and the central Asia as clients or puppets who ultimately looked to mother Russia for direction in foreign policy. However, Putin's Russia was in no position to maintain its hold on the Ukraine when the pro-Russian president was ousted in a westward-looking challenger.

Admitting the former Soviet satellite countries of Eastern Europe - Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria proved beneficial to the United States. Polish troops have served in Kosovo, Iraq and Iran. Romanian troops are serving in Afghanistan.

The Political Heretic did not, however, back efforts by some western democracies from inviting the former Soviet Republics into the alliance. Backing the three Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - in particular- baffled him. These countries lacked then and now the manpower to contribute any significant military forces to the battlefield.

Mr. Bush's push to invite Georgia into the military alliance was almost as perplexing to the Political Heretic. This former Soviet Republic located the Caucasian peninsula has not yet settled its disputes with two Russian-backed breakaway regions - Abkhazia which fronts the Black sea, and South Ossetia. Welcoming Georgia into the NATO alliance without these territorial disputes resolved merely invited further conflict with Russia since NATO must protect the sovereign and territorial integrity of its member states.

Ukraine's application for a "membership action plan" has some merit. It has a decent-sized army, so it can, unlike the Baltic states we unwisely invited into NATO, deploy some troops to a NATO-led peacekeeping mission. Ukrainian troops are serving along side NATO forces in Kosovo. Our needs to placate the Russians, however, require us to postpone indefinitely, Ukraine's invitation to join NATO.

President Bush desperately needs to rethink his diplomatic strategy. We need the Russian government's cooperation to pressure the Iranians to give up its nuclear ambitions. No threat to pressure the Iranians with stronger economic sanctions will appear credible without Russia's backing and we need Iran's help in stabilizing Iraq. The president's focus on enlarging NATO by inviting two ex-Soviet republics at the risk of offending the state we need to enlist in the fight against nuclear proliferation made no sense.

His failure to win their invitations spared us from a diplomatic entanglement in the Caucuses thereby minimizing the damage he did by pressing for it but some damage was already done. The Russians now know we support Ukraine and Georgia's membership into NATO.