Biden

Wow. You don’t often see a Democratic presidential candidate booed on the Daily Show. Beyond today’s flub mister foreign policy experience’s big idea appears to be to partition Iraq and then leave. Great idea. Who gets Baghdad? Kirkuk? Then there’s the minor problem of the Turkish and Iranian armies racing to occupy Kurdistan. I would rate the president’s surge plan as slightly less demented, and my readers should know that I don’t say that lightly.

If Biden somehow, improbably, hangs on until the non-competitive PA primary I will relish voting against him.

***Update***

Obama. Ouch.








Molly Ivins, RIP

She’ll be missed.








When He Was Five, He Promised To Only Use His Laser Vision For Good

You guys need something to talk about. How about more Barack Obama!

Mark Schmitt picked up an article that isn’t exactly piping fresh (1995?) but it does give some useful insights into Obama’s background. I won’t excerpt it because I’m a very lazy blogger the whole thing is worth a read.

Before anybody accuses me of being on someone’s payroll, I was a Clark guy in ’04 and remain officially agnostic about the ’08 race. Given the strength of our field this year I will probably stay that way even after Gen. Clark eventually decides to get off his duff and announce.

But hey, equal time. John Edwards picked up Balloon Juice fave Amanda Marcotte, Hillary Clinton needs a better joke writer and the only reason that Joe Biden’s presidential hopes aren’t worse off today is because you can’t subtract from zero*.

(*) Yes Demi, I mean excluding negative numbers.








Open Thread

Sorry for the lack of posting, I am occupied with other matters. Thank goodness for Tim.

I did make a long and snide post attacking the usual suspects for their feeble attempt to smear Lara Logan and CBS news, but my computer ate it. I leave you to imagine what I might have said.








Out Of Iraq

If I had to pick which ’08 candidate would be the first to the post with a bill that unflinchingly mandated an exit deadline from Iraq, I’m not sure that I would have guessed Barrack Obama. Wasn’t he supposed the be a centrist?

The Illinois senator introduced a bill to force the redeployment under law, but that’s unlikely while Bush is president. Still, Obama said he’s taking Bush up on his challenge to critics to offer alternatives.

Obama’s bill would cap troop levels in Iraq at the early January level of around 130,000, when Bush announced he would send 21,500 additional U.S. forces to Iraq. It would require that troops begin coming home on May 1 with the goal of removing all combat brigades by March 31, 2008.

[…] Obama said troops should be sent to three locations – home to the United States, in countries around Iraq to prevent regional conflict and to Afghanistan, which he said is in danger of falling back to the Taliban.

The bill also would place conditions on economic aid to Iraq and would allow for a temporary suspension of the redeployment if the Iraqis meet security, political and economic benchmarks.

Kevin Drum is unimpressed, making this the second Obama proposal that left him cold. Jason Sigger, an arms control and CBRN warfare expert, disagrees:

Obama is creating a carefully crafted congressional bill that could actually succeed because 1) it doesn’t screw with the president’s commander-in-chief responsibilities, 2) exercises Congress’s actual responsibilities to participate in foreign policy and national security matters, and 3) counters the president’s (and Republican party’s) claims that there is no reasonable alternative to “staying the course.” It just might work. It at least showcases Obama’s leadership abilities in the Senate. I like it.

On the balance I find Sigger’s perspective more compelling. Between the filibuster and the veto Obama’s bill will never see the light of law, but it probably doesn’t have to. I doubt that was even its intended purpose, although it seems well enough written not to bite anyone in the ass if it defies probability and passes. Rather, think about Obama’s unique position in the Democratic party. Excluding non-candidates like Joe Biden Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton are the two centrists in the race, but unlike Hil Sen. Clinton the press doesn’t hate him. As of now anyway the press practically eats out of his hand. Obama’s unflinching endorsement will make it much harder for pundits to tar other pro-pullout Dems as extremist, unserious &c. On two important issues now he’s carrying the banner and, as far as I’m concerned, he is carrying it in the right direction.

I don’t know how much of this effect comes from Obama’s politics and how much comes from his undeniable charisma. It’s possible that as the campaign drags on and he defines himself in more detail the effect won’t last. But for now Obama seems to not so much move to the center as redefine it and make it a place where people want to be. That can provide tons of cover for allied politicians, and for the opposition party that’s a real problem. That should help explain why more than any other pol in the ’08 race the rightwing noise machine has gone out of its way to to define Obama on its own terms.

***Update***

How do you deal with FOX News’s complicity in the stupid madrassa smear? Freeze ’em out. Smart move.








George Deutsch Lives

Surprise.

WASHINGTON — The Democratic chairman of a House panel examining the government’s response to climate change said Tuesday there is evidence that senior Bush administration officials sought repeatedly “to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming.”

[…] Two private advocacy groups, meanwhile, presented to the panel a survey of government climate scientists showing that many of them say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming.

The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to “global warming” or “climate change” from a report.

Gosh, appointees are quashing politically incorrect science. Try to hide your shock.

But should I trust these numbers? Unlike the Grand Canyon nutjobs (please don’t send any more PEER press releases, thanks) the Union of Concerned Scientists is an actual organization with actual credibility. So yes. Unless someone borrowed their title it seems clear that some individuals, like their once and future bosses in the private sector, have been busy thumbing the scales.



Tiptoeing Around Persia

We seem to have created quite a mess of the middle east. Beyond the literal disfigurement of Iraq, take a moment to survey the dead and dying remnants of our geopolitical interests in the region, not least typified by the staggering degree to which we have set ourselves back and pushed forward the interests of Iran. Read this from today’s Washington Post to get a sense of which way friendly Arab governments sense the wind blowing:

Kuwait rarely rebuffs its ally, the United States, partly out of gratitude for the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But in October it reneged on a pledge to send three military observers to an American-led naval exercise in the Gulf, according to U.S. officials and Kuwaiti analysts.

“We understood,” a State Department official said. “The Kuwaitis were being careful not to antagonize the Iranians.”

Four years after the United States invaded Iraq, in part to transform the Middle East, Iran is ascendant, many in the region view the Americans in retreat, and Arab countries, their own feelings of weakness accentuated, are awash in sharpening sectarian currents that many blame the United States for exacerbating.

Where is Iran’s regional competitor? Gone, hung by a Sadrist mob. Rather than shoring up its western front Iran now concerns itself with establishing banks and augmenting their already-strong relationship with the new leaders through guns and training. Whether or not those Iranian IEDs have any basis in reality it appears that Iran has every intention of filling the power vacuum when American troops leave. The alliance doesn’t even need to be clandestine or hidden like our administration alleges, just an out-in-the-open, chummy military partnership between friends. Israel willl no doubt be thrilled.

The sad part is the utter non-inevitability of all of this. No reason in the world compelled us to invade Iraq. Even then the Iranians made unambiguous efforts to normalize relations with the U.S., apparently in perfectly good faith (1, 2, 3), which the U.S. adamantly rejected. Why negotiate away, the thinking seems to have gone, what we can take by force? Except as it turns out, we don’t have a force anymore and our regional credibility is shot.

Brilliant minds. When you add it all together Iranian agents would have a hard time crafting a more favorable series of policies on our part. Maybe the saddest of all is watching a president who oversaw the dumbest foreign policy since Syracuse try to recover his past glory with still more brinksmanship.

As they say, if brute force isn’t working…