Friday, February 29, 2008

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

More dirty tricks from the Clinton camp in Texas.

Hey, if you're way behind in the polls, you can just cry foul about the rules months after you should've already known about them, right? You can just sue your opponent into defeat, right? Right?

Hillary Clinton has become the latter-day girl who cried wolf. Eventually people will just stop listening.

"An Absolute Oyster Carnival"

There's a crisis in America right now. Are you prepared?

(Bonus fun: search "there's a crisis in America" on Google and take a look at what comes up. Apparently we've got quite a few crises on our hands at this very moment.)

Al-Qaeda's Playbook?

Now that we are well into the primary season, we are beginning to hear the presumptive nominees of both parties -- at the time of this writing, these would be Sen. John McCain on the Republican side, and on the Democratic side, somewhat more tentatively, Sen. Barack Obama, who has eked out a relatively small but growing delegate lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton -- speak about the way forward in Iraq. In order from (the political) left to right, Sen. Clinton has pledged herself to a withdrawal of troops beginning within 60 days of her assuming the Oval Office, Sen. Obama has called for a withdrawal of troops beginning 12 to 16 months after the start of his first term, and Sen. McCain has somewhat controversially insisted that we should be prepared to have troops in Iraq for 100 years if necessary.

Sen. Clinton's plan is political suicide looking forward to the general election. Ironically enough for the candidate often labeled a "centrist" (debatable, in my opinion), she has staked out the most liberal position on the war of the remaining candidates, having tacked left over the course of the primary in a likely attempt to placate the anti-war wing of the Democratic electorate, who have criticized her for being "too centrist." (Only in such partisan circles as this would such a criticism be considered anywhere near substantive.) Or, perhaps, if you interpret this as I do -- and, admittedly, as the anti-war wing probably doesn't -- it could be read as a criticism of her inability to move past her poll-driven triangulation brand of "centrism," in which case it seems rather fitting.

Sen. Obama's plan is by no means perfect, though it seems to be best balancing the opposing parties in the Iraq debate. Though Sen. Obama had seemed to tack disturbingly to the left on the issue after originally refusing to commit to a withdrawal within the first 12 months in the White House, he seems now to have returned to a more pragmatic stance. While I believe the decision to begin withdrawal must take into account a wide range of unpredictable and constantly-fluctuating variables on the ground in Iraq -- and therefore accept that a pre-surge level of American troops may be in Iraq for some time yet -- I also realize that our presence in Iraq cannot be sustained indefinitely. I believe that Sen. Obama has the pragmatic temperament necessary to properly take into account the advice of the brass in any decision on withdrawal. (Full disclosure: As I have noted before, I am an Obama supporter.)

As for Sen. McCain, while I respect his service to this country as both a soldier and a legislator, as well as his foreign policy bona fides, I can't bring myself to wholeheartedly agree with his full-throated endorsement of the "stay-the-course-for-as-long-as-it-takes" strategy. And while I can understand and appreciate his point that the surge has made definite and significant security progress, and that an overly-precipitous withdrawal would all but certainly plunge Iraq into chaos once more, I fear that he will all too easily exaggerate the point into the same sort of fearmongering that has previously hamstrung the debate over Iraq. I hope he proves me wrong on this account.

However, all these plans seem to gloss over, or perhaps even remain ignorant of, the nature of how Iraq fits into the war on terror. Here's my take on things.

9/11 was the opening salvo of the jihadists' "war on us." Perhaps the reason there hasn't been another attack is because they were intelligent enough to realize that they only had one chance to launch a Pearl Harbor-style attack once before ramped-up security in the U.S. would make it infeasible to attempt another grand assault. Hence, they shifted their attention to a new ploy, perhaps the only one that would allow them to prevail against the U.S. monolith. That strategy is essentially to bleed us out, Vietnam-style -- hence, the deceptions by supposed "informants" and other debacles that led us into Iraq.

Simply by having drawn us into an untenable occupation and "forcing" a withdrawal, al-Qaeda can, on behalf of all jihadists worldwide, plausibly claim to have defeated the United States, no matter how prudent or prolonged our withdrawal is. And no matter how ridiculous the extremists' claims seem to the American public, even the most prudent and orderly withdrawal will give the extremists -- who are, by all estimates, currently winning the information war -- all the material they need to spin our valiant efforts in Iraq into propaganda that will sending terrorist recruiting numbers off the charts. While efforts to regain the initiative in this crucial other half of the war on terror are slowly coming around, we still have a way to go. Victory in this conflict is absolutely possible, and indeed all but certain, if we merely change the terms of the debate and our priorities. All we need is a president who tells it like it is.


Perhaps conservatives should re-examine recent history before playing up the "cult of personality" meme against Obama too much:

Yes, Obama gets his crowds swooning. So did Reagan. It's laughable to hear conservatives talk darkly about a "cult of personality" around Obama. The Reaganites, after all, have lobbied to name every airport, school, library, road, bridge, government building and lamppost after the Gipper. When it comes to personality cults, the right wing knows what it's talking about.
I would hesitate to accuse Obama supporters and Reagan fans alike of being members of a personality cult -- not least because I can find something to like about both Obama and Reagan -- but I do think it would be spectacularly unwise of McCain and/or the RNC to try to foist this meme off on the public. What with conservatives today still constantly jockeying to proclaim themselves heir to his legacy, I can't fathom them attempting such a hypocritical attack, but I'm not sure I can put it past them nevertheless.

Matchbox Twenty at the White House

A strained reference, perhaps, on the part of TNR's Jonathan Chait, but his analysis of a recent -- and somewhat odd -- Hillary ad (link in Chait's post) is sound. But the money quote, I thought, was actually in the comments section, from reader "williamyard":

I hope Hillary and Obama and all the rest of them are up at 3 a.m., too, but not for anything prosaic like thwarting a dirty bomb explosion or rousting FEMA to clean up after the latest spate of tornadoes. I hope they get up to go out to look at the sky, listen to the barks of far-off dogs or coyotes, and catch the cat staring at them and say, out loud, "I have no idea."

Imprisonment Nation

Some frightening -- and saddening -- figures about the U.S. prison system.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why I Support Obama - The Emotional Response

Derrick from the previous video has a follow-up response, detailing some more of the less wonky reasons he supports Obama, which he did not get the chance to express in that prior video. He's a certainly a compelling speaker with a unique background, and I think he'd make quite the Obama surrogate. Someone in the Obama camp should look into that. (Anyone out there with contacts? Anyone?)

Side note: I realize I've been off my blogging game for a is killer, as usual. Nevertheless, I'm planning on putting my aforementioned plans to revamp the posting format into action now, so look for shorter Sullivan-type updates on items of interest to appear soon. Like Andrew, I'll punctuate those smaller posts with the occasional lengthier post or possible essay on a particular topic. Thanks for sticking with me through my various periods of inactivity -- I'm workin' on it!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Why I Support Obama

I've had a post on my own case for Obama in the works for some time now, but frankly, Derrick here explains it much better than I could:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Right's Gone Mad

First Ann Coulter, now Rush Limbaugh! What is this world coming to? Andrew Sullivan's got the goods:

"[Obama and Clinton] are not going to surrender the country to Islamic radicalism or the war in Iraq. They are not going to do that to themselves, despite what their base says. The idea that we've only got one person in this whole roster of candidates, either party, who is willing to take on the war on terror is frankly, absurd," - Rush Limbaugh today. If McCain were the nominee, could Rush back Obama in the fall?
It's a nice thought, but somehow I doubt it. Then again, I never thought Ann Coulter would ever have anything nice to say about Hillary Clinton, so maybe I won't write off Rush quite yet...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stamp-of-Idiocy #4: Ann Coulter Thinks McCain Is Second Coming of Stalin, Will Create United Socialist States of America

I'm just going to let this video speak for Ms. Coulter's severe case of McCain Derangement Syndrome itself:

Selected quotes from the video:
"Either way, it's going to be a Democrat. I'll be going for the more conservative Democrat if I vote for Hillary over John McCain."
That kind of lunacy doesn't even merit a response.
"And if you look at the issues...McCain has not only voted for, I mean, he opposed Hillary Clinton for voting for bills McCain was championing and promoting, like amnesty -- and don't tell me it's not amnesty when you're, when you're allowing 20 million illegals stay here and immediately begin collecting Social Security [benefits] -- as John McCain not only championed and promoted, but will not back away from now."
In the first place, Ms. Coulter has her numbers wrong. The estimated number of illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States is not 20 million, but rather about 12 million, as the Pew Hispanic Center and the GAO have estimated. 12 million is, of course, still a substantial number, but overestimating that figure by over eight million is a significant error at best, and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts at worst. Ms. Coulter is again guilty of misleading her audience with the Social Security remark; nowhere in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 to which Ms. Coulter undoubtedly refers is there a provision for illegal immigrants to "immediately begin collecting Social Security [benefits]." The so-called "Z visa" that the bill would have created and issued to all illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. as of January 1, 2007 would have merely provided these Z-visa holders access to a Social Security number. In fact, far from being some sort of deplorable offense, I would think this provision would be a positive in the eyes of conservatives, as it would allow the federal government to track these individuals and, more importantly, tax them. Granted, I can understand conservatives' deep disapproval of allowing these 12 million to stay -- though I don't agree with their feelings on the subject -- but whether they like it or not, there really is no practical alternative to letting them stay. After all, none of the Republican immigration hardliners told us exactly how they planned on deporting 12 million people. (Can anyone say "police state"?) Besides, 12 million tax returns is 12 million tax returns no matter how you look at it.

But the money quote of the piece has got to be this response Ms. Coulter makes in response to Mr. Cavuto's question about what has her so irritated:
"It is, it is, John McCain, who, um, claims he'll be tough on terrorism, but he's very upset that we're dropping water down the noses of terrorists."
"Dropping water down the noses of terrorists"? I wonder if Ms. Coulter has heard the accounts of CIA agents and other government and military officials -- loyal Americans whose credentials I would be interested to see Ms. Coulter attempt to impugn to defend her pro-torture position -- who have voluntarily subjected themselves to waterboarding under controlled conditions in order to conclusively determine if it is, in fact, torture. They all report the same phenomenon: they are so genuinely and involuntarily terrified of drowning and death that they crack within seconds. Though it leaves no marks, the physical and psychological pain that waterboarding inflicts unequivocally qualifies it as torture, a practice that yields very little, if any, useful information, and which the ideals of our nation and its founders place us above. I don't suppose Ms. Coulter would be willing to participate in a similar "experiment" in order to lend her position more credence against the accounts of these brave and patriotic men.

This kind of polemic isn't just par for the course for Ms. Coulter; you know you're on a roll when even Neil Cavuto has to say, "You're insinuating things that we don't know are true." And, "You know, I've always wondered where Ann Coulter was coming from, but I think I've got a better idea now."

I'm with Bill Maher on the subject of Ms. Coulter's vitriol: I'd think she was an incredible satirist if I thought she didn't actually believe this nonsense.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hillary Clinton Is Finished

And this is why:

There are no words.