As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

Tim Johnson and some others at McClatchy Newspapers have been telling a little story over the last week or so about Pakistan, the state of things in the unsteady tribal regions, and the upcoming elections. It's some great in-depth reporting, and it reveals just what a state that country is in.

First of all, this upcoming election is a joke. The government has banned international observers from conducting exit polls of the vote count, in defiance of Bush Administration requests. In most countries, the exit poll is a key tool for observers to determine the adequacy of the vote (but not here; of course, since we have no federal standard, most international observers wouldn't even monitor a national election in the United States). The courts will have no jurisdiction over electoral disputes; instead a handpicked Federal Election Commission will be the ruling body. Of course, there is no real independent judiciary in Pakistan anymore as it is. And the Bush Administration isn't likely to push for one, either.

The Bush administration has signaled that it will continue to tolerate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's crackdown on his country's judiciary at least until after a Feb. 18 national election.

Calling Musharraf an indispensable ally, U.S. officials have largely declined to criticize his ouster of top judges and said that questions about restoring the courts' independence should be put on hold until after the election.

Pakistani analysts said that muzzling the courts might help the embattled and increasingly unpopular leader remain in power, and administration officials told Congress this week that nothing should be done to press Musharraf on the judiciary until after the election.

"They need to have an independent judiciary, but I can't see them doing it till after the election, with all the players, including the new players," said Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher, the State Department's point man on Pakistan.

Asked if he considered Musharraf indispensable to the United States, Boucher replied, "I do."

This is of course perfectly consistent, since the Administration doesn't have much use or desire for an independent judiciary in this country. Musharraf, in the meantime, is running what amounts to a political campaign to discredit the former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, whose ouster sparked the reformer movement and prefigured the imposition of martial law:

Meanwhile, the vendetta between Musharraf and Chaudhry is intensifying. Aides who accompanied Musharraf on a trip to Europe gave journalists a seven-page dossier that charged that Chaudhry displayed "bizarre behavior" on the bench, demanded luxury cars with police escorts, humiliated underlings, denied a guest the use of a bathroom and submitted dubious medical claims.

Among those medical claims, the dossier said, were charges for "a gadget to test diabetes, contact lens solution, face masks, creams, toothpaste (and) acne lotions."

This is what Musharraf is spending his time with, while in the meantime, the Pakistani factions of the Taliban are growing stronger. They've moved out of the border regions and into Peshawar.

A disparate group of tribal armed militant groups, some of them linked to al Qaida, announced the formation of an alliance last month called The Taliban Movement of Pakistan. The 40-man leadership is from seven tribal agencies and eight bordering districts, underscoring the movement's reach. The group is thought to have 5,000 to 10,000 fighters and is growing steadily as it gains momentum.

U.S. officials are deeply concerned that the insurgency is becoming bolder and expanding faster than had been anticipated, a State Department official said.

"The feeling is that we are not dealing with a terrorist group here, but an insurrectionist movement," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "That's an elevation without question from what we've been dealing with."

There are now ties between the leadership of this insurrection and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. This new leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is apparently consolidating forces and creating a movement in the border areas. There's a bit more here.

Could this be why we suddenly took out yet another #3 of Al Qaeda in Pakistan? (By the way, it's extremely interesting that happened just after Pervez Musharraf appeared to rebuff US appeals for a greater CIA presence in the country. Perhaps Musharraf gave up some intelligence and allowed a drone plane over as a make-good). Is this to send a message to Mehsud as much as trying to stop someone who is accused of promoting attacks on Pakistan's neighbor, Afghanistan?

Of course, we know that Afghanistan is starting to spin out of control, and no, this isn't proof that the Taliban has lost. Usually, when the country becomes a failed state, it kind of means the opposite.

The independent study finds that the Taliban, which two years ago was largely viewed as a defeated movement, has been able to infiltrate and control sizable parts of southern and southeastern Afghanistan, leading to widespread disillusionment among Afghans with the mission.

"The prospect of again losing significant parts of Afghanistan to the forces of Islamic extremists has moved from the improbable to the possible," the study says, warning that Afghanistan could revert to a "failed state."

The report is critical of nearly every governmental and international organization involved in Afghanistan, including the Bush administration, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, calling their efforts inadequate, poorly coordinated and occasionally self-defeating.

So we're losing ground in the entire region, actually, with allies who are both undemocratic and incompetent, and enemies who are gaining ground.

Welcome to foreign policy in the Age of Bush.

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Yes We Can

This is an amazing music video, maybe the best use of celebrity talent I've ever seen employed in a campaign. Obama's rhetoric does have a poetic quality to it, and putting it to music is just natural. Add in the viral nature of putting the song on the Internet, and the bold call for social justice and the desire to become our better selves, and I think it's just a real gem. It also adds to the generational, creative class nature of the Obama campaign that we're seeing in recent days.

Here's a story about the making of the song:

The Black Eyed Peas' frontman, songwriter and producer known as, along with director and filmmaker Jesse Dylan, son of another socially active musician, Bob Dylan, released a new song Friday that attempts to do just that.

The music video "Yes We Can" premiered on ABCNewsNow's "What's the Buzz" on Friday. It was inspired, told ABC's Alisha Davis, by Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign and in particular by the speech he has gave after the New Hampshire primary.

"It made me reflect on the freedoms I have, going to school where I went to school, and the people that came before Obama like Martin Luther King, presidents like Abraham Lincoln that paved the way for me to be sitting here on ABCNews and making a song from Obama's speech," said.

"The speech was inspiring about making change in America and I believe what it says and I hope everybody votes," Dylan said.

It's pretty special. I don't know that the country can be collectively inspired by a particular anymore, there are simply too many media choices these days. But this is one way to gather interest in civic engagement that is completely outside the box.

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Why I Can't Support Prop. 93

Today I'm headed out to the OC for the Democratic Party of Orange County annual convention, where I'm participating on a panel about the propositions on the California ballot on Tuesday. My opinions are this:

91: No
92: Yes
93: No
94-97: No

But I want to hone in on Proposition 93, which is the term limits initiative, and what I'll be speaking about today. In case you didn't know, Prop. 93 would reduce total time allowed in the State Legislature from 14 years to 12, but would allow lawmakers to serve that time in one chamber, in effect increasing their terms in the Assembly or Senate. And it would grandfather all current lawmakers into the system, essentially giving more terms to those in office right now, particularly the leaders in the Assembly and the Senate, who would otherwise be termed out.

I think that it's important to look at this in three respects: the short-term, the medium-term, and the long-term. In the short term, the Governor, who is supporting this proposition, has outright said that he endorsed it because "I don't want these guys to leave." The charitable interpretation of that is that he has a good working relationship with Speaker Nuñez and President Pro Tem Perata and doesn't want to jeopardize that. The uncharitable interpretation is that he's already housebroken these two and he doesn't want to housebreak anyone else. I am unfamiliar with the rule whereby the Governor gets to pick the leaders of the opposition party he wants to work with, so that disturbs me. But also it's important to look at what this good working relationship has yielded: a $14 billion dollar budget deficit, endless borrowing and passing debt onto children and grandchildren, the worst prison system in America with no leadership on how to address it, a failed health care overhaul with no alternative on the horizon, and so on. The bargains between the governor and the legislative leaders, and the entrenched power of that relationship is not beneficial for the citizens of the state, either, have not proven to be all that salutary. So before we extend it, we should think about the value of a less accommodationist leadership stance that rewards the fiscal inanity of the Schwarzenegger era.

Of course, that's a short-term look, the least important, in my view. But in the medium term, the rule that keeps current legislators in office does impact the real opportunities Democrats have to make meaningful gains in the legislature. Term limits are certainly not the only reform necessary in Sacramento, or even the most important. I think eliminating the absurd stranglehold the minority has on budgets and taxes by reducing the 2/3 requirement on those votes is of paramount necessity. And the only way we're going to get that is by actually getting a 2/3 Democratic majority in both chambers. And it's a realizable goal, considering the excitement in 2008 with our game-changing Presidential candidate who will bring new voters into the process, whoever it is. I think we can get 54 Assembly members and 27 Senators by 2010. But it'd be a hell of a lot easier if we can run Democrats in rapidly bluing areas in open seats, instead of against incumbents like Bonnie Garcia and Shirley Horton and Tom McClintock and Abel Maldonado. We have a much better chance of winning those seats and getting real budget reform and tax fairness if this proposition does not pass, and those lawmakers get termed out of office.

But we're told in all of the advertising and literature that we should really focus on the long term. Never mind the back door for sitting lawmakers, this is about a better and more well-prepared legislature for our future. Well, I hate to break this to everyone, but that statistically doesn't add up. Prop. 140, which set current term limits, passed in 1990. Before that there were no term limits at all. Yet the average length of legislative experience was 10 years. That's actually pretty much what it is today. And the reason is that California has a lot of structural churn in their legislature, and for good reason. You may have noticed that politicians are ambitious folks, and in this state there are simply a great deal more desirable political offices than in any other state. We have the biggest Congressional delegation, we have enormous cities with city and county boards of supervisors that wield tremendous power, and politicians desire those positions. The idea that suddenly all the ambition is going to be boiled out of lawmakers and we're going to be able to bolt them into their seats for 12 years is frankly not borne out by historical precedent. The case of Richard Alarcon is instructive. He was a state Senator who ran for mayor and lost in 2005, then he ran for Assembly in 2006, and after just getting there he ran for LA City Council in 2007. The mayor's office, and LA City Council are very desirable posts, and they drew him out of the legislature. And that's not because of restrictive term limits. I hear a lot of talk about how we are possibly going to lose Sheila Kuehl, my state Senator, from the legislature, and who is going to carry the banner of universal health care, and this is why we need to change term limits. Sheila Kuehl is leaving whether Prop. 93 passes or not. She wants to be on the LA County Board of Supervisors because she wants to be closer to home. Nicole Parra of Bakersfield just announced that she won't run again despite being eligible if Prop. 93 passes.

Another part of this is the fact that this only extends time in office if you make the decision, at the beginning of your career, to run for either Senate or Assembly, and then stay there. Right now, 85% of all State Senators have at least 2 terms of Assembly experience and only 2 have none. That's simply not likely to change, or else you're going to have a far MORE inexperienced State Senate than you do right now.

What term limits did accomplish is it got rid of the longtime Willie Brown types, the old hands who steered the legislature in their direction and maintained all the committee chairs through seniority. I don't see how giving Senators one extra term, or 3 in the case of the Assembly, is going to fix that. You're going to have the same legislative churn as ambitious pols seek better positions of prestige, and none of the benefits of a relaxed term limit structure, which is increasing institutional memory.

Now, personally I don't think there should be any term limits. Ultimately, the only limit should be we the people. But that has to be coupled with an overhaul in our campaign finance system, so that challengers have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. I simply think there are better ways to reform the system than with something that fails what I believe should be the short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals of the California Democratic Party. So I can't support Proposition 93.

(Got through it all without mentioning leadership corruption or all the cash the pro-93 forces are sinking into deceptive ballot mailers and idiotic commercials like that one that basically goes "Support 93 or we'll get a Katrina here". Yay me!)

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Early Voting Do-Overs

Short of Instant Runoff Voting, this is a reform well worth making:

Voters in New Jersey who cast absentee ballots for a candidate who has dropped out of the presidential race can vote again, a state judge has ruled. The ruling by the judge, Vincent J. Grasso of State Superior Court in Ocean County, dealt specifically with the Ocean County Clerk but has bearing statewide, according to the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

The ballot for Tuesday’s presidential primary was printed about a month ago. Because the field of candidates has narrowed considerably since then in both parties, the ballot has the names of six candidates who are no longer running. The candidates include four Democrats, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, and two Republicans, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and former Senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee.

Under Judge Grasso’s ruling, if someone cast their absentee ballot for one of those six candidates, they are allowed to request a new ballot from their county clerk’s office and revote.

With early voting so convenient and popular, and the primaries moving at a breakneck pace, you're getting a lot of disenfranchisement and voter remorse. It's worth doing this, and if people are concerned about double voting, IRV will do the trick by giving voters a second and third choice.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Please Don't Go There

I should have added that robocalls, in addition to mailers, are where the dirtiest attacks are typically dumped in a campaign. And I really hope that the Clinton campaign isn't resorting to tactics favored by clueless racists, but Harold Meyerson (not given to irrational exuberance) reports this:

I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles this morning when what I would describe as a dirty trick intruded upon us. My friend, I should say, is a notable political figure in L.A. who lives in a very upscale neighborhood -- one in which few African Americans reside -- and is a Clinton supporter (he greeted me holding a Hillary lawn sign).

We were sitting in his kitchen when the phone rang. He answered it and looked startled. On the line, he said the moment he hung up, was a high-decibel gentleman with a very exaggerated, old style -- Amos 'n Andy, in fact -- black pattern of speech, singing the praises of Barack Obama. When I lived in L.A., I occasionally got calls that purported to be from one campaign but were actually from another, presumably pitched to the leading ethnic group in my neighborhood (Jewish), but calculated to inflame Jews against the candidate the caller claimed to support. Looks like the same thing is happening now in selected neighborhoods.

The Clinton campaign has denied this trick, which is fine. They shouldn't even think about dragging this campaign back to the depths after last night's heights. I would say that robocalls are notoriously hard to source and so finding the truth is nearly impossible here. But I do know that negative campaigning exists and that's just a fact.

UPDATE: Meyerson revises and extends.

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Candidate Watch

Perhaps a semi-regular feature. Now that we're firmly ensconced in 2008, it's time to look at the candidates and the races that will determine the spread of the Democratic majority in the Congress.

• For the first time, Al Franken has a lead in a poll against incumbent Norm Coleman. He leads 43%-40%, which this far out is a very good sign.

• Earlier I mentioned Oregon Senate candidate Steve Novick's great ad. Something's in the water in Oregon this year, because this ad, playing off a scary incident where Novick's primary opponent Jeff Merkley flipped his car while campaigning, is pretty funny, too.

• I like these candidates that are true fighters, up against incredible odds. Marshall Adame, a candidate in NC-03 against Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones, is such a figure.

Despite running as a Democrat in a strongly Republican district, Adame has the sort of military past that is appreciated in these parts. "I am a retired United States Marine," he tells me. "I'm a Vietnam veteran. I spent nine months in Kuwait right after we kicked Saddam out, helping to rebuild the Kuwaiti air force. I spent four years in Egypt with Kaman Aerospace"—a military contractor—"as their logistics leader in that country." More recently, he spent three years in Iraq working on reconstruction projects, ultimately rising to a senior position with the State Department's National Coordination Team in Baghdad, where he oversaw the work of roughly ten Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Two of his sons have served in the U.S. Army in Iraq—one was seriously wounded in an IED attack and is still undergoing reconstructive surgeries; the other is currently on his second 15-month tour, stationed in Tikrit. Now back in North Carolina, Adame has even opened his home to a family of Iraqi refugees.

Yet Adame's recent public criticism of the private security industry's role in Iraq has caused him to become the target of a political attack from Blackwater. It all began in mid-January when Adame participated in a live question-and-answer forum on a North Carolina progressive blog called BlueNC. "People were writing in, and I was answering the questions," he says. "It just so happened that the first one was about Blackwater." He didn't mince words. "There is no place in the American force structure, or in American culture for mercenaries," he wrote on the blog. "They are guns for hire; No more, no less… Private Armies represent the very things we despise as a people. Servants to the highest bidder with true allegiance to no-one." [...]

Adame's comments about the company have enraged Blackwater employees, including executive vice president Bill Mathews. In an internal corporate email, Mathews encouraged his colleagues to barrage Adame with mail ("he was too cowardly to put a phone number on the web," Mathews noted in the message). "[H]e wants this company and all of us to cease to exist," Mathews wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Raleigh News & Observer and posted to the newspaper's web site. "Do you like your jobs? Are you sick and tired of the slanderous bullshit going on in DC? If so, would you all mind joining me in reminding Mr. Adame that he is running for office in our backyard…. Let's run this goof out of Dodge...!"

Since then, Adame has been on the receiving end of "some pretty rough stuff,” he says. "I received all kinds of hate mail from Blackwater people. They use a lot of vulgarity. They tell me how Blackwater is defending America's rights, and that we're free because Blackwater is fighting for us. Give me a break! That is so erroneous and misleading. It's just totally dishonest, but those people really believe it. Blackwater is a large organization, and they have a great way of propagandizing their product."

This is the kind of honorable American who will get my support. Anyone who scares the bejeebus out of Blackwater is well worth it.

UPDATE: See also this big-picture story about Republican difficulties at even keeping their numbers in the Congress, let alone regaining the majority.

A swelling exodus of senior Republican incumbents from the House, worsened by a persistent disadvantage in campaign money, threatens to cripple Republican efforts to topple the Democratic majority in November.

Representative Tom Davis, a moderate from Northern Virginia, on Wednesday became the fifth House Republican in the last week to announce that he would not seek re-election.

That puts the roster of retirees at 28, one of the highest numbers recorded for the party in the House.

Politicians have the numbers. They're not just retiring because they want to sit on their front porch. They see no way to continue in an even weaker minority position.

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Not Wild About Harry

I felt that last night, Barack Obama made an intelligent and concrete case against mandates and for his vision of a universal health care plan focused on cost control. Then he went and dropped this mailer, which is structurally very similar to the infamous "Harry and Louise" ads from 1994.

The Obama campaign kept their hairstyles and barely even changed their clothing -- which is really quite unfair to Harry and Louise, who probably let go of the plaid years back. What's worse is that the argument they're making is applicable to any kind of universal health care arrangement, including the arrangements Obama himself will eventually have to adopt:

An "automatic sign-up," a la Medicare, would still force Americans into health care they may not want to pay for, or may feel overburdened by. Some seniors feel overburdened by Medicare's cost-sharing now. Meanwhile, Obama not only has a mandate for kids in his own health care plan -- what if the parents can't pay, one might ask? -- but he said, in last night's debate, "If people are gaming the system, there are ways we can address that. By, for example, making them pay some of the back premiums for not having gotten it in the first place." That, of course, is exactly what a mandate does. Gaming the system, in this context, means not purchasing health care. And Obama is now threatening to force them to pay back premiums. That's a harsher penalty than anything Clinton has proposed.

It's kind of a clichéd look, the couple at the kitchen table going over their bills. That's kind of why they're called "kitchen-table" concerns. I understand why many health care policy experts are flipping out about this, because Obama is using a right-wing frame against Hillary Clinton's health-care plan. But let's get some perspective. Mailers have been the attack du jour of this campaign. Clinton has dropped some atrocious mailers this cycle, the worst being the one suggesting Obama isn't sufficiently pro-choice, which is nuts. And that one had a definite impact in New Hampshire.

In addition, a mailer is not, you know, like the Nazis marching through Skokie, as Len Nichols of the New America Foundation said this morning.

Obama has the ability to make a decent and informed critique of a mandate-based plan. He doesn't have to resort to this. Then again, neither does any politician, but it seems to work so they keep doing it.

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LA Times To Endorse Obama

Again, I question the value of newspaper endorsements, but the LAT has chosen for the first time in a very, very long time. And they "strongly endorsed" Barack Obama.

With two candidates so closely aligned on the issues, we look to their abilities and potential as leaders, and their record of action in service of their stated ideals. Clinton is an accomplished public servant whose election would provide familiarity and, most important, competence in the White House, when for seven years it has been lacking. But experience has value only if it is accompanied by courage and leads to judgment.

Nowhere was that judgment more needed than in 2003, when Congress was called upon to accept or reject the disastrous Iraq invasion. Clinton faced a test and failed, joining the stampede as Congress voted to authorize war. At last week's debate and in previous such sessions, Clinton blamed Bush for abusing the authority she helped to give him, and she has made much of the fact that Obama was not yet in the Senate and didn't face the same test. But Obama was in public life, saw the danger of the invasion and the consequences of occupation, and he said so. He was right.

Obama demonstrates as well that he is open-eyed about the terrorist threat posed to the nation, and would not shrink from military action where it is warranted. He does not oppose all wars, he has famously stated, but rather "dumb wars." He also has the edge in economic policy, less because of particular planks in his platform than because of his understanding that some liberal orthodoxies developed during the last 40 years have been overtaken by history. He offers leadership on education, technology policy and environmental protection unfettered by the positions of previous administrations.

Go read the whole thing. It should be noted that, due to budget cuts, the LA Times Sunday Opinion section is kind of hidden. It's in tabloid format and tacked on to half of the Book Review section. Because of the significance, it's possible they will put it in a more prominent place.

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2007 Congressional Fundraising Totals

I've been a really, really bad blogger and have stopped my Congressional House Roundup. So here's a mini-one. I've dug up the totals for 2007 fundraising in the top races in the state, and they're a little interesting. Here are the numbers from the key races.

Jerry McNerney raised $1.065 million in 2007, has $760,000 cash on hand
Dean Andal raised $535,000, has $471,000 CoH

Charlie Brown raised $506,000, has $383,000 CoH
Eric Egland raised $141,000, has $79,000 CoH

There are no fundraising numbers yet for the new challengers who have entered the race on the Republican side, including former State Sen. Rico Oller and former US Rep. Doug Ose. By the way, Ose has donated to Doolittle's legal defense fund, along with Minority Leader John Boehner. Reformers, all of them!

David Dreier raised $599,000, has $1.96 million CoH
Russ Warner raised $380,000, has $240,000 CoH
Hoyt Hilsman raised $114,000, has $10,550 CoH

Obviously, Dreier is sitting on a goldmine.

Brian Bilbray raised $419,000, has $262,000 CoH
Nick Leibham raised $211,000, has $188,000 CoH

Very encouraging.

Others to note:
Mary Bono (CA-45) only has a paltry $219,000 CoH. Her potential opponents Julie Bornstein, David Hunsicker and Paul Clay got in too late to register any money in this quarter (sometimes the FEC shows residual candidates who have run in previous years, so I'm not certain they're running.)
Mike Lumpkin, the Democrat in CA-52 trying to take Duncan Hunter's open seat, raised $78,000 in 2007 and has $43,000 CoH.

There's not much else to write home about here.

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Friday Random Ten

The new iPod Touch features, available for download at the Apple site, make me feel a lot better about my purchase (despite the fact that I cracked the front glass and they're asking about as much money to fix that as auto repair shops ask to replace a whole windshield). With mail, stocks, maps, and notepad, it's a lot more of the features I expected in the first place. Good for Apple.

On the downside, is my Yahoo! Mail going to become MSN now?

Language Barrier - Mike Doughty
Spoonman - Soundgarden
Merry Blues - Manu Chao
Blue Veins - The Raconteurs
Sand River - Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man
Alienation's For The Rich - They Might Be Giants
The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore - PJ Harvey
Elevate Myself - Gandaddy
So Sorry - Feist
Someday You Will Be Loved - Death Cab For Cutie

It's a somewhat annoying list.

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Shut Up We're Winning

As it turns out, the myth of progress in Iraq is starting to wither, even on the terms of those who celebrate the surge. I'm talking about security gains, which up to this point had been dramatic in the last few months, but are starting to backslide.

Iraq security statistics over the past 13 weeks, obtained exclusively by The Washington Independent, tell the tale. In Baghdad, improvised-explosive device (IED) detonations explosions in Baghdad have ticked up slightly to 131 in January from 129 in December—and the last week of January is not included in these latest figures. Countrywide, there was an increase in IED explosions to 2,291 in December from 1,394 in November, followed by a dip to 1,270 in the first three weeks of January. But the week ending on January 25 saw seven suicide explosions Iraq-wide, the most since the week ending Dec. 21, 2007.

It is too early to conclude that the security gains of the surge are unwinding. But they’re being put under stress in a manner not seen since the so-called "Surge of Operations" began in mid-June. Some speculate that the insurgency, knocked on its heels by the changing tactics of U.S. forces in mid-2007, is beginning to adjust, a few months before the surge draws to a close. "I think there’s some credibility to that argument," said Brian Katulis, a national-security expert at the liberal Center for American Progress. "It all begs the question of what’s the grand endgame."

Today's double-bombing in Baghdad won't help those numbers, either.

Of course, this is all besides the point in one respect. The goal of the surge, as has been said over and over again, was to provide breathing space for a political solution. In the meantime it's very positive that less people are dying, but without a reconciliation those positive steps will be illusory, and absolutely everyone looking at this thing agrees with this. And after a few weeks of touting this obviously flawed de-Baathification law, one of the only ostensibly tangible points of political progress, war defenders are going to have to come to terms with the fact that it won't even become law.

Iraq's Presidency Council is unlikely to ratify a new law that would give thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party their old jobs back, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said on Thursday [...]

Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, said the bill passed by parliament was flawed because it meant many people given jobs after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam in 2003 would be forced out so ex-Baathists could return.

"We cannot regard this law as a step in the national reconciliation process. The spirit of revenge is so clear in many articles of the law," Hashemi said in an interview.

"It is not only me who objects to signing it, but the whole Presidency Council."

The surge is about to come to an end, and so too will much of that breathing space for political progress. And there hasn't been any. It's absurd to expect a continued involvement in the same way given this scenario. The relative success or failure of the surge has to hinge on the success or failure of the country as a whole. The data is very clear on this point. And it's also clear that this war, which has cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, is hurting our national security.

The U.S. military isn't ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don't have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.

The independent commission is charged by Congress to recommend changes in law and policy concerning the Guard and Reserves.

It can't be denied that Iraq is the reason for this. It was an unnecessary war of choice that has resulted in decreased security, lost global authority, a more volatile Middle East, and too many dead.

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La Opinion To Endorse?

La Opinion is the major Spanish-language weekly in Los Angeles. And they're talking about endorsing in the Democratic primary for the first time ever. Obama has done well in Spanish media (like El Cucuy), and there's enough to suggest that this could be the direction they're leaning in:

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's differing tones on immigration policy are said to be key to the editorial board's decision, which I'd guess bodes well for Obama. Clinton has earned more support from the Latino political class, and Bill Clinton's administration was known for promoting Latino leadership. But in recent weeks Obama has reached out to grassroots immigrants-rights organizations, speaking about his record of using progressive economic politics to bring Chicago's African American and Latino communities together.

I honestly don't know what newspaper endorsements really do anymore (and the Los Angeles Times is still out, so a split between the two is possible), but if Obama were to get the La Opinion endorsement, it could move enough votes in Latino-heavy Congressional districts in Southern California to have a legitimate impact, due to the peculiar math of the delegate selection process.

Of the remaining 370 delegates that will be allocated by voters, 241 will be divided among the state's 53 congressional districts and allocated to candidates based on the vote they receive.

But not all congressional districts are equal. Some will have as few as three delegates, some as many as six. The number depends on how heavily Democrats have turned out in the past.

In one peculiarity of the process, a candidate who wins by a big margin in one district could end up with fewer delegates than a candidate who wins by a narrow margin in another.

For example, in a district with four delegates, a candidate who wins 62% of the vote would get two delegates -- so would a candidate who wins 38% of the vote.

Obama could keep close and basically split those high-turnout districts (and I'm guessing that the heavily Latino districts are among them) and try for a majority and a win in the 3-delegate districts. They're already thinking along those lines:

Mitchell Schwartz, California campaign director for Obama, said he has a map on his wall of the state's 53 districts and has selected about 20 where he thinks the Illinois senator could pick up an extra delegate.

Schwartz said the campaign has "shifted resources in the field" to try to capitalize on the quirks in the rules. "It's different from winner take all," he said. "You can lose a state and still pick up a bunch of delegates."

UPDATE: OK, Bob Brigham was nice enough to dig up a delegate list. The LA Times article is a little off. There are only two districts with 3 delegates, CA-20 (Costa) and CA-47 (Loretta Sanchez). Thanks so much for being such stalwart Democrats and getting people out to vote, you wonderful Bush Dogs!
The target should really be those districts with 5 delegates, as well as playing for a draw in the 4-delegate districts. The heavily Latino SoCal districts run down this way:

CA-31 (Becerra): 4
CA-32 (Solis): 4
CA-34 (Roybal-Allard): 4
CA-38 (Napolitano): 4
CA-39 (Linda Sanchez): 4

Obama should be able to play for a draw there.

The 5-delegate seats are all over the map (a lot in the SF Valley, where I'm guessing Clinton could be strong; Harman and Laura Richardson's seats in the South Bay; CA-50 and CA-53 in the San Diego area, Maxine Waters' and Diane Watson's seats in South LA; CA-23 and CA-24 in the Santa Barbara region; Sam Farr's seat, CA-17, in Monterey; a smattering of seats in the Bay Area (Stark, Tauscher, Miller, Matsui, Honda), and even John Doolittle and Mike Thompson's seats.

Very interesting.

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The debate last night represented the best hopes of all Democrats, a real comparing and contrasting of ideas, where progressive policy options were foregrounded and both candidates came off well. In the aftermath, however, there appears to be a lot of movement toward Barack Obama. It may not be enough to overcome Hillary's built-in advantage on Super Tuesday. But there's definitely movement.

The SEIU state council in California, which had endorsed John Edwards, switched to Obama today. That will add a lot of organizational and GOTV muscle in the largest state. And so will the very big endorsement from, whose members chose Obama by a 70%-30% margin. There are a half-million MoveOn members just in California.

"We've learned that the key to achieving change in Washington without compromising core values is having a galvanized electorate to back you up," said Executive Director Eli Pariser, "And Barack Obama has our members 'fired up and ready to go' on that front."

Organizers said they would "immediately" begin mobilizing on behalf of Obama, leading turnout programs and phone-banking members of MoveOn in targeted states. The group made seven million "GOTV" calls for Democrats in the mid-term elections, and it has an extensive voter file database.

The decisive victory shows that Obama is consolidating support from the netroots in the wake of John Edwards' withdrawal. Obama also won the Edwards vote in Thursday's Daily Kos reader poll. He bounced 35 points to reach an all-time high of 71 percent, while Clinton held steady at 11 percent. If Super Tuesday is a tie and both campaigns brace for a protracted delegate hunt, Obama could draw fundraising, volunteers and advocacy from a united front of MoveOn, netroots activists and bloggers.

The tools that MoveOn members will be using to get out the vote for Obama are part of the new tools Democrats have in their arsenal that have been helping to drive this record turnout in the early primary states. The voter file is much improved over 2004, Internet and social networking technology has been a mobilizing force, and all of this is being used to contact more potential voters than ever before. That Obama is getting the brunt of this help augurs well for him.

In addition to "creative class" liberals, we're seeing some old liberals come around to Obama as well. Harold Meyerson believes Obama is the best hope to build a working progressive majority coalition and break out of the "politics of entrenchment," and The Nation comes out for Obama with a very interesting endorsement.

But while domestic policy will ultimately be determined through a complicated and fraught interplay with legislators, foreign policy is where the President's agenda is implemented more or less unfettered. It's here where distinctions in worldview matter most--and where Obama compares most favorably to Clinton. The war is the most obvious and powerful distinction between the two: Hillary Clinton voted for and supported the most disastrous American foreign policy decision since Vietnam, and Barack Obama (at a time when it was deeply courageous to do so) spoke out against it. In this campaign, their proposals are relatively similar, but in rhetoric and posture Clinton has played hawk to Obama's dove, attacking from the right on everything from the use of first-strike nuclear weapons to negotiating with Iran's president. Her hawkishness relative to Obama's is mirrored in her circle of advisers. As my colleague Ari Berman has reported in these pages, it's a circle dominated by people who believed and believe that waging pre-emptive war on Iraq was the right thing to do. Obama's circle is made up overwhelmingly of people who thought the Iraq War was a mistake [...]

Which brings us to the one we don't. A President cannot build a movement, but he can be its messenger, as was Reagan. Part of what tantalizes and frustrates about Obama is that he seems to have the potential to be such a messenger and yet shies away from speaking in ideological terms. When he invokes union organizers facing Pinkerton thugs to give us our forty-hour week, or says we are bound to one another as "our brother's keeper...our sister's keeper," he is articulating the deepest progressive values: solidarity and community and collective action. But he places more rhetorical emphasis on a politics of "unity" that, read uncharitably, seems to fetishize bipartisanship as an end in itself and reinforce lame and deceptive myths that the parties are equally responsible for the "bickering" and "divisiveness" in Washington. It appears sometimes that his diagnosis of what's wrong with politics is the way it is conducted rather than for whom.

This is why I'll be casting my ballot for Obama on February 5 as well; his opportunity to be a messenger for the progressive movement, and his distinction on foreign policy to not just end the war, but end the mindset that got us there in the first place.

That the race is tightening certainly doesn't mean that Obama is in the most advantageous position. This great rundown of the Super Tuesday states from Poblano shows that the best possible scenario for Obama is to fight to a draw. If so, he's well-positioned to move on throughout February (He's already running ads in post-Super Tuesday states), where the schedule moves a bit in his favor. But there did seem to be a feeling in the air yesterday as I walked around Hollywood. We'll see if that translates into votes.

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FISA Update

So last night, an agreement was reached on various amendments for the FISA bill going forward. This already was a lost cause. It's important to note that, once the Judiciary Committee bill was struck down and the Intelligence Committee bill became the base bill, it was going to be incredibly difficult to change it. We're left with a group of amendments that are set to just fail, so we can all say we gave it our best shot. Also, the debate will happen over Monday and Tuesday, when two Senators will be out collecting votes on Super Tuesday and can't possibly be expected to return to Washington. So even those that need 50 votes would be defeated on a party-line vote, and it's highly unlikely that you'll get as many Republicans as you would need. Glenn Greenwald explains in a bit more detail.

It seems rather clear what happened here. There are certain amendments that are not going to get even 50 votes -- including the Dodd/Feingold amendment to strip telecom immunity out of the bill -- and, for that reason, Republicans were more than willing to agree to a 50-vote threshold, since they know those amendments won't pass even in a simple up-or-down vote.

But then, there are other amendments which might be able to get 50 votes, but cannot get 60 votes -- such as Feinstein's amendment to transfer the telecom cases to the FISA court and her other amendment providing that FISA is the "exclusive means" for eavesdropping -- and, thus, those are the amendments for which the GOP insisted upon a 60-vote requirement.

The whole agreement seems designed to ensure that the GOP gets everything they want -- that they are able to defeat all of the pending amendments which Dick Cheney dislikes, and to do so without having to engage in a real filibuster [...]

The amendments the GOP likes (i.e., the Bond/Rockefeller amendment to change the Intelligence bill to match Dick Cheney's demands by increasing eavesdropping powers further still), as well as those that can't get 50 votes, are subject to the requirement of simple majority. The ones that can get 50 votes but which the GOP dislikes must get 60 votes. If you're Mitch McConnell, what's not to like about any of this?

The design here is to give Dick Cheney everything he wants. And in a supreme irony, if they don't get everything, they will expose the country to what they consider to be a great danger.

President Bush has put protecting the telecom giants from the laws… ahead of protecting you from the terrorists.

He has demanded an extension of the FISA law — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — but only an extension that includes retroactive immunity for the telecoms who helped him spy on you.

Congress has given him, and he has today signed a fifteen-day extension which simply kicks the time bomb down the field, and has changed nothing of his insipid rhetoric, in which he portrays the Democrats as ’soft on terror’ and getting in the way of his superhuman efforts to protect the nation… when, in fact, and with bitter irony, if anybody is ’soft on terror’ here… it is Mr. Bush.

In the State of the Union Address, sir, you told Congress, “if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger.”

Yet you are willing to weaken that ability!

You will subject us, your citizens, to that greater danger.

This, Mr. Bush, is simple enough even for you to understand: If Congress approves a new FISA act without telecom immunity and sends it to your desk and you veto it — you, by your own terms and your own definitions, you will have just sided with the terrorists.

What the Democrats should have done in response to this fearmongering is simply let the Protect America Act expire, add a patch to FISA for foreign-to-foreign communications, let the irrelevant President howl and scream, and leave it at that. But they continue to be afraid of their own shadow and backed into a corner, and now they've basically given themselves an out through this "deal" whereby a bunch of votes are taken, the Republicans hold strong on votes that even have majority support, and the Intelligence bill comes out of the Senate basically looking the same. There are a couple of flies that we still have a chance to put into the ointment, but I'm pessimistic. Emptywheel sets the scene.

IMO, there are three votes that we may be able to affect in the limited time we've got:

Get the votes for exclusivity
While it seems innocuous, this amendment is fundamentally a fight for basic separation of powers. If there are any real limits put on wiretapping, Bush will be inclined to go his own route, declare that under Article II he can do whatever he wants, and declare his ability to wiretap outside of FISA. This amendment basically says, "George Bush, this is the law, and you have to follow it." Many Republicans see this amendment as an assault on their little unitary executive theory. So it needs to be a priority.

The amendment already has three Republican co-sponsors (Hagel, Snowe, and Specter), plus Jello Jay. We need to keep the Dem turncoats (Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, in particular), get Lieberman, and get several more Republicans to make sure this passes. Some Republicans to focus on are Sununu, Voinovich, Smith, Coleman, Dole, and Collins.

Pressure for minimization
I'm not sure yet what the 50-vote sequestration amendment is, but Whitehouse's minimization amendment very simply gives a court the ability to make sure the government does what they say they're doing. This is the amendment that will prevent them from saving your data until such time as they decide that they want to use it--and the amendment that will prevent them from spying on journalists because they speak to people associated with terrorism. It is the amendment that would do the most to prevent the government from abusing its ability to wiretap going forward.

You'd want to call the same people as you would for the DiFi exclusivity amendment, as well as anyone with a libertarian streak. Republicans always support minimization in theory (because it's the only thing reining big government), we need to press them to do it in fact.

Lobby for immunity
I am absolutely pessimistic that we'll be able to reject immunity outright. We're almost certainly at least 5 votes short of doing that, and probably about 5 votes short of passing DiFi's much more conservative FISC option. But if we do our job well enough on immunity proper, than we might generate more votes in favor of DiFi's amendment, and we might pull votes off the vote for the overall bill.

Plus, we need to make this a costly vote for the authoritarians. This is about whether the rule of law takes precedence over covering up for Dick Cheney. That line might be useful in defeating people like John McCain and Norm Coleman come November.

That's about the best we can do at this point. So call your Senators because it's important. Tell them you like your civil liberties just fine and want to keep them that way. Pessimism is no excuse for inaction. Plus a good showing on this fight will be important as we head into the conference report; remember, the House passed a bill without immunity and appears pretty adamant on that score.

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So Much For That 52 Straight Months Of Job Growth

This is the surest sign of recession.

The U.S. unexpectedly lost jobs for the first time in more than four years, increasing the odds the economy will fall into a recession and making it likely the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates another half point next month.

Payrolls fell by 17,000 in January after an 82,000 gain in December that was larger than initially reported, the Labor Department said today in Washington. None of the 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predicted a decline.

They can make the interest rate negative-8, it's not going to help a whole lot.

Additionally, the revised figures show 376,000 less jobs for the year 2007, which means in 2007 the United States did not keep up with the rate of population growth.

You would think this would be the time to get that green jobs program going and start using the American innovation advantage to offset this downturn, but actually you'd be wrong.

President Bush has long touted clean coal technology as a potential solution to global warming. In 2006, he insisted that the United States is “spending quite a bit of money here at the federal level to come up with clean-coal technologies.” During Monday’s State of the Union address, Bush said, “Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions.”

Yet just 24 hours after his SOTU declaration, Bush’s Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman indicated the White House was pulling the plug on the ambitious FutureGen project, a clean coal plant that was touted as “the cleanest fossil fuel fired power plant in the world.”

Is this Presidency over yet?

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spin Alley

You might as well call it "The Lying Lounge," but I just spent a little bit of time there. It's quite surreal, all this attention paid to people who are saying the most obvious statements imaginable ("My candidate did well!"). But I sought out some of our California legislators, and tried to ask them about some of the issues outside of the debate that we talk about a lot.

• Rep. Hilda Solis: It was great to see Rep. Solis here! I wasn't aware that she was a Clinton supporter (previously she had supported Bill Richardson), and I had to look up at her sign (every "spinner" has a sign) to recognize that after she started talking to me. She said that Hillary had a good chance to explain her proposals in a lot of detail tonight, including on health care and "green jobs." I mention that she was barely given a chance to mention green jobs, and asked her what she thought about the fact that every CNN debate has been sponsored by the coal industry. "I think that's not right," she said. She went on to mention some environmental justice legislation she's co-sponsored with Sen. Clinton, and I asked her to come to Calitics and tell us about it.

• Speaker Fabian Nuñez: I didn't want to hijack the interview, but I really wanted to hear his views in the aftermath of the health care reform failure in the State Senate. Fortunately, someone beat me to it, and wound the conversation around to that. After saying that Sen. Clinton "understands the complexities of the health care crisis," he was asked about the lessons of what took place in Sacramento this week. "That was a question of our fiscal crisis. The State Senate felt we couldn't afford it, and I respect their perspective. But at the federal level, there's a way to do it in a much more flexible way and get it paid for. For all the reasons we couldn't accomplish it at the state level, you can at the federal level." I wasn't able to add the question of what concrete proposals we could get through this year. But I respect that answer, maybe because it's what I've been saying for a long, long time.

• Rep. Xavier Becerra: The Hollywood Democrat is an Obama supporter, and he talked about how to get his message out to Latino voters. He talked about how his life is an embodiment of the immigrant experience and how he has worked with those communities. I asked him about the DTS voter issue, and how to get them educated that they have to opt in to get a Democratic primary ballot, and he basically said "Yeah, we have to do that." Wasn't much of an answer there. I think this is an under-the-radar issue in this primary.

• Secretary of State Debra Bowen: On E minus-5, she seemed calm. Bowen, in her role as elections cop, is maintaining a position of neutrality in the primary. "It'll be harder in the general election," she said. I asked her, in the aftermath of John Edwards dropping out of the race, should California look into Instant Runoff Voting so that people who voted early aren't disenfranchised by having their candidate drop out. She said that's something that the parties should look into ("The Green Party would probably do it immediately"), and that it would take a good deal of voter education, too. There are studies about voters in San Francisco who didn't understand IRV and ended up having their vote eventually not count because they only filled out one choice.

Well, I made the best of it and tried to get the least lies possible.

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Debate Thread

I'm really just watching this in a big room on TV, so you're as equipped to deliver your thoughts as I am. Although, The Nation's Mark Cooper and HuffPo's Max Follmer are sitting in front of me, and Todd from MyDD and John Amato of Crooks and Liars on either side, so it's a somewhat bigger living room than yours. There are actually maybe 300 media folks in here.

Consider this an open thread and I'll check in where needed. This won't be a full liveblog.

...We are getting a live feed of Wolf Blitzer warming up the audience. He just said "I love politics." I expected him to say "I don't understand it, but I love it..."

...Someone in the audience just asked Wolf "Where's Anderson." Har!

...the best part of this debate is going to be when the cast of "No Country For Old Men" storms the stage at the end.

...People are really, really excited that the Democratic Party will be making history this year. It's not so much the money or the "star status" that drove everyone else from the race, it's this concept of making history that is so attractive to Democrats.

...ooh, there are opening statements! And Obama immediately acknowledges John Edwards. And he stresses the unity theme as well and how we will be making history in November. He still plays the past vs. future theme, however.

...It's a love-fest so far. Clinton is setting herself apart with the "ready on day one" theme, and picking up a lot of Edwards' themes, too.

...That was a good question by Doyle McManus, asking for specific policy differences between the two candidates. I want to interject that people in the crowd really like these candidates. And that tracks with what I've generally seen among Democrats. An Ed Helms sighting!!!

...Clinton's policy differences are about health care, the mortgage crisis, and meeting with foreign leaders. Obama agrees on health care, but cites the areas of similarity in preventive care and eliminating pre-existing condition. Obama thinks that cost control is more important than a mandate. On mortgages, Obama doesn't want an interest rate freeze because he's concerned that mortgage rates would go up across the board. Again he cites areas of similarity, like the lack of oversight in the lending industry. Obama cites lobbying reform. And now to Iraq. "What the next President has to show is the kind of judgment that will show we our using our military power wisely."

(I always say that it won't be a liveblog, and then I do a liveblog...)

...Another health care question. Obama distills the difference but it's kind of a fudging of the answer. I didn't realize, however, that people up to 25 could be covered under their parent's plan. Wow, Obama mentions the California plan, praises Schwarzenegger and Nunez but folds it into a general critique about mandates.

...Single payer got a bit of applause out in the crowd when Clinton brought it up. I do like that the two are pretty much touting their own plans and opening up this debate that usually sits in unread white papers on shelves. It's important to get this out in the open.

...Obama name-checks Ted Kennedy, and talks about "working together" to get health care done. There actually is a universal health-care plan, the Healthy Americans Act of Ron Wyden, that has 6 Republican co-sponsors. Obama knows Republicans will try to resist their plans, but that the process needs to be opened up. "Increase transparency and accountability to offset the power of lobbyists and special interests." There is a lot of power in that remark.

...Hillary mentions her work on S-CHIP and the Presidential veto. This will be devastating in down-ballot races in November. There is a lot of focus on coverage instead of care here.

...I have a feeling that the gasbags are going to be upset because there aren't any "fireworks." They should shut their pie hole. This is a solid spotlight for progressive ideas so far.

...Great lines by Obama "I don't think the Republicans will be a good position to talk about fiscal responsibility." "Somewhere along the line the Straight Talk Express lost some wheels." McCain's flip-flop on taxes has a real chance of being a big moment in the general election. I like that Obama shows a willingness to go after McCain.

...These moderators NEVER ask Republicans how they're going to pay for their plans. I could spend a day and go over every Republican debate. It doesn't happen. Republicans never have to be fiscally responsible.

..."We have a moral obligation to give the opportunity for health care." Obama and Clinton are unafraid to take on the tax bandit. And the public appears to be with them, based on most polls.

...Question about the impact on undocumented immigrants in the African-American community. Obama talked about this at LA Trade Tech, so he's well-prepared for this. Calls it "scapegoating." Good for him. "We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants." This is pretty much verbatim from his appearance earlier today.

...Here comes the illegal immigrants/driver's license question that we all knew was coming. Clinton backtracks first, and says that "there have been job losses in communities because of unscrupulous employers who exploit cheap labor." Talks about comprehensive immigration reform as being in the best interests of those communities who have experienced job loss. Nice mention of helping Mexico create jobs for their own people as a remedy. Truth be told it's maybe the most important one. talks about driver's licenses as exacerbating the problem. She pretty much tacked on the driver's license issue onto a decent answer about CIR.

...Obama says that immigration wasn't the most popular issue at the time, but it was the right thing to do. Cites the Illinois version of the DREAM Act. Took another dig at McCain on this issue. Wolf is dying for some fireworks, prods away, but Obama is not playing that game. Then he defends the driver's license issue, which is really a problem about a license to drive being a federal ID.

...Clinton: "I cosponsored CIR in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate." You know, I think both candidates are pretty much on the same page on this issue. Except for the driver's licenses. So that becomes the MAIN issue in the view of the media. Obama states that "she's got a clear position now, but it took a while." I wish one of them would say "This is not a federal issue, and you're minimizing the debate because you've magically found a difference."

...the feed went out here for a second, and there was a collective groan.

...Question about experience. This is kind of teed up for Obama to describe his personal story. And now, Clinton can highlight her personal story. By the way, they're both good stories.

...Apparently you have to run a business to be elected President. Because the only President with a business degree was such a juggernaut! (Clinton brought that up too, and good for her.) Obama: "Mitt Romney hasn't gotten a good return on his investment during this campaign."

...Here we go with the Kennedy endorsement. Clinton responds with her support from RFK's children. She pivots over to the historic change that we'll get from an African-American or female nominee.

...Obama talks about his new generation of voters that he's bringing in. "Part of leadership... is being able to call on the American people to reach higher." Both play to their strengths in this question.

...Drudgico goes for a question about dynasty. She asks to be judged on her own merits. Uses the "It takes a Clinton" line from the stump, and people act like they haven't heard it before. It's a winning line.

...Boy, the liberal Hollywood stereotype isn't being too goosed tonight with these constant shots of Bradley Whitford and Diane Keaton and Rob Reiner and Pierce Brosnan, ay?

...That huge "Stop the War" banner outside is from Progressive Democrats of America. It's a good segue into this question on Iraq. Clinton says that all combat troops "should" be out of Iraq within a year. She goes in to the civilians that are there. This goes into the "The Iraqis are out of time" meme, blaming the Iraqi government for the foibles of the Bush Administration. "I certainly hope" 16 months will be enough time. Obama uses the "we must be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in" line from the stump. Obama is MUCH more aggressive on McCain in this debate than Clinton. Mentions the "100 years in Iraq" comments. Obama, of course, does a little "blame the Iraqis" here too.

..."If we were concerned about Iranian interests, we shouldn't have installed this government in the first place." That's a REALLY good answer, and a progressive critique. "I don't want to end the war, I want to end the mindset that got us into the war in the first place."

...Clinton importantly talks about the need to stop Bush from entering into a permanent status of forces agreement. I wish she would have mentioned the signing statement he just signed saying he doesn't have to respect a ban on funding for permanent bases.

...Clinton: "The Republicans are committed to George Bush's policy... the Democrats have a much better grasp of the reality of the situation we are confronting." Then hits Obama on not having the necessary credentials or gravitas. Clinton does understand the "you hate the troops" trap that the Republicans will set in November.

...Obama "I welcome the progress." Of course, the progress is a myth. He comes back well with "We have set the bar so low that it's buried in the sand at this point... we are back to intolerable levels of violence." He ends up making a decent case, but it started off clunky.

...Clinton has a lot of trouble with this question about whether or not the war was a mistake. She's better at it, but it sounds like nitpicking and "That evil genius Bush fooled me!" That just doesn't play. Blitzer kind of brings up the same point. Clinton kind of doesn't answer and tries to put Obama on the same footing, which isn't the question. She's digging a hole by saying "I was given assurances by the White House." Brings up Saddam and bin Laden in the same sentence. Sheesh.

...Obama says that the AUMF in Iraq was clearly a vote to go to war. "It is important to be right on day one." When Iraq is linked to judgment, Obama has a leg up in this debate.

...Here we go with a question about violence in the media. Obama says "The primary responsibility is for parents." Well at least that's something. This had the potential to get really silly really fast. a question about Bill Clinton's role. "I'm running for President and this is my campaign and I want the campaign to stay focused on the issues." Interesting that Chelsea is there but not the Big Dog.

...Blitzer asks Obama about the "dream ticket" of Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton. "There's a big difference between those two." This is a softball. He then replays parts of his stump speech at LA Trade Tech today about how he wants integrity, independence and competence in his cabinet. That appearance really was debate prep today.

...Same question for Clinton: "I have to agree with everything Barack just said."

I think both of them came off really well tonight, with very few exceptions.

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Pre-Debate Thoughts

One hour to this debate, and the press is filing in. They've blocked off a few streets on Hollywood Boulevard, as they do for the Oscars. Here's what I'm seeing:

• The visibility outside is TREMENDOUS. There's going to be a big-screen TV outside the Kodak Theater, and both camps invited their supporters. There are duelling chants going on outside.

• Inside the theater, which seats 2,500, I expect the crowd to be pretty raucous. I think you'll see a good deal of energy that could bring something different out of the candidates.

• It's a sit-down format. In addition to Wolf Blitzer, the LA Times' Doyle McManus and Jeanne Cummings of The Politico will be moderators.

• We'll see if the twin attacks on Hillary Clinton in the press today, ABC's report about her silence to anti-union activity on the board of Wal-Mart, and what is being called Borat-gate, Bill Clinton's support for a donor to his Clinton Global Initiative to get a mining deal in Kazakhstan, will be brought up tonight. It's CNN, so I expect them to wade into the mud at least a little bit. If Jake Tapper's lunatic moment comes up, where he claimed Bill Clinton said the opposite of what he actually said, I think I'll break through the velvet ropes and jump onto the stage myself.

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Piece Of Crap Stimulus Package Coming Down The Pike

In the wake of the fact that GDP growth flatlined in Q4, and the homeownership rate has fallen down to 2001 rates, you would think that the Senate would be able to bring forward a more robust stimulus package that would actually, you know, help the people who need help, and get money into the hands of those who would actually spend it quickly. That's where you'd be wrong:

Backed solidly by the Bush administration, Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a $157 billion economic stimulus package championed by Senate Democrats, who said they would have no choice but to quickly adopt a cheaper, more streamlined plan approved earlier this week by the House.

In waving a surrender flag, Democratic Senate leaders said they still hoped to secure changes to the House plan when they vote on it next week and that they remained on track to get the portfolio of tax rebates and business tax breaks, aimed at jolting the economy, to President Bush for his signature by Feb. 15.

The Democrats also said that the efforts over the last two days to shape the stimulus package to reflect their economic priorities had allowed them to lay out an agenda that they would pursue in the months ahead, and use to bolster the case for electing a Democrat as president and widening their majorities in Congress.

The Democratic Party: from "Why We Fight" to "Why Fight" in just 60 years.

Also, note the emphasis on how they'll look to use their own failures as proof that they need bigger majorities in the next Congress. It'd be a lot easier to make that case if you actually bothered to lead now. There are a host of issues out there, from the FISA debate and holding the line on retroactive immunity to this stimulus package, and making it more of a targeted injection of cash into the economy through extending unemployment and food stamps rather than just giving cash away.

But I think you can read a lot about how the average Washington Democrat thinks in this upcoming expose by Lincoln Chafee.

The book, titled Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President, is due in bookstores April 1. It is being published by St. Martin’s Press. The Journal obtained a copy last week, and Chafee agreed to talk about it in his office at Brown University’s Watson Institute, where the former senator is a visiting scholar.

The book excoriates Mr. Bush and his GOP allies who repeatedly fanned such wedge issues as changing the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage, abortion and flag-burning. But he saves some of his harshest words for Democrats who paved the way for Mr. Bush to use the U.S. military to invade Iraq. That includes New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom Chafee says put her presidential ambitions above standing up to Mr. Bush and the rush to war in Iraq.

“I find it surprising now, in 2008, how many Democrats are running for president after shirking their constitutional duty to check and balance this president,” writes Chafee. “Being wrong about sending Americans to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, is not like making a punctuation mistake in a highway bill.

“They argue that the president duped them into war, but getting duped does not exactly recommend their leadership. Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.”

Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against prosecuting the war. “The top Democrats were at their weakest when trying to show how tough they were,” writes Chafee. “They were afraid that Republicans would label them soft in the post-September 11 world, and when they acted in political self-interest, they helped the president send thousands of Americans and uncounted innocent Iraqis to their doom.

“Instead of talking tough or meekly raising one’s hand to support the tough talk, it is far more muscular, I think, to find out what is really happening in the world and have a debate about what we really need to accomplish,” writes Chafee. “That is the hard work of governing, but it was swept aside once the fear, the war rhetoric and the political conniving took over.”

Chafee writes of his surprise at “how quickly key Democrats crumbled.” Democratic senators, Chafee writes, “went down to the meetings at the White House and the Pentagon and came back to the chamber ready to salute. With wrinkled brows they gravely intoned that Saddam Hussein must be stopped. Stopped from what? They had no conviction or evidence of their own. They were just parroting the administration’s nonsense. They knew it could go terribly wrong; they also knew it could go terribly right. Which did they fear more?”

Unlike members of his own party, Democratic senators were not getting the influence, home-state goodies, White House invites and Congressional pork that goes with being in the majority. The Democrats had learned not to trust Mr. Bush before the Twin Towers and the Pentagon burst into flame on Sept. 11.

A bewildered Chafee, seeking an explanation, turned to an unnamed Democratic senator who opposed the war but was well-respected by his party’s leaders. This senator tells Chafee “in confidence” what concerned the Democrats. “They are afraid the war will be over as fast as Gulf One. Few will die, the oil will flow and gasoline will cost 90 cents a gallon.”

They weren't worried about the costs of war, but the "costs of success." It's truly unbelievable to watch how these guys think.

UPDATE: There's talk that Harry Reid is holding up the stimulus bill for a week or so, until after Super Tuesday. A brief glimmer of hope. Max Baucus appears to be talking tough on this, particularly in reference to allowing seniors to gather the benefits of these rebates. Looks like a political strategy more than anything, however. But at least it's playing tough and forcing votes.

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Time For A Blogger Ethics Panel

Looks like we're going to hear about this zombie lie for a long, long time. Jake Tapper ran an insipid article where he claimed that Bill Clinton said "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren." I've heard Clinton at least twice say exactly the opposite in long speeches, about how economic growth practically DEPENDS on scaling back greenhouse gas emissions and building a green economy that can be an engine of growth. Turns out that he actually said this:

"And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada -- the rich counties -- would say, 'OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' We could do that.

But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world's fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work."

This is perfectly consistent with what Clinton has been saying in speeches for years. But Jake Tapper falls asleep mid-speech, somebody taps his shoulder and he wakes up hearing a fragment and decides he has a news story he can run with. It's already at the top of Drudge.

You're going to hear about this for YEARS. The new false choice that conservatives will ask voters to make is between keeping the global warming status quo or losing your job. And predictably, when Tapper was called on this foolishness, he arrogantly refused to acknowledge the error. Because he's a very serious person who couldn't possible have made a mistake.

Instead of apologizing, Tapper is now defending his egregious post by insisting that addressing global warming will in fact slow the economy, whether Clinton said it or not:

"This is the much more important issue here. Any serious effort to reduce greenhouses gases will have an impact on the economy and, initially, that impact could be negative."

Actually, the important issue here is that most journalists not only have a misunderstanding of the issues, but are perpetually convinced of their own brilliance despite all efforts to the contrary. Admitting that they're wrong is like exposing themselves to kryptonite. And so journalistic standards brush up against arrogance and intransigence. The funny thing is that, despite claims that they are objective purveyors of the facts, it's ALL personal when it comes to these guys. They'd rather peddle a lie than be seen as wrong.

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Whither Mitt?

I don't think that the Republican nomination is going to end with anything but John McCain's victory. But it's interesting that Mitt Romney is soldiering on, and more important, HOW he's soldiering on. The debate last night was apparently pretty contentious (I only saw part of it), and Mitt's new Washington is broken message may gain some traction, although I don't see how receptive Bush fans would be to that. Most important, Romney will actually buy some air time, and in California, no less. This seems like an idiotic idea, but he does have pollsters on the payroll, and he obviously thinks he can do well here. And he probably can.

People don't understand a couple things about the California Republican primary. It's winner-take-all by Congressional district, meaning that Mitt could target the San Diego market, for example, and get ads in 5-7 districts that could bear fruit. Plus, California is a closed primary in a state where the Republicans are much crazier than they are nationally. Arnold Schwarzenegger's endorsement of John McCain would help more if the California Republican Party didn't hate him. He has higher approval ratings among independents and even Democrats than Republicans in the state. Those that support McCain would have anyway, whether or not Arnold endorsed. I don't know what the situation is in Florida, but that's what California is about and I expect Romney to do fairly well. Doesn't mean he's going to win, however. I'm just happy he's spending more of Tagg's inheritance.

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Just A Thought

Who was the last President who represented the inner city at some point in his career? Obviously, the majority of recent Presidents were Governors who represented entire states and not cities, but even in their early career, I can't think of anyone. Senator Obama would be a first in more ways than one.

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Obama at LA Trade Technical College

Hey all. Sitting here in the spin room at the Kodak Theater prior to tonight's Democratic debate. The place is kind of swamped with media, and I guess Blitzer's doing his live show just outside, so there are a lot of sign-holders afoot.

Earlier today I was down at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, a community college near downtown, to watch a townhall meeting with Senator Barack Obama. A lot of his Southern California supporters were on hand, including Assemblyman Ted Lieu, labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, Congressmen Xavier Becerra and Adam Schiff, LA City Councilmembers Yvonne Burke and Bill Rosendahl, and State Senators Dean Florez, Gil Cedillo, and Majority Leader Gloria Romero. I have as much respect for Senators Cedillo and Romero as anyone in the State Senate. They have been at the forefront of taking on tough issues; in the case of Sen Romero, prison and sentencing reform, and in the case of Sen. Cedillo, immigration measures like driver's licenses and the DREAM Act (which Obama said he would sign). It means a lot to me that they are on board Obama's campaign.

After a pre-program which included all Spanish-language music (LA Trade Tech is a heavily Latino and black college), the overarching them was one of unity. The very first thing Obama stressed in his opening remarks was the black-brown divide. There were several signs passed out by the campaign that said "Si se puede." And he again talked about how he abhored the divisive tone of the immigration debate, where we "let lawmakers turn us against each other." He talked about helping the struggles of the middle and lower classes as "the cause of my life" (a pull from John Edwards?), and told the crowd that "you are determined to make something of yourselves - you just need the government to provide a little help so you can realize your dreams." The podium carried the sign "Reclaiming the American Dream," which is new messaging AFAIK.

After remarks which covered health care, education reform, relief for homeowners caught in the mortgage crisis, and making college affordable, Sen. Obama took questions. The first was about the Iraq war and yielded familiar comments; the second, about homelessness, was a completely new topic to hear in this campaign. I think Obama's answer was key. (paraphrase):

"We must build more shelters, but we also need to look at how we prevent more homeless. A quarter of the homeless are veterans who come back from war with PTSD or brain trauma, they don't get the help they need, and they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. So we need to fix that. But we have an issue with mental health services generally in this country. I want to see mental health parity. Insurers need to cover mental health the same way they do physical health. Because depression can be as debilitating an illness as a broken arm, and probably more. It will save us money in the long run, because all types of services come into play when you deal with homelessness - police, EMT, the judicial system, our jails, etc. Another thing you're seeing is more homeless families on the street, because the government has gotten out of the affordable housing business. We need an affordable housing trust fund so that people of modest means can find a place to live in their communities."

I don't think you can read the response to that question and say that Obama is somehow a Reagan disciple. His State Senate district in Chicago faced these issues head-on. This is not typically a plank in someone's platform. Politicians don't often talk about homelessness for whatever reason. But he showed an understanding of the issue and it really appeared that he would take it seriously were he to become President.

Other questions included Darfur, making college affordable, immigration, K-12 and early childhood education (which Obama stressed as very important), and the economy. Another question that jumped out was about racial profiling. The questioner was very animated about it, and apparently there was a recent incident on campus. Obama said that he was the only candidate who's ever passed a racial profiling bill, which got the support of both parties in the Illinois State Senate. Police departments learned to work with the law and believed that it aided their performance and showed areas where they needed to improve.

Unfortunately, we don't have a political system, and certainly not a political media, that pays attention to these issues. But I do believe that this is how regular people want to make their choices. They get a load of crap tossed at them about superficial issues and there's a lot of clutter to cut through. But people have real questions and real values they want to see expressed in a President, certainly more than they're getting now. If the media listened for a change to what answers people were actually seeking, perhaps they would provide them.

UPDATE: I should add that none of this more aggressive attacking of Clinton's foreign policy positions were on display today. I actually appreciated an unafraid Obama willing to go on the offense. And those differences are real. Of course, this won't endear him to his conservofans, who I agree are really only blowing smoke on Obama with the expectation that he'll lose, and then they can see "that awful Democratic Party stopped the great Obama." It is something of a trick.

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Suicide Watch

We can now put a number on it, the next President is most likely to have 130,000 troops in Iraq on Inauguration Day.

Senior U.S. military commanders here say they want to freeze troop reductions starting this summer for at least a month, making it more likely that the next administration will inherit as many troops in Iraq as there were before President Bush announced a "surge" of forces a year ago.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, will probably argue for what the military calls an operational "pause" at his next round of congressional testimony, expected in early April, another senior U.S. military official here said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and top military officers have said they would like to see continued withdrawals throughout this year, but Bush has indicated he is likely to be guided by Petraeus's views.

Bush trumpeted the success of his Iraq strategy during his State of the Union address this week. But if he agrees with Petraeus's expected recommendation, the administration will not be able to reduce troop levels much below what they were in early 2007, when Bush began to deploy additional forces.

It sounds like they'll get down to pre-surge levels and then go into a full-bore Friedman strategy until the end of Bush's term. Democrats in Congress have no strategy for any opposition, so they might as well be invisible. The risk, of course, is that a worn-down Army, which wants tours of duty to be reduced back to 12 months from the current 15, simply splinters. And that's not an abstract concept. It's revealed in this stunning article by Dana Preist.

Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside, a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who was waiting for the Army to decide whether to court-martial her for endangering another soldier and turning a gun on herself last year in Iraq, attempted to kill herself Monday evening. In so doing, the 25-year-old Army reservist joined a record number of soldiers who have committed or tried to commit suicide after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"I'm very disappointed with the Army," Whiteside wrote in a note before swallowing dozens of antidepressants and other pills. "Hopefully this will help other soldiers." She was taken to the emergency room early Tuesday. Whiteside, who is now in stable physical condition, learned yesterday that the charges against her had been dismissed.

There were 121 soldier suicides last year, and 2,100 cases of self-inflicted injury or attempted suicide. And this is bucking the historical trend.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed severe stress on the Army, caused in part by repeated and lengthened deployments. Historically, suicide rates tend to decrease when soldiers are in conflicts overseas, but that trend has reversed in recent years. From a suicide rate of 9.8 per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 -- the lowest rate on record -- the Army reached an all-time high of 17.5 suicides per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2006.

Last year, twice as many soldier suicides occurred in the United States than in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What's breaking is not necessarily revealed in Iraq but when these psychologically scarred men and women return home, without adequate medical care or mental health treatment at their service. It's as big a landmine as the next President will have to face; being handed an Army that is withered to the core, and then if he or she attempts to pull out of Iraq to save the military, being chastised by the neocon faction about hating the country and loving to lose, etc., etc.

Quite a pickle.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

E minus-6: Scheduling and Tsunami Tuesday Watch Party

I should probably fold this into what Brian wrote above, but just a little housekeeping and what's in store for tomorrow, in what should be a very entertaining day in the Golden State. I'll be at this Barack Obama event tomorrow:

Los Angeles Town Hall Meeting
Los Angeles Trade Technical College
400 West Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Doors Open: 8:30 AM

And from there, I'll be heading to the Kodak Theater for the first Clinton/Obama, mano-a-mano debate, at 5pm local time. I'll be trying to grab as many interviews beforehand and will be inside the "spin room" afterwards (I prefer "lying den," but I'm old-fashioned).

Then, Friday morning, Ted Kennedy will be out in LA stumping for Barack. I should be able to make that one as well.

But what I really wanted to let you know about is our Drinking Liberally Tsunami Tuesday watch party, at our new location:

Nocturnal Bar
2101 Lincoln (@ Grant)
Santa Monica, CA 90404

We had a tremendous turnout for our Iowa caucus watch party, and this time we're partnering with the local chapter, so it should be outstanding. Come one come all!

I'll have a lot more for y'all tomorrow.

(NOTE: E minus-6 would be SoS Debra Bowen's term for 6 days left until the election)

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John McCain, ay? Bring it the f!%k on.

I just watched Rudy Giuliani endorse John McCain, and McCain proceeded to invoke 9/11 three times in the space of five minutes. I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger's about to endorse in a few minutes. And even the dregs of the conservative movement have resigned themselves to the idea of a Republican nominee they have little but contempt for ("perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy"). Some on our side are tearing their hair out, thinking that McCain's electability outstrips our remaining candidates, and that we're resigned to failure in November.

Are you kidding? Beating St. McCain of the Blessed Maverickiana will be DELICIOUS. Let me count the ways.

The Tweety Effect - An Epic Repudiation Of The Media

John McCain is beloved by his little circle jerk in the Village. It's the main reason that conservative media can't stand him, and it's why they find him untrustworthy. A dishonest and catty group who worships access to the campaign bus and flattery and cocktail weenies, this media group will go to the mat for their man. It's like having Chris Matthews HIMSELF running for President. As we saw in New Hampshire, once the journalistic elite inserted themselves into the election, voters became immediately distasteful. They can't help themselves. They're likely to do it again. And when they do, we have the opportunity to deny them their perfect saint in the White House, their honorable man, and watch them be despondent for months.

Passing the Popcorn - The Conservative Crackup

Although I firmly expect the conservative movement to rally around their nominee, for some the grudges will absolutely continue.

McCain obviously doesn't have enough of a base problem to deny him the Republican nomination. But it's extremely clear to me that, with a field that doesn't inspire anything more than a grunt, McCain's victory is very tied to perceived electability. For a substantial portion of the Republican base, he will never be a sufficient option. And they'll be angry. And they're not likely to remain quiet. They're arrogant fundamentalists who can't brook any disavowal of their opinions, and they will continue to hurl insults, stew in their own juices, or perhaps even stay home, or support a third-party candidate from the right (though I'm skeptical). I'm all for further fracturing throughout all of 2008, particularly among the anti-immigrant section of that coalition, who are sitting by helplessly as their single issue becomes a non-factor and even the seeds of McCain's victory.

Bomb Bomb Iran - A Chance To Fully Repudiate Neoconservatism

It was no accident that Rudy Giuliani immediately ran to the side of John McCain today. They share the same desire, bloodlust even, for more wars and a more aggressive foreign policy. The platform is less jobs and more wars and the lizardoids in the Republican Party decided that they're on board. McCain is completely tied to a disaster in Iraq that the country has rejected. He hasn't met a war he didn't like. And there's a very good reason for this. His understanding of the economy is based on growing the defense budget to astronomical proportions to reward his rich defense contractors back in Arizona. See, McCain is the very opposite of a "porkbuster," he's someone who uses the war machine as an economic engine. And those are the only jobs he would create as President.

By stopping McCain head-on in November, progressives have the opportunity to completely upend conventional wisdom about the perceived Republican advantage on terror. Neoconservatism is a disease that has gripped this nation and still drives our perception of ourselves as some kind of benevolent empire. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and the sundry crises all over the world and in the war on terror are a direct result of this failed thinking. Instead of sidestepping it, it needs to be beaten, definitively, among the American people. And McCain's presence will mean that the election will still be fought, to some degree, over Iraq, which is a political loser for Republicans.

Beating Their Bench - Leaving Them With The Rotted Remains

Chris Bowers has more on this idea that beating McCain is better for the progressive movement in the long run.

Beating McCain is better than beating Romney: If McCain becomes the nominee, it is only because Republicans think he can win, not because they actually like him. As such, as long as we can pull it off, defeating McCain is actually preferable to defeating Romney. If we beat McCain, then not only did we beat Republicans, but we beat Republicans who sold out in order to try and beat us. Crushing a patsy placeholder like Romney is one thing, but crushing Republicans and conservatives who hated their nominee, but chose him because they thought he could win, is way, way, better. If we beat McCain, then Arnold is the only national Republican moderate left, and he can never run for President. In other words, beat McCain, and we not only beat Republicans, but we beat their entire bench.

John McCain is not at all unbeatable. Just as John Kerry went on a favorable/unfavorable yo-yo in 2003 due to electability, the same with McCain. What goes up can very easily come down, especially when the focus of a national campaign reveals his warmongering and his cluelessness on the economy. And by beating him, we beat maverick-ism. We beat the High Broderists. We beat Bush Dogs. We beat the neocons. We beat the Republicans right into the ground.

I'm BEGGING for John McCain now. And make Lieberman your VP; that'll make it even more wonderful.

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