Friday, May 30, 2008

Debate in Iraq

Likely Democrat Presidential standard-bearer, Senator Barack Obama, has only been in Iraq on one occasion. And that was nearly two and a half years ago, back in January of 2006. Putative Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, however, has been there on eight separate occasions. Senator Hillary Clinton has also been to Iraq on a few occasions.

Nor, it seems, has Senator Obama been to Afghanistan at all. Both McCain and Clinton have toured Afghanistan. And, as pointed out by Sam Youngman back in early March at The Hill (H.T., Ed Morrissey, below), Obama has skipped two out of three meetings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held on Afghanistan, since he joined the panel. As the Chair of a Subcommittee covering Afghanistan, he has yet to schedule a meeting.

Early yesterday, Ed Morrissey at HotAir posted a portion of a Wall Street Journal WashingtonWire blog post reporting that, while very recently traveling in South Dakota, Hillary Clinton had noted at one stop that she had been to both Iraq and Afghanistan more often than Senator Barack Obama. And, she further noted that for part of the time, she had traveled with Senator John McCain, which she described favorably. In the midst of making some campaign-related rhetorical comments about the war, she added:

"I have the highest respect and regard for Sen. McCain, he and I have actually gone to Iraq and Afghanistan together," she said. "And I honor his service to our country and his patriotism."

Responding to rather intense pressure heaped on him over the past few days, Senator Obama is quoted at the New York Times blog, The Caucus now saying that he is "considering" going to Iraq to see the situation first-hand. He likely did so because, in addition to the challenge put to him by McCain, over the past several days he has been subjected to intense pressure coming from ads being launched by an Iraq veteran's group called "Vets For Freedom."

Here is the link to their webpage with their latest ad, featuring Specialist Kate Norley, an Iraq veteran combat medic, who challenges Obama to revisit Iraq anew to witness first-hand the remarkable progress there, and also to agree to meet "unconditionally" with General Petraeus -- an obvious allusion to his controversially expressed willingness to meet with President Ahmadinejad of Iran (amongst a litany of bad actors). There are other media clips linked at the "Vets For Freedom" website in their Media Center.

Senator John McCain had previously suggested that Obama travel to Iraq with him. While Obama caved in to some of that pressure by giving consideration to a trip, he rejected the idea of traveling with McCain, calling that a "political stunt." His campaign did not explain why they considered it a stunt, but it is pretty obvious they fear political embarrassment.

By no means am I the first to suggest the following idea, but it occurs to me that Senator Obama and John McCain could agree not only to travel to Iraq, but also to hold the first general election debate there, in front of our American troops.

Each man aspires to be the Commander-in-Chief, and this would give to our troops an immediate and well-deserved acknowledgement of the high respect that so many of us feel for them as our defenders, regardless of our, or their, political party preferences or affiliations.

Certainly Senator Obama does not believe that holding and participating in a debate is a "political stunt," having participated in literally scores of them during the primary season, and having thereby persuaded a majority of the voters and caucus participants in his own party to favor his candidacy over that of Hillary Clinton. She was, after all, the overwhelming favorite at the beginning of the primary campaign season.

What greater legacy could we Americans leave to this fledgling democratic state in the Middle East, than to vividly demonstrate how politics can be a rough and tumble, but respectful clash of ideas, which we engage in in order to select our own leaders and choose our own destiny? When this election process is done, we will have selected a new President, House of Representatives, and a number of Senators, and we will move on in accordance with priorities chosen by We the People. The people in the other states in the region would likewise witness such a debate with rapt attention as well, no?

And, what more vivid reminder and demonstration to the American people could there be of the significant role our military, and others, including a new Iraqi security apparatus, have played within Iraq and elsewhere in fighting al-Qaeda terror?

Today, John Hinderaker at Powerline has outlined the increasingly serious dilemma faced by Senator Obama, as it becomes more and more clear to the American public that Obama's assessment of the situation in Iraq one year ago was simply wrong. Moreover, his stated solution -- to immediately begin a phased withdraw -- would most likely have unleashed a painful, and perhaps tragic social disruption in Iraq, and throughout the region, as well as a concomitant major setback in American foreign policy. Senator McCain's position, though bold and seemingly risky at the time, clearly seems to have been the correct prescription.

As John notes:

The problem for Obama is that it is hard to see how he can go to Iraq without acknowledging that the surge has succeeded, violence has been reduced, and the Iraqis are making considerable political progress. If he goes to Iraq, he has to meet with generals, soldiers and Marines, and they will tell him these things. But if Obama admits that we are succeeding in Iraq, he is admitting that John McCain was right all along. He can't do that.
Obama's Iraq policy is increasingly at odds with realities on the ground, and more and more voters are becoming aware of that fact. Obama can't stay away from Iraq until November. His advisers must be trying to figure out how to fit such a trip into a narrative that will hold water through the election. For now, they may just be hoping for things to get worse. But when they do finally announce a trip to Iraq, the nature of that visit will likely hold the key to how Obama intends to handle the increasingly dangerous (for him) issue of Iraq in the fall.
Neither engaging in wishful thinking, nor having his surrogates lie about (H.T. Allahpundit, here) his pre-surge position, is any kind of plan. So in a way, he might be better off dealing with the issue and in a bold way right now. Politically, Senator Obama could show some mettle by stepping right into the lion's den" on this critical issue, and agree to a debate with Senator McCain in Iraq, in front of our troops. Otherwise, he will continue being visibly backed against the ropes by John McCain before he's even officially declared the candidate!

And after all, didn't he boldly utter the title quote to David Nason, the New York correspondent to The Australian, less than two weeks ago, in "Obama's Iraq challenge: debate me":
"If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate I am happy to have anytime, any place." (emphasis added)
A wag at this point might be tempted to say, "Okay. How's the Green Zone sound?"

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Will The Democrat Rules Committee Issue A Pardon?

Updates (5), all below:

Increasingly, the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee seem to be really feeling the heat. They will be meeting this Saturday to decide the "fate" of the Florida and Michigan delegations to the Democrat Convention in Denver.

The 38-page "legal opinion" by Committee lawyers, cited in this AP article by Nedra Pinkler, says that all they can do is seat half of the delegations from Michigan and Florida. That won't likely sell. From the article:
A Democratic Party rules committee has the authority to seat some delegates from Michigan and Florida but not fully restore the two states as Hillary Rodham Clinton wants, according to party lawyers.

Democratic National Committee rules require that the two states lose at least half of their convention delegates for holding elections too early, the party's legal experts wrote in a 38-page memo.

The memo was sent late Tuesday to the 30 members of the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which plans to meet Saturday at a Washington hotel. The committee is considering ways to include the two important general election battlegrounds at the nominating convention in August, and the staff analysis says seating half the delegates is "as far as it legally can" go.

But is there a rule, or some sort of a precedent whereby they have "pardon" authority? Or, will this contentious continue to be a huge thorn in the side of the Democrat Party as they show up for their convention in Denver -- a matter that would then have to be directly addressed in a floor fight?

And, what if that floor vote is close, giving Hillary a basis for claiming that it would have been resolved in her favor, if the entire delegations had been seated?

Maybe it would not be quite as bad if this did not involve Florida!

Florida, for crying out loud! Of all places for Democrats to be charged with nullifying election results!

Think about what kinds of comments, and signs and very active street theater will become very public this coming Saturday (a veritable YouTube bonanza, one would think). And you have to believe that it will all, thereafter, be laid directly at the doorstep of Barack Obama, no?

Saturday's meeting is expected to draw a large crowd, with Clinton supporters among those encouraging a protest outside demanding that all the states' delegates be seated. Proponents of full reseating have mailed committee members Florida oranges and pairs of shoes to get their attention.

DNC officials are concerned about a potentially large turnout at the "Count Every Vote" rally outside the event and have asked the hotel staff to increase security to keep everyone safe. The DNC says the roughly 500 seats available to the public inside were taken within three or four minutes of becoming available online Tuesday.

This year seems a little like 1968, but potentially could become worse in terms of public relations. Shrill charges of racism and sexism already fill the airwaves, and could be accentuated as the public pays more attention at the time of the convention.

Almost none of the street protesters in Chicago back in 1968 were actual insiders, or party activists. (I couldn't find what was to me at the time the most graphic image of the street protests -- that of the Chicago Police shoving a crowd up against a plate glass window of the Hilton Hotel, causing the glass to shatter with the shards of glass falling down directly into the crowd.)

But spurned delegations this year could easily organize, and focus their case in a very public way.
Susie Buell, one of Clinton's top fundraisers, has formed a political action committee encouraging women to support full seating of the delegates. The WomenCountPAC has taken out ads in USA Today and The New York Times promoting attendance at the rally.
In 1968, there were a few credentials confrontations inside the hall, including an incident with Dan Rather being shoved around in the hall.

By the way, you can bet the farm that there will be outside agitators present at both conventions this year as well!

Secondly, think about some of the graphic the images of that 1968 convention, and the even greater impact that the constant replaying of YouTube clips might have had then?

Makes you wonder . . . what were the Democrat Party officials thinking when they decided -- upon penalty of complete exclusion of a delegation from the national convention -- that state parties are prohibited, before a certain date, from deciding when they may hold their own primaries?

Update: Yesterday, Roger Simon recognized the extraordinary importance of the topic -- and of the meeting in his, "Democrats Seek To Avoid Meltdown" posted on Politico. Here are the seemingly intractable issues he saw that the members of the Rules & Bylaws Committee were trying to resolve:
But finding a solution will not be easy, and one reason is that there are so many competing agendas.

First, both Michigan and Florida have mounted furious public campaigns to get their punishment lifted, saying the party really has no choice if the Democratic nominee wants to win those states in November.

Second, there is the Clinton campaign, which sees the rules committee meeting as its last, best hope to gain significant ground on Obama.

Third, there is the Obama campaign, which does not want to see the gains it has made in primaries and caucuses overturned by a committee vote.

Then, and most overlooked, is the agenda of the committee itself. It is a rules committee, its members believe in rules and that rules must be enforced, even as political realities are addressed.

There is a further complication: Not only does the rules committee have to decide what percentage of the Florida and Michigan delegations to seat (the options run from zero to 100 percent) but what percentage Clinton gets and what percentage Obama gets. Clinton “won” both states, but the contests were controversial: She was the only major candidate on the ballot in Michigan, and everybody agreed not to campaign in Florida.

Stay tuned!

Update II: The Washington Times reports today in "'Chaos' threatens DNC delegate solution" that the Obama campaign is now openly accusing the Clinton Campaign of trying to create a chaotic atmosphere over Saturday's Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington, with Obama campaign manager, David Plouffe calling it an attempt by the Clinton forces to "create chaos."

Supporter and former Bill Clinton activist, David Wilhelm, said the risk was the creation of a "circus" atmosphere.

In what appeared to be a veiled threat, Plouffe also suggested that the Obama campaign could quickly retaliate by generating "tens of thousands" of counter-demonstrators. That sounds like an unhelpful bluff if, as they say, the avoidance of a circus atmosphere is their goal. But, maybe down deep that is what they all want -- a way to let off steam at one another.

Is that the "Entrance of the Gladiators!" we can hear? Or, for those who might prefer a French version of some clown music.

From the Washington Times story:
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said his boss is being charitable by compromising for some seating of the Michigan and Florida delegations even though those states broke party rules by holding their primaries too early.

"We don't think it's a helpful dynamic to create chaos," Mr. Plouffe told reporters in advance of Saturday's daylong hearing to resolve the disputed contests.

He characterized the planned protests as "a scene" and "a spectacle" while Obama supporter David Wilhelm, who ran Bill Clinton's campaign in 1992, said the protesters risk turning "this thing into a circus."

Mr. Plouffe argued that the campaign has considerable support in the Mid-Atlantic region - Mr. Obama swept the Feb. 12 primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia - and said with the simple "click of a mouse" the campaign could generate "tens of thousands of people" to rally for the Obama cause.

Perhaps in a show of unity they could get together afterward and sing us the refrain from the old circus song!

We are Clowns Now

We are all clowns today
We are all clowns today
Hey Ho the derry O!
We are all clowns today

Update 3: Now, who would have guessed, at least according to Sam Stein at the Huffington Post, that Lanny Davis would volunteer to take the lead . . . and lose his cool?

UPDATE 4: More here from Dan Balz at the WaPo. The Clinton campaign was incensed by the way the Committee determined the Michigan delegate votes were to be split, with Hillary getting 34.5 and Obama getting 29.5.
"This motion will hijack -- hijack -- remove four delegates won by Hillary Clinton," said Harold Ickes, who oversees delegate operations for the Clinton campaign and is also a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee. "This body of 30 individuals has decided that they're going to substitute their judgment for 600,000 voters."

Arguing that the Michigan compromise "is not a good way to start down the path of party unity," Ickes warned that Clinton had authorized him to note that she will "reserve her rights to take it to the credentials committee" later. Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson later affirmed that Clinton will reserve her right to challenge the outcome.
The New York Times, per Katharine Q. Seeyle and Jeff Zeleny, reports today that the net gain in committed convention delegates for Clinton was 24, leaving the difference between the two at "about 176 delegates." The story details much of the divisive back and forth among attendees in responding to committee actions or proposals. The following occurred when an Obama member proposed splitting the Michigan delegates evenly between the two:

At that point, Tina Flournoy, a Clinton adviser and member of the rules committee, said Mr. Obama’s proposal essentially called for overriding the will of the voters.

"What is being proposed here is that you go into a voting booth and at some point later down the road, someone decides that your vote is for someone else," she said. "If we’re going to do that, let’s cancel 2012, and let’s divide all the delegates in all the states."

Party unity? Read the whole account.

Update 5: John Hinderaker at Powerline posted a piece on the demonstrations late yesteday entitled, "Recreate '68" noting the potential for similarities. In particular, watch the embeded video which gives a good taste of the strong feelings of many of Hillary Clinton's supporters demonstrating outside the Rules Committee hearing. You can also find the clip here on YouTube. Note who this woman from California says she'll vote for if Hillary is not the nominee. (Hint: It's not Obama.) Those strong feelings can only have been amplified by her victory in Puerto Rico, announced earlier this afternoon.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

The dogs urgently awakened me early this morning, so I took them out for a short walk. What a beautiful day here in western New Jersey, up on a hill in rural Hunterdon County, near the shores of the Delaware River.

Having stepped into a little wooded area across the way, one of the boys was permitted to take a short walk off the leash. Shhhhh . . . don't tell! In New Jersey, it's a technical violation, you know.

He's a fox hound. And he used to be the fastest boy in town, along with having the baying voice of a canine Pavarotti.

However, now in his early teens (the human kind) he stays pretty close to the bowl. Oh, the voice is still there. Believe me! But the wander lust, that scent-driven intensity of the hound at full throttle, has abated just a bit. Sometimes, he will actually come to me when I call him. And promptly, too.

So, he was sniffing around scratching the ground taking care of his morning business when I was given the whimpering "alert" by one of the others. I looked up, and no more than 50 feet away from us was a mid-sized doe. Pretty as could be, she was haltingly curious about us, alternately inching toward us, then stopping and staring, and then gingerly stepping in our direction again, glancing down with each step at the branch strewn and leafy ground.

In animal and human terms, it was an absurd moment . . . almost as if her odd curiosity was being driven by some unseen hand. It couldn't last.

I guess picking up on the peculiarity of the moment, I matter-of-factly turned and told the youngest one -- who had voiced the initial whimpering alert -- that we were not going to give chase, and that he should just let her be.

Normally, comments like that are utterly futile gestures, especially when it comes to him, just as they were for the older boy a few years ago. But today he seemed to understand. Oh, he whined and yipped a little bit. But he didn't launch into his usual full voice when some foreigner, some stranger suddenly intrudes into our little world. The deer hesitated. Then, she finally seemed to come to her senses. She blinked her eyes, and they flashed, reflecting that clear moment of recognition. "These are not friendlies," her eyes seemed to say. And then she quickly turned to scurry away.

It was a moment . . . just a moment. And for some reason that I will never understand, all of the key actors had independently chosen not to engage. That was it. Our group happily turned and we headed for home. It was time for breakfast.

Life is good.

We quietly walked back through the cemetery, with flags fluttering here and there in respectful recognition of all those brave souls who served this wonderful nation, each one back in their day.

Some of them fell while serving. Others returned home to live out their lives in their own measure. But almost every single one of them, on at least one occasion, experienced a brief moment when they knew their very life was on the line for something other than just for themselves. Many of them experienced those moments more than once. Some paid a very harsh price, either physically or otherwise. And some are still paying that price. A few made what we call the ultimate sacrifice. Most, however, thankfully returned to rejoin us. It is those fallen that we honor on Memorial Day.

Should you come across a veteran this weekend, this lovely Memorial Day weekend, please take a second to thank him or her for their service on our behalf.

I know. It's not Veteran's Day. Come Monday, it will be Memorial Day. We used to call it Decoration Day, and it used to be on May 30th, no matter what day of the week it fell on. The idea, which began right after the Civil War, was to remember the fallen -- those who gave their lives while serving on our behalf.

But please trust me on this one. Find a veteran and tell him or tell her that you appreciate their sacrifice, and that you are thinking of those who gave their lives in the service of our nation. And please, do it especially if you know, or if you should happen to come across a veteran who is having a tough time of it. What the heck, you could visit a veteran's hospital and talk to a few of them, no?

Just put your hand on their shoulder, look 'em right in the eye and say, "Thank you for serving our country." And tell them that this Memorial Day you'll be thinking of those who lost their lives while serving our nation.

It won't feel odd, or absurd as some moments do. It will feel right. I promise you that the memory of that moment will not be lost on them, or on you . . . ever.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Who Woulda Thunk?

Even as recently as 24 hours ago, who would have thought that President George Bush would prove to be, at least for the moment, John McCain's most effective campaigner? When you can get Joe Biden to go "off his meds," forcing him to retreat to "malarky," you just have to smile.

Like Glen Reynolds, who himself had "a fun take" on the issue, I must say, "Heh!"

I'm waiting for someone -- anyone in the MSM to acknowledge that, for his comments, Bush received a "Standing O" from the entire Knesset. Even Fox News channel played only a few seconds of the applause following the comment. And in their story, CNN arbitrarily cut it off at the end of his comment -- they played none of the applause track at all.

(Update: 05/16)

If you watch the entire video posted at ABC, you can see that that deliberate CNN edit actually distorted the coverage of his speech.

Here is the original ABC News blog post by Ed O'Keefe at Political Radar, which linked to the video of Bush's remarks to the Knesset. There are over 1,500 comments on that post at the ABC website already.

Fom a political perspective, Obama and Biden were not the only dupes here. Nancy Pelosi also promptly hoisted herself on her own petard with her fustian comment (also posted about at The Crypt) calling Bush's remarks "beneath the dignity of the office." That, of course, only served to remind everyone of her looking silly in Syria, wearing that babushka-style burqa . . . or was it a hijab?

And John Kerry jumped in as well. Last night Fox showed a clip of him claiming that Republicans were trying to "raise the flag and waive fear . . ." whatever that means. Hillary also chimed in that the remarks were "offensive and outrageous" apparently oblivious of the very warm reception those remarks received in the Knesset. And, coincidentally that is the exact same phrase she used recently to describe the comments of Jeremiah Wright.

Today Obama himself continued to show his defensiveness over being politically snookered.

Fox News Channel reports that Obama is trying to go on the offensive in South Dakota by accusing both the President and McCain of "fear-peddling" and "exactly the kind of appalling attack that’s dividing our country and that alienates us from the world."

Again, neither he nor Hillary nor any of the critics make any mention of the warm applause and the "Standing O" Bush received in the Knesset for his remarks.

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