Political MoJo

Anti-War Candidates and the Primaries

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 4:14 PM EDT

Folks who oppose the war in Iraq (and are ticked off at the deception and misdirection that got us into it) shouldn't read too much into Hillary Clinton's expected drubbing of anti-war insurgent Jonathan Tasini, notes John Nichols over at The Nation. Clinton after all, in addition to enjoying all the advantages of incumbency, is an A-list celebrity and a formidable fundraiser. There are races, though, where anti-war messages are more interestingly--perhaps decisively--in play. Nichols lists a few.

* The Maryland Senate race, where former NAACP executive director Kweisi Mfume has been far more aggressive in his opposition to the war than Cardin. Mfume's focus on the cost of the war is especially noteworthy. "The billions of dollars being spent to wage this war continue to distort our priorities and drain our economy of much needed resources," the former congressman argues. "We don't ever seem to have the money that we need when it comes to driving down the cost of health care or driving up the quality of our public schools, because we are throwing so much of it into this war."

* Maryland's 4th Congressional District, where veteran activist Donna Edwards has come on strong at the close of her Democratic primary challenge to complacent incumbent Albert Wynn. With fresh endorsements from the Washington Post, the major newspaper in the district, and the region's Teamsters, Edwards is clearly credible. And she is closing with a strong anti-war message in a race against a Democrat who she blisters for "casting his lot with Bush and the Republicans on such critical issues as Iraq..."

* Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, where Democrat Olav Martin Sabo is retiring. Several of the candidates in the crowded Democratic primary have articulated anti-war positions. Of the frontrunners, the most aggressive is state Representative Keith Ellison, who says, "I am calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. I opposed the war before it began; I was against this war once it started and I am the only candidate calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops."

* Arizona's 8th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Jim Kolbe is stepping down. The Democratic field is crowded and Jeff Latas lacks the funding and the name recognition of several of the other candidates. But the retired Air Force fighter pilot is a compelling contender.

Nichols, citing the example of the staunchly anti-war John Sarbanes, son of Sen. Paul Sarbanes and a frontrunner for an open U.S. House seat representing Maryland's 3rd District, also argues that "[o]nly when Democrats have the wisdom and the courage to articulate a clear anti-war position will they begin to steer the debate in Washington."

For more on the November elections, check out the Times' nifty interactive map (click on it).

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Primary Races to Watch Today

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 2:55 PM EDT

In addition to Sen. Lincoln Chafee's fascinating battle to keep his job ("If you want to see just how large Republicans can build their Big Tent, or alternately, how tight they can hold their noses, look at the Senate primary race in Rhode Island today."), here are some primary races to watch today (AP):

  • The New York Democratic primary for attorney general, with former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo - son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo - against Mark Green, the former New York City Public Advocate.
  • In New York's gubernatorial primary, Eliot Spitzer is set to pulverize Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi; Sen. Hillary Clinton likewise will crush anti-Iraq war candidate Jonathan Tasini in the New York Democratic Senate primary. (If she can hold Tasini to single digits Clinton will likely claim to have neutralized the anti-war opposition to her larger political ambitions.)
  • The Maryland Democratic Senate primary, where Rep. Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and one-time head of the NAACP, are among 18 contenders for an open seat. The winner will face Michael Steele, who, if he wins in the fall, would be the Senate's only black Republican.
  • The Democratic primary for a House seat in Minnesota in an open, reliably Democratic district which includes Minneapolis. Four candidates are running, including state legislator Keith Ellison, who won his party's backing. If he won, Ellison would be the first Muslim member of Congress.

Study: Global Warming Gives Hurricanes Extra Wallop

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 2:02 PM EDT

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Well, then. Scientists have found evidence that global warming is heating the ocean and giving extra wallop to violent hurricanes (San Francisco Chronicle). Since 1906, sea-surface temperatures have warmed by between 0.6 and 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit -- in the tropical parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans where hurricanes get their start, and there's been a surge in big storms since the early 1990s.

The researchers, at Lawrence Livermore lab in California, tried to figure out what caused the hike in ocean temperatures by running a bunch of different computer models based on possible single causes. The best pointed to greenhouse gases.

Skeptics--not just your Flat-Earthers but bona fide hurricane experts--aren't persuaded. But the lead author of the new study says, "the models that we've used to understand the causes of [ocean warming] in these hurricane formation regions predict that the oceans are going to get a lot warmer over the 21st century. That causes some concern."

PLUS: Check out this graph, from ClearTheAir.org, tracking ocean temperature and hurricane strength over the past 30 years. (Click on the image.) (Thanks to reader Pete Altman.)

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Cheney: Domestic Debate Encouraging Terrorists

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 7:26 PM EDT

About that politicizing-the-war-on-terror business.

Vice President Cheney offered a veiled attack yesterday on critics of the administration's Iraq policy, saying the domestic debate over the war is emboldening adversaries who believe they can undermine the resolve of the American people.

"They can't beat us in a stand-up fight -- they never have -- but they're absolutely convinced they can break our will, [that] the American people don't have the stomach for the fight," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The vice president said U.S. allies in Afghanistan and Iraq "have doubts" the United States will finish the job there. "And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," he said. "Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."

With us or against us, eh?

The Best War Ever: How We Got from 9/11 to Iraq (and Beyond?)

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 7:09 PM EDT

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From the authors who brought you Weapons of Mass Deception, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, it's...The Best War Ever. I have it on good authority that the book...

  • offers a compelling study to date of the propaganda campaign that led us to war
  • gives necessary context and background on the administration's use of leaked information and ad hominem attacks to discredit their critics
  • is the first to compile and compare various accountings of Iraqi and U.S. casualties as a result of this conflict
  • offers a preview of the likely next round of propaganda aimed at rationalizing the failures to bring stability and democracy to Iraq

Check out the video project timed to the book launch.

9/11, Partisanship, and Politicization

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 5:43 PM EDT

As we know, on 9/11 members of congress came down with an uncharacteristic bout of bipartisanship. (And if you think bipartisanship is a good in itself I'd just refer you to the USA Patriot Act.) It didn't last, of course--which is fine by me: the ruinous Bush policies of the past five years have cried out for vigorous opposition, and the only cause for regret is that it hasn't been vigorous enough.

Democrats have too often been cowed by the administration's strategy of equating political dissent to the politicization of 9/11 and the war on terror, even as Republicans have perfected that art. Of course, "evenhanded" media accounts cast both sides as equally apt to turn terror to political advantage (as in this AP piece in which the tendency is bemoaned as "a danger both parties face"). Except that Democrats don't get to dominate the airwaves, as the president does, with vague (and poll-boosting) warnings; don't get to raise terror alerts at political whim; and don't get to stage Republican-only symbolic photo ops like the one below.

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Pondering this shot, Kevin Drum writes:

Bush and his handlers understand very well that pictures are everything these days, and even on a day like this they'd rather have their big toes cut off than include New York's two Democratic senators in a ceremony where cameras are rolling.

These guys just don't know when to quit. It's enough to make you ill.

Amen. America would be much nicer--and its politics more productive--if there were less partisanship and less political exploitation of genuinely important issues--like the very real threat from terrorism. (On which see "The Master Plan" Lawrence Wright's terrifying piece in the Sept. 11 issue of the New Yorker, not yet online.) But as long as the current crew--for whom no political maneuver is too crass--is in charge, I'd say we need more, not less, partisanship.

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Michigan Senate Considering Bill to Screen Women Seeking Abortions

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 5:02 PM EDT

The state senate in Michigan is considering legislation that would require women seeking abortions to be screened to determine whether they have been coerced or intimidated into seeking abortion procedures. Michigan Republicans claim the legislation is designed to crack down on domestic violence, a motive doubted by some. The screening would have to take place 24 hours before the procedure is to be performed.

The Michigan house of representatives has already approved the bill. Michigan already has a mandatory waiting period of 24 hours before a woman can obtain an abortion, and healthcare providers in Michigan may refuse to perform abortions on the basis of moral or religious beliefs. Also, state-funded personnel are not permitted to provide abortion referrals.

Afghanistan and Iraq, Five Years After 9/11

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 4:01 PM EDT

Depressing news from two fronts in the "war on terror." Five years after 9/11, the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating.

Since late 2001, the country of 25 million people has undergone an ambitious experiment, backed by international troops, expertise and aid, to bring modern democracy to an impoverished, deeply conservative Muslim society.

On some levels, there has been remarkable progress: presidential and parliamentary elections, a new constitution, a new national army and greater freedoms for women. In poor but stable communities such as Karabagh, halting social and economic gains have been made: a part-time nurse in a clinic, carpets in a school where students once crouched on concrete, a grape harvest that is approaching half the pre-Taliban crop.

But in the southern provinces that spawned the Taliban movement, open warfare has resumed after four years of relative quiet. Insurgents are battling NATO troops and employing suicide bombs. Thousands of villagers have fled their homes, to escape both insurgent violence and NATO airstrikes. Schools have shut down, and development projects have stopped.

At the same time, opium poppy cultivation, virtually wiped out by the Taliban, has soared to record levels, largely in the south. Nationwide it increased by 59 percent in the past year alone, according to new U.N. figures. Drug traffickers have formed protective alliances with the Islamic insurgents.

In Iraq, the US military has essentially given up on Anbar Province.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost." ...

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

And Moqtada al-Sadr is the indispensable man.

Once dismissed by Bush administration officials and U.S. generals as irrelevant to Iraq's future, Sadr is increasingly seen as a man who has the power to either implode Iraq or keep it together, even as his militia continues to defy the authority of the Iraqi government and its U.S. backers. As sectarian violence ravages Baghdad and other parts of the country, Sunni Muslims accuse Sadr's Mahdi Army of operating death squads under the mantle of Islam.

"There's not a military solution in my view to Moqtada al-Sadr," a senior coalition official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We may be a bit uncomfortable with his position as a legitimate political figure, but he is a legitimate player." ...

Today, Sadr controls 30 seats in the Iraqi parliament and four ministries. All of Sadr's portfolios revolve around providing key services, such as health and transportation. They give him the ability to funnel resources to supportive constituents and boost his popular base.

3 in 10 Republicans Want Giuliani in 2008

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 2:33 PM EDT

Via Angus-Reid Consultants (and The Note):

Many Republican Party supporters in the United States would like Rudy Giuliani to run for president, according to a poll by Opinion Research Corporation released by CNN. 31 per cent of respondents would support the former New York City mayor in a 2008 primary.

Arizona senator John McCain is second with 20 per cent, followed by former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich with 12 per cent. Support is lower for former Virginia senator George Allen, Tennessee senator Bill Frist, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, New York governor George Pataki, and Kansas senator Sam Brownback.

I assume the percentage of Republican primary voters backing Guiliani would be a good bit lower. But, for what it's worth, here's the breakdown from the CNN poll.

Rudy Giuliani: 31%
John McCain: 20%
Newt Gingrich: 12%
George Allen: 7%
Bill Frist: 5%
Mitt Romney: 5%
George Pataki: 4%
Sam Brownback: 1%

Top Ten Favorite Bush Moments

| Mon Sep. 11, 2006 1:53 PM EDT

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From Letterman, via YouTube, the top ten favorite (videotaped) George W. Bush moments. Watching these, you wonder if you might even miss the guy after he leaves office (or I do, before thinking better of it). They're all here -- the Trip, the Butt-Slap, the Helicopter Head-Bump, the Left-Right confusion, and -- my favorite -- the "PARK IN BOTSWANA!!!" And five other indelible classics. Click on the screen grab.