As you can see two posts below, I was skeptical about John Edwards's choice for announcement venue. I didn't like the backward, rub-it-in-their-face again attitude it seemed to possess.
After reading the platform and seeing the coverage, I'm softening to it a little bit... the fact that Edwards is going back to his Two Americas theme makes New Orleans a somewhat sensible choice. And the style was appropriate - we've all got to pitch in and help, like me in my jeans and workshirt - rather than an out of touch politician who think everything can be solved from Washington.
So I still like John Edwards, and I'm glad he's in the race. I'm not sure he'd be the best President, though, so I remain more likely to support Hillary, Gore, Obama or Richardson.
ps. Even writing that last sentence makes me extremely confident that we have a much better menu of choices for Pres and VP than do the Republicans.
Interesting results in the latest CNN poll of potential 2008 matchups. Gore and Clinton basically match up evenly with McCain, whereas a few months ago both would have been trailing by 10 or so points. Obama is still slightly too unknown for his numbers to matter much.
Key matchups: Clinton 47%, McCain 47% Clinton 48%, Giuliani 46% Clinton 57%, Romney 34% McCain 47%, Obama 43% Giuliani 49%, Obama 42% Obama 51%, Romney 35% Gore 47%, McCain 46% Gore 46%, Giuliani 46% Gore 53%, Romney 37%
Also notable that 52% of respondents said they would definitely/leaning vote Democratic, versus 32% who said the same for Republican.
Edwards to Announce in New Orleans, as I Roll My Eyes
Political Wire says that John Edwards will announce his Presidential run in the next few weeks, "from the New Orleans neighborhood hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina".
I like John Edwards a lot. I campaigned a bit (one day) for him in 2004 when it came down to him or Kerry (I was for Dean until Iowa).
But the fact that he is announcing from New Orleans basically typifies the problems I have with Edwards as a politician. To me, he's just too much of an opportunist... too calculated. Edwards is not from New Orleans, or even Louisiana. Okay, he's Southern, and I guess that's the point of distinction he's trying to make. But I just hate the backward focus of this move.
Obama says he wants to get away from this bullshit, and to me, that's way more exciting than one more politician noting that Republicans screwed up New Orleans and we should continue to make them pay for it.
The Chicago Sun-Times provides a little glimpse into Obama's decision-making process. His wife is apparently very worried about Barack's safety.
Indeed, someone (I think it was TIME's Joe Klein) made the parallel earlier this year between Bobby Kennedy and Obama... the way the crowds felt/feel palpably different about each of them, the way expectations are so high that they could unite the country in a difficult time.
I speculated earlier that the main reason Obama might not run is family (though admittedly the time commitment was more on my mind than the safety issue). I think this actually has a legitimate chance of convincing him not to run. He could spent a year in a half in the Senate, and then have an excellent chance at the VP spot on the ticket.
In other 2008 news, Bill Richardson continues to burnish his (very real, and very beneficial) foreign policy credentials, meeting next week with North Korean officials in Beijing, at their request. Hope the good people of New Mexico don't mind lending their gov to a little world-fixin'.
Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio says he plans to seek the presidency again.
Because his entrance annoys me, I'm not even going to put him into the odds. The Republicans probably will convince Tom Tancredo, their nut-job, not to run (see this earlier post, or at least find a way to keep him out of debates. Likewise, the same should happen with Kucinich, who mostly wastes time talking about the Department of the Peace.
As I did with Tancredo, I'm not putting Kucinich in the odds. The Presidency should work like the Hall of Fame... below 15% (let's make it 4%) and you can't run again.
I have speculated previously that if Obama doesn't run, it will probably be for family reasons (his wife doesn't seem to be into it, and he has two young daughters).
But lately he really seems to be taking this seriously - meeting top New York donors like George Soros, traveling to New Hampshire to meet the right folks - all the moves you'd expect of someone not just determining whether he wants to do it personally, but someone who really wants to see if he has a serious shot. Which he does.
Today I'd put the probability of him running at something like 55%, whereas a month ago I would have said 40%. Given that, I'm bumping up his odds from 5:1 to 4:1. If he declares, he'd probably be co-favs with Hill.
Conventional wisdom, or at least the mainstream view in the Senate, is that we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq in phases at some point in the near future, without giving an explicit timetable for that withdrawl.
I think we should do almost the exact opposite.
I think we should set a timetable, or at least announce our intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq to meet approximate percentage milestones at approximate dates, but then not actually do it. Or let those deadlines slip a little; not quite meet them as quickly as we'd like. And leave substanital numbers of our troops there for awhile.
The conventional view is that we need to withdraw, but save face. I think we need to purposefully lose face, but not withdraw.
Why do I think this? We have totally screwed up Iraq, and we can't just leave the country to demolish itself and its innocent citizens. That's not a novel view. Even more worrying to me, however, is that rather than establish a democracy in Iraq that will over time spread the ideals of democracy throughout the Middle East, I think we've done the opposite - set up a situation in which Saudi-backed Sunnis are ferociously fighting Iran-backed Shi'ites, with the potential to create an enormous Middle East war between extremely dangerous countries.
We can't just pull out. For a good argument why not, read Bobby Ghosh's latest TIME commentary (Ghosh has been reporting candidly from Iraq for >3 years) [click for full post].
But what I want to see is what happens when we announce our intention to leave. How will citizens react? How will the Iraqi government react? How will Iran and Saudi Arabia react? I don't think we can pull all our troops home without those data points, because if we do, and things go badly, I think we'll feel the need to go back.
On another note, I think it's fascinating what we're saying to military members and family members today the more we continue with George Bush's strategy... which has led to 3,000 soldier deaths. We're basically saying some U.S. citizens will die from terrorism. Better that we volunteer servicepeople, who have already accepted some level of mortal risk in their lives, to die away from home, than allow the uncertainty of something happening to unsuspecting citizens in the U.S.
What We Would Leave Behind If the U.S. goes, the Iraqis won't stop shooting. They'll still have each other By APARISIM GHOSH
What would happen to Iraq if Washington follows the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group? The group's underlying assumption is that Iraqi forces will be ready to take over from the U.S. military by early 2008. To test that thesis, it is instructive to look at parts of southern Iraq from which coalition forces have already been withdrawn. There Shi'ite militias backed by Iran have taken control, intimidating government forces into submission and terrorizing Sunnis. On several occasions Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, has had to plead with radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to restrain his fighters from killing soldiers and police--with limited results.
If the Iraqi government can't stop sectarian killing today when it is able to call on the world's most powerful military, it can hardly be expected to do so once the Americans have left. The more likely outcome is an escalation of the civil war, with elements of the security forces taking sides. The Shi'ite militias will enjoy numerical superiority and the continued surreptitious backing of Shi'ite Iran. But what the Sunni insurgents lack in numbers, they make up for in greater killing experience. Their suicide bombers, fighters and improvised explosive devices are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the 2,800-plus U.S. deaths in Iraq. And the Sunnis have friends. The U.S. has long accused Syria of harboring both Iraqi Baathists and jihadis of various nationalities who infiltrate Iraq to make mischief. And Iraqi officials routinely claim that the insurgency receives money and men from extremist organizations in neighboring Sunni-majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan.
Those countries can't afford to be seen as openly supporting groups responsible for killing Americans. But if the Americans depart, the dynamic changes. Nawaf Obaid, a security adviser to the government of Saudi Arabia, warned last week that if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, Riyadh will intervene to protect the Sunnis from the Shi'ites. In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, he said the Saudis would probably supply the Sunni insurgency with money, arms and logistical support. Quiet intervention is always an option: Iraq's porous borders are ideal for smuggling cash, weapons and jihadis.
As talk of withdrawal has gathered momentum in recent weeks, some Sunni groups dedicated to fighting U.S. troops have already begun to recalibrate their gunsights. One of the largest Sunni insurgent groups, Islamic Army, dramatically changed course last week and called on its followers to wage a "battle of destiny" against Shi'ites for control of Baghdad. Only a year ago, the studiously nationalistic and nonsectarian group vehemently opposed al-Qaeda leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi's call for a holy war against Iraqi Shi'ites.
With the U.S. gone, the intensified fighting would probably be internecine as well as sectarian. Shi'ite militias in the south have shown a propensity to fight one another, as have Sunni groups in the volatile Anbar province. Iraq could look very much like Afghanistan after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops--sectarian or ethnic warlords battling for territory, with the backing of sponsors from neighboring countries. An Afghanistan-style civil war would provide international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Hizballah with fertile ground in which to recruit, train and battle-test a new generation of global jihadis.
One set of Iraqis would be targeted by all sides: the tens of thousands who have worked closely with the Americans--as translators, fixers, drivers, cooks, clerks, cleaners and managers. Both Sunni and Shi'ite extremists have repeatedly warned Iraqis that collaborating with the occupiers is punishable by execution, and many have already been killed merely because they were suspected of working with the Americans.
Can America save Iraq from itself? Yes, but it would require giving up the illusion that the Iraqis can fix their own problems. They can't. The Americans created this mess; it's their responsibility to fix it. They'd need 30,000 more coalition soldiers and a real willingness to thrash the Shi'ite militias, something they've avoided so far. Having foolishly dismantled the existing Iraqi army, the U.S. has the duty to create a genuinely proficient new one, instead of rushing recruits through Boy Scout lessons just to satisfy predetermined quotas. It may take five more years. But if the U.S. leaves sooner, Iraq will devolve into an even bigger mess. If the Americans insist on pulling out, they ought to park their hardware nearby, because like it or not, they'll be back.
Today I remove Tom Daschle from the Democratic 2008 presidential field... he said he's not running. He was always a long-shot, last seen at 22:1, after losing to Thune in 2004, but did have that red-state Dem thing going for him. His exit doesn't really move anyone else in the race.