Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 20, 2008

Re: Re: Kurtzer, Overreaching

Noah, your cogent argument is shared (albeit in less detailed form) by Rudy Giuliani (named the Republican Convention keynote speaker, by the way). And, we can safely assume, by John McCain. In a conference call Giuliani got to the heart of the matter: you’d better be darn sure you are not being used for propaganda points (a risk which Kurtzer readily conceded does exist) before you open negotiations. If McCain understands and agrees with this analysis it is encouraging. His track record in condemning Syria’s de facto partition of Lebanon gives one hope that he has not, as I fear the Bush administration has done, lost track of or chosen to ignore Syria’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior. And the fact that Giuliani would be sent out to make just this point suggests the McCain camp would like nothing better than to add this to the list of national security differences which set him apart from Barack Obama.

Noah, your cogent argument is shared (albeit in less detailed form) by Rudy Giuliani (named the Republican Convention keynote speaker, by the way). And, we can safely assume, by John McCain. In a conference call Giuliani got to the heart of the matter: you’d better be darn sure you are not being used for propaganda points (a risk which Kurtzer readily conceded does exist) before you open negotiations. If McCain understands and agrees with this analysis it is encouraging. His track record in condemning Syria’s de facto partition of Lebanon gives one hope that he has not, as I fear the Bush administration has done, lost track of or chosen to ignore Syria’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior. And the fact that Giuliani would be sent out to make just this point suggests the McCain camp would like nothing better than to add this to the list of national security differences which set him apart from Barack Obama.

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Commentary of the Day

Chris, on Jennifer Rubin:

Speaking of the stadium already being booked, what’s the campaign’s plan for the acceptance speech? The success of the “Celebrity” ad should give them pause about having a big, splashy event, but the stadium is booked. Is there any chance that Obama won’t get carried away by the moment and not reinforce McCain’s narrative?

To quote the Magic 8-Ball™: “Outlook Not So Good.”

Chris, on Jennifer Rubin:

Speaking of the stadium already being booked, what’s the campaign’s plan for the acceptance speech? The success of the “Celebrity” ad should give them pause about having a big, splashy event, but the stadium is booked. Is there any chance that Obama won’t get carried away by the moment and not reinforce McCain’s narrative?

To quote the Magic 8-Ball™: “Outlook Not So Good.”

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Re: Kurtzer, Overreaching

To expand on your post, Jennifer, I wanted to cite directly from Lake’s piece. In Kurtzer’s exact words, he advised the Syrian foreign minister to

“move ahead in the Israel-Syria negotiations as much as possible so that whoever is the next president would not start from too far down the track,” Mr. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, said yesterday in a phone interview. “I did not say anything about Obama or McCain. I said whoever is the next president is not going to want to inherit a process that isn’t going anywhere.”

The problem with every iteration of this particular “process” is that none of them have ever gone anywhere, precisely by Syrian design. Kurtzer believes that the simple occurrence of diplomatic meetings is evidence of progress, regardless of the uses to which such happy-talk is put by Damascus.

In this case, the “Israel-Syria track” is a product of Syria’s wish to break free from the isolation imposed over its decision to operate as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Middle East. The peace process has nothing to do with peace, and everything to do with Syria’s desire to see Western powers to beg for its cooperation, which is frequently promised and never delivered. The existence of this “track” is not value-neutral. It is a reward for violence: it allows Syria to carry on with one foot in the Iranian and Palestinian terrorist camp and one foot in the Western engagement camp. Kurtzer is only too eager to lobby for allowing Syria to continue having it both ways ad infinitum.

But now there is a new twist, and that is the burgeoning Russia-Syria-Iran axis. This is by no means an alliance of anything but convenience. But it could become a potent force should Russia throw its weight firmly behind the Syrian-Iranian rejectionist bloc:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad headed to Moscow today to discuss an expansion of his pariah state’s military cooperation with Russia. . . . “Of course military and technical cooperation is the main issue. Weapons purchases are very important,” said Mr Assad. “I think we should speed it up. Moreover, the West and Israel continue to put pressure on Russia.”

. . . Mr al-Assad said that he would be discussing the deployment of Russian missiles on Syrian territory, possibly the Iskander system. Syrians is also interested in buying Russian anti-aircraft and tanks missiles.

In return, Moscow is expected to propose a revival of its Cold War era naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean. Some Russian reports even suggest that Moscow is deepening the port it to accommodate a fleet of warships. Russia may have similar ambitions for Latakia. Either port would give the Russian Navy its foothold in the Mediterranean for two decades.

So, does Kurtzer — and by extension the Obama campaign — still think that the Israel-Syria “track” should remain an object of American encouragement? I suspect they do. The peace processors are incorrigible — sometimes dangerously so.

To expand on your post, Jennifer, I wanted to cite directly from Lake’s piece. In Kurtzer’s exact words, he advised the Syrian foreign minister to

“move ahead in the Israel-Syria negotiations as much as possible so that whoever is the next president would not start from too far down the track,” Mr. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, said yesterday in a phone interview. “I did not say anything about Obama or McCain. I said whoever is the next president is not going to want to inherit a process that isn’t going anywhere.”

The problem with every iteration of this particular “process” is that none of them have ever gone anywhere, precisely by Syrian design. Kurtzer believes that the simple occurrence of diplomatic meetings is evidence of progress, regardless of the uses to which such happy-talk is put by Damascus.

In this case, the “Israel-Syria track” is a product of Syria’s wish to break free from the isolation imposed over its decision to operate as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Middle East. The peace process has nothing to do with peace, and everything to do with Syria’s desire to see Western powers to beg for its cooperation, which is frequently promised and never delivered. The existence of this “track” is not value-neutral. It is a reward for violence: it allows Syria to carry on with one foot in the Iranian and Palestinian terrorist camp and one foot in the Western engagement camp. Kurtzer is only too eager to lobby for allowing Syria to continue having it both ways ad infinitum.

But now there is a new twist, and that is the burgeoning Russia-Syria-Iran axis. This is by no means an alliance of anything but convenience. But it could become a potent force should Russia throw its weight firmly behind the Syrian-Iranian rejectionist bloc:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad headed to Moscow today to discuss an expansion of his pariah state’s military cooperation with Russia. . . . “Of course military and technical cooperation is the main issue. Weapons purchases are very important,” said Mr Assad. “I think we should speed it up. Moreover, the West and Israel continue to put pressure on Russia.”

. . . Mr al-Assad said that he would be discussing the deployment of Russian missiles on Syrian territory, possibly the Iskander system. Syrians is also interested in buying Russian anti-aircraft and tanks missiles.

In return, Moscow is expected to propose a revival of its Cold War era naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean. Some Russian reports even suggest that Moscow is deepening the port it to accommodate a fleet of warships. Russia may have similar ambitions for Latakia. Either port would give the Russian Navy its foothold in the Mediterranean for two decades.

So, does Kurtzer — and by extension the Obama campaign — still think that the Israel-Syria “track” should remain an object of American encouragement? I suspect they do. The peace processors are incorrigible — sometimes dangerously so.

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The IMF on Iran

The IMF’s assessments of Iran’s economy have arrived. They offer an interesting snapshot of the Iranian economy and a glimpse into the effectiveness of international and U.S. sanctions. Basically, the report boils down to this:

1. “UN and U.S. sanctions against certain Iranian institutions have created difficulties for trade financing and payments, discouraged foreign investment, and adversely affected the profitability of the targeted financial institutions.”

2. The overall economic situation is not bad, however, and could vastly improve through a number of economic reforms.

3. Its current strength is related to high oil prices and a significant reduction of the price of crude would adversely affect Iran’s internal situation.

4. Several structural problems remain, which prevent the system from performing better–chiefly high inflation.

So, according to the IMF, if

prices for Iranian crude remain at $85-$90 per barrel, reforms advance unevenly, double-digit inflation persists, and oil production stagnates . . . Iran’s growth potential would dwindle, a budget deficit most likely requiring CBI financing would emerge, and the economy’s vulnerability to a possible fall in oil prices would increase.

There is a lesson to be learned in this assessment: short of finding the magic wand necessary to reduce oil prices below $85 a barrel, the West can only increase pressure on Iran by smart sanctions that will make the other problems more acute. Otherwise, we can only rely on Iran’s governmental incompetence in managing its own economy–not exactly a strong strategy, despite Ahmadinejad’s record to date.

The IMF’s assessments of Iran’s economy have arrived. They offer an interesting snapshot of the Iranian economy and a glimpse into the effectiveness of international and U.S. sanctions. Basically, the report boils down to this:

1. “UN and U.S. sanctions against certain Iranian institutions have created difficulties for trade financing and payments, discouraged foreign investment, and adversely affected the profitability of the targeted financial institutions.”

2. The overall economic situation is not bad, however, and could vastly improve through a number of economic reforms.

3. Its current strength is related to high oil prices and a significant reduction of the price of crude would adversely affect Iran’s internal situation.

4. Several structural problems remain, which prevent the system from performing better–chiefly high inflation.

So, according to the IMF, if

prices for Iranian crude remain at $85-$90 per barrel, reforms advance unevenly, double-digit inflation persists, and oil production stagnates . . . Iran’s growth potential would dwindle, a budget deficit most likely requiring CBI financing would emerge, and the economy’s vulnerability to a possible fall in oil prices would increase.

There is a lesson to be learned in this assessment: short of finding the magic wand necessary to reduce oil prices below $85 a barrel, the West can only increase pressure on Iran by smart sanctions that will make the other problems more acute. Otherwise, we can only rely on Iran’s governmental incompetence in managing its own economy–not exactly a strong strategy, despite Ahmadinejad’s record to date.

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Consequences

Prepare yourself for the force of Barack Obama’s latest insight into the Russia-Georgia crisis:

Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected. I reiterate my demand that Russia must abide by the ceasefire. Russia must know that its actions will have consequences.

Technically speaking he’s right, of course. Russia’s actions will have consequences. Obama failed to name them, so here is an incomplete list: the depletion of U.S. leverage in dealing with Moscow and therefore the freeing of Moscow from future cooperation with the West; the intensification of Russia’s threat to Georgia, including but not limited to the mobilization of Russian missile launchers on Georgian territory; the emboldening of the Kremlin; a sharp decrease in stability for the entire Caucasus; an increased threat to energy security; divided opinion within NATO; the projected impotence of the U.S.; a new Russian-Syrian alliance; and a humanitarian crisis marked by injuries, casualties, and refugees.

Obama is also right that Russia must be aware of these consequences. In fact, Russia was probably aware of them upon embarking on its aggressive action against Georgia. Also known to Russia beforehand was the American response, as exemplified in Obama’s quote above: a repeated “demand,” backed by nothing, that Russia behave in accordance with U.S. wishes. So meaningless is Obama’s version of this line that he couldn’t even come up with a specific ultimatum to bluff about. Game, set, and match to Putin.

Prepare yourself for the force of Barack Obama’s latest insight into the Russia-Georgia crisis:

Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected. I reiterate my demand that Russia must abide by the ceasefire. Russia must know that its actions will have consequences.

Technically speaking he’s right, of course. Russia’s actions will have consequences. Obama failed to name them, so here is an incomplete list: the depletion of U.S. leverage in dealing with Moscow and therefore the freeing of Moscow from future cooperation with the West; the intensification of Russia’s threat to Georgia, including but not limited to the mobilization of Russian missile launchers on Georgian territory; the emboldening of the Kremlin; a sharp decrease in stability for the entire Caucasus; an increased threat to energy security; divided opinion within NATO; the projected impotence of the U.S.; a new Russian-Syrian alliance; and a humanitarian crisis marked by injuries, casualties, and refugees.

Obama is also right that Russia must be aware of these consequences. In fact, Russia was probably aware of them upon embarking on its aggressive action against Georgia. Also known to Russia beforehand was the American response, as exemplified in Obama’s quote above: a repeated “demand,” backed by nothing, that Russia behave in accordance with U.S. wishes. So meaningless is Obama’s version of this line that he couldn’t even come up with a specific ultimatum to bluff about. Game, set, and match to Putin.

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Olmert’s Nonsense

Ehud Olmert’s terrorist outreach campaign (er, diplomatic offensive) causes him to say extremely confusing things, like the following:

“In the Second Lebanon War we had much greater means and capabilities which we avoided using since we fought against a terror organization and not a country. If Lebanon turns in to a Hizbullah state, we will no longer place any limitations on ourselves,” Olmert said during a visit to the Home Front Command headquarters in Ramle.

Such words might have a very limited deterrent effect on Hezbollah, which must consider a greater post-war Lebanese backlash against the domestic destruction wrought by its “resistance.” But that’s probably not what Olmert was thinking; if such nuance found its way into his thinking — so far as I can tell, the only thing that does occupy his mind is political calculation — he wouldn’t have agreed to hand over live members of Hezbollah to Lebanon last month, turning Hassan Nasrallah overnight from pariah to celebrity.

So instead we get the characteristic Olmert schizophrenia, in which he pledges that Israel will hold all of Lebanon responsible for Hezbollah, which is armed, funded, and sustained via Syria . . . which is currently Olmert’s “peace partner.” This would be like President Bush entering peace talks with Iran and then saying that he was going to hold all of Baghdad responsible for the existence of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi army.

Ehud Olmert’s terrorist outreach campaign (er, diplomatic offensive) causes him to say extremely confusing things, like the following:

“In the Second Lebanon War we had much greater means and capabilities which we avoided using since we fought against a terror organization and not a country. If Lebanon turns in to a Hizbullah state, we will no longer place any limitations on ourselves,” Olmert said during a visit to the Home Front Command headquarters in Ramle.

Such words might have a very limited deterrent effect on Hezbollah, which must consider a greater post-war Lebanese backlash against the domestic destruction wrought by its “resistance.” But that’s probably not what Olmert was thinking; if such nuance found its way into his thinking — so far as I can tell, the only thing that does occupy his mind is political calculation — he wouldn’t have agreed to hand over live members of Hezbollah to Lebanon last month, turning Hassan Nasrallah overnight from pariah to celebrity.

So instead we get the characteristic Olmert schizophrenia, in which he pledges that Israel will hold all of Lebanon responsible for Hezbollah, which is armed, funded, and sustained via Syria . . . which is currently Olmert’s “peace partner.” This would be like President Bush entering peace talks with Iran and then saying that he was going to hold all of Baghdad responsible for the existence of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi army.

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Kurtzer, Overreaching

Eli Lake takes us through the latest story about a Barack Obama advisor playing footsie with Syria. Despite Obama’s protestations that we “have only one president at a time,” Obama advisor Daniel Kurtzer put in his two cents, trying to move along negotiations so the next President–gosh, who might that be–might be in a better spot.

The naïvité is staggering. What productive negotiations does Kurtzer have in mind? And might he have conveyed any message that gives the Syrians hope that Obama is anxious to do diplomatic business? I don’t suppose Kurtzer offered any stern message on Syrian behavior or on Assad’s client terror group Hezbollah. And now Obama’s disclaiming any involvement, as he always does when his advisors get caught doing this sort of thing (e.g. Robert Malley’s visit with Hamas). But we shouldn’t be confused. This is a preview of an Obama administration: unbridled faith in negotiation, no disapproval of terror sponsorship, and an utter lack of appreciation for the degree to which American goodwill is converted into propaganda points for hostile regimes.

Eli Lake takes us through the latest story about a Barack Obama advisor playing footsie with Syria. Despite Obama’s protestations that we “have only one president at a time,” Obama advisor Daniel Kurtzer put in his two cents, trying to move along negotiations so the next President–gosh, who might that be–might be in a better spot.

The naïvité is staggering. What productive negotiations does Kurtzer have in mind? And might he have conveyed any message that gives the Syrians hope that Obama is anxious to do diplomatic business? I don’t suppose Kurtzer offered any stern message on Syrian behavior or on Assad’s client terror group Hezbollah. And now Obama’s disclaiming any involvement, as he always does when his advisors get caught doing this sort of thing (e.g. Robert Malley’s visit with Hamas). But we shouldn’t be confused. This is a preview of an Obama administration: unbridled faith in negotiation, no disapproval of terror sponsorship, and an utter lack of appreciation for the degree to which American goodwill is converted into propaganda points for hostile regimes.

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John Edwards-itis

Ramesh Ponnuru catches us up on the latest in the controversy over Barack Obama’s past votes on the Illinois Infant Born Alive legislation and his more recent lying about the same. Obama’s recent spate of indignation is, of course, a grand effort in misdirection. He doesn’t respond to the facts–which we now surmise are not on his side–nor to the charge that he lied. Instead he attacks the motives of his opponents–first they were liars and now they are doubting his parental bona fides. This is the high level of discourse on which he is going to operate?

But Ponnuru reiterates the other noteworthy point: where is the mainstream media? They aren’t going to cover this because . . . because why? This is really John Edwards-itis: they hear and see nothing and hope the public doesn’t get wind of the underlying story, let alone their own indifference to a story which Democrats would rather bury. But if we learned anything from Edwards and the other ignored MSM stories, it is that the stories don’t stay buried. Word gets out these days.

And once again, the MSM likely isn’t doing Obama any favors. Better for this to come out now and be old hat before the fall fireworks start. In the end the voters always find out and the MSM’s reputation takes another hit. Obama and his MSM allies need to learn the same lesson: it’s the cover-up that gets you every time.

Ramesh Ponnuru catches us up on the latest in the controversy over Barack Obama’s past votes on the Illinois Infant Born Alive legislation and his more recent lying about the same. Obama’s recent spate of indignation is, of course, a grand effort in misdirection. He doesn’t respond to the facts–which we now surmise are not on his side–nor to the charge that he lied. Instead he attacks the motives of his opponents–first they were liars and now they are doubting his parental bona fides. This is the high level of discourse on which he is going to operate?

But Ponnuru reiterates the other noteworthy point: where is the mainstream media? They aren’t going to cover this because . . . because why? This is really John Edwards-itis: they hear and see nothing and hope the public doesn’t get wind of the underlying story, let alone their own indifference to a story which Democrats would rather bury. But if we learned anything from Edwards and the other ignored MSM stories, it is that the stories don’t stay buried. Word gets out these days.

And once again, the MSM likely isn’t doing Obama any favors. Better for this to come out now and be old hat before the fall fireworks start. In the end the voters always find out and the MSM’s reputation takes another hit. Obama and his MSM allies need to learn the same lesson: it’s the cover-up that gets you every time.

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Olympian Injustice

Here’s another reminder of what the U.S. made itself party to by cheering on the Beijing farce:

Two elderly Chinese women have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.

The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to obtain permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing.

Isn’t it time we take an adult view of the grotesquerie that is the Beijing Olympics? Americans–most notably, the American President–applaud while teens tumble for prizes and in the shadows aged ladies get a year’s hard labor for attempting civil protest. I’m sympathetic to arguments about not punishing athletes who’ve trained to compete–but not that sympathetic. Dreams are compromised for a lot worse reasons than keeping innocents out of jail and saving lives. By any reckoning, this year’s Olympics resulted in a steep net loss of humanity, justice, and freedom. (This is to say nothing of the fact that Moscow used the events as a global diversion to attempt a takeover of its neighbor.)

And this is to say nothing of the sheer hell required of those who competed for China. When free countries try to make common cause with non-free countries (particularly in the area of individual achievement) the dissonance is bound to overwhelm. American athletes are free to train or not train as they see fit. Chinese athletes: not so much. Any argument about giving American talent its chance to shine has to be weighed against the compulsory servitude instituted by Olympic committees in non-free countries. Sure, Michael Phelps spent years doing laps in preparation for Beijing, but isn’t it worth considering how those years were spent by his Chinese counterparts? And how Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying will finish off their 70’s?

Here’s another reminder of what the U.S. made itself party to by cheering on the Beijing farce:

Two elderly Chinese women have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.

The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to obtain permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing.

Isn’t it time we take an adult view of the grotesquerie that is the Beijing Olympics? Americans–most notably, the American President–applaud while teens tumble for prizes and in the shadows aged ladies get a year’s hard labor for attempting civil protest. I’m sympathetic to arguments about not punishing athletes who’ve trained to compete–but not that sympathetic. Dreams are compromised for a lot worse reasons than keeping innocents out of jail and saving lives. By any reckoning, this year’s Olympics resulted in a steep net loss of humanity, justice, and freedom. (This is to say nothing of the fact that Moscow used the events as a global diversion to attempt a takeover of its neighbor.)

And this is to say nothing of the sheer hell required of those who competed for China. When free countries try to make common cause with non-free countries (particularly in the area of individual achievement) the dissonance is bound to overwhelm. American athletes are free to train or not train as they see fit. Chinese athletes: not so much. Any argument about giving American talent its chance to shine has to be weighed against the compulsory servitude instituted by Olympic committees in non-free countries. Sure, Michael Phelps spent years doing laps in preparation for Beijing, but isn’t it worth considering how those years were spent by his Chinese counterparts? And how Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying will finish off their 70’s?

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Who’s Snarling Now?

If you had any doubt that Barack Obama has been thrown for a loop by the McCain camp, yesterday’s VFW outing should have removed any doubts. This report describes the peculiar mix of arrogance and defensiveness, snideness, and pleading:

A combative Barack Obama said Tuesday that Republican John McCain “doesn’t know what he’s up against” in this election and challenged his rival to stop questioning his character and patriotism. Obama, campaigning in a state where he hopes to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in more than three decades, implored his supporters to fight for the presidency.”Our job in this election is not just ‘win,’ although I’m a big believer in winning,” Obama said during the rally. “I don’t intend to lose this election. John McCain doesn’t know what he’s up against.” “He can talk all he wants about Britney (Spears) and Paris (Hilton), but I don’t have time for that mess,” Obama said.

It is almost as cringe-inducing as his “If they bring a knife to the fight, we’ll bring a gun” remark. All that is missing is the quivering lip and foot stomping: I am too tough! I am not going to lose! Presidential it is not. Panicky and defensive it is. Moreover, it is downright dumb. He is revisiting his opponent’s most effective ad, thereby violating a basic rule of politics. (Don’t air your opponent’s attacks.) Imagine McCain saying “I am not too old!”

And this is a guy who just came back rested after a nine-day vacation. Imagine what things will be like in two months.

If you had any doubt that Barack Obama has been thrown for a loop by the McCain camp, yesterday’s VFW outing should have removed any doubts. This report describes the peculiar mix of arrogance and defensiveness, snideness, and pleading:

A combative Barack Obama said Tuesday that Republican John McCain “doesn’t know what he’s up against” in this election and challenged his rival to stop questioning his character and patriotism. Obama, campaigning in a state where he hopes to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in more than three decades, implored his supporters to fight for the presidency.”Our job in this election is not just ‘win,’ although I’m a big believer in winning,” Obama said during the rally. “I don’t intend to lose this election. John McCain doesn’t know what he’s up against.” “He can talk all he wants about Britney (Spears) and Paris (Hilton), but I don’t have time for that mess,” Obama said.

It is almost as cringe-inducing as his “If they bring a knife to the fight, we’ll bring a gun” remark. All that is missing is the quivering lip and foot stomping: I am too tough! I am not going to lose! Presidential it is not. Panicky and defensive it is. Moreover, it is downright dumb. He is revisiting his opponent’s most effective ad, thereby violating a basic rule of politics. (Don’t air your opponent’s attacks.) Imagine McCain saying “I am not too old!”

And this is a guy who just came back rested after a nine-day vacation. Imagine what things will be like in two months.

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Anyone Watching?

Who is overseeing the supposed pullout of Russian forces from Georgia? Conflicting narratives abound and, taken as a whole, they suggest little if any substantive progress.

First, Russia has vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution requiring it to move all troops back to pre-conflict positions. Last week’s ceasefire agreement gave Moscow a little wiggle room on this point and they don’t want to give that up. The relevant section read

Russian forces must go back to positions they held prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Pending an international peace monitoring mechanism, Russian peacekeepers will take additional security measures. [Emphasis added.]

I guess Putin and Medvedev consider the abduction and blindfolding of hostages and the destruction of Georgian ships “peacekeeping.” Moreover, Russia objects to language in the draft resolution referring to Georgia’s territorial integrity–arguably the most important aspect of any deal to be struck.

Reuters reports on a clearly non-compliant Russia:

Russian military trucks trickled from Georgia back into Russia on Wednesday but no armoured vehicles or artillery passed and there was no sign of the large-scale rapid pullout demanded by the West.

Germany became the latest Western power to express impatience. A government spokesman in Berlin said there was no tangible evidence of a withdrawal and described the situation as ‘very unsatisfactory’.

Not surprisingly, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports a steady withdrawal of Russian troops. “The Russian armed forces act strictly in accordance with the international agreements and continue the withdrawal of troops to places of previous deployment,” said Russian Col. Gen. Anatoly Nagovitsyn.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the original ceasefire, is currently in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed by Taliban fighters yesterday. With the UN rendered impotent and NATO content merely to scold, the Russians are free to make up the rules as they go along.

Who is overseeing the supposed pullout of Russian forces from Georgia? Conflicting narratives abound and, taken as a whole, they suggest little if any substantive progress.

First, Russia has vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution requiring it to move all troops back to pre-conflict positions. Last week’s ceasefire agreement gave Moscow a little wiggle room on this point and they don’t want to give that up. The relevant section read

Russian forces must go back to positions they held prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Pending an international peace monitoring mechanism, Russian peacekeepers will take additional security measures. [Emphasis added.]

I guess Putin and Medvedev consider the abduction and blindfolding of hostages and the destruction of Georgian ships “peacekeeping.” Moreover, Russia objects to language in the draft resolution referring to Georgia’s territorial integrity–arguably the most important aspect of any deal to be struck.

Reuters reports on a clearly non-compliant Russia:

Russian military trucks trickled from Georgia back into Russia on Wednesday but no armoured vehicles or artillery passed and there was no sign of the large-scale rapid pullout demanded by the West.

Germany became the latest Western power to express impatience. A government spokesman in Berlin said there was no tangible evidence of a withdrawal and described the situation as ‘very unsatisfactory’.

Not surprisingly, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports a steady withdrawal of Russian troops. “The Russian armed forces act strictly in accordance with the international agreements and continue the withdrawal of troops to places of previous deployment,” said Russian Col. Gen. Anatoly Nagovitsyn.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the original ceasefire, is currently in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed by Taliban fighters yesterday. With the UN rendered impotent and NATO content merely to scold, the Russians are free to make up the rules as they go along.

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Uh-Oh, Yet Again

If you thought the Left blogosphere was unhinged before, wait until they get a look at the latest batch of new polls. There are now two national polls showing John McCain the lead. This far out, national polls are not all that predictive (ask Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani), but these certainly tell us something about the direction of the race and the shift in momentum. McCain’s route is clear: keep it up. But what is The One to do?

Go negative, apparently, in a spate of attack ads. But that will just kill off whatever remains of the New Politics. Tone down the hoopla? Hard to do: that Denver stadium is already booked. The reality is that outside his comfort zone–where criticism reigns, the world is beset by war, and adults think chanting and swooning is unbecoming of a potential President–Obama may be at a loss. He never really faced an opponent who didn’t self-destruct, let alone who made fun of him. There are months to go, but the Obama camp better figure out its Plan B. Plan A–sit on the lead, rely on mass near-hysteria, claim criticism is racism, and count on the unpopularity of the GOP brand–isn’t working out so well.

If you thought the Left blogosphere was unhinged before, wait until they get a look at the latest batch of new polls. There are now two national polls showing John McCain the lead. This far out, national polls are not all that predictive (ask Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani), but these certainly tell us something about the direction of the race and the shift in momentum. McCain’s route is clear: keep it up. But what is The One to do?

Go negative, apparently, in a spate of attack ads. But that will just kill off whatever remains of the New Politics. Tone down the hoopla? Hard to do: that Denver stadium is already booked. The reality is that outside his comfort zone–where criticism reigns, the world is beset by war, and adults think chanting and swooning is unbecoming of a potential President–Obama may be at a loss. He never really faced an opponent who didn’t self-destruct, let alone who made fun of him. There are months to go, but the Obama camp better figure out its Plan B. Plan A–sit on the lead, rely on mass near-hysteria, claim criticism is racism, and count on the unpopularity of the GOP brand–isn’t working out so well.

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Weak NATO

Writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Europe, Ron Asmus made a number of very sensible suggestions for NATO on how to calibrate its response to Russia in the wake of the crisis in the Caucasus. Clearly, NATO is neither the EU nor the UN, so it cannot start ordering its member states to impose visa restrictions, or freeze foreign assets, or the like. But it could have adopted a number of measures that would have signalled to Russia–in the words of NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer–that the Georgia issue is not “business as usual.”

Asmus identifies two strategic imperatives:

The Alliance must take steps to reassure those members fearing Russian pressure that NATO’s mutual-defense commitments are credible and real. And ministers must consider speeding up enlargement plans to lock in stability in the Balkans and bring in Ukraine and the southern Caucasus.

Clearly, as he goes on to say, these steps must include strong statements and go beyond the rhetoric straight into the realm of practical and meaningful action:

The Alliance should . . . reassure current members who feel threatened by Russia’s move and, above all, Moscow’s rationale for action. Since the Alliance began enlarging a decade ago, it has not conducted any defense planning against a possible Russian military threat to new members in Central and Eastern Europe or the Baltic states. We have unilaterally refrained from such steps partly as a confidence-building step toward Russia. New members have complained bitterly about this. It is why the Alliance is seen by many in the region as hollow. It is time to take this step as a prudent part of Alliance defense planning.

Asmus goes further and suggests that NATO should move “toward fast-track enlargement” changing the benchmarks for membership in order to accommodate countries in the Caucasus like Georgia and Azerbaijan:

We need to embrace them quickly in spite of their imperfections. That means granting them so-called Membership Action Plans and moving toward fast-track enlargement. We should not give up our goal of pushing for democratic reform in these countries. But let’s first help make them safe.

These are all eminently sound and wise suggestions. But little of this wise advice made it into the final NATO statement and shopping list of actions the Alliance will now undertake as a response to Russia. As the Journal‘s editors point out today, the final statement is what Russia calls it:

‘”Empty words.” That’s how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO’s criticism yesterday of Russia’s continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it.

No fast track to membership, no military aid, no concrete sanctions against Moscow. The only thing the final statement of the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting said yesterday was this:

The Alliance is considering seriously the implications of Russia’s actions for the NATO-Russia relationship. In 2002, we established the NATO-Russia Council, a framework for discussions with Russia, including on issues that divide the Alliance and Russia. We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual. We call on Moscow to demonstrate–both in word and deed–its continued commitment to the principles upon which we agreed to base our relationship.

Given what Moscow has been busy doing in Georgia in the last two weeks, it is hard to gauge what NATO foreign ministers mean by “continued commitment.” If the Georgia incursion means anything, it is the confirmation of a pattern in Russia’s behavior that emerged quite some time ago. Woe to an alliance that cannot stand behind the principles it was established to defend.

Writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Europe, Ron Asmus made a number of very sensible suggestions for NATO on how to calibrate its response to Russia in the wake of the crisis in the Caucasus. Clearly, NATO is neither the EU nor the UN, so it cannot start ordering its member states to impose visa restrictions, or freeze foreign assets, or the like. But it could have adopted a number of measures that would have signalled to Russia–in the words of NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer–that the Georgia issue is not “business as usual.”

Asmus identifies two strategic imperatives:

The Alliance must take steps to reassure those members fearing Russian pressure that NATO’s mutual-defense commitments are credible and real. And ministers must consider speeding up enlargement plans to lock in stability in the Balkans and bring in Ukraine and the southern Caucasus.

Clearly, as he goes on to say, these steps must include strong statements and go beyond the rhetoric straight into the realm of practical and meaningful action:

The Alliance should . . . reassure current members who feel threatened by Russia’s move and, above all, Moscow’s rationale for action. Since the Alliance began enlarging a decade ago, it has not conducted any defense planning against a possible Russian military threat to new members in Central and Eastern Europe or the Baltic states. We have unilaterally refrained from such steps partly as a confidence-building step toward Russia. New members have complained bitterly about this. It is why the Alliance is seen by many in the region as hollow. It is time to take this step as a prudent part of Alliance defense planning.

Asmus goes further and suggests that NATO should move “toward fast-track enlargement” changing the benchmarks for membership in order to accommodate countries in the Caucasus like Georgia and Azerbaijan:

We need to embrace them quickly in spite of their imperfections. That means granting them so-called Membership Action Plans and moving toward fast-track enlargement. We should not give up our goal of pushing for democratic reform in these countries. But let’s first help make them safe.

These are all eminently sound and wise suggestions. But little of this wise advice made it into the final NATO statement and shopping list of actions the Alliance will now undertake as a response to Russia. As the Journal‘s editors point out today, the final statement is what Russia calls it:

‘”Empty words.” That’s how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO’s criticism yesterday of Russia’s continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it.

No fast track to membership, no military aid, no concrete sanctions against Moscow. The only thing the final statement of the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting said yesterday was this:

The Alliance is considering seriously the implications of Russia’s actions for the NATO-Russia relationship. In 2002, we established the NATO-Russia Council, a framework for discussions with Russia, including on issues that divide the Alliance and Russia. We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual. We call on Moscow to demonstrate–both in word and deed–its continued commitment to the principles upon which we agreed to base our relationship.

Given what Moscow has been busy doing in Georgia in the last two weeks, it is hard to gauge what NATO foreign ministers mean by “continued commitment.” If the Georgia incursion means anything, it is the confirmation of a pattern in Russia’s behavior that emerged quite some time ago. Woe to an alliance that cannot stand behind the principles it was established to defend.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe, we hardly knew ya! The sheer entertainment value would have been something. But we’re in the season of head fakes so I’m not giving up yet. And sure enough: could he have turned the biggest chance of his career into another memorable gaffe? A journalist’s dream, he is.

Not going to be Al Gore. Can you imagine what the polls would look like if it was Clinton-Gore or Gore-Clinton? Yikes.

This is the best-reasoned analysis of the GOP VP options. Bottom line: he was vetting the guy the base didn’t want, he was vetting another person the base didn’t want, or he was making sure the guy the base didn’t want was going to be a problem.

Who can say, really? Ross Douthat reminds us that both sides would do better to stay out of the fever swamps. Especially if you have your conspiracy theory all wrong.

But like I said, there is reason for Obamaphiles to panic. They just shouldn’t be so obvious about it.

The other anti-Obama book isn’t so easy to knock down, it seems.

An unsurprising headline.

If this is right, it is very good news for McCain not only in Virginia but elsewhere. He needs to do well in the suburbs and outer suburbs. I believe Virginia is in play but not in peril for McCain–lots of rural and military voter and confirmation now that he’s doing well in the suburbs. (All caveats about everything subject to change apply.)

Exactly right: Barack Obama makes a logical error: because he concedes John McCain’s bona fides, then McCain should concede his. Non sequitur! (Obama did this before when complaining in his nomination victory speech that McCain wouldn’t concede Obama’s accomplishments. If Obama told us which ones he had in mind, it might be easier.)

There is something to this, but Democrats do it to themselves by nominating elitist snobs so out of touch with ordinary voters that most voters, once they figure this out, really don’t want them as neighbors. (Can you image having to go next door to borrow a rake from John Kerry? You’d never get out of there without a two-hour discourse on nuclear proliferation. And, yes, at the end he’d explain that the gardener keeps all that stuff someplace else.)

Isn’t there an ad the Obama camp can come up with that isn’t riddled with errors and inaccuracies? Why is it so hard to stick to the facts?

When you see these kind of examples, the “who us, biased?” mainstream media reaction to criticism seems pretty silly.

Dick Morris asks: “Is Obama an over-intellectualizing Hamlet who is incapable of decisive, strong action?” We don’t know because other than beating a dysfunctional Clinton campaign team, he has no record of much of any action. (Honestly: can you find an example?)

Joe, we hardly knew ya! The sheer entertainment value would have been something. But we’re in the season of head fakes so I’m not giving up yet. And sure enough: could he have turned the biggest chance of his career into another memorable gaffe? A journalist’s dream, he is.

Not going to be Al Gore. Can you imagine what the polls would look like if it was Clinton-Gore or Gore-Clinton? Yikes.

This is the best-reasoned analysis of the GOP VP options. Bottom line: he was vetting the guy the base didn’t want, he was vetting another person the base didn’t want, or he was making sure the guy the base didn’t want was going to be a problem.

Who can say, really? Ross Douthat reminds us that both sides would do better to stay out of the fever swamps. Especially if you have your conspiracy theory all wrong.

But like I said, there is reason for Obamaphiles to panic. They just shouldn’t be so obvious about it.

The other anti-Obama book isn’t so easy to knock down, it seems.

An unsurprising headline.

If this is right, it is very good news for McCain not only in Virginia but elsewhere. He needs to do well in the suburbs and outer suburbs. I believe Virginia is in play but not in peril for McCain–lots of rural and military voter and confirmation now that he’s doing well in the suburbs. (All caveats about everything subject to change apply.)

Exactly right: Barack Obama makes a logical error: because he concedes John McCain’s bona fides, then McCain should concede his. Non sequitur! (Obama did this before when complaining in his nomination victory speech that McCain wouldn’t concede Obama’s accomplishments. If Obama told us which ones he had in mind, it might be easier.)

There is something to this, but Democrats do it to themselves by nominating elitist snobs so out of touch with ordinary voters that most voters, once they figure this out, really don’t want them as neighbors. (Can you image having to go next door to borrow a rake from John Kerry? You’d never get out of there without a two-hour discourse on nuclear proliferation. And, yes, at the end he’d explain that the gardener keeps all that stuff someplace else.)

Isn’t there an ad the Obama camp can come up with that isn’t riddled with errors and inaccuracies? Why is it so hard to stick to the facts?

When you see these kind of examples, the “who us, biased?” mainstream media reaction to criticism seems pretty silly.

Dick Morris asks: “Is Obama an over-intellectualizing Hamlet who is incapable of decisive, strong action?” We don’t know because other than beating a dysfunctional Clinton campaign team, he has no record of much of any action. (Honestly: can you find an example?)

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Why Not Hillary?

Ralph Nader isn’t wrong about everything. He suggests Hillary Clinton as the only VP who makes sense. Yes, the governing would be a nightmare, but Obama’s problem now is getting elected–a concern he never imagined he’d have.

She did get 18 million votes, she has blue collar credentials (I know: we’ve seen it all during this campaign), she could bring in Arkansas, and older voters like her just fine. She would generate surprise and excitement, two things Obama badly needs. So why not?

Well, the biggest reason is that it is too late. After a horrible summer (don’t just take my word for it) and giving up two nights of his convention to the Clintons, now to go to her for help would smack of desperation and weakness. And we know Obama is a arrogant man (don’t just take my word for it). Crawling back to Hillary Clinton after so plainly discounting her earlier in the summer might be too much to for him bear.

But it is hard to think of anyone other than Clinton who can even marginally help Obama win the election. It is not as if undecided voters will collectively slap their foreheads and say “Oh, Evan Bayh! Obama’s definitely got my vote now!” If Obama loses without Clinton, it will be on her list of ” I told you so’s” when she starts up her 2012 campaign. (Which will be in February 2009.)

Ralph Nader isn’t wrong about everything. He suggests Hillary Clinton as the only VP who makes sense. Yes, the governing would be a nightmare, but Obama’s problem now is getting elected–a concern he never imagined he’d have.

She did get 18 million votes, she has blue collar credentials (I know: we’ve seen it all during this campaign), she could bring in Arkansas, and older voters like her just fine. She would generate surprise and excitement, two things Obama badly needs. So why not?

Well, the biggest reason is that it is too late. After a horrible summer (don’t just take my word for it) and giving up two nights of his convention to the Clintons, now to go to her for help would smack of desperation and weakness. And we know Obama is a arrogant man (don’t just take my word for it). Crawling back to Hillary Clinton after so plainly discounting her earlier in the summer might be too much to for him bear.

But it is hard to think of anyone other than Clinton who can even marginally help Obama win the election. It is not as if undecided voters will collectively slap their foreheads and say “Oh, Evan Bayh! Obama’s definitely got my vote now!” If Obama loses without Clinton, it will be on her list of ” I told you so’s” when she starts up her 2012 campaign. (Which will be in February 2009.)

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McLieberman?

Since John Podhoretz has argued so cogently for the candidacy of Senator Joe Lieberman as John McCain’s VP–and with the consensus growing that such a candidacy is a viable possibility–I figured the debate on this issue (or some of its more serious entries) would be of interest to COMMENTARY’s readers.

Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal makes an interesting–though quite esoteric–point in his article on the problems of bipartisan tickets:

[J]ust two presidents have selected vice presidents who were not unambiguously members of the president’s own party. Each instance proved an unconditional political disaster that effectively subverted the results of the previous election, tore apart the president’s party and ended with efforts to impeach the man plucked from the opposition.

This might seem frightening, especially after the names and bitter ends of these two presidents are taken into account:

The two previous presidents who choose running mates not clearly identified with their party both died within weeks of taking the oath of office. The aged William Henry Harrison, a Whig elected in 1840, died of pneumonia one month into his term; Abraham Lincoln was assassinated six weeks after his second inauguration in 1865.

Their VP’s did end up being President but could never overcome the differences between their own agenda and the one supported by the party of the original, elected, president. Indeed, the administration of Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s veep, has become almost synonymous with Presidential failure.

Ross Douthat of The Atlantic–himself not a big fan of what he calls the “McLieberman” ticket, as he does not believe “that Lieberman would gain enough independent votes for the GOP ticket to offset the damage picking him would do to McCain’s relationship with the right-wing base”–remarks in reaction to Brownstein that a McCain/Lieberman ticket actually “offers a reasonable case for a pro-lifer to actually feel at least slightly better about a McCain-Lieberman ticket than about, say, a McCain-Ridge (or McCain-Rudy!) pairing”:

Lieberman’s record on domestic issues and partisan affiliation more or less guarantee that he would only succeed McCain if McCain died in office, and the examples of Tyler [Harrison’s VP] and Johnson Lincoln’s VP], as well as common sense, suggest that in that eventuality he wouldn’t be embraced as the GOP’s standard bearer for 2012. As veep, his most likely role would be as a Cheney-style partner in power, with a strong foreign policy portfolio and no plausible post-Administration ambitions of his own. By picking Ridge and Rudy, by contrast, McCain would be selecting a semi-plausible successor figure, and one with the capacity, however small, to move the GOP in a pro-choice direction in a way that a Vice President Lieberman almost certainly couldn’t.

We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Although it’s hard to imagine someone as politically courageous and tactically competent as Lieberman ending up like Andrew Johnson.

Since John Podhoretz has argued so cogently for the candidacy of Senator Joe Lieberman as John McCain’s VP–and with the consensus growing that such a candidacy is a viable possibility–I figured the debate on this issue (or some of its more serious entries) would be of interest to COMMENTARY’s readers.

Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal makes an interesting–though quite esoteric–point in his article on the problems of bipartisan tickets:

[J]ust two presidents have selected vice presidents who were not unambiguously members of the president’s own party. Each instance proved an unconditional political disaster that effectively subverted the results of the previous election, tore apart the president’s party and ended with efforts to impeach the man plucked from the opposition.

This might seem frightening, especially after the names and bitter ends of these two presidents are taken into account:

The two previous presidents who choose running mates not clearly identified with their party both died within weeks of taking the oath of office. The aged William Henry Harrison, a Whig elected in 1840, died of pneumonia one month into his term; Abraham Lincoln was assassinated six weeks after his second inauguration in 1865.

Their VP’s did end up being President but could never overcome the differences between their own agenda and the one supported by the party of the original, elected, president. Indeed, the administration of Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s veep, has become almost synonymous with Presidential failure.

Ross Douthat of The Atlantic–himself not a big fan of what he calls the “McLieberman” ticket, as he does not believe “that Lieberman would gain enough independent votes for the GOP ticket to offset the damage picking him would do to McCain’s relationship with the right-wing base”–remarks in reaction to Brownstein that a McCain/Lieberman ticket actually “offers a reasonable case for a pro-lifer to actually feel at least slightly better about a McCain-Lieberman ticket than about, say, a McCain-Ridge (or McCain-Rudy!) pairing”:

Lieberman’s record on domestic issues and partisan affiliation more or less guarantee that he would only succeed McCain if McCain died in office, and the examples of Tyler [Harrison’s VP] and Johnson Lincoln’s VP], as well as common sense, suggest that in that eventuality he wouldn’t be embraced as the GOP’s standard bearer for 2012. As veep, his most likely role would be as a Cheney-style partner in power, with a strong foreign policy portfolio and no plausible post-Administration ambitions of his own. By picking Ridge and Rudy, by contrast, McCain would be selecting a semi-plausible successor figure, and one with the capacity, however small, to move the GOP in a pro-choice direction in a way that a Vice President Lieberman almost certainly couldn’t.

We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Although it’s hard to imagine someone as politically courageous and tactically competent as Lieberman ending up like Andrew Johnson.

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Johnny One-Term

In a (sort of ) funny column on the Hillary Clinton-John McCain conspiracy to sink The One, Maureen Dowd slips in a serious point in the guise of Clinton telling McCain what else he can do to repay her for all her sage advice:

“You can announce that you won’t be running for re-election because you’d be 76, and you can pick somebody really lame to run with, like your pal Lieberman. That means one term for you, and two for me.”

Putting aside the merits of the VP pick, her underlying point is sound: a one-term pledge seems now like a no-brainer. Not only will the Clinton supporters salivate at the potential to begin all over again (the eternal campaign cycle will begin before it’s over), but it is of course the perfect coda to the “putting country first” theme McCain has been polishing. No more endless campaigning, no more pleasing interest groups: McCain will come for one more tour of duty, knock heads ,and turn a reformed government back to his party for another generation. Or something like that. (And after all, what are the chances McCain–at 76 years old–would run for a second term anyway?)

Clintonites and conservative Republicans would exchange glances, applaud wildly, and do what they can to make sure the White House is vacant in four years. Some might call it gimmicky or the type of thing McCain would try if the summer hadn’t gone so well. But I think the current McCain team is smart enough to know that pulling even doesn’t mean winning and they need every advantage they can get. Such a plegde is a perfect mix of self-serving pomp and sly politics that would suit McCain to a T. And, as a bonus, it might–depending on the timing–just steal some more days of the news cycle from his floundering adversary.

In a (sort of ) funny column on the Hillary Clinton-John McCain conspiracy to sink The One, Maureen Dowd slips in a serious point in the guise of Clinton telling McCain what else he can do to repay her for all her sage advice:

“You can announce that you won’t be running for re-election because you’d be 76, and you can pick somebody really lame to run with, like your pal Lieberman. That means one term for you, and two for me.”

Putting aside the merits of the VP pick, her underlying point is sound: a one-term pledge seems now like a no-brainer. Not only will the Clinton supporters salivate at the potential to begin all over again (the eternal campaign cycle will begin before it’s over), but it is of course the perfect coda to the “putting country first” theme McCain has been polishing. No more endless campaigning, no more pleasing interest groups: McCain will come for one more tour of duty, knock heads ,and turn a reformed government back to his party for another generation. Or something like that. (And after all, what are the chances McCain–at 76 years old–would run for a second term anyway?)

Clintonites and conservative Republicans would exchange glances, applaud wildly, and do what they can to make sure the White House is vacant in four years. Some might call it gimmicky or the type of thing McCain would try if the summer hadn’t gone so well. But I think the current McCain team is smart enough to know that pulling even doesn’t mean winning and they need every advantage they can get. Such a plegde is a perfect mix of self-serving pomp and sly politics that would suit McCain to a T. And, as a bonus, it might–depending on the timing–just steal some more days of the news cycle from his floundering adversary.

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The Biggest Gap of All

As Dean Barnett points out, the only people who had a worse summer than Barack Obama were the Obamaphiles and media pundits (okay, there is an big overlap between those two groups). The latter seemed to have misread utterly the candidates’ performances during the summer. While the Obama’s fans cooed and kvelled, the public slowly but surely seemed to have tired or soured on The One. Could Obama’s shortcomings (“preening narcissism, a fondness for platitudes, a tendency to whine and a potentially fatal lack of substance”) have gone undetected by the media mavens, while ordinary folks — those religion-clinging, gun-hugging, drilling-happy voters — caught on?

It is far too early to declare Obama-mania kaput. But the problem with emotion-laden, atmospheric, personality-driven campaigns is that once the magic ends, there isn’t much to fall back on. And worse, the sort of mass hysteria depends on a collective excitement: as Oprah so memorably put it, “he’s The One.” But The One can’t really be The One if John “Mean Old Not The One” McCain knocks him out in a debate and ties him in the polls, right?

We are on the verge of Obama’s VP announcement and a Democratic convention that will be cause for more media cooing. The good news for McCain: we have now established beyond any doubt that there is no correlation between media cooing and voter opinion. So the Obama team can enjoy the media cocoon. The voters will be waiting when the chanting dies down.

As Dean Barnett points out, the only people who had a worse summer than Barack Obama were the Obamaphiles and media pundits (okay, there is an big overlap between those two groups). The latter seemed to have misread utterly the candidates’ performances during the summer. While the Obama’s fans cooed and kvelled, the public slowly but surely seemed to have tired or soured on The One. Could Obama’s shortcomings (“preening narcissism, a fondness for platitudes, a tendency to whine and a potentially fatal lack of substance”) have gone undetected by the media mavens, while ordinary folks — those religion-clinging, gun-hugging, drilling-happy voters — caught on?

It is far too early to declare Obama-mania kaput. But the problem with emotion-laden, atmospheric, personality-driven campaigns is that once the magic ends, there isn’t much to fall back on. And worse, the sort of mass hysteria depends on a collective excitement: as Oprah so memorably put it, “he’s The One.” But The One can’t really be The One if John “Mean Old Not The One” McCain knocks him out in a debate and ties him in the polls, right?

We are on the verge of Obama’s VP announcement and a Democratic convention that will be cause for more media cooing. The good news for McCain: we have now established beyond any doubt that there is no correlation between media cooing and voter opinion. So the Obama team can enjoy the media cocoon. The voters will be waiting when the chanting dies down.

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