William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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SECOND EVENING UPDATE:  JUNE 30,  2008

Posted at 8:36 p.m. ET


BRING BACK BUSH!

They're not shouting that just yet in other countries, but you never know.  Apparently, some foreign observers are less than thrilled about the international stylings of Barack Obama. The Washington Post ran a story about this last week.  Now Amir Taheri, one of our leading experts on the Mideast and Iran, forcefully lays out the case:

DOES Barack Obama intend to break the united front that the Bush administration has built to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions? The question, posed by US allies in Europe and the Middle East, shows the growing concerns about Obama's contradictory remarks on the issue.

You mean they don't all love him, adore him?

European anxiety about possible US defection under a President Obama is reflected in an op-ed published last week by British Foreign Secretary David Milliband. In it, he insists that diplomatic efforts backed by UN resolutions shouldn't be interrupted or sidelined.

By ignoring the European Union and the United Nations, Obama would only encourage the Khomeinist leadership's most radical factions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also worries that an Obama administration might "give the mullahs what they want." Francois Heisbourg, who helped author Sarkozy's new national-defense review, warns that Obama's position could undermine confidence in US leadership.

Undermine confidence in the U.S.?  Isn't that something BUSH was supposed to have done?

Obama's potentially dangerous stance is the result of a naive belief that he could persuade the mullahs to do what several other countries have done - abandoning their nuclear ambitions.

The point is hammered in an op-ed co-authored by Zbigniew Brzezinski last week. Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's former national security adviser and now one of Obama's "grand old men," claims that Tehran is seeking the bomb because the Bush administration is threatening it with military action.

Hmm. The latest volume in the memoirs of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, published last year, states that the mullahs started their secret nuclear program in 1984 have - 16 years before Bush won the Oval Office.

It is so unfair to use facts, especially when dealing with the Grand Zbig, mullah of the foreign-policy establishment. 

Brzezinski doesn't explain why he expects the mullahs to abandon a program that they've clung to in the face of diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions and the threat of war. He demonstrates a remarkable ignorance of the facts of international life when he claims that Iran would voluntarily give up its quest for nuclear weapons, presumably because of Obama's undeniable charm.

How can the man who lost both Iran and Afghanistan on his watch possibly be wrong?  Come on, everyone knows that Brzezinski's thoughts are very deep, maybe too deep for the rest of us.

Rather than weakening what is, after all, his own side, Obama should support the EU-US package that Solana presented with unanimous support from the Security Council. He can, if he so wishes, keep the door open for a tete à tete with "appropriate Iranian leaders" - but he shouldn't give the impression that he's breaking the UN-backed coalition that's trying to persuade Tehran to reconsider its dangerous ambitions.

Seems pretty sound to me.  But don't expect Amir Taheri to be appointed to the Obama team any time soon.

June 30, 2008.      Permalink          

 

FIRST EVENING UPDATE:  JUNE 30,  2008

Posted at 6:42 p.m. ET


COINCIDENCE?

Expect to hear about this on talk radio.  City Journal, the respected publication of the Manhattan Institute, is out with a who's who of Barack Obama's 1960s-style radical supporters.  Now, I know, I know.  You can't hold Obama responsible for those who support him.  The question, though, is...why do they support him?  Ah, the nostalgia here.  The shouting.  The slogans.  The tear gas.  Read on:

Backing a major-party candidate for president would have been anathema to Michael Klonsky 40 summers ago, when the organization he led, Students for a Democratic Society, urged young people to spurn elections. “By ’68, our line was ‘Vote in the Streets,’” Klonsky told me last spring. “We thought we had to fight with Eugene McCarthy and those people.”

But...

Klonsky, whose disgust for mainstream politics led him to launch a new, Maoist Communist Party in the 1970s, today supports Barack Obama so enthusiastically that until recently he was blogging on the Illinois senator’s campaign website....

“My own support for Obama is not a reflection of a radically changed attitude toward the Democratic Party,” Klonsky recently explained to me. “Rather, it’s a recognition that the Obama campaign has become a rallying point for young activists and offers hope for rebuilding the civil rights and antiwar coalitions that have potential to become a real critical force in society.”

We can't wait.

We move on delightfully to Mark Rudd, esteemed leader of the 1968 Columbia riots, in which professors' papers were burned:

Today, Rudd renounces bombs, embraces ballots—and supports Obama. “Probably the biggest difference between Columbia SDS people in 1968 and in 2008 is forty years,” Rudd explained in an e-mail. “Most of us have lived with compromise our whole lives. As kids we were raving idealists who thought that ‘The elections don’t mean s--t’ was a slogan that meant something to somebody. It didn’t.”

Thank you, Brother Mark.  Testify, testify!  Why, here's Brother Carl:

Then there’s Carl Davidson, who was one of SDS’s three elected national officers in 1968, when the organization first urged young people to refrain from voting.

Now he's just so, so middle class:

“The last thing we need is a simple repeat of 1968, which saw Nixon and the new Right as an outcome, as well as the defeat of [Humphrey],” Davidson contends. “One thing I’ve learned. Social change is not made by elections, but it certainly proceeds through them, not by ignoring them or chasing the illusion of end runs around them.”

Okay, so it took him four decades to figure that out. Remember what we learned in Psych 101 - people learn in different ways. 

A familiar face:

Former SDS president Tom Hayden is also in the Obama camp. Hayden organized the made-for-TV protest outside the 1968 Chicago convention. But the catharsis of throwing debris at the Chicago police, the purer-than-thou sanctimony that tolerated no distinction between Lyndon Johnson and Eugene McCarthy, and the exhilaration of “voting in the streets” instead of in election booths combined to ensure liberal defeats...

Now Hayden is one of the organizers of Progressives for Obama.

Those of a certain age may recall that Hayden was also married to Jane Fonda, who went to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War to cheer on our enemy and curse Americans held captive.  She, too, is supporting Obama.  You know, if Tom and Jane had only had an Obama in their lives, maybe there wouldn't have been a divorce.

Progressives for Obama resembles a Who’s Who of SDS luminaries. In addition to Hayden, Rudd, and Davidson, the group includes Bob Pardun, SDS’s education secretary during the 1966–67 school year; Paul Buhle, a radical professor who has recently attempted to revive SDS; Mickey and Dick Flacks, red-diaper babies who helped craft 1962’s Port Huron Statement, a seminal New Left document; and SDS’s third president, Todd Gitlin. Age and experience have mellowed some of the SDSers in Obama’s camp. Gitlin, for instance, has evolved into a respected Ivy League professor and milquetoast liberal.

The scum, the sellout.  Hope you like your three-million-dollar apartment, Todd!

Obama has already taken political hits for his connection to Weathermen Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. In the sixties, Ayers advocated that young people kill their parents, and Dohrn praised the Charles Manson murders.

Everyone is entitled to a point of view.

Finally...

In 1968, the Left served as unwitting allies of Republicans, costing the Democrats the White House by rioting at their convention and withholding votes from Hubert Humphrey. In 2008, it is their vocal support that may cost Barack Obama the presidency. Obama can take a page from the early days of the New Left, which—initially, at least—refused to allow discredited radicals to discredit it. Either Obama publicly divorces himself from radical supporters whose association does more for them than it does for him, or he faces the prospect of Bill Ayers as his Willie Horton.

But if he does win, he and Michelle will have some time explaining the who's who at the inaugural ball.  Well, maybe they'll have some nostalgic fun and seize control of the hotel.

June 30, 2008.      Permalink          

 



SECOND AFTERNOON POST:  JUNE 30,  2008

Posted at 3:46 p.m.


MITT?

The Politico's Mike Allen reports that Mitt Romney has emerged as a leading, perhaps the leading candidate for vice president on a McCain ticket:

Surprising many Republican insiders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at the top of the vice presidential prospect list for John McCain. But lack of personal chemistry could derail the pick.

“Romney as favorite” is the hot buzz in Republican circles, and top party advisers said the case is compelling.

Why?

One of the chief reasons the Massachusetts governor is looking so attractive is his ability to raise huge amounts of money quickly through his former business partners and from fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons.

McCain sources tell Politico that they believe Romney could raise $50 million in 60 days. One close Romney adviser said it could even be $60 million.

But there's the other side...

But there’s one big problem: Despite the buddy-picture choreography of a McCain-Romney campaign swing, McCain remains less than enamored with Romney.

And it’s not just the candidate. Some of McCain’s closest confidants evince little enthusiasm for Romney, feelings that are owed in part to lingering bad blood from the GOP primary, a genuine skepticism that such a conventional pick could bolster the ticket in a grim year for the GOP and concerns about whether his Mormon faith could imperil McCain in Southern states that Obama hopes to put into play.

Others in the top tier...

— Rob Portman, a former congressman from Ohio, member of House leadership, U.S. Trade Ambassador and White House budget director.

— Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who would delight conservatives and is at the top of the list of the party’s prospects for the presidential race in 2012 or 2016. He was described to Politico by a McCain confidant as a possible “compromise” if the senator can’t stomach picking Romney.

Then there’s a second tier of candidates who are less likely, but possible: former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who dropped out of the top tier because of recent revelations about his lobbying; Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is one of McCain’s most energetic and successful fundraisers.

No women.  Bad move.  The campaign should at least be mentioning women.  As Arthur Miller wrote in Death of a Salesman, "attention must be paid."

I don't think the list will excite too many people, but they're all reasonable choices.  Maybe that's the problem.  They're reasonable.  All fine, no juice. 

There's a tendency in these selection processes to overintellectualize, to examine the good and bad points about a candidate so closely that all excitement, all enthusiasm, all passion goes out the window.  Good political strategists feel things as well as think things. 

But that concern will, I hope, be successfully challenged when a candidate is chosen and goes out on the trail.

June 30, 2008.      Permalink          

 

AFTERNOON POST:  JUNE 30,  2008

Posted at 1:15 p.m. ET


TRACKERS

The first tracker of the day has been published.  Rasmussen has Obama up five over McCain, the same range we've seen for several weeks.  Gallup will publish later in the day.

The key here, though, is not the point spread, it's Rasmussen's troubling report on the electoral college:

Today, the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator shows Virginia shifting from “Leans Republican” to “Toss-Up” and Colorado shifting from “Toss-Up” to “Leans Democrat.” With these changes, Obama now leads in states with 200 Electoral College votes while McCain leads in states with 174 votes. When leaners are included, it’s Obama 293, McCain 227.

The trends, at least in late June, are in Obama's direction.  The American people know these candidates pretty well by now, given the length of the primary season, and McCain should at very least be concerned. 

The big publicity windfall this summer will go to Obama, who'll tour Europe and the Middle East.  He'll be greeted, no doubt, by some cheering throngs, and Dems will make the contrast with Bush.  A lot of Americans want to be loved, above all, and these images will have an impact.  "Why are we hated?" will come the classic question.  The answer, provided by the Democratic Party:  "Because Obama isn't yet president."  The people you can fool all the time may well be persuaded. 

UPDATE AT 1:46 p.m. ET:  Gallup is out, and also shows Obama with a five-point lead, a dramatic increase over the tie Gallup was reporting last week.  And this comes after several bad weeks for Obama, in which he was caught flip-flopping on several issues.  McCain has got to get in this game.

June 30, 2008.       Permalink          

 

MONDAY:  JUNE 30,  2008

Posted at 7:12 a.m. ET


BOLTON DISPLEASURE

Whether you like John Bolton or not, I've never read a column of his that wasn't worth reading.  In the last four or five days he's emerged as the most prominent, and most scathing of the critics of our new nuclear deal with North Korea.  From The Wall Street Journal:

Maskirovka – the Soviet dark art of denial, deception and disguise – is alive and well in Pyongyang, years after the Soviet Union disappeared. Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears not to have gotten the word.

With much fanfare and choreography, but little substance, the administration has accepted a North Korean "declaration" about its nuclear program that is narrowly limited, incomplete and almost certainly dishonest in material respects. In exchange, President Bush personally declared that North Korea is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism or an enemy of the United States. In a final flourish, North Korea has undertaken a reverse Potemkin Village act, destroying the antiquated cooling tower of the antiquated Yongbyon reactor. In the waning days of American presidencies, this theater is the stuff of legacy.

I can understand why some in Washington never considered Bolton a diplomat.  More:

North Korea has consecutively broken every major agreement with the U.S. since the North's creation. The Bush administration provides no reason why this one will not be added to that long list except the audacity of hope. Where have we heard that recently? Barack Obama and John Kerry both announced support for the deal, and Mr. Obama said he intended to apply Bush's policy to other rogue states, thus confirming the early start of the Obama administration.

Did you ever think you'd see Obama copying Bush?  Does Rosie O'Donnell know about this?  It goes on:

Consider, moreover, the deal's corrosive impact on the very concept of the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Removing North Korea from the list for political reasons unrelated to terrorism simply provides ammunition for those who argue that the existence of the list itself is purely political. Critically, since the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs materially assisted Syria and Iran, two other states on the terrorism honor roll, it is hard to see what remains of President Bush's doctrine that those who support terrorists will be treated as terrorists.

Mr. Bolton will not be invited to watch July 4th fireworks with the president.  He's sent his own.

The only good news is that there is little opportunity for the Bush administration to make any further concessions in its waning days in office. But for many erstwhile administration supporters, this is a moment of genuine political poignancy. Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.

This is a story worth pursuing.  It does appear that we made all the major concessions, and that the agreement with North Korea is weak.  The president may think that some signed parchment will improve his legacy.  No, the only thing that will improve his legacy is victory in Iraq, which his successor may or may not let happen.

June 30, 2008.      Permalink          


THE GRIM PARTY

When I was young, and on the other side, we liked to say that Democrats had more fun.  It became a kind of informal party slogan.  The Republican Party in those days was made up of people who...well, "dull" was a high compliment, and much sought after.

Now, however, the Democratic fun is apparently over.  Actually, the fun was over by 1972, but some dreamed on, and a small quota of Dems permitted themselves a laugh or two, usually discreetly, and in the dark.

But consider plans for the Democratic convention this summer.  These are the rules.  You will follow them.  You will enjoy.  The New York Post reports:

So much for having a good time at the Democratic National Convention.

The party's Denver confab has adopted a regimen of political correctness of the sort not seen since George McGovern was boycotting grapes.

Organizers have laid down strict rules, The Wall Street Journal reports, aimed at producing the "greenest convention in the history of the planet."

They include:

* No fried foods. Whatsoever.

* All meals must include "at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white."

* At least 70 percent of all food must be organic and grown locally.

And organizers have recruited 900 recycling enforcers to ensure that every scrap of trash goes into the proper bin.

And to make sure that any balloons used are biodegradable, the convention's director of greening (no kidding) has been burying samples in a compost heap.

But full compliance is proving difficult. For example, a demand that the 15,000 fanny packs to be distributed to volunteers all be made in the US of organic cotton by union labor turns out to be impossible: Such things don't exist.

Questions:  Who did they hire to plan this thing?  If I go, can I bring my own food?  Will I be subjected to an honor killing if I grab a hot dog?  Will attendees be barred from going to local restaurants under pain of sin?

Also, how many cancellations have they gotten?

Just gimme me a smoked-filled room.  A health risk, yes.  A national risk, very rarely.

Harry Truman must be changing his registration.

June 30, 2008.      Permalink          


ANOTHER RACE ISSUE

Race is always awkward to discuss, but the issue is part of our political landscape.  Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which is well regarded, examines a problem that has plagued the Democratic Party for years - the alienation of white voters.  It's a problem exacerbated this year by the perception, true or not, that the party elite showed contempt for at least some of them:

It is more than a little ironic that it has taken the first African-American to win a major party presidential nomination to make clear to everyone what has been the case for more than 40 years in presidential elections: Democrats have a problem with white voters.

And, noting Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory in 1964...

Neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton, the last Democrats to occupy the Oval Office since then, won a majority of white voters. Mr. Clinton came relatively close in 1996 and might have done so in 1992 had Ross Perot not been in the race. But focusing on those near misses overlooks the larger point: Sen. Obama, the son of a white mother and black father, could lose this election badly and still outdo the very pale — Sen. George McGovern in 1972, former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988 and possibly Sen. John Kerry in 2004 – among white voters.

For those voters, especially ones without college degrees, the fact that Sen. Obama is black may not be as much a disqualifier as his background as a Democrat from the Frost Belt with no national security or executive experience and a voting record judged by the nonpartisan National Journal as the Senate’s most liberal during 2007.

And...

Although Mr. Clinton won enough votes to take the presidency, after his reign Democrats continued to see the formula for victory as before: increasing minority turnout — especially African-Americans, and to a lesser degree Hispanics — while winning those white voters most likely to see things their way — single women, union members and those with low incomes who viewed government as their salvation.

Such a focus ignores the views and values of the larger group of white voters.

The key point:

The truth is that, more than we like to admit, polls consistently show a correlation between race and ideology in American society. White voters, as a group, are more likely to favor a limited role for government here at home and a more aggressive posture overseas. In general, polls show Democrats — and a disproportionate share of black voters — favor a smaller, less adventurous military and a larger role for government on the domestic front.

Finally...

The question this year is whether an unpopular war, an even less popular Republican president and a slumping economy can change those dynamics in favor of Sen. Obama — or perhaps whether just the American electorate has become less white enough so that it does not matter.

But making a big deal about Sen. Obama’s weakness among white voters, among those with or without a college education, and assuming it has to do just with his race ignores history. It does a disservice to both Sen. Obama and those who oppose him.

Good points all.  What's left out, though, is the fact that, in the days when the Democratic Party was almost consistently dominant, it favored an important role for government, but also favored a strong national defense.  The strong defense plank is gone, and, although Dems may do well this year, the overwhelming dominance they once enjoyed is unlikely to return unless America as a nation goes far to the left, or the party moves back to the muscular center.

June 30, 2008.      Permalink