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Maliki to Bush: Time to Leave the Island

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 10:39 PM EDT

MALIKI TO BUSH: TIME TO LEAVE THE ISLAND....This sure doesn't sound like an "aspirational" timeline to me:

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said Monday there would be no security agreement between the United States and Iraq without an unconditional timetable for withdrawal — a direct challenge to the Bush administration, which insists that the timing for troop departure would be based on conditions on the ground.

"No pact or an agreement should be set without being based on full sovereignty, national common interests, and no foreign soldier should remain on Iraqi land, and there should be a specific deadline and it should not be open," Maliki told a meeting of tribal Sheikhs in Baghdad.

Maliki said that the United States and Iraq had agreed that all foreign troops would be off Iraqi soil by the end of 2011. "There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said.

Obvious caveat: Maliki is a politician, and politicians spin things differently to different audiences. If he were speaking at a joint press conference with President Bush, I'll bet his tone would be a little softer.

That said, Maliki's been pretty consistent on this point for weeks, ever since he first endorsed Barack Obama's 16-month timeline in an interview with Der Spiegel. The final wording of the SOFA will probably contain just enough equivocal language to allow George Bush to save some face, but don't kid yourself: Maliki wants a firm commitment from us that we're going to leave. There's only a limited amount of spin that Bush and McCain can put on that.

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A Clintonite Channels Joe Lieberman

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 9:25 PM EDT

Today on Sean Hannity's radio show, Lanny Davis, who was one of Hillary Clinton's most prominent surrogates during the primaries, said:

You know, I would consider voting for McCain on character and on the kind of human being he is because I have great--I know him--I have great admiration for him. I would sleep well at night if John McCain is President. But on the issues, Barack Obama is for the issues that I care about.

That, as they might say at Obama HQ, is not helpful. If Hillary Hold-ons pose a problem for Barack Obama (as I noted earlier), then the key placers in Hillaryland have to do all they can to encourage these voters to put aside any resentment and swing behind Obama. Cynical political observers--and perhaps not-so-cynical observers--can wonder if Davis' remarks reflect a reluctance within the inner Clinton circle to do that and a desire to keep the anti-Obama pot boiling.

At the Democratic Convention, Getting Jimmy Carter Right

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 9:01 PM EDT

For over two decades, Democrats planning their party's presidential conventions have faced a dilemma: what to do with Jimmy Carter? After losing his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter was not the most popular fellow around. In the following years, the party wasn't eager to remind voters that Carter had once been its leaders. In recent years, Carter, while engaged in multiple humanitarian efforts at home and abroad, has sparked controversy with his candid talk about Middle East matters.

This time around, the convention planners devised a smart and appropriate way to use and acknowledge--and pay tribute--to one of the best ex-presidents in U.S. history. They showed a film in which Carter, labeled both president and humanitarian, interviewed victims of Hurricane Katrina in their still-devastated New Orleans neighborhoods. Carter also narrated the film, noting that Katrina "sent a signal around the world that our own government couldn't take care of own people." He noted that what has happened--and not happened--in New Orleans is similar to what he has seen in the poorest regions of the world. "We have been forgotten," one New Orleans resident told him, as he nodded sympathetically. That sympathy was obviously genuine. And Carter took the obvious jab at George W. Bush, noting that Barack Obama, if elected, will make sure that such an inadequate government response never happens again.

Once the film ended, Carter hit the stage, with his wife, Rosalynn. The thousands of Democratic delegates cheered loudly for them. He said nothing. He waved. He left. It was well done--and a reminder that this ex-president has been more effective than the current one.

Stock Market Watch

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 6:41 PM EDT

STOCK MARKET WATCH....From the AP today:

Stocks sank in light trading Monday as worries about American International Group Inc. touched off broader concerns that the deterioration of the credit markets will bring more big losses for financial companies.

Damn liberal media. Everyone knows the market is down because the start of the Democratic convention has Wall Street worried that Barack Obama might become president next year and wreck the economy. Don't these guys ever stop shilling for their liberal darlings?

UPDATE: With my hand over my heart, I swear I wrote this post before surfing over to The Corner to see what professional nutbag Larry Kudlow had to say about today's market swoon. Sure enough, he came through for me.

New Poll: Obama Can Win Reagan Dems With Economic Populism

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 5:34 PM EDT

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A new poll released today at the Democratic National Convention suggests that a strong message of economic populism would help Barack Obama with blue-collar workers. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, was released at a Change to Win press conference in Denver this morning. Change To Win is a coalition of seven largely service-worker-oriented unions that broke off from the AFL-CIO in 2005. The coalition has been especially active in electoral politics since then, and plans to commit tens of millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to electing Barack Obama in November.

The Lake poll focused on the idea of the American Dream, which labor contends has been disappearing in recent years. Most of the "working Americans" surveyed agreed, with 79% saying the American Dream has become harder to achieve in recent years. Economic populism is very popular with the workers surveyed: By overwhelming numbers, American workers support a progressive tax system, guaranteed health care, and fair trade. They also support Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin. There's also bad news for Obama in the survey, and you've heard it before: white workers are split between Obama and McCain. But the results offer hope:

Senator Obama can win white working Americans over. While Senator McCain and Senator Obama remain locked in a tight battle for the votes of white working Americans, a solid majority believe Senator Obama understands their economic struggles (59%) and would be able to improve wages and working conditions if he were President (51%). They have a net positive opinion of Senator Obama (+10, 50 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable) and they tend to think Senator McCain is the one who is more influenced by big corporations and CEOs (42% McCain, 16% Obama). White working Americans also believe it is Senator Obama who has the best vision for restoring the American Dream (39% Obama, 25% McCain), and that Senator Obama best represents the values of the American Dream (41% Obama, 35% McCain).

White workers may be split, but there seems to be a lot of evidence that Obama can win more of them to his side. How successful he is at doing that could determine the outcome of the election. It'll be interesting to watch. You can find the full poll results here.

Photo by flickr user Saad.Akhtar used under a Creative Commons license.

Obama and Change

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 5:19 PM EDT

OBAMA AND CHANGE....Joe Klein sat in on another of Frank Luntz's focus groups of undecided voters yesterday and, among other things, came away with this:

"Change" as a theme is over. Too vague. And Obama's rhetoric has begun to seriously cut against him. "No more oratory," one woman said. "Give us details."

I imagine Klein is going to get a lot of grief for this in the lefty blogosphere, since, after all, Obama has white papers up the gazoo for anyone who wants to know what he really stands for. But I'd be careful about shooting the messenger here. If Obama hasn't closed the sale, then he hasn't closed the sale, and railing about it won't change the facts on the ground.

What's more, I think there's something to this. Sure, "time for a change" is an evergreen theme, adopted by out-of-power parties since the first leader of a neanderthal clan failed to kill enough mammoths to keep everyone back in camp happily sated. And it'll be part of Obama's message all the way until election day. But by itself it might not be enough to get him elected, and even if it is, it won't be enough to allow him to govern.

I just finished writing a short essay on more-or-less this very topic, so I won't anticipate myself too much here. But the nickel version is this: the goal of this election shouldn't be just to win, it should be to talk a big chunk of the electorate into becoming friendlier toward liberal goals and ideas. Not just friendlier toward change, but friendlier toward specifically liberal change. That means a public that, at least at the margins, is more convinced that we need universal healthcare and that Obama can deliver it; that we need to withdraw from Iraq and reboot our foreign policy; and that some sacrifices are acceptable in the service of a serious energy policy. So far, though, Obama has simply been too cautious about standing up and really hammering home a simple, easily understood case for these and other specifically liberal goals.

FDR got away with this in 1932, running a mushy campaign and then turning around and delivering the New Deal a year later. But FDR was a genius who had the Great Depression around to scare the hell out of everyone. Obama just won't have that, which means that working on public opinion is even more important now than it was in 1932. That woman in the focus group was practically begging to be not just inspired, but inspired in the service of a specific goal. Obama needs to listen to her.

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Hey PUMAs: McCain Wants to Overturn Roe. This Isn't a Joke

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 4:22 PM EDT

Debra Bartoshevich is a Hillary Clinton supporter (aka PUMA) who just cut an ad supporting John McCain. In a press conference launching the ad, she had this to say about John McCain's record on choice:

Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.

That's true, he did. John McCain has a history of making statements that would appear to put him on both sides of an issue. It's hard to make sense of his positions sometimes. Here, specifically, is McCain's quote from 1999: "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

And here's Carly Fiorina, top McCain surrogate, furthering the confusion earlier this year: "[McCain] has never signed on to efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade."

But the 1999 quote is outdated and Fiorina is just plain wrong. McCain is an uncompromising pro-lifer. Why not take a look at what the McCain website has to say? It's pretty explicit. Here's a screenshot:

Voting Machine Humor!

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 4:10 PM EDT

If aren't familiar with xkcd, you're missing out.

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"I Am Hillary Clinton and I Do Not Approve That Message"

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton has responded to the McCain ad that uses her image and words:

Every one of us could stand up and recite all the reasons why we must elect Barack. The Supreme Court is at stake; our educational system needs the right kind of change. We've got to become energy independent; we have to create millions of new green collar jobs. We've got so much work to do around the world.
None of that will happen if John McCain is in the White House. I just want to make it absolutely clear we cannot afford four more years of George W. Bush's failed policies in America and that's what we would get with John McCain.
Now I understand that the McCain campaign is running ads trying to divide us and let me state what I think about their tactics and these ads: I am Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message.

So let there be the no mistake about it, we are united. We are united for change.

Will that be enough to convince these folks? Probably not. It doesn't help that every sign of reconciliation (Bill and Hillary slated to speak at the convention, for example), seems to come with another report that the Clintons feel, rightly or wrongly, disrespected by the Obama campaign.

Mining for Gold

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

After more than two weeks of shot putting, somersaulting, sprinting, and spiking, the Beijing Olympics have come to a close. And for the first time in 72 years, the United States isn't standing atop the podium.

China has come away with the most gold medals, walloping the US 51-36. And while home countries often claim more victories in the year they host—Greece procured an impressive 16 medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics—few countries have seemed as driven as China and none have toppled the dominant USA in a quarter of a century. And the US is having trouble dealing with it. The UK edition of the Times Online noted that the United States is defying the traditional system by keeping tabs of the most overall medals instead of golds (The US scored 110 overalls to China's 100)—a move summed up in the headline "America Refuses to Accept Defeat in the Olympic Medal Count."

Most Americans will gauge this Olympics, as they always do (ok, maybe a little moreso this year), by its heroes: Michael Phelps with his record-breaking dominance and supportive single mother; Shawn Johnson and the Chinese coach who guided her to gold in his hometown. Don't forget your Michael Phelps gold medal tribute to remember! But fluffing Phelps' feathers aside, the medal tally matters. When billions of people around the world see that you're the top dog, it's an unbeatable global PR push.