EVENING POST: JUNE 28, 2008
Posted at 8:15 p.m. ET
Once again a British journalist does some thorough work in covering the United States. Philip Sherwell, of London's Telegraph, gives a coherent picture of the conflict in Washington over the recent deal with North Korea. Far from seeing this as a breakthrough, Sherwell is cautious, and covers the possibility that it may be a setback for American diplomacy:
Vice President Dick Cheney fought furiously to block efforts by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to strike a controversial US compromise deal with North Korea over the communist state's nuclear programme, the Telegraph has learned.
"The exchanges between Cheney's office and Rice's people at State got very testy. But ultimately Condi had the President's ear and persuaded him that his legacy would be stronger if they reached a deal with Pyongyang," said a Pentagon adviser who was briefed on the battle.
Mr Cheney's office is believed to have played a key role in the release two months ago of documents and photographs linking North Korea to a suspected nuclear site in Syria that was bombed by Israeli jets last year.
Six months later than promised, Pyongyang last week handed over details to China of its plutonium stocks and invited US officials to witness the symbolic destruction of an already disabled cooling tower at its Yongbyon plutonium plant.
But the declaration gave no information about its programme to enrich uranium or its sharing of nuclear technology with other rogue states - two demands that Washington had previously insisted were non-negotiable if a deal was to be reached.
This was a significant backdown in America's approach to a state that Mr Bush once described as part of the "axis of evil."
When we start backing down from "non-negotiable" demands, who will take us seriously? But, of course, Condi will be out of office.
"Usually the word 'meltdown' applies to a nuclear reactor. In this case it applies to Bush administration diplomacy which once aimed to halt the North Korean programme and has now become an abject failure," Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon defence policy board in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, told the Telegraph.
His view will be written off as that of an unreconstructed neo-con, as will John Bolton's, who shares it. But they will likely turn out to be right.
"There are some big big holes in this which are going to attract criticism inevitably," said Michael Green, an East Asia expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "The North Koreans have whittled us down to where we are, which is essentially we're giving them everything we've promised at this stage in exchange for just the plutonium piece."
Does a black umbrella look familiar to you? But I haven't seen much criticism of the deal in the liberal mainstream media.
Mr Bush and Dr Rice argued that verification was still crucial as North Korea would have to show international monitors that it was dismantling its nuclear facilities for the deal to be implemented. Dr Rice persuaded the president to take a new approach after Pyongyang tested a nuclear device in 2006, a move which she argued had changed "the rules of the game."
If you were North Korea, would you be very afraid right now? But the deal is being hailed in the correct parlors of Washington and Boston as an example of what can be accomplished if we "engage our enemies."
And there is now informed talk of our opening an interest section in Iran. I guess that will be a reward for all Ahmadinejad has done for peaceful relations.
Maybe Condi will be warmly received by the Stanford faculty after all.
June 28, 2008. Permalink
AFTERNOON POST: JUNE 28, 2008
Posted at 3:46
Only one tracking poll has been published today. Rasmussen has Obama up by five, a one-point gain since yesterday, which is statistically insignificant. I don't know if Gallup publishes its tracker today. If so, I'll report it here.
One factor threatening Obama is continued dissension within the Democratic Party. Although Obama and Clinton campaigned together in Unity, New Hampshire, yesterday, Glenn Thrush of Newsday reports there are still substantial problems:
Despite the show of unity, simmering resentments still remain, particularly among Clinton backers who want Obama to offer her the vice-presidential slot, or think she should have taken her fight to the convention floor.
Cornelia Lewis, 57, of Denver, was among a small but vocal contingent of Clinton volunteers who defied their candidate's call for unity. "I'm here to support Hillary. Myself and a lot of her supporters in Colorado are adamant in not going for Obama," Lewis said. "I will either not vote, or I will vote for John McCain."
Even with their best efforts, the former rivals didn't always appear entirely at ease. At one point a handful of Obama supporters began chanting his name, countered by a chorus of "Hill-a-ry!" Obama tried to defuse the tension by wagging a finger, like an orchestral conductor, and joining in the shouting on the Clinton side.
As he has done in recent days, Obama appealed directly to skeptics - as recent polls shown up to a quarter of former Clintonites considering voting for McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee.
Of course, Obama could choose a woman for vice president, which might ease some of the anger among the Hillary supporters. And, inevitably, some of that 25 percent who say they might vote for McCain will drift back, especially as McCain is pro-life.
But, in a Democratic year, Obama should be further ahead than he is. Discontent within his party is one of several factors that has shaved his lead.
June 28, 2008. Permalink
SATURDAY: JUNE 28, 2008
Posted at 8:14 a.m. ET
THE STRANGE POLLS
At the suggestion of a distinguished news executive, who e-mailed me a few days ago, we'll be doing more here about polls. Polls are a fascinating combination of news and entertainment. Of course, they don't, in the formal sense, decide anything. The old cliché holds that the only poll that counts is the one on election day. But, in fact, they decide a great deal. They influence campaign strategies, the mood of candidates, and they certainly influence public perception of which candidate is more popular at the moment. That may well translate into people voting for a candidate because they want to be with the winner. So, indirectly at least, public-opinion polls can sway the outcome of an election.
In the last week we've seen the phenomenon of two distinct groups of polls - one group showing Barack Obama with a two to four-point lead over John McCain, the other showing him with a twelve to fifteen-point lead. Scott Rasmussen, the pollster, tried to explain this a few days ago by citing the emphasis that different polling organizations give to party affiliation in making up the list of those to be polled. He and most pollsters believe it to be a critical factor, but some pollsters do not. That, he argued, might account for the great disparity in recent surveys.
Now Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard writes of the fallout from last week's polling mystery, and tends to confirm Rasmussen's thesis:
About the time political reporters were sitting down to lunch on June 24, BlackBerries all over Washington buzzed with an unusual email. The pollsters for John McCain's campaign sent out a memo challenging the findings of a poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg. Hundreds of polls are released during a typical campaign without such a public objection. One finding in particular caught their attention. According to the L.A. Times, 22 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans, 39 percent as Democrats, and 27 percent as independents. The party identification in this poll, argued McCain's pollsters, "is greatly out of line with what most other surveys are reporting."
They're right. And that fact probably helps explain why the L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll has Barack Obama beating John McCain by 15 points (in a field including Nader and Barr)--a much larger margin than most other respected polls. (The Gallup daily tracking poll, the McCain campaign eagerly points out, has McCain down just 3 points.)
Hayes goes on to point out that, even adjusting for mistakes, Republican affiliation is dramatically down this year, a clear warning to the GOP. And yet, he points to the results of still another poll to suggest that this may not mean much in the presidential race. He notes that some Republicans are restrained in their enthusiasm for McCain. And yet:
Republican pollster David Winston believes that McCain can close this enthusiasm gap by campaigning on issues where there are sharp differences between the candidates. "We are still a center-right country," says Winston. "And voters will still prefer a center-right candidate to a liberal one."
Data from that same Washington Post/ABC News poll support this claim. Although Democrats hold a strong advantage in party identification, more people consider themselves conservatives than liberals. The survey found that 38 percent of those polled thought of themselves as Democrats, 24 percent as Republicans, and 34 percent as independents. Only 21 percent of those polled thought of themselves as liberals, while 33 percent saw themselves as conservatives and 43 percent as moderates.
That may - stress may - account for the fact that Gallup, Rasmussen, and now a Time poll, show the race as very close, despite the Dems' party advantage.
I recall that, many years ago, a major union published a pamphlet called, "How to Lie Scientifically." It demonstrated how statistics, and poll results, could be twisted and "interpreted" to show almost anything. So be careful about polls. A poll this year on party affiliation may be quite accurate. But it may not begin to tell the whole story about how the public sees the presidential candidates.
More on this as the campaign develops.
June 28, 2008. Permalink
THE NEW WRIGHT?
It seems that Senator Obama has signed up a new spiritual adviser, as if he needs another one. And, once again, the man seems to carry more baggage than American Airlines. NewsBusters, which takes great delight in puncturing liberals, reports that Obama has hired Shaun Casey of the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He will assist with outreach to evangelicals. Trouble is, Casey has some unusual views for an evangelical. Here's one of his quotes:
...I am convinced Matthew included the flight to Egypt by Jesus and his family to show that Jesus's own story was part of the ancient story of Israel. They, too, fled to Egypt, suffered persecution, were redeemed by God, and then were empowered to live lives in solidarity with sojourners and aliens wherever they encountered them. Likewise disciples of Jesus throughout history pick up the same ministry of solidarity with displaced people. Jesus was an illegal alien and that ought to shape how we enter the current debate. But too often political ideology clouds good theology. In the current debate over immigration policy it distresses me to no end that so many of my fellow church goers ignore this fundamental tenet that should be central to our identity. Instead as theological amnesiacs we insist on a secular law and order ideology over a biblical mandate.
Whoops. Was Obama aware of that before he added Casey to the list?
NewsBusters raps Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post, who reported on the Casey appointment, accusing her of leaving some key points out:
She also neglected to tell the readers that Casey is a visiting fellow with the far left Center For American Progress which, along with Media Matters, is heavily funded by billionaire George Soros. Among the "charitable" projects of this group is a blatant attempt to silence conservative talk radio. Perhaps CAP visiting fellow Shaun Casey can cite for us the Bible passage justifying censorship.
Ah yes, ah yes. Another adviser not properly vetted. Will he soon go the way of Rev. Wright and Samantha Power? Depends on the amount of heat applied by talk radio and the McCain campaign. But, if I were Casey, I wouldn't rush to print business cards.
June 28, 2008. Permalink