Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 21, 2008

McCain’s Letter

John McCain sent George W. Bush a private letter on December 12, 2006, urging the President to increase troop strength in Iraq by 20,000. That letter has just been made public, and it is a remarkable testament to McCain’s courage and foresight: Here’s the Washington Times:

“The question is one of will more than capacity,” wrote the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If we are not willing to provide the troops necessary for victory, however, victory itself will be impossible.”

Mr. McCain, whose letter is made public here for the first time, added that “surging five additional brigades into Baghdad by March” was the answer.

Mr. Bush, who had resisted Mr. McCain’s call for a troop surge for years, now praises him for persisting in his argument that expanding the war in Iraq was the way to win it.

“John recognized early on that more troops would be needed in order to achieve the security necessary for the Iraqis to make the political progress we’re seeing now,” the president told The Washington Times this week.

“He supported that action even though many said it would hurt his campaign [for president]. He didn’t care about popularity; he cared about success for our troops and our country. And now that the surge has worked, it proves that John’s judgment was correct.”

McCain’s first recognition of the need for more troops goes all the way back to the summer of 2003.

Mr. McCain’s opinion changed on that first trip [to Iraq.] The campaign to oust Saddam Hussein and neutralize Iraq’s military had been won, but the peace was at risk because of an insurgency that, fueled in part by Iran and Syria, had quickly materialized.

The insurgents were gaining. “I think there’s a danger that unless we do what’s necessary quickly, that we could find ourselves in an extremely – and I emphasize extremely – difficult situation,” he said Aug. 29 in an interview on National Public Radio. “We need more troops.”

Not only was McCain not in lockstep with George W. Bush on Iraq strategy (as the Democrats would have us believe), but it’s very likely that the course of the entire war would have looked drastically different if the McCain plan was heeded early on by the President. We’ll just have to see if Americans can find it in their hearts to overlook his real estate holdings.

John McCain sent George W. Bush a private letter on December 12, 2006, urging the President to increase troop strength in Iraq by 20,000. That letter has just been made public, and it is a remarkable testament to McCain’s courage and foresight: Here’s the Washington Times:

“The question is one of will more than capacity,” wrote the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If we are not willing to provide the troops necessary for victory, however, victory itself will be impossible.”

Mr. McCain, whose letter is made public here for the first time, added that “surging five additional brigades into Baghdad by March” was the answer.

Mr. Bush, who had resisted Mr. McCain’s call for a troop surge for years, now praises him for persisting in his argument that expanding the war in Iraq was the way to win it.

“John recognized early on that more troops would be needed in order to achieve the security necessary for the Iraqis to make the political progress we’re seeing now,” the president told The Washington Times this week.

“He supported that action even though many said it would hurt his campaign [for president]. He didn’t care about popularity; he cared about success for our troops and our country. And now that the surge has worked, it proves that John’s judgment was correct.”

McCain’s first recognition of the need for more troops goes all the way back to the summer of 2003.

Mr. McCain’s opinion changed on that first trip [to Iraq.] The campaign to oust Saddam Hussein and neutralize Iraq’s military had been won, but the peace was at risk because of an insurgency that, fueled in part by Iran and Syria, had quickly materialized.

The insurgents were gaining. “I think there’s a danger that unless we do what’s necessary quickly, that we could find ourselves in an extremely – and I emphasize extremely – difficult situation,” he said Aug. 29 in an interview on National Public Radio. “We need more troops.”

Not only was McCain not in lockstep with George W. Bush on Iraq strategy (as the Democrats would have us believe), but it’s very likely that the course of the entire war would have looked drastically different if the McCain plan was heeded early on by the President. We’ll just have to see if Americans can find it in their hearts to overlook his real estate holdings.

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Commentary of the Day

Herbert Rubin, M.D., on Peter Wehner:

The “Third War” is coming to an end in Iraq, thanks to Gen. Petraeus and his troops. The first was the initial destruction of Saddam and his military, sucessfully concluded in three weeks, by Tommy Franks and his army. “Mission Accomplished”. Not quite.

Then the sectarian war, which has been smoldering since the 7th Century between Shiites and Sunni’s, finally stopped with the exhaustion of the country, and the power of the central government to impose peace. Control from Sadr City to Basra was finally won, the criminals and militias crushed, with American help, air power and logistics, to be sure.

The “Third War” was against the jihadists of Al Quaida, who were systematically hunted down, killed or captured. That war appears to be largely won.

The greatness of Gen. Petraeus rivals that of Grant, Sherman, Patton, and Eisenhower in the pantheon of American military heroes. George Bush will be honored for his tenacity and wisdom, rejecting anything less than victory.

That Dexter Filkins can go for a peaceful evening jog in the park across the street from his hotel, which was a killing field last year, tells us much of what we need to know about normal life returning to Baghdad. That the NYT published the new reality, however reluctantly, marks the dawn of a new day in this country. Sen. McCain, got it right, Sen. Obama got it wildly wrong.

Herbert Rubin, M.D., on Peter Wehner:

The “Third War” is coming to an end in Iraq, thanks to Gen. Petraeus and his troops. The first was the initial destruction of Saddam and his military, sucessfully concluded in three weeks, by Tommy Franks and his army. “Mission Accomplished”. Not quite.

Then the sectarian war, which has been smoldering since the 7th Century between Shiites and Sunni’s, finally stopped with the exhaustion of the country, and the power of the central government to impose peace. Control from Sadr City to Basra was finally won, the criminals and militias crushed, with American help, air power and logistics, to be sure.

The “Third War” was against the jihadists of Al Quaida, who were systematically hunted down, killed or captured. That war appears to be largely won.

The greatness of Gen. Petraeus rivals that of Grant, Sherman, Patton, and Eisenhower in the pantheon of American military heroes. George Bush will be honored for his tenacity and wisdom, rejecting anything less than victory.

That Dexter Filkins can go for a peaceful evening jog in the park across the street from his hotel, which was a killing field last year, tells us much of what we need to know about normal life returning to Baghdad. That the NYT published the new reality, however reluctantly, marks the dawn of a new day in this country. Sen. McCain, got it right, Sen. Obama got it wildly wrong.

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McCain Hits Back

Barack Obama likely didn’t expect the McCain camp to lower the boom. But that is what they got. It is a fight I suspect the McCain camp is delighted to have. In this way they can force the mainstream media to cover the Obama-Rezko connection and the very topics, such as the Mayor Daley and Bill Ayers associations, which are prime subjects in the recently released anti-Obama books.

This is extremely helpful to McCain for two reasons. First, every day spent on this is a day Obama can’t bolster his foreign policy credentials, talk about the economy, or reassure voters he has gravitas. Second, Obama’s liabilities far outweigh McCain’s. Rezko’s buddy vs. the POW? Chicago politics vs. McCain the maverick? The McCain team would be thrilled to make this a contest of biography and character. And remember those liberal pundits who warned that if the contest was about Obama he would lose? Well, McCain is about to make it about Obama. In a big way.

Barack Obama likely didn’t expect the McCain camp to lower the boom. But that is what they got. It is a fight I suspect the McCain camp is delighted to have. In this way they can force the mainstream media to cover the Obama-Rezko connection and the very topics, such as the Mayor Daley and Bill Ayers associations, which are prime subjects in the recently released anti-Obama books.

This is extremely helpful to McCain for two reasons. First, every day spent on this is a day Obama can’t bolster his foreign policy credentials, talk about the economy, or reassure voters he has gravitas. Second, Obama’s liabilities far outweigh McCain’s. Rezko’s buddy vs. the POW? Chicago politics vs. McCain the maverick? The McCain team would be thrilled to make this a contest of biography and character. And remember those liberal pundits who warned that if the contest was about Obama he would lose? Well, McCain is about to make it about Obama. In a big way.

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Steaming to Tartus

Ahoy there, we have some new ships heading for the Mediterranean:

The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is ready to head from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area.

The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, Newsru.com reports.

Robert Farley points out the Israel angle, in which the Russians might “relish this deployment as an opportunity to send a message to Israel” over its close military ties with Georgia. I think “relish” is the right word, and it applies perhaps more to Syria than to Putin. For Damascus, the appearance of having earned another patron will be played to the hilt. For Russia, docking at Tartus is simply another means of issuing a blunt communique to the world, and securing another venue through which to annoy the United States and its allies. It will be interesting to see the U.S. Navy’s response to the presence of a Russian fleet in the Mediterranean.

Ahoy there, we have some new ships heading for the Mediterranean:

The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is ready to head from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area.

The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, Newsru.com reports.

Robert Farley points out the Israel angle, in which the Russians might “relish this deployment as an opportunity to send a message to Israel” over its close military ties with Georgia. I think “relish” is the right word, and it applies perhaps more to Syria than to Putin. For Damascus, the appearance of having earned another patron will be played to the hilt. For Russia, docking at Tartus is simply another means of issuing a blunt communique to the world, and securing another venue through which to annoy the United States and its allies. It will be interesting to see the U.S. Navy’s response to the presence of a Russian fleet in the Mediterranean.

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Petraeus Looks Back

Today’s New York Times has an article on Iraq by Dexter Filkins. The peg? The state of Iraq as General David Petraeus prepares to leave his post as commanding general there. According to Filkins,

[t]he surge, clearly, has worked, at least for now: violence, measured in the number of attacks against Americans and Iraqis each week, has dropped by 80 percent in the country since early 2007, according to figures the general provided. Civilian deaths, which peaked at more than 100 a day in late 2006, have also plunged. Car and suicide bombings, which stoked sectarian violence, have fallen from a total of 130 in March 2007 to fewer than 40 last month. In July, fewer Americans were killed in Iraq – 13 – than in any month since the war began.

The result, now visible in the streets, is a calm unlike any the country has seen since the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The signs – Iraqi families flooding into parks at sundown, merchants throwing open long-shuttered shops – are stunning to anyone who witnessed the country’s implosion in 2005 and 2006.

Mr. Filkins rightly reminds us just how bad things were when General Petraeus took command:

When he arrived 18 months ago, the American project in Iraq, then led by General George W. Casey Jr. and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, was in serious trouble, with sectarian violence spiraling across the country… “The fact is that General Casey and Zal Khalilzad signed an assessment in December, early December of 2006, that said the strategy is failing,” General Petraeus said.

Violence, indeed, had reached anarchic levels: By February 2007, Sunni and Shiite insurgents were carrying out close to 1,500 attacks against Iraqis and Americans each week, and each month were killing as many as 2,500 civilians, who were often the victims of hideous, sectarian-driven slayings. In Baghdad alone, 40 to 50 people were being kidnapped each day. The Iraqi security forces, charged with keeping order, were carrying out some of the most egregious acts of crime and sectarian killings.

Filkin’s article also presents a sophisticated analysis of the strategy behind the surge and why it succeeded:

The crisis gave an opening to a handful of senior officers and military policy analysts in Washington to push for an American-heavy strategy of putting troops in Iraqi neighborhoods around the clock – which had not been done on a large scale – while isolating and attacking the main catalysts of the sectarian violence.

General Petraeus, with other commanders, like then-Col. H. R. McMaster, had for years been pushing the Army to change its focus from killing the enemy to helping ordinary Iraqis cope with insurgents – the essence of modern counterinsurgency strategy.

… As fresh troops arrived, the generals began deploying them across Baghdad, mostly in small outposts called joint security stations. The stations were seen as the key to securing the capital; for the first time, Americans could credibly promise that they would protect Iraqi civilians from the insurgents. The extra troops also allowed American commanders to initiate a series of offensives last year against the strongholds of Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia and other Sunni extremist groups in and outside of Baghdad and then, in 2008, against the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia.

“We started putting joint security stations right in the heart of Al Qaeda‘s areas,” General Petraeus said.

At first, the surge was accompanied by a rise in American deaths. The three deadliest months for American soldiers in five and a half years of war came from April through June last year, as the added soldiers took to the streets. In those three months, 331 Americans soldiers and marines died. “We said it was going to get harder before it got easier,” General Petraeus said. “And it did. We took very tough casualties.”

For years, he said, the Americans and the Iraqi government had been locked in what he described as a “downward spiral”; as the violence raged, ordinary Iraqis were often too frightened to cooperate with either the Iraqi security officers or American troops. Good intelligence was thus hard to come by, which meant that military operations often missed their marks. The insurgents were free to intimidate, threaten and kill civilians, government officials or anyone who refused to do their bidding.

It was the spectacular bombings, like the destruction of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in 2006, which prompted ordinary Iraqi Shiites to accept the protection of militias like the Mahdi Army. Those militias, in turn, began carrying out massacres of their own, against Sunni civilians in their own neighborhood.

Dismantling Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, General Petraeus said, took away the rationale for the Mahdi Army. “As the Al Qaeda threat is gradually degraded, the reason for the militia is no longer there,” he said. That, in turn, helped civilians in both communities who wanted to join the government or cooperate with the security forces. And that allowed the Shiite-dominated government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to purge the ranks of the state security services of sectarian killers, and finally take on Mr. Sadr’s militia.

The other noteworthy thing in the Times piece is the parting advice by General Petraeus:

“I don’t know that it was a death spiral, but I mean it was a pretty dire situation,” General Petraeus said, referring to the situation upon his arrival here as the senior commander in Iraq in February 2007. “There have been very substantial gains at this point. Don’t take any of this to imply that we think we’re anywhere near finished.”

“It’s not durable yet. It’s not self-sustaining,” he added. “You know – touch wood – there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Tremendous progress in Iraq, yes–but self-sustaining and durable progress, not yet. Petraeus’s words should serve as a rebuttal to critics who first insisted we should leave Iraq because the war was lost and now insist we should leave Iraq because the war is won. The reality, which at this point ought to be obvious, is that the success we’ve had during the Petraeus Era has been spectacular but can be undone, and having come this far, only a fool (or worse) would undermine a winning strategy.

The Times article begins by describing Petraeus as looking drawn and exhausted. “There is not much in the tank at the end of the day,” he tells Filkins. It’s not hard to understand why. Like his fellow warriors, he has given all he has to protect America and save Iraq. In the process, he has at times grown weary, which makes his achievement all the more admirable. But Petraeus can take some comfort in knowing that what he has done–taken a losing war and turning it into one we can win–now places him along side the greatest military leaders in our history. And he’s not done yet.

Today’s New York Times has an article on Iraq by Dexter Filkins. The peg? The state of Iraq as General David Petraeus prepares to leave his post as commanding general there. According to Filkins,

[t]he surge, clearly, has worked, at least for now: violence, measured in the number of attacks against Americans and Iraqis each week, has dropped by 80 percent in the country since early 2007, according to figures the general provided. Civilian deaths, which peaked at more than 100 a day in late 2006, have also plunged. Car and suicide bombings, which stoked sectarian violence, have fallen from a total of 130 in March 2007 to fewer than 40 last month. In July, fewer Americans were killed in Iraq – 13 – than in any month since the war began.

The result, now visible in the streets, is a calm unlike any the country has seen since the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The signs – Iraqi families flooding into parks at sundown, merchants throwing open long-shuttered shops – are stunning to anyone who witnessed the country’s implosion in 2005 and 2006.

Mr. Filkins rightly reminds us just how bad things were when General Petraeus took command:

When he arrived 18 months ago, the American project in Iraq, then led by General George W. Casey Jr. and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, was in serious trouble, with sectarian violence spiraling across the country… “The fact is that General Casey and Zal Khalilzad signed an assessment in December, early December of 2006, that said the strategy is failing,” General Petraeus said.

Violence, indeed, had reached anarchic levels: By February 2007, Sunni and Shiite insurgents were carrying out close to 1,500 attacks against Iraqis and Americans each week, and each month were killing as many as 2,500 civilians, who were often the victims of hideous, sectarian-driven slayings. In Baghdad alone, 40 to 50 people were being kidnapped each day. The Iraqi security forces, charged with keeping order, were carrying out some of the most egregious acts of crime and sectarian killings.

Filkin’s article also presents a sophisticated analysis of the strategy behind the surge and why it succeeded:

The crisis gave an opening to a handful of senior officers and military policy analysts in Washington to push for an American-heavy strategy of putting troops in Iraqi neighborhoods around the clock – which had not been done on a large scale – while isolating and attacking the main catalysts of the sectarian violence.

General Petraeus, with other commanders, like then-Col. H. R. McMaster, had for years been pushing the Army to change its focus from killing the enemy to helping ordinary Iraqis cope with insurgents – the essence of modern counterinsurgency strategy.

… As fresh troops arrived, the generals began deploying them across Baghdad, mostly in small outposts called joint security stations. The stations were seen as the key to securing the capital; for the first time, Americans could credibly promise that they would protect Iraqi civilians from the insurgents. The extra troops also allowed American commanders to initiate a series of offensives last year against the strongholds of Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia and other Sunni extremist groups in and outside of Baghdad and then, in 2008, against the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia.

“We started putting joint security stations right in the heart of Al Qaeda‘s areas,” General Petraeus said.

At first, the surge was accompanied by a rise in American deaths. The three deadliest months for American soldiers in five and a half years of war came from April through June last year, as the added soldiers took to the streets. In those three months, 331 Americans soldiers and marines died. “We said it was going to get harder before it got easier,” General Petraeus said. “And it did. We took very tough casualties.”

For years, he said, the Americans and the Iraqi government had been locked in what he described as a “downward spiral”; as the violence raged, ordinary Iraqis were often too frightened to cooperate with either the Iraqi security officers or American troops. Good intelligence was thus hard to come by, which meant that military operations often missed their marks. The insurgents were free to intimidate, threaten and kill civilians, government officials or anyone who refused to do their bidding.

It was the spectacular bombings, like the destruction of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in 2006, which prompted ordinary Iraqi Shiites to accept the protection of militias like the Mahdi Army. Those militias, in turn, began carrying out massacres of their own, against Sunni civilians in their own neighborhood.

Dismantling Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, General Petraeus said, took away the rationale for the Mahdi Army. “As the Al Qaeda threat is gradually degraded, the reason for the militia is no longer there,” he said. That, in turn, helped civilians in both communities who wanted to join the government or cooperate with the security forces. And that allowed the Shiite-dominated government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to purge the ranks of the state security services of sectarian killers, and finally take on Mr. Sadr’s militia.

The other noteworthy thing in the Times piece is the parting advice by General Petraeus:

“I don’t know that it was a death spiral, but I mean it was a pretty dire situation,” General Petraeus said, referring to the situation upon his arrival here as the senior commander in Iraq in February 2007. “There have been very substantial gains at this point. Don’t take any of this to imply that we think we’re anywhere near finished.”

“It’s not durable yet. It’s not self-sustaining,” he added. “You know – touch wood – there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Tremendous progress in Iraq, yes–but self-sustaining and durable progress, not yet. Petraeus’s words should serve as a rebuttal to critics who first insisted we should leave Iraq because the war was lost and now insist we should leave Iraq because the war is won. The reality, which at this point ought to be obvious, is that the success we’ve had during the Petraeus Era has been spectacular but can be undone, and having come this far, only a fool (or worse) would undermine a winning strategy.

The Times article begins by describing Petraeus as looking drawn and exhausted. “There is not much in the tank at the end of the day,” he tells Filkins. It’s not hard to understand why. Like his fellow warriors, he has given all he has to protect America and save Iraq. In the process, he has at times grown weary, which makes his achievement all the more admirable. But Petraeus can take some comfort in knowing that what he has done–taken a losing war and turning it into one we can win–now places him along side the greatest military leaders in our history. And he’s not done yet.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Kurtzer, Overreaching

Boring your readers to death is not a good strategy for a blogger, so (I think) these will be my last words on Kurtzer, Syria, etc. for the time being. But Noah deserves a response. (I’ll make it short.)

Some reasonable people believe there’s merit in exploring the Syria track, and I don’t think all of them are dangerous appeasers. If I don’t really like the growing tendency of Americans–and Israelis–to talk to Assad, it’s because I think it’s been done from a position of weakness. A bad decision in every such case, especially bad in the case of the “gangster regime” in Damascus.

However, what I was trying to point out in my previous post is that making Kurtzer an example is somewhat strange, considering the other dignitaries doing essentially the same thing. Also, I think that comparing Kurtzer’s views and those expressed by Ross in recent years doesn’t survive scrutiny. Ross was a very successful peace envoy in all but one sense–he didn’t bring about peace. I think he learned some useful lessons from that experience. It’s not a secret: you can read the many articles he wrote in the last seven years and see for yourself.

To conclude: not liking Obama’s position regarding Syria is one thing. But expressing shock and dismay every time one of his advisors repeats this well-known position–or acts on it–is quite another. I refuse to be shocked.

Boring your readers to death is not a good strategy for a blogger, so (I think) these will be my last words on Kurtzer, Syria, etc. for the time being. But Noah deserves a response. (I’ll make it short.)

Some reasonable people believe there’s merit in exploring the Syria track, and I don’t think all of them are dangerous appeasers. If I don’t really like the growing tendency of Americans–and Israelis–to talk to Assad, it’s because I think it’s been done from a position of weakness. A bad decision in every such case, especially bad in the case of the “gangster regime” in Damascus.

However, what I was trying to point out in my previous post is that making Kurtzer an example is somewhat strange, considering the other dignitaries doing essentially the same thing. Also, I think that comparing Kurtzer’s views and those expressed by Ross in recent years doesn’t survive scrutiny. Ross was a very successful peace envoy in all but one sense–he didn’t bring about peace. I think he learned some useful lessons from that experience. It’s not a secret: you can read the many articles he wrote in the last seven years and see for yourself.

To conclude: not liking Obama’s position regarding Syria is one thing. But expressing shock and dismay every time one of his advisors repeats this well-known position–or acts on it–is quite another. I refuse to be shocked.

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Glass Houses

It is hardly surprising that the RNC slugs Barack Obama with the Tony Rezko counterpunch after Obama (yes, they are apparently in abject panic) tries to build an attack ad around John McCain’s multiple home ownership. This is getting close to Obama’s blogosphere friends making issues of the McCain adoption and the cross in the sand. It seems to be politically insane. Now the Obama camp, not just their netroot pals, has evidently thrown common sense out the window. Yes, let’s have a few stories a day on the candidates’ respective housing arrangements.

Why does the Obama do this? He’s repeating the same ideological error of most Democrats: confusing wealth and elitism. The latter is Obama’s problem. And pointing to McCain’s comfortable circumstances won’t make it go away. But this stunt might make things worse.

It is hardly surprising that the RNC slugs Barack Obama with the Tony Rezko counterpunch after Obama (yes, they are apparently in abject panic) tries to build an attack ad around John McCain’s multiple home ownership. This is getting close to Obama’s blogosphere friends making issues of the McCain adoption and the cross in the sand. It seems to be politically insane. Now the Obama camp, not just their netroot pals, has evidently thrown common sense out the window. Yes, let’s have a few stories a day on the candidates’ respective housing arrangements.

Why does the Obama do this? He’s repeating the same ideological error of most Democrats: confusing wealth and elitism. The latter is Obama’s problem. And pointing to McCain’s comfortable circumstances won’t make it go away. But this stunt might make things worse.

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Third Place?

This morning, Nick Kristof warned Americans that they had better get used to a China-centric international system in which they will be relegated to second–or third–place. “The world we are familiar with, dominated by America and Europe, is a historical anomaly,” he writes. “Now the world is reverting to its normal state–a powerful Asia–and we will have to adjust.” For him, the most important trend at this moment is the rise of China.

Kristof certainly stays on safe ground when he predicts the emergence of the Chinese state. Just about no analyst thinks the United States will be the dominate power when this century ends. In Thomas Friedman’s “flat world” where globalization spreads economic development evenly from continent to continent, a China five times more populous than the United States will end up five times more powerful. Sometime in the course of human history, that may happen.

Yet Chinese dominance, if it ever occurs, won’t happen soon, certainly not this century and maybe not even the next one. Why? Because national strength is not just about population size. As Kristof points out, the New York Times would today be printed in Chinese or Hindi if history moved in straight lines.

If the world truly has a “normal state”–a highly debatable proposition–it is that large and stable countries set the tone for the rest of the international community. And Beijing is in no position to challenge the United States. China, a one-party state, is beset by debilitating internal strife created by hardline governance and intolerance for minority peoples. The Communist Party is having trouble governing itself, not to mention China. As a result, it is in no position to exercise leadership beyond Chinese borders.

China will certainly win more gold medals at the ongoing Olympics, a fact that seems to hold great symbolism for Kristof. Chinese dominance of the Games, for me, speaks more to Beijing’s devotion to maintaining an East German-like sports development program and its commitment to cheating. As he notes, the mighty Chinese state has just sentenced two elderly women–one 77 and the other 79–to one-year terms of re-education through labor because they applied to stage lawful protests. If the Communist Party is so popular, then why does it need to incarcerate two old women and deploy more than 400,000 soldiers, paramilitary troops, police, and volunteers to maintain security for the Olympics?

China is unstable, as the rash of bombings, stabbings, and large-scale protests in the run up to the Olympics shows. Eventually, the country will solve its internal “contradictions,” if I may use a Communist Party term. Until China’s leading political organization settles centuries-old conflicts it inherited and all the new ones it created, the world’s normal state will be an international system with strong Western societies at its core.

This morning, Nick Kristof warned Americans that they had better get used to a China-centric international system in which they will be relegated to second–or third–place. “The world we are familiar with, dominated by America and Europe, is a historical anomaly,” he writes. “Now the world is reverting to its normal state–a powerful Asia–and we will have to adjust.” For him, the most important trend at this moment is the rise of China.

Kristof certainly stays on safe ground when he predicts the emergence of the Chinese state. Just about no analyst thinks the United States will be the dominate power when this century ends. In Thomas Friedman’s “flat world” where globalization spreads economic development evenly from continent to continent, a China five times more populous than the United States will end up five times more powerful. Sometime in the course of human history, that may happen.

Yet Chinese dominance, if it ever occurs, won’t happen soon, certainly not this century and maybe not even the next one. Why? Because national strength is not just about population size. As Kristof points out, the New York Times would today be printed in Chinese or Hindi if history moved in straight lines.

If the world truly has a “normal state”–a highly debatable proposition–it is that large and stable countries set the tone for the rest of the international community. And Beijing is in no position to challenge the United States. China, a one-party state, is beset by debilitating internal strife created by hardline governance and intolerance for minority peoples. The Communist Party is having trouble governing itself, not to mention China. As a result, it is in no position to exercise leadership beyond Chinese borders.

China will certainly win more gold medals at the ongoing Olympics, a fact that seems to hold great symbolism for Kristof. Chinese dominance of the Games, for me, speaks more to Beijing’s devotion to maintaining an East German-like sports development program and its commitment to cheating. As he notes, the mighty Chinese state has just sentenced two elderly women–one 77 and the other 79–to one-year terms of re-education through labor because they applied to stage lawful protests. If the Communist Party is so popular, then why does it need to incarcerate two old women and deploy more than 400,000 soldiers, paramilitary troops, police, and volunteers to maintain security for the Olympics?

China is unstable, as the rash of bombings, stabbings, and large-scale protests in the run up to the Olympics shows. Eventually, the country will solve its internal “contradictions,” if I may use a Communist Party term. Until China’s leading political organization settles centuries-old conflicts it inherited and all the new ones it created, the world’s normal state will be an international system with strong Western societies at its core.

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Two Stories Break Out

As if Barack Obama did not have enough problems there are two stories that just won’t go away, and both spell trouble.

First, slowly but surely the Infant Born Alive controversy and Obama’s attempt to revise his own legislative past is coming to light. This is a straightforward account. The McCain team has yet to make much hay from this, but I suspect they’ll have plenty of time to talk about it as the election grows near. Because of the explosive nature of the subject matter and because it touches on growing concerns about Obama himself—namely that he is not being honest about his past–it has the potential to unsettle more voters than just the pro-life segment of the electorate.

Second, we have another story now popping. Why won’t the University of Illinois release records pertaining to Obama’s association with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a charitable educational venture, which was co-founded by the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, Obama’s neighbor and colleague. To make matters deliciously worse, Mayor Bill Daley steps in and, in essence, says “What’s the big deal?” and “Everyone has friends.” (Hint: Don’t trot out Daley when there are books floating around that question your reformer mantle. People might associate you with strong-arm, non-transparent, old-school politics.)

Together these stories, at the worst possible time, begin to raise the possibility that Obama is not the pristine New Politician he makes himself out to be. In both cases there may be an underlying, damaging issue. But it is the reaction of Obama which is so telling — lie, cover up, don’t disclose a darn thing. Is this any different than the Clinton modus operandi? And what are the Obama-philes to make of this? This is the crowd that excoriated the Bush administration for allegedly covering their tracks, maintaining a veil of secrecy, and giving the media nothing more than canned talking points.

All of this suggests that Obama’s brand of campaigning and politics is not new. Even worse, it suggests he’s no longer escaping scrutiny.

As if Barack Obama did not have enough problems there are two stories that just won’t go away, and both spell trouble.

First, slowly but surely the Infant Born Alive controversy and Obama’s attempt to revise his own legislative past is coming to light. This is a straightforward account. The McCain team has yet to make much hay from this, but I suspect they’ll have plenty of time to talk about it as the election grows near. Because of the explosive nature of the subject matter and because it touches on growing concerns about Obama himself—namely that he is not being honest about his past–it has the potential to unsettle more voters than just the pro-life segment of the electorate.

Second, we have another story now popping. Why won’t the University of Illinois release records pertaining to Obama’s association with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a charitable educational venture, which was co-founded by the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, Obama’s neighbor and colleague. To make matters deliciously worse, Mayor Bill Daley steps in and, in essence, says “What’s the big deal?” and “Everyone has friends.” (Hint: Don’t trot out Daley when there are books floating around that question your reformer mantle. People might associate you with strong-arm, non-transparent, old-school politics.)

Together these stories, at the worst possible time, begin to raise the possibility that Obama is not the pristine New Politician he makes himself out to be. In both cases there may be an underlying, damaging issue. But it is the reaction of Obama which is so telling — lie, cover up, don’t disclose a darn thing. Is this any different than the Clinton modus operandi? And what are the Obama-philes to make of this? This is the crowd that excoriated the Bush administration for allegedly covering their tracks, maintaining a veil of secrecy, and giving the media nothing more than canned talking points.

All of this suggests that Obama’s brand of campaigning and politics is not new. Even worse, it suggests he’s no longer escaping scrutiny.

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Tea Leaves, Slender Reeds, and Hillary

Bill Kristol reads them and says it’s Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island for Obama’s VP. I agree with Bill that Reed is a very sensible pick based on what we know about him. And yet. And yet. If the polling Jennifer noted here is reflected in data the Obama campaign has generated on its own — the polling according to which nearly 50 percent of Hillary Clinton voters are either undecided or planning on voting for McCain — it would be madness for Obama to pick anyone but Hillary.

Bill Kristol reads them and says it’s Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island for Obama’s VP. I agree with Bill that Reed is a very sensible pick based on what we know about him. And yet. And yet. If the polling Jennifer noted here is reflected in data the Obama campaign has generated on its own — the polling according to which nearly 50 percent of Hillary Clinton voters are either undecided or planning on voting for McCain — it would be madness for Obama to pick anyone but Hillary.

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Speaking of Desperate

From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

More American ground troops will have to be sent to Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s over-reliance on airstrikes – which have led to high levels of civilian casualties – has dangerously antagonized the Afghan population. This may require an accelerated timetable for shifting American forces from Iraq, where the security situation has grown somewhat less desperate. [Emphasis added.]

How the Times editorial staff must have agonized over those last nine words! Do we still call it a war? If so, we can’t say it’s going better and still say let’s quit, can we? Let’s go with “security situation.” That’s vague: perfect. Also, we can’t just come out and admit things have improved, can we? I know: “somewhat” improved. No, still too strong. Nothing can be better or positive, only less. Less, less . . . less what? I got it: “less desperate.” Right! “Somewhat less desperate.”

From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

More American ground troops will have to be sent to Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s over-reliance on airstrikes – which have led to high levels of civilian casualties – has dangerously antagonized the Afghan population. This may require an accelerated timetable for shifting American forces from Iraq, where the security situation has grown somewhat less desperate. [Emphasis added.]

How the Times editorial staff must have agonized over those last nine words! Do we still call it a war? If so, we can’t say it’s going better and still say let’s quit, can we? Let’s go with “security situation.” That’s vague: perfect. Also, we can’t just come out and admit things have improved, can we? I know: “somewhat” improved. No, still too strong. Nothing can be better or positive, only less. Less, less . . . less what? I got it: “less desperate.” Right! “Somewhat less desperate.”

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Polls Have More Bad News For Obama

The recent national polling top-line numbers are bad for Barack Obama. But when you look closer, things are even worse. Two key elements of the electorate on which Obama is banking either aren’t sold on or are becoming wary of The One.

The first problem is those Hillary Clinton voters. No problem, the Obamaphiles said. These Hillary groups are GOP-front organizations, we were told. All the real Democrats will embrace Obama, they assured us. Not yet and not by a long shot. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal‘s poll, almost 50% of Hillary Clinton’s voters are either supporting McCain or are undecided. That may change at the Convention, but Obama–despite the wishful thinking of his supporters–is a long way from nailing down his base.

The second big problem, as Guy Benson, details is the youth vote. Obama’s success in the primary in large part rested on this slice of the electorate. And because he does so poorly with older voters, he is very dependent on the under-30 set to turn out in large numbers and support him by a large margin. But wait. His lead there is a puny 11 points and he’s dropped 16 points with this group, according to one poll. The level of enthusiasm, according to an earlier ABC/Washington Post poll, had already dropped even more dramatically–lowering the potential turnout of young voters from a staggering 66% to a more normal-looking figure below 50%. As Benson explains:

Obama’s endless parade of flip-flops — from FISA, to public financing, to offshore drilling, to handguns — may play a central role in the mass exodus. Young voters entered the 2008 election cycle desperate to reject and abandon the tired politics of bitter partisanship and cynical calculation. A naive ambition perhaps, but a pervasive desire nonetheless. They initially embraced Obama as someone who appeared to genuinely share that goal. As the weeks rolled on, though, the once-blinding luster of Obama’s “new politics” has been systematically sullied and tarnished. As more young voters begin to perceive Obama as just another politician, his flowery speeches and rhetorical acrobatics are not wearing particularly well. They may even be getting a little lame. . . If the latest round of polling data is any indication, many young people who originally bought what Obama was selling are asking for their money back.

Marc Ambinder has it exactly right:

But think of this development as simply a beachhead growing a few inches taller against a very powerful wave. Eight years of Republicans and President Bush. A Democratic advantage on the economy — an economy which is not improving. A Democratic GOTV advantage. A Democratic enthusiasm advantage. A Democratic down-ballot advantage. And McCain was always, inevitably going to grow stronger as partisanship set in. A segment of Obama’s independent and Democratic vote was an anti-Clinton vote; Obama looked good in comparison to Clinton. Without Clinton, Obama was just a personality. The campaign has struggled to find a way to reset those impressions, and some folks have probably drifted.

McCain has given them something to think about this summer: Obama. And Obama hasn’t returned the favor. He hasn’t defined McCain in a visceral way, yet. He hasn’t demonstrated that he can connect with working class white voters, although voters do find him empathetic enough. He can do both of these at the convention, and there are indications that he’s doing the former in states with advertising.

A smart senior McCain official put it to me a bit differently a few weeks back: “They ignore us; we take them seriously. Like a heart attack.” Now we can see what comes from reading your own press clippings and ignoring the opposition.

The recent national polling top-line numbers are bad for Barack Obama. But when you look closer, things are even worse. Two key elements of the electorate on which Obama is banking either aren’t sold on or are becoming wary of The One.

The first problem is those Hillary Clinton voters. No problem, the Obamaphiles said. These Hillary groups are GOP-front organizations, we were told. All the real Democrats will embrace Obama, they assured us. Not yet and not by a long shot. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal‘s poll, almost 50% of Hillary Clinton’s voters are either supporting McCain or are undecided. That may change at the Convention, but Obama–despite the wishful thinking of his supporters–is a long way from nailing down his base.

The second big problem, as Guy Benson, details is the youth vote. Obama’s success in the primary in large part rested on this slice of the electorate. And because he does so poorly with older voters, he is very dependent on the under-30 set to turn out in large numbers and support him by a large margin. But wait. His lead there is a puny 11 points and he’s dropped 16 points with this group, according to one poll. The level of enthusiasm, according to an earlier ABC/Washington Post poll, had already dropped even more dramatically–lowering the potential turnout of young voters from a staggering 66% to a more normal-looking figure below 50%. As Benson explains:

Obama’s endless parade of flip-flops — from FISA, to public financing, to offshore drilling, to handguns — may play a central role in the mass exodus. Young voters entered the 2008 election cycle desperate to reject and abandon the tired politics of bitter partisanship and cynical calculation. A naive ambition perhaps, but a pervasive desire nonetheless. They initially embraced Obama as someone who appeared to genuinely share that goal. As the weeks rolled on, though, the once-blinding luster of Obama’s “new politics” has been systematically sullied and tarnished. As more young voters begin to perceive Obama as just another politician, his flowery speeches and rhetorical acrobatics are not wearing particularly well. They may even be getting a little lame. . . If the latest round of polling data is any indication, many young people who originally bought what Obama was selling are asking for their money back.

Marc Ambinder has it exactly right:

But think of this development as simply a beachhead growing a few inches taller against a very powerful wave. Eight years of Republicans and President Bush. A Democratic advantage on the economy — an economy which is not improving. A Democratic GOTV advantage. A Democratic enthusiasm advantage. A Democratic down-ballot advantage. And McCain was always, inevitably going to grow stronger as partisanship set in. A segment of Obama’s independent and Democratic vote was an anti-Clinton vote; Obama looked good in comparison to Clinton. Without Clinton, Obama was just a personality. The campaign has struggled to find a way to reset those impressions, and some folks have probably drifted.

McCain has given them something to think about this summer: Obama. And Obama hasn’t returned the favor. He hasn’t defined McCain in a visceral way, yet. He hasn’t demonstrated that he can connect with working class white voters, although voters do find him empathetic enough. He can do both of these at the convention, and there are indications that he’s doing the former in states with advertising.

A smart senior McCain official put it to me a bit differently a few weeks back: “They ignore us; we take them seriously. Like a heart attack.” Now we can see what comes from reading your own press clippings and ignoring the opposition.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Kurtzer, Overreaching

I’m going to be the curmudgeon here, Shmuel. I want to convince you why all of this fawning over the gangster regime in Damascus is awful, and in particular why it’s bad that so many people who are close to Obama are so dedicated to it. You conclude:

Like it or not, this is (I suspect) Obama’s bedrock position regarding talks with Syria. The rest — Kurtzer, visits, statements, shocks, and dismays — is all mere detail.

The problem with Obama and Syria, or Obama and (insert any number of countries or regions) is that Obama doesn’t in fact have a bedrock position, because he doesn’t know much about the region and actually isn’t that interested in it. This is basically okay. The President cannot, after all, be a specialist on every topic. But the President does need to be able to operate from a set of premises about how regimes such as the one in Damascus work. Obama, I think, clearly is not in possession of such premises. Bashar al-Assad is a blank slate to him.

So he relies inordinately on mainstream liberal advisers, such as Ross and Kurtzer, for wisdom. And what do they say? They say largely the same thing–that there’s no harm in talking. Ross was a peace process envoy for both Bush I and Clinton, and spent a decade sitting with the Syrians in locales around the world trying to negotiate peace deals, all to no avail–and now says innocently that talks are worth exploring, never mind the number of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq by Syrian-sponsored insurgents, or the number of American allies in Lebanon and Israel killed by Syrian cutouts.

When Assad sees that his involvement in the slaughter of American soldiers and allies is met by the United States with polite diplomatic gestures, he correctly understands that America is unwilling to make him pay for his behavior in even the mildest fashion. I doubt that Obama has ever thought much about any of this. Kurtzer and Ross surely have. And that’s why their influence should be cause for concern.

I’m going to be the curmudgeon here, Shmuel. I want to convince you why all of this fawning over the gangster regime in Damascus is awful, and in particular why it’s bad that so many people who are close to Obama are so dedicated to it. You conclude:

Like it or not, this is (I suspect) Obama’s bedrock position regarding talks with Syria. The rest — Kurtzer, visits, statements, shocks, and dismays — is all mere detail.

The problem with Obama and Syria, or Obama and (insert any number of countries or regions) is that Obama doesn’t in fact have a bedrock position, because he doesn’t know much about the region and actually isn’t that interested in it. This is basically okay. The President cannot, after all, be a specialist on every topic. But the President does need to be able to operate from a set of premises about how regimes such as the one in Damascus work. Obama, I think, clearly is not in possession of such premises. Bashar al-Assad is a blank slate to him.

So he relies inordinately on mainstream liberal advisers, such as Ross and Kurtzer, for wisdom. And what do they say? They say largely the same thing–that there’s no harm in talking. Ross was a peace process envoy for both Bush I and Clinton, and spent a decade sitting with the Syrians in locales around the world trying to negotiate peace deals, all to no avail–and now says innocently that talks are worth exploring, never mind the number of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq by Syrian-sponsored insurgents, or the number of American allies in Lebanon and Israel killed by Syrian cutouts.

When Assad sees that his involvement in the slaughter of American soldiers and allies is met by the United States with polite diplomatic gestures, he correctly understands that America is unwilling to make him pay for his behavior in even the mildest fashion. I doubt that Obama has ever thought much about any of this. Kurtzer and Ross surely have. And that’s why their influence should be cause for concern.

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Reality Check

Susan Estrich often seems to be the only grown up in the Democratic Party. It doesn’t make her popular, but it makes her worth reading and listening to. She offers three bits of wise insight.

First, evoking William Goldman, she warns, “No one knows anything.” One of the reasons that Democrats are reeling from some bad poll numbers is that they enjoyed a false sense of security. They knew how to win the election. They had this in the bag. They had finally unlocked the demographic puzzle of producing a victory with an ultra-liberal candidate. But when real voters, real issues, and brewing wars intervene, things don’t seem so certain. The Democratic base, their nominee, and the media cheerleaders (both in the blogosphere and the MSM) made the cardinal error of politics: they thought they knew exactly what was going on. Call it arrogance or inexperience, but no one puts away the election in June.

Then Estrich delicately points out that the Democrats stumbled on a candidate who has proved to be much, much weaker than just about anyone:

The generic Democrat beats the generic Republican by as much as 15 points in generic match-ups for Congressional seats. But generic candidates don’t run: real ones do, and Barack Obama is running behind the generic Democrat and John McCain is running ahead of the generic Republican, at least if you believe the current polls. I’m happy to bet the mortgage that Democrats will do very well in both the Senate and House races this fall, but I don’t think I’ll find any takers. But I’m not making any bets, at least not yet, as to who will be moving in to 1600 Pennsylvania.

And then the kicker: Estrich raises the possibilty that things might really be worse than they appear, that the polls could be overestimating Obama’s strength. What if there aren’t record turnouts of young, undependable voters and African- Americans? What if the Hillary Clinton voters never come over? And what if the Bradley effect (voters lying to pollsters about their intention to vote for an African-American candidate) exists, even to a small degree, in some key states?

None of this is welcome news for Obama supporters. They insist their candidate is brilliant, McCain is a doddering old man, and that the voters can’t help but take their disappointments over the Bush presidency out on McCain. But if they have been wrong about so much else (the wonder of the Berlin speech, the canny Obama flip-flops that would go undetected, and the brilliance of the smears on McCain’s record) maybe they are wrong about all of this too. Estrich reminds us they just might be.

Susan Estrich often seems to be the only grown up in the Democratic Party. It doesn’t make her popular, but it makes her worth reading and listening to. She offers three bits of wise insight.

First, evoking William Goldman, she warns, “No one knows anything.” One of the reasons that Democrats are reeling from some bad poll numbers is that they enjoyed a false sense of security. They knew how to win the election. They had this in the bag. They had finally unlocked the demographic puzzle of producing a victory with an ultra-liberal candidate. But when real voters, real issues, and brewing wars intervene, things don’t seem so certain. The Democratic base, their nominee, and the media cheerleaders (both in the blogosphere and the MSM) made the cardinal error of politics: they thought they knew exactly what was going on. Call it arrogance or inexperience, but no one puts away the election in June.

Then Estrich delicately points out that the Democrats stumbled on a candidate who has proved to be much, much weaker than just about anyone:

The generic Democrat beats the generic Republican by as much as 15 points in generic match-ups for Congressional seats. But generic candidates don’t run: real ones do, and Barack Obama is running behind the generic Democrat and John McCain is running ahead of the generic Republican, at least if you believe the current polls. I’m happy to bet the mortgage that Democrats will do very well in both the Senate and House races this fall, but I don’t think I’ll find any takers. But I’m not making any bets, at least not yet, as to who will be moving in to 1600 Pennsylvania.

And then the kicker: Estrich raises the possibilty that things might really be worse than they appear, that the polls could be overestimating Obama’s strength. What if there aren’t record turnouts of young, undependable voters and African- Americans? What if the Hillary Clinton voters never come over? And what if the Bradley effect (voters lying to pollsters about their intention to vote for an African-American candidate) exists, even to a small degree, in some key states?

None of this is welcome news for Obama supporters. They insist their candidate is brilliant, McCain is a doddering old man, and that the voters can’t help but take their disappointments over the Bush presidency out on McCain. But if they have been wrong about so much else (the wonder of the Berlin speech, the canny Obama flip-flops that would go undetected, and the brilliance of the smears on McCain’s record) maybe they are wrong about all of this too. Estrich reminds us they just might be.

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McCain Derangement Syndrome

In 1991, Cindy McCain visited Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh and decided to adopt and bring home a terribly sick baby. That baby is now 17 year-old daughter Bridget McCain. About this fact — this noble and extraordinary fact — there is no dispute. So now a person who devotes an inordinate amount of sentimental space on his blog to his beagle — fresh from a few days’ effort to impeach a McCain story about a Vietnamese prison guard who drew the sign of the cross in the dirt in front of him on Christmas Day while he was tied up in ropes by asserting and then backing away from the contention that it was borrowed from Alexander Solzhenitsyn — is trying to make a scandal out of the fact that the McCain website and some news stories feature a possibly untrue tale of Cindy being asked directly by Mother Teresa to take the baby home:

Now, the question is whether and when Cindy McCain met with Mother Teresa….Can we nail down the date of that meeting? Or are these questions no one should dare ask of a POW war hero?

This is evidently beyond the pale, and deserving of the horribly obnoxious inference present in the overheated prose on display here, because “a story that shows the McCains’ genuine compassion and faith is embellished over the years to make the story a little more perfect, a little more salient, a little better as a narrative.” Actually, no. The fact that Cindy McCain would have decided to adopt Bridget on her own and without prompting from a living saint only speaks better of her. There is no other fact here that matters. The search for deceptions in the midst of accounts of entirely praiseworthy behavior is a peculiar undertaking, to say the least. The requirements of civility prevent me from saying more than the least.

In 1991, Cindy McCain visited Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh and decided to adopt and bring home a terribly sick baby. That baby is now 17 year-old daughter Bridget McCain. About this fact — this noble and extraordinary fact — there is no dispute. So now a person who devotes an inordinate amount of sentimental space on his blog to his beagle — fresh from a few days’ effort to impeach a McCain story about a Vietnamese prison guard who drew the sign of the cross in the dirt in front of him on Christmas Day while he was tied up in ropes by asserting and then backing away from the contention that it was borrowed from Alexander Solzhenitsyn — is trying to make a scandal out of the fact that the McCain website and some news stories feature a possibly untrue tale of Cindy being asked directly by Mother Teresa to take the baby home:

Now, the question is whether and when Cindy McCain met with Mother Teresa….Can we nail down the date of that meeting? Or are these questions no one should dare ask of a POW war hero?

This is evidently beyond the pale, and deserving of the horribly obnoxious inference present in the overheated prose on display here, because “a story that shows the McCains’ genuine compassion and faith is embellished over the years to make the story a little more perfect, a little more salient, a little better as a narrative.” Actually, no. The fact that Cindy McCain would have decided to adopt Bridget on her own and without prompting from a living saint only speaks better of her. There is no other fact here that matters. The search for deceptions in the midst of accounts of entirely praiseworthy behavior is a peculiar undertaking, to say the least. The requirements of civility prevent me from saying more than the least.

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Injustice for Ibrahim

The Washington Post has a poignant editorial today protesting the unjust sentence handed down by an Egyptian court against well-known dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim:

This month, Mr. Ibrahim was convicted of seditious libel or “tarnishing” the image of Egypt. For this transgression, the ailing, 69-year-old scholar was sentenced to two years in jail, with hard labor, and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to about $1,500. The prime piece of evidence against Mr. Ibrahim: The opinions he expressed in this newspaper.

This is of a piece with Hosni Mubarak’s crackdown against all conceivable liberal challengers. Ayman Nour, who had the temerity to run against Mubarak in the last presidential election in 2005, remains in prison on trumped up charges of fabricating signatures for his qualification petitions. (Luckily for Ibrahim, he is living outside Egypt these days so he won’t be in an adjoining cell—as long as he doesn’t return to his homeland.) And, for all of President Bush’s championing of dissidents such as these, the Mubarak regime still continues to get approximately $2 billion a year in U.S. aid, no strings attached. As the Post notes:

There was a time, only a few years ago, when [Bush] withheld millions of dollars in aid to Egypt until the country released Mr. Ibrahim from an unjust incarceration. Now, the administration can only muster an official, feeble “expression of disappointment” through an organ of the State Department as it continues to funnel billions to Egypt, enabling Mr. Mubarak to run an increasingly repressive police state.

Sooner or later Bush will have to address the obvious question: Was he wrong in his first term to make support for democrats and dissidents a central focus of his presidency? Or is he wrong today to quietly walk away from his earlier advocacy? Or, perhaps more accurately, to let his underlings quietly walk away from his earlier advocacy?

In his heart of hearts, I suspect that Bush feels as passionately as ever about “the freedom agenda,” which makes it all the more puzzling that he has allowed his secretary of state and others to shrink it to the vanishing point. Bush can still point to a few statements of support for dissidents. But his actions haven’t matched his rhetoric, leaving those who stuck out their necks—brave men like Ibrahim and Nour—to pay the price.

The Washington Post has a poignant editorial today protesting the unjust sentence handed down by an Egyptian court against well-known dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim:

This month, Mr. Ibrahim was convicted of seditious libel or “tarnishing” the image of Egypt. For this transgression, the ailing, 69-year-old scholar was sentenced to two years in jail, with hard labor, and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to about $1,500. The prime piece of evidence against Mr. Ibrahim: The opinions he expressed in this newspaper.

This is of a piece with Hosni Mubarak’s crackdown against all conceivable liberal challengers. Ayman Nour, who had the temerity to run against Mubarak in the last presidential election in 2005, remains in prison on trumped up charges of fabricating signatures for his qualification petitions. (Luckily for Ibrahim, he is living outside Egypt these days so he won’t be in an adjoining cell—as long as he doesn’t return to his homeland.) And, for all of President Bush’s championing of dissidents such as these, the Mubarak regime still continues to get approximately $2 billion a year in U.S. aid, no strings attached. As the Post notes:

There was a time, only a few years ago, when [Bush] withheld millions of dollars in aid to Egypt until the country released Mr. Ibrahim from an unjust incarceration. Now, the administration can only muster an official, feeble “expression of disappointment” through an organ of the State Department as it continues to funnel billions to Egypt, enabling Mr. Mubarak to run an increasingly repressive police state.

Sooner or later Bush will have to address the obvious question: Was he wrong in his first term to make support for democrats and dissidents a central focus of his presidency? Or is he wrong today to quietly walk away from his earlier advocacy? Or, perhaps more accurately, to let his underlings quietly walk away from his earlier advocacy?

In his heart of hearts, I suspect that Bush feels as passionately as ever about “the freedom agenda,” which makes it all the more puzzling that he has allowed his secretary of state and others to shrink it to the vanishing point. Bush can still point to a few statements of support for dissidents. But his actions haven’t matched his rhetoric, leaving those who stuck out their necks—brave men like Ibrahim and Nour—to pay the price.

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Conventional Wisdom

Karl Rove reminds us that party conventions, despite the excess of artifice, must have a central message. I think his advice is largely, but not entirely, sound when it comes to John McCain. He is on the mark in counseling McCain to demonstrate domestic policy prowess and to stress his bipartisan bona fides. But I think he goes astray when he suggests

Mr. McCain’s warrior ethic makes it difficult for him to share his interior life, though his conversation with Rick Warren did provide moving glimpses into it. To win, Mr. McCain will need to show more.

Emotive self-revelation is not McCain’s thing. The last thing Republicans want to do is to introduce mawkish emotion and overblown egotism into their own candidacy. That’s for the other guy. Let McCain be humble and restrained.

As for Obama, I think Rove again gets it entirely right when he explains:

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, needs to reassure Americans he is up to the job. Voters recognize he represents change, yet they are unsettled. Does he have the experience to be president? There are growing concerns, which the McCain campaign has tapped, that Mr. Obama is an inexperienced celebrity-politician smitten with his own press clippings . . . Mr. Obama’s performance this summer has added to voter doubts, putting a large burden on his acceptance speech. There are challenges in a speech staged with 75,000 screaming partisans at INVESCO Field. Will it deepen the impression that he’s more of a rock star than a person of serious public purpose, or can Mr. Obama have the serious conversation he needs to reassure Americans?

It is ironic that the candidate the Left has lionized as a great intellectual must now prove that its candidacy is “about important answers” and not merely about the “change we’ve been waiting for.” Unlike the Democrats who seem fixated on atmospherics and proving their candidate is a patriot, Rove suggests (rightly, I think) he would do better to demonstrate that he is not a policy lightweight and is serious about specific policy objectives. After all, if sympathetic bloggers can’t figure out where he stands on economic policy how is the public going to? Does he have principles? And, if so, are they something more than recycled liberal orthodoxy?

But one thing is indisputable. Especially in a race this close, as Rove points out, a convention “can still shape, and maybe even alter, an election.”

Karl Rove reminds us that party conventions, despite the excess of artifice, must have a central message. I think his advice is largely, but not entirely, sound when it comes to John McCain. He is on the mark in counseling McCain to demonstrate domestic policy prowess and to stress his bipartisan bona fides. But I think he goes astray when he suggests

Mr. McCain’s warrior ethic makes it difficult for him to share his interior life, though his conversation with Rick Warren did provide moving glimpses into it. To win, Mr. McCain will need to show more.

Emotive self-revelation is not McCain’s thing. The last thing Republicans want to do is to introduce mawkish emotion and overblown egotism into their own candidacy. That’s for the other guy. Let McCain be humble and restrained.

As for Obama, I think Rove again gets it entirely right when he explains:

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, needs to reassure Americans he is up to the job. Voters recognize he represents change, yet they are unsettled. Does he have the experience to be president? There are growing concerns, which the McCain campaign has tapped, that Mr. Obama is an inexperienced celebrity-politician smitten with his own press clippings . . . Mr. Obama’s performance this summer has added to voter doubts, putting a large burden on his acceptance speech. There are challenges in a speech staged with 75,000 screaming partisans at INVESCO Field. Will it deepen the impression that he’s more of a rock star than a person of serious public purpose, or can Mr. Obama have the serious conversation he needs to reassure Americans?

It is ironic that the candidate the Left has lionized as a great intellectual must now prove that its candidacy is “about important answers” and not merely about the “change we’ve been waiting for.” Unlike the Democrats who seem fixated on atmospherics and proving their candidate is a patriot, Rove suggests (rightly, I think) he would do better to demonstrate that he is not a policy lightweight and is serious about specific policy objectives. After all, if sympathetic bloggers can’t figure out where he stands on economic policy how is the public going to? Does he have principles? And, if so, are they something more than recycled liberal orthodoxy?

But one thing is indisputable. Especially in a race this close, as Rove points out, a convention “can still shape, and maybe even alter, an election.”

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Obama Blames Putin on Us

Yesterday, Barack Obama told a Virginia audience “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

Faced with a geopolitical challenge that demands unwavering Western fortitude and American stewardship, Barack Obama apologizes for the misuse of American strength and initiative. This speaks of a worldview in which America’s faults are always kept at the fore and a national security paradigm in which the U.S. must seek to understand enemy action as a manifestation of American arrogance. This worldview leaves us dangerously ill-equipped to tackle or even contain antagonists like Vladimir Putin and company.

Putin does not follow Washington’s example in matters of aggression. Iraq war or not, the Kremlin’s plans for the past two weeks would have unfolded as they did and with the same degree of militancy. Moscow has been cleansing South Ossetia of Georgian sympathizers and fomenting anti-Georgian sentiment there since the early 90’s. In fact, if any blame for this crisis falls on the U.S., it’s not due to George W. Bush’s bellicosity, but to the measured pragmatism of his father, who established the policy whereby independence in the South Caucasus was exclusively a “domestic affair of the U.S.S.R.”

Obama’s impulse toward self-flagellation represents more than a case of faulty judgment. It is in itself a liability. If Obama were actually President, imagine the effects of these words in Moscow. As Victor Davis Hanson recently put it, “Russia knows the great truth about the West: it will pour a half-million people into the street to protest the United States removing a homicidal dictator to foster democracy, but not a half-dozen to object to Russia attempting to remove a democratic government to foster dictatorship.” Discomfort with war is a laudable trait. But the commander-in-chief has to be able to put such concerns in perspective when global power shifts in alarming ways. Barack Obama, as indicated in his statement, sees any country–even his own–as damnable once it “charge[s] into other countries.” What more could Putin desire in an American president?

In fairness, there was always a respectable argument that the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq would open the door for less trustworthy countries looking to justify aggression on pre-emptive grounds. It does not apply here, and in any case now is not the time for an American leader to air it. As for “leading by example,” blaming the U.S.–at least partially–in public for Russian hostility is surely the worst way to go about it.

Yesterday, Barack Obama told a Virginia audience “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

Faced with a geopolitical challenge that demands unwavering Western fortitude and American stewardship, Barack Obama apologizes for the misuse of American strength and initiative. This speaks of a worldview in which America’s faults are always kept at the fore and a national security paradigm in which the U.S. must seek to understand enemy action as a manifestation of American arrogance. This worldview leaves us dangerously ill-equipped to tackle or even contain antagonists like Vladimir Putin and company.

Putin does not follow Washington’s example in matters of aggression. Iraq war or not, the Kremlin’s plans for the past two weeks would have unfolded as they did and with the same degree of militancy. Moscow has been cleansing South Ossetia of Georgian sympathizers and fomenting anti-Georgian sentiment there since the early 90’s. In fact, if any blame for this crisis falls on the U.S., it’s not due to George W. Bush’s bellicosity, but to the measured pragmatism of his father, who established the policy whereby independence in the South Caucasus was exclusively a “domestic affair of the U.S.S.R.”

Obama’s impulse toward self-flagellation represents more than a case of faulty judgment. It is in itself a liability. If Obama were actually President, imagine the effects of these words in Moscow. As Victor Davis Hanson recently put it, “Russia knows the great truth about the West: it will pour a half-million people into the street to protest the United States removing a homicidal dictator to foster democracy, but not a half-dozen to object to Russia attempting to remove a democratic government to foster dictatorship.” Discomfort with war is a laudable trait. But the commander-in-chief has to be able to put such concerns in perspective when global power shifts in alarming ways. Barack Obama, as indicated in his statement, sees any country–even his own–as damnable once it “charge[s] into other countries.” What more could Putin desire in an American president?

In fairness, there was always a respectable argument that the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq would open the door for less trustworthy countries looking to justify aggression on pre-emptive grounds. It does not apply here, and in any case now is not the time for an American leader to air it. As for “leading by example,” blaming the U.S.–at least partially–in public for Russian hostility is surely the worst way to go about it.

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Re: Re: Re: Kurtzer, Overreaching

I was a little surprised by all the brouhaha (see here, here, and here) over Daniel Kurtzer’s trip to Damascus. Not that I think this trip was the best of ideas–but what’s the fuss all about? Kurtzer is only one more tourist in a long chain of more senior travelers to the capital of Syria. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, was there. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was there. Senator Bill Nelson was there in 2006, and as far as I remember he was accompanied in this trip by his advisor Dan Shapiro (now officially with the Obama campaign). One can also add to this long list the name of Condi Rice, who met with her Syrian counterpart in 2007 (though the meeting was in Egypt). And don’t forget that the Bush administration invited Syria to attend the Annapolis peace conference.

So why is Kurtzer’s trip different? I suspect the objections are more about the politics of the day than about a genuine shock over the trip itself. However, three things are worth mentioning regarding the trip, its meaning, and its author.

First, meeting with Syrian officials is a questionable move, but such meetings are already an established fact. Since Israel has decided-wrongly, in my opinion–to negotiate with Damascus, international isolation of the country has been crumbling and President Bashar Assad has become an acceptable figure in the eyes of many. Under such circumstances, I don’t see how an Obama administration will be able to refrain from at least trying to engage the Syrians–and I suspect a McCain administration might do the same.

Of course, for an Obama advisor to be meeting with Syrians at this point in time is problematic. It undermines American policy and sends the message that Damascus should stall and wait for the next American President to take office. And Rudy Giuliani was right to suggest that Kurtzer is being used “for propaganda points.” But let’s be honest here: the Syrians are already riding high. They also already know that they should wait for the next administration. Kurtzer’s visit didn’t make much of a difference.

There is a second, political point related to this. As much as I’d like Americans to stand firm against useless and damaging talks with bullies and thugs, Obama has proved by now that it’s easier politically to preach for talks-with-everybody that it is to defend a no-talks policy.

I once made this point about the Jimmy Carter’s distasteful shenanigans in the Middle East:

Jimmy Carter holds the trump card when he talks about the need to speak to one’s enemies. His advantage is the instinct harbored by most Americans, who reject “the policy of isolating problem countries” and believe “that the United States should be willing to enter into talks with them,” as one public-opinion poll put it in December 2006. In that poll, only 16 favored “pressure,” while a whopping 82 percent was “willing to talk.” Eighty-four percent of respondents supported the proposition that “communication increases the chance of finding a mutually agreeable solution.” So although Carter wants you to think he is working against the odds, calling for talks is, in fact, the easier political position.

Will Kurtzer be hurting Obama by meeting with the Syrians? I’m not at all sure he will, frankly. But even so his prospects of a role in a future Obama administration are growing dimmer daily. This former Ambassador to Israel and Orthodox Jew has turned out to be one the most left-leaning advisors Obama now has–a somewhat puzzling fact when one recalls the circumstances leading to the decision, made just days before the Ohio primaries, to bring him on board:

Former Ambassador [to Israel] Martin Indyk, a long time Clinton supporter, came to convince the potential voters to vote for her, but on Sunday the Obama campaign also threw a former Israel ambassador into the ring: Daniel Kurtzer.

However, Kurtzer proved to be quite problematic as a surrogate responsible for calming Jewish voters, a point accurately highlighted by Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

[Kurtzer] could prove to be more problem than solution, at least among the more established elements of the pro-Israel community. If anything, he is more pronounced in advising a balanced approach to Middle East peacemaking than any of the real and purported advisers to Obama already singled out for criticism by pro-Israel hawks.

It is no surprise that Kurtzer’s standings with the campaign have been decreasing in recent months, a fact made even more pronounced by the growing presence of former special Mideast envoy Dennis Ross. Ross and Kurtzer were both members of the Clinton peace team, but the views they’ve expressed in recent years have been very different. There’s no doubt that Ross is now the more influential of the two. And his views regarding Syria talks were published not so long ago:

Statecraft requires recognizing where one has leverage and where one’s adversaries have vulnerabilities. Syria’s relationship with Iran and Hezbollah is tactical not strategic. There is no guarantee that by talking, the Israelis — or the United States — will suddenly be able to wean Syria away from Iran or Hezbollah. It is entirely possible that neither the Israelis nor the United States can or should pay what Syria wants. But if war is an increasing possibility and if there is tactical benefit in demonstrating that even Syria feels the need to talk to Israel, it is hard to see what is lost by doing so.

Like it or not, this is (I suspect) Obama’s bedrock position regarding talks with Syria. The rest–Kurtzer, visits, statements, shocks, and dismays–is all mere detail.

I was a little surprised by all the brouhaha (see here, here, and here) over Daniel Kurtzer’s trip to Damascus. Not that I think this trip was the best of ideas–but what’s the fuss all about? Kurtzer is only one more tourist in a long chain of more senior travelers to the capital of Syria. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, was there. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was there. Senator Bill Nelson was there in 2006, and as far as I remember he was accompanied in this trip by his advisor Dan Shapiro (now officially with the Obama campaign). One can also add to this long list the name of Condi Rice, who met with her Syrian counterpart in 2007 (though the meeting was in Egypt). And don’t forget that the Bush administration invited Syria to attend the Annapolis peace conference.

So why is Kurtzer’s trip different? I suspect the objections are more about the politics of the day than about a genuine shock over the trip itself. However, three things are worth mentioning regarding the trip, its meaning, and its author.

First, meeting with Syrian officials is a questionable move, but such meetings are already an established fact. Since Israel has decided-wrongly, in my opinion–to negotiate with Damascus, international isolation of the country has been crumbling and President Bashar Assad has become an acceptable figure in the eyes of many. Under such circumstances, I don’t see how an Obama administration will be able to refrain from at least trying to engage the Syrians–and I suspect a McCain administration might do the same.

Of course, for an Obama advisor to be meeting with Syrians at this point in time is problematic. It undermines American policy and sends the message that Damascus should stall and wait for the next American President to take office. And Rudy Giuliani was right to suggest that Kurtzer is being used “for propaganda points.” But let’s be honest here: the Syrians are already riding high. They also already know that they should wait for the next administration. Kurtzer’s visit didn’t make much of a difference.

There is a second, political point related to this. As much as I’d like Americans to stand firm against useless and damaging talks with bullies and thugs, Obama has proved by now that it’s easier politically to preach for talks-with-everybody that it is to defend a no-talks policy.

I once made this point about the Jimmy Carter’s distasteful shenanigans in the Middle East:

Jimmy Carter holds the trump card when he talks about the need to speak to one’s enemies. His advantage is the instinct harbored by most Americans, who reject “the policy of isolating problem countries” and believe “that the United States should be willing to enter into talks with them,” as one public-opinion poll put it in December 2006. In that poll, only 16 favored “pressure,” while a whopping 82 percent was “willing to talk.” Eighty-four percent of respondents supported the proposition that “communication increases the chance of finding a mutually agreeable solution.” So although Carter wants you to think he is working against the odds, calling for talks is, in fact, the easier political position.

Will Kurtzer be hurting Obama by meeting with the Syrians? I’m not at all sure he will, frankly. But even so his prospects of a role in a future Obama administration are growing dimmer daily. This former Ambassador to Israel and Orthodox Jew has turned out to be one the most left-leaning advisors Obama now has–a somewhat puzzling fact when one recalls the circumstances leading to the decision, made just days before the Ohio primaries, to bring him on board:

Former Ambassador [to Israel] Martin Indyk, a long time Clinton supporter, came to convince the potential voters to vote for her, but on Sunday the Obama campaign also threw a former Israel ambassador into the ring: Daniel Kurtzer.

However, Kurtzer proved to be quite problematic as a surrogate responsible for calming Jewish voters, a point accurately highlighted by Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

[Kurtzer] could prove to be more problem than solution, at least among the more established elements of the pro-Israel community. If anything, he is more pronounced in advising a balanced approach to Middle East peacemaking than any of the real and purported advisers to Obama already singled out for criticism by pro-Israel hawks.

It is no surprise that Kurtzer’s standings with the campaign have been decreasing in recent months, a fact made even more pronounced by the growing presence of former special Mideast envoy Dennis Ross. Ross and Kurtzer were both members of the Clinton peace team, but the views they’ve expressed in recent years have been very different. There’s no doubt that Ross is now the more influential of the two. And his views regarding Syria talks were published not so long ago:

Statecraft requires recognizing where one has leverage and where one’s adversaries have vulnerabilities. Syria’s relationship with Iran and Hezbollah is tactical not strategic. There is no guarantee that by talking, the Israelis — or the United States — will suddenly be able to wean Syria away from Iran or Hezbollah. It is entirely possible that neither the Israelis nor the United States can or should pay what Syria wants. But if war is an increasing possibility and if there is tactical benefit in demonstrating that even Syria feels the need to talk to Israel, it is hard to see what is lost by doing so.

Like it or not, this is (I suspect) Obama’s bedrock position regarding talks with Syria. The rest–Kurtzer, visits, statements, shocks, and dismays–is all mere detail.

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It Is Just The Vice Presidency

The Wall Street Journal pushes back against the Joe Lieberman-induced panic rippling through the conservative base. The editors write:

Meanwhile, the Republican blogosphere is erupting over rumors that Mr. McCain might choose Mr. Lieberman as his vice president. Our email box is full of panicky reports that the Arizona Republican is giving it serious thought, and that this would doom Mr. McCain’s chances in November. Mr. Lieberman is pro-choice on abortion, he’s a liberal on this or that, and in any case isn’t there any Republican who could fill the bill? Or so goes the anticipatory outrage.

Our own view is that Mr. Lieberman would make a fine Secretary of State, and that, given the political risks, making him vice president would probably be too great an election gamble. But Mr. Lieberman’s national security credentials are first-rate, and we’ve known him long enough to remember his opposition to an income tax in Connecticut, and his support for lower capital gains taxes, school vouchers and private Social Security accounts. Liberated from having to run as a Democrat, he might recall those policy instincts.

We have no doubt he’d be a better vice president than many oft-mooted Republicans, including some of those who are favorites of the anti-Lieberman alarmists.

This strikes me as entirely on the mark. But I think the shift in fortunes in the race in McCain’s favor may weigh against a Lieberman pick, even if the other GOP choices are less impressive. With McCain pulling into a dead heat and Democrats in semi-meltdown mode, there is less reason for McCain to take a risky gamble and more reason to believe that he can, on his own, appeal to disaffected Democrats and independents. In the end it might just not be worth the agony and the risk of a convention blow-up just at the point at which McCain is hitting his stride.

And if the alternatives to Lieberman seem less compelling and less intellectually vibrant, one should keep in mind: it’s just the vice presidency. If McCain gets elected, there will be plenty of room in the cabinet for Lieberman (at State).

The Wall Street Journal pushes back against the Joe Lieberman-induced panic rippling through the conservative base. The editors write:

Meanwhile, the Republican blogosphere is erupting over rumors that Mr. McCain might choose Mr. Lieberman as his vice president. Our email box is full of panicky reports that the Arizona Republican is giving it serious thought, and that this would doom Mr. McCain’s chances in November. Mr. Lieberman is pro-choice on abortion, he’s a liberal on this or that, and in any case isn’t there any Republican who could fill the bill? Or so goes the anticipatory outrage.

Our own view is that Mr. Lieberman would make a fine Secretary of State, and that, given the political risks, making him vice president would probably be too great an election gamble. But Mr. Lieberman’s national security credentials are first-rate, and we’ve known him long enough to remember his opposition to an income tax in Connecticut, and his support for lower capital gains taxes, school vouchers and private Social Security accounts. Liberated from having to run as a Democrat, he might recall those policy instincts.

We have no doubt he’d be a better vice president than many oft-mooted Republicans, including some of those who are favorites of the anti-Lieberman alarmists.

This strikes me as entirely on the mark. But I think the shift in fortunes in the race in McCain’s favor may weigh against a Lieberman pick, even if the other GOP choices are less impressive. With McCain pulling into a dead heat and Democrats in semi-meltdown mode, there is less reason for McCain to take a risky gamble and more reason to believe that he can, on his own, appeal to disaffected Democrats and independents. In the end it might just not be worth the agony and the risk of a convention blow-up just at the point at which McCain is hitting his stride.

And if the alternatives to Lieberman seem less compelling and less intellectually vibrant, one should keep in mind: it’s just the vice presidency. If McCain gets elected, there will be plenty of room in the cabinet for Lieberman (at State).

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