Mojo - September 2007

Chuck Hagel, Next SecDef?

| Sun Sep. 9, 2007 1:54 PM EDT

Ok, so Jonathan took me a little too literally when he wrote that I said Chuck Hagel's pending retirement from the Senate cleared the way for him to become Hillary Clinton's Secretary of Defense. However, Chuck Hagel would up the curb appeal of many a candidate. As a social conservative who's got great defense credentials, but who's been outspokenly critical of how the war is being handled, he could be a nice VP candidate for the Republicans—helping to keep some moderate Republicans and Independents in the GOP fold—so long as the top of the ticket was willing to be openly critical of Bush and what the surge has or hasn't accomplished. And his social conservative bona fides would help, say, Rudy Giuliani.

That said, I do like the scenario where a Chuck Hagel type is floated, ahead of the election, by the Democratic primary winner to be the next Secretary of Defense. It signals biapartisanship—which we are going to sorely need to take on Iraq, climate changes, health care, etc.—and the qualities that would make Hagel toxic to liberals (pro-life, etc.) are safely sealed off in that post.

Bill Clinton, of course, made Republican Senator William Cohen his SecDef.

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News of the Weird

| Sun Sep. 9, 2007 1:28 PM EDT

First it was Jews for Jesus. Now Jews for Hitler?

See this from the BBC.

Dispatch from the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference

| Sat Sep. 8, 2007 11:58 PM EDT

At this weekend's conference of environmental journalists in Palo Alto, the AP's science writer, Seth Borenstein, moderated a plenary session called "Covering Climate Change." A day before the event, he received an email from Marc Morano, a senior aid to Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.)—the former head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and an adamant climate change denier—urging him to question the panel's seeming assumption that scientists had concluded that climate change was a reality. Borenstein promptly forwarded the email to several other journalists.

Contrary to popular opinion (and Mother Jones' careful reporting), Morano wrote, scientists who challenge the climate change hypothesis are not a well-funded minority, but individuals whose research has held its own scientifically despite the PR victory of well-funded liberal fear-mongers.

You've gotta give it to Inhofe, whose major funders list reads like a who's who of energy and forest products corporations—he's really stuck to his guns.

But, back in reality, the experts at the conference indicated time and again that global warming was already hard upon us and that we need to act now to cap carbon emissions unless we want things to get really ugly. We also need to start planning for the consequences of climate change (the buzzword is "adaptation.") Phillip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said "there has been no thought given to this issue" in the United States, despite the fact that by 2050, 100 million people a year could be displaced by weather disasters—and research suggests that among the hardest-hit countries will be Mexico, making our current immigration problems look like child's play.

Goodbye Chuck Hagel. You'll be Missed

| Sat Sep. 8, 2007 9:23 PM EDT

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is retiring at the end of his term, and it's a loss for both Democrats and Republicans. hagel130.gif

The Democrats lose one of Congress's most passionate and articulate critics of the Iraq War. The Republicans lose an incumbent in an election cycle in which their ranks are already vulnerable.

Former Nebraska senator and governor Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, is considering emerging from retirement to run for Hagel's seat, and the odds he would get it are high. Add in the fact that John Warner, a Republican, is vacating a Virginia senate seat that will likely be won by Mark Warner, a Democrat, and you've got what looks like a much small minority for the GOP.

By the way, there was once tons and tons of buzz around a Hagel candidacy for president. I was a somewhat-tongue-in-cheek proponent. I never really wanted the man to be president, but he was principled, reasoned, rational, and sincere. He'll be missed.

Update: Ed.-in-Chief Clara Jeffery writes in and speculates that Hagel's retirement clears the way for him to be Hillary's Secretary of Defense.

Washington Times Editor Gets Desperate, Compares the Surge to the Battle of Midway

| Fri Sep. 7, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

Rambling screeds on right-leaning editorial pages are often stuffed with unintentional humor and unintended self-parody, but the op-ed by Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden in today's Washington Times really takes the cake. In between busily accusing Democrats of hoping for bad news on Iraq ("only bad news makes their hearts sing") and pretending some "Let's not pay taxes or follow laws" crazy on the internet is representative of the Democratic party, Pruden came out with this gem:

Some of these doom-criers would have swooned in the miserable spring of 1942, when Rommel's unstoppable march across North Africa was finally stopped by the British at el-Alamein. Halfway around the world, the U.S. Navy turned back the Japanese tide at Midway.

So if you're keeping track, Iraq is Vietnam, General Petraeus is Bernard Montgomery, the surge is the First Battle of el-Alamein, the insurgents are Nazis (or Japanese), and Democrats are (again!) a fifth column that only wants to see America lose, the terrorists win, and babies cry. Bravo, Mr. Pruden. Your achievements in convoluted overstatement are truly impressive. Bravo.

— Nick Baumann

We're Making Progress in Iraq! Heard That One Before?

| Fri Sep. 7, 2007 2:49 PM EDT

In advance of next week's big pro-surge push from the White House and Gen. Petraeus, MoveOn.org points out how many times we've heard that we're making progress in Iraq.

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Bush on APEC...OPEC? Tomato, Tomahto

| Fri Sep. 7, 2007 1:28 PM EDT

Bush is tired, this is all hard, hard work, plus he's jetlagged. Which all spells trouble for the man who has a hard time speaking, let alone spelling.

Today at the APEC business summit in Sydney, Australia, the prez served up a couple of major gaffes, astonishing even for him.

First, he addressed the crowd at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, not as the key regional inter-governmental working group, but as the similarly-acronymed, but oh-so-different, oil cartel, thanking Prime Minister John Howard thusly:

"Mr prime minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit."

He caught himself on this one and amended his mention. But then, as he was wrapping up, Bush commended "Austrian troops" in Iraq. There are, in fact, no Austrian troops in Iraq, but there are 1,500 Australian ones.

He failed to correct this mistake, though you'd never know it from the transcript. You see, the White House offers transcripts of all of the president's speeches, but they are consistently edited and cleaned up to weed out the big and small flubs. No mention of Austrian troops therein, meaning Bush will come off as much smoother in the historical record.

Dep't of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Iraqi Casualties Edition

| Fri Sep. 7, 2007 1:24 PM EDT

Josh Marshall and the crew at Talking Points Memo are looking into this issue of casualties in Iraq — the right and the left are both throwing around statistics on civilian deaths that support their respective positions on the surge, and Marshall wants to figure out what's really going on. But until he does, you should take a look at this very good Washington Post story on why the government's and military's numbers, which they say prove deaths are down by half, are bogus.

Breaking: Osama bin Laden to Make 9/11 Video Address to U.S.

| Thu Sep. 6, 2007 6:45 PM EDT

As being reported now by CNN, Osama bin Laden plans to make a video address to the United States on September 11th. This is according to information picked up by the SITE Institute, which tracks jihadist Internet chatter. The Al Qaeda leader is expected to warn of new terrorist attacks. If true, this will be Bin Laden's first video appearance since shortly before the 2004 presidential election. Looks like Petraeus might have some competition in next week's news cycle...

Major Report on Status of Iraqi Security Forces Presented in Congress Today

| Thu Sep. 6, 2007 5:00 PM EDT

Here are the findings of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces in Iraq, a group of military and law enforcement men sent out by Congress to examine the status of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF):

"The Commission finds that in general, the Iraqi Security Forces, military and police, have made uneven progress, but that there should be increasing improvement in both their readiness and their capability to provide for the internal security of Iraq. With regard to external dangers, the evidence indicates that the Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to secure Iraqi borders against conventional military threats in the near term.
"While severely deficient in combat support and combat service support capabilities, the new Iraqi armed forces, especially the Army, show clear evidence of developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to the successful formation of a national defense capability…. In any event, the ISF will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months…
"In some areas, they have been vulnerable to infiltration, and they are often outmatched in leadership, training, tactics, equipment, and weapons by the terrorists, criminals, and the militias they must combat."

The Commission presented these findings at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier today. They are the kind of lukewarm results that either party can use to their advantage. And that they did.

In questioning, Ranking Minority Member John McCain focused on the good. According to the Commission's report, the Iraqi Army's efforts to weed militias out of its ranks is "achieving some progress." It's "operational effectiveness is increasing." The Air Force is "progressing at a promising rate." The Navy is "making substantive progress." (The Ministry of Interior, the National Police, and the border security forces are subject to strong criticism in the report.)