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February 02, 2007


I think each of the various Democratic candidates bring something worthwhile to the table, and I apreciate your perspective on Obama, but I wonder if you have something against Edwards?

Frank -- no -- I like him enough that in many normal years I'd be supporting him, but this year, much to my delight, I get to go with two flavors of superlative as opposed to mere goodness.

On rereading, though, I noted that I screwed up a tag, so that what I actually wrote about Edwards vanished. It's not much, but it should now be visible.

BTD on ending the war.

"not by talking about e.g. our need for values, but by enacting them."

My disagreements with him stem I think from him doing the opposite.

Not only are there a surplus of excellent and interesting Democratic candidates this year, but they seem to be working very hard and very wisely. Edwards and Obama simply impress me a little more every day.

Even HRC, however someone might disagree and dislike her, is a credible candidate that is credible as President.

Best field in my lifetime, although 1968 had four very admirable candidates.

I made a resolution on a Slacktivist thread that I wasn't going to participate, on any blog, in any discussion threads about the next candidates in the Presidential election. If I break this resolution, feel free to yell at me, OK?

I'm guessing you mean the next Democratic candidates. I assume after the primaries, you'll be weighing in, unless you are really trying to test your willpower.

Oh sure. Once the two Presidential candidates are actually picked. But the process of picking? Various discussions - here, on Slacktivist, and elsewhere - have made me realize I'm just not qualified (in any sense of the word) to join those discussions.

As someone from outside America, the prospect that the next president will be able to ingest snack food correctly, operate heavy machinery without attempting to kill reporters and refrain from assaulting the chancellor of Germany is very heartening to me.

Whether it is Obama, Gore, Edwards or Clinton is just a bonus.

Obama's a Democrat that I think I could vote for without wincing hardly at all, but I don't see how that first bill you mentioned isn't an attempt to curtail CiC powers.

I've always disliked "redeployment" in this context. It's not so much that the intention is to deploy these troops to better, more vital places, as it is a withdrawal; an extraction, a bringing-home. You can call it what you like, of course. It's only a minor pet peeve, and it doesn't eat much.

I'm more than a bit antsy about that "voter intimidation" bit, given just how wide the Democratic definition of "voter intimidation" tends to be, (Basicly, anything that might annoy a potential Democratic voter, whether or not anybody of sound mind would find it intimidating.) and I'm not too happy about the part providing for third party injunctions. (Injunctions = prior restraint.) Aside from that, though, I'm cool with bringing legal penaties against actual fraud during elections. Where "fraud" means saying things that are, you know, like, false.

I've got to say that, so far, Democrats haven't abused their tenuous majority quite as much as I'd anticipated. Looks like the years in the minority did focus your minds at least somewhat.

I'm with you. I have been looking forward to a Clark candidacy. Maybe he still has a chance. He has a book coming out (date?) and I figure he was planning to do the book tour and announce around the same time.

But at this point he needs to be out there. He needs to create awareness. Measured against most of the other candidates he will do well, on points. Problem is he's not a "celebrity candidate" like Clinton and Obama.

I think both Clinton and Obama will falter, I really do. I think the eventual winner isn't clear yet.

And truth be told, while I wasn't looking forward especially to Edwards, I'm very impressed with the way he came out of the gate. He has my attention.....

( there a single Republican who has a real chance of winning? I just don't see it happening. My bet right now is that Gingrich is the only one nasty enough to get the nomination....)

I personally do not have much hope that the 2008 election will not be rigged like a tall-ship. Without true and actually enforced federal standards for federal elections, I don't see how it will be different.
For the rcord: I do believe that the 2006 elections were rigged too but insufficiently from the perpetrators point of view.
Another one: It does not matter, who riggs. If Dems are caught red-handed then they deserve the full legal dose too.
The next big move of vote-diminishing is RealID, if not stopped in its tracks (as Maine an Montana just did). I already have heard from several persons personally that they would have trouble in getting all the stuff necessary to get one of these portable Big Brothers (including implanted chips that can be read from a distance, no less).

I'm just not qualified (in any sense of the word) to join those discussions.

since residents of most states (mine included) have essentially no say in the primary process, there are tens of millions of Americans who are nearly-not-as-qualified to say anything about it.

i resent.

I was getting a little antsy with Obama to show us, not tell us, about a better form of politics...but he seems to be starting to do that. Now if he can just use those superpowers on Iran.

I second the recommendation of Dreams From My Father. The new one seems more dull, but that's from reading sections at random in Barnes & Noble, which is arguably not the ideal approach....

I intend to volunteer for him--I like Edwards and Clark too, but I'm a bit more excited about Obama, and his national hq is presumably going to be in Chicago.

Slarti -- Out of genuine curiosity, do/did you have similar quibbles with the Congress ordering the President out of Somalia in the 1990s? If not, how would you differentiate the two situations?

For reference, Glenn Greenwald catalogued the statements of a number of congressmen who asserted congress's privileges at the time, but now claim a similar action would "comfort the enemy" and "lower troop morale."

I have been a big fan of Obama's ever since his speech at the Convention in 2004. However, I've been skeptical of his suitability for running for president in 2008 until recently. Much of what he's said and done since then has brought me around on that.

OT: this is extremely depressing.

Somalia is different enough from Iraq that it's going to take me a while to respond, farmgirl. Short answer is that Somalia began as a relief effort in cooperation with the UN, and ended after it turned military, only without proper support.

I can't recall right offhand whether Congress authorized military action to begin with; as I said, it's going to have to wait.

But, to partially answer one part of the question, at the time I was far too busy at work to pay much attention to Somalia, so: no, I didn't either support or oppose Congress' timetables at the time.

From Catsy's link @ 09:22:

"Lacking attack helicopters and other sophisticated weapons, al-Sadr's men have expanded their empire with borrowed trucks and free lunches for militiamen."

Maybe we should have stressed basic economics more, earlier in the occupation.......

Thanks for the great article on Obama. Like another commentor said, he impresses me more everyday.

I wanted to get some people's thoughts on Edwards, while we're at it.

I voted for Edwards in the 2004 primaries. Now my opinion of him has changed completely. He strikes me as an utter opportunist.

I says this based on the following:

1) he has been running for president since 2002, and chose not to seek re-election in 2004. If he really wanted to change the country wouldn't he have stayed on as a Senator? He could have used his Senate seat as a pulpit for his poverty initiatives.

2) he changed his position on the War only when it was politically smart of him to do so. he has also likwise moved away from his initial free trade inclinations toward a populist/protectionist stance.

3) When I voted for him in 2004 I didn't hold it against him that he had a thin resume and hadn't accomplished much in the Senate. But if you compare what he did in 6 years with what Clinton and Obama have done it is quite clear that he wasn't a very effective Senator. He sponsored very little meaningful legislation, well, except, the IWR and the Patriot Act.

4) Finally, he strikes me as substance free. For instance, he has constantly called for us to "cut funding for the escalation." Yet, this isn't how Congress' power of the purse works. Congress allocates money once the President requests it. Congress can also attach strings to the money they give so that it can only be used for certain purposes. However, everything suggests that Bush already has the money for escalation and Congress can't do anything about it. Obama's plan, as noted in the post, smartly avoids this by not dealing with funding for the escalation. Feingold's plan just says no more funding after 6 months after enactment of his bill.

Am I being too hard on Edwards? Am I wrong? Do my concerns worry others?

Thanks again for the great post.

@Slarti -- Thanks for responding. I look forward to reading your extended version when it becomes available. :)

A serious omission in Obama's bill is a commitment to and deadline for the complete withdrawal of troops, and language renouncing U.S. bases.

Obama's made a useful move in the Presidential Iraq positioning process, but it's nowhere near as substantial a contribution to ending the occupation as the bill Feingold introduced this week. The advantage of Obama's position vs. Edwards' is largely that it's actual legislation. If I were Edwards, I'd jump on the opportunity to publicly support Feingold's new bill.

As just about the only Virginia Democrat not to read Born Fighting until after Webb was elected, it seems quite possible I'll be picking up Dreams from my Father about two years from now...

I can't recall right offhand whether Congress authorized military action to begin with; as I said, it's going to have to wait.

Troops were originally deployed in Dec. 92 based on UNSC Resolution 794. There was a joint resolution authorizing the use of US forces (Senate: Feb. 93, House: May 93) but it expired one year after enactment. There were then a series of resolutions and amendments changing the timeframes, setting dates for withdrawal, requiring congressional approval for continued deployment, prohibit funding except for withdrawal, and finally prohibiting funding for continued deployment. Details here (as well as for all other deployments since 1982 – via CQ and Greenwald).

I agree with Greenwald on this one (man, that was painful to type). I do think the two situations are pretty similar. And I agree that Republican Senators have flip-flopped, especially McCain.

I didn’t agree with it then and I don’t agree with it now. Cutting and running from Somalia directly led to where we are today.

Ezra K says some interesting things about Edwards and Hillary, w/r/t war with Iraq and Iran. nutshell: they're hawkish.

Not strictly on-topic, but related and fairly urgent: I encourage everyone to read Feingold's excellent post opposing the non-binding anti-surge resolution (Warner-Levin).

I'm very grateful to Sen. Feingold; he speaks for me completely on this issue.

I agree with Greenwald on this one (man, that was painful to type).

It's like the pain you feel after a good regimen of stretching and working out, Steve. It can be tough to see that through the burn, but you'll feel better about yourself later, promise! ;)

I need to take issue with the loaded language of "cut and run", though. It's a right-wing word formulation that is calculated to derail productive discussion of legitimate military options and wrongly stigmatize those options.

Think about it, man. Are there no instances where withdrawing forces or abandoning a losing strategy is a correct choice? I think anyone with even a cursory knowledge of military affairs would answer that of course there are. You might not agree that we are now in a situation where our presence in Iraq is more harmful to our interests than not, but it is a legitimate and supportable argument to advance. The whole "cut and run" pablum cheapens what should be a serious matter and I think most of us here have come to expect more from you.

It may be some time before I'll be able to respond in any structured way. A fellow I've worked with for a while took his own life this week, and that's got me even more distracted than usual.

I'm wondering if those likening the purported flip-flops on Somalia and Iraq have read's discussion of US involvement at the time, and whether they agree with the assessment. Certainly one of many key differences is that we didn't, as far as I've been able to tell, remove the government of Somalia.'ll be a while. Don't hold your breath.

I need to take issue with the loaded language of "cut and run", though

A rare moment of agreement between Catsy and I. I actually hate most political speech, because it's constructed almost exclusively of cliche.

It seems to me that Obama is being held to a higher standard than some of the others. Is anyone asking that HRC show rather than tell her values? I don't think she has managed to do either very effectively. There was a discussion on Tapped (I think, maybe it was Nyland) about Obama's lack of leadership experience compared to HRC--and yet he has been the sponosr or co-sponsor of more on-target legislation than she has. Well, I am partisan and I have made up my mind, so thhat affects my perspective. I love Clark, too, though.
This is entirely antidotal but here goes: I'm attendinng a community college training program. My fellow students are connected to military families, lower middle class or poor, from rural areas, not political activists, and not Democrats. They love Obama and hate HRC almost as much as they hate Bush.

JayC: "Maybe we should have stressed basic economics more, earlier in the occupation......."

About a month after the inital invasion and the "liberation" of Baghdad, the WSJ had a very interesting column on Sadr. At the time he was a minor league cleric with little influence outside the slums.

What he did, however, is provide economic support for many Iraqis, providing food and other services. He also arranged for the retuen of some of the looted antiquities.

Basically, he won the battle for the hearts and minds before the US had even attempted to try. Many Iraqis who hardly knew him prior to the invasion are now his loyal supporters. (Obviously keeping in mind that I am talking about Shiites.)

It is also basically understood that he is a nationalist and does not want much Iranian influence in Iraq. His statement about fighting the US if we attack Iran is based more on his view of the US attacking Muslims than attacking another country.

So yes. Perhaps our biggest mistake, other than invading at all, was that this administration never took seriously the need to get down into the gutters and help the populace of Iraq, particularly in Baghdad. This is despite that fact that the State Department warned them what would happen if they didn't.

I need to take issue with the loaded language of "cut and run", though.

It just kind of carried over from GG’s post:

Back in September, when Chris Wallace falsely accused Bill Clinton of emboldening the Terrorists by prematurely cutting-and-running from Somalia (a favorite right-wing meme), it was documented here (as Clinton himself pointed out to Wallace) that it was actually Republican Senators who forced Clinton to withdraw troops by imposing troop withdrawal deadlines on him and threatening further restrictions on his ability to keep troops there.

And in context – I was saying that Republicans were responsible for cutting and running from Somalia. So while it may be a “right-wing word formulation” – I was using it against the right wing.

But your point is valid so I’ll substitute with “premature redeployment”.

Good discussion, everybody.

In reply to gear's points on Edwards, it seems to me that his situation in the senate was not conducive to getting things done, esp. as his main interest is reducing economic disparity; and I don't think the criticism of his clear change on the AUMF is fair as stands.

lily: "It seems to me that Obama is being held to a higher standard than some of the others. Is anyone asking that HRC show rather than tell her values?"

Clinton isn't running on an explicit show, don't tell platform, so it goes to substance. She's running as the 'center-left with experience in the WH able to accomplish things with honest legislators across the aisle candidate'. Her roll-out got a lot of grudging praise at Daily Kos on competency grounds - that's the core of her candidacy, that and her appeal to important liberal groups.

I'm still waiting for Clark.

Hilzoy, fantastic post. If you haven't already, I recommend checking out the work of James Boyd White. He is a law professor at the U. of Chicago who thinks along these lines. I have been thinking lately that Prof. White may have been a significant influence on Obama's approach to politics (iirc, Obama taught at U. of Chicago Law as well).

Perhaps our biggest mistake, other than invading at all, was that this administration never took seriously the need to get down into the gutters and help the populace of Iraq, particularly in Baghdad.

i think it was Bush (?) who recently said one of their biggest failures was in underestimating the degree to which the Iraqis had been beaten down by Saddam's heavy hand (paraphrasing). so, it's not that they (BushCo) simply decided to skip or neglect this hearts-and-minds stuff. rather, they never even thought it was necessary - the Iraq in their heads was more like Japan in 1945. of course that's because they apparently didn't know the first thing about the situation inside Iraq.

"of course that's because they apparently didn't know the first thing about the situation inside Iraq."

They didn't, but a lot of other people did. It didn't take a genius to figure it out.

Besides, the "hearts and minds" stuff is supposed to be a pretty natural event. Of course, they also assumed that our troops would be greeted with flowers.

I am really trying to think of a single assumption they made about this mess that was accurate. I would like to think there was one or two, but they don't leap to mind.


I also voted for Edwards in 2004, even though by the time Pennsylvania's primary was held it did not matter. I am very receptive to his Two Americas concepts, which may be the most inspiring political speech I have ever heard. In the unlikely event it matters this time, my first choices are Edwards and Obama, likely in that order.

I do see his lack of significant accomplishments in the Senate as a drawback, but less than you do, in light of Republican control for nearly his entire term. I don't necessarily hold leaving after 1 term as a negative.

I am going to disagree with you on him changing his position on both Iraq and free trade -- I did not see him as a free trader in 2004 at all. I also think he stopped supporting the war long before it was "safe" to do so.

I've finished the book now. It's very good. It's worth reading even if you will never support Obama.

I don't have any clear thoughts beyond those I've written here, except this: I was struck, earlier, by the fact that when Obama was talking about why he got into avian flu early, he said something about how, having grown up in Indonesia with chickens running all around, he could understand immediately why having a potential human pandemic disease in Indonesian chickens was a big deal. And I thought: what a concept: we might have a president who grew up in the Third World, and not in some gated compound either. Who knows what it's like to be a kid in Jakarta not just abstractly, but in his bones.

Now I can add: what a concept: we might have a President one of whose cousins was a Kenyan who died of AIDS.

Slarti -- I'm very sorry to hear of the situation you're faced with.

Since I imagine the topic of congress's war powers will continue to be of interest for a while, perhaps we can continue in another thread at another time.

OCSteve, thanks for jumping in.

I do see his lack of significant accomplishments in the Senate as a drawback, but less than you do, in light of Republican control for nearly his entire term. I don't necessarily hold leaving after 1 term as a negative.

On that same note, didn't Edwards quit the Senate because the Presidential election fell on the same year as the expiration of his term? It's not like he had choice short of not running for President.

hil--this isn't really driving my support and maybe it's not even accurate, but I do think that Obama would start his presidency with more of the world's goodwill than any of the other candidate. A sign that after 7 long, dark years, America was voting its hopes instead of its fears.


I think Obama would be greeted VERY warmly by the rest of the world, but I'm not sure he'd have more goodwill than any of the other (potential) candidiates:

Could Obama take the Bubba vote by taking the monniker "Al"?

Your analysis of the cultural confict character development was profoundly perceptive to me. I now know why it is only on an afterthought that it occurs to me to identify his ethnicity. What was Abraham Lincoln's big resume callout for becoming the president when he did? I think Barack is being smiled on by Abraham, Martin, an John (and Bobby).

don't say that James, either he won't live up to it or he will and get shot.

Could Obama take the Bubba vote by taking the monniker "Al"?

I know at least one Confederate-flag-tattoo-wearing, Hillary-hating, Rush-Limbaugh-listening, self-described bubba who is a big Barack Obama fan.

"What was Abraham Lincoln's big resume callout for becoming the president when he did?"

Third(ish)-party candidacy. Also relative moderation.

Lily: "This is entirely antidotal...."

Please don't take this the wrong way, Lily, but this is, like, your best typo ever.


Yeah, it is pretty good! I guess it's because I'm studying medical assisting. Glad you're back, Gary.

"What was Abraham Lincoln's big resume callout for becoming the president when he did?"

Third(ish)-party candidacy.

That "ish" is crucial. The most important part was the split of the Democratic Party into separate Northern and Southern parties, with separate conventions, and two different nominees in 1860, Breckinridge and Douglas. But the Republicans were otherwise formed out of Whigs, Free-Soilers, and members of the "American Party," aka the "Know-Nothings." Considering this as a "third party," even with the modifier, is a bit misleading. I know you know this, hence the "ish," but my urge to clarify is occasionally more than a tad compulsive.


The dictionary says: [Perhaps short for TADPOLE.]

This seems a bit odd. (Mike Allen [I assume the guy from Time] says Obama's more bubbled than Bush. I don't have a partisan reaction to Allen's name.)

"...says Obama's more bubbled than Bush."

Um, Allen claims that Obama "already has a bubble around him that is tighter than the one that surrounded Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who spent long hours of the fledgling days of his candidacy in bull sessions with reporters."

Changing the tense here completely changes the meaning.

"...I assume the guy from Time...."

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the guy who was from Time; he's now -- this is the probably-not-breaking-news part -- at the Politico (I suspect, though, that a fair number of folks haven't yet heard about that pretty new endeavor, which is basically a new professional site of top political reporters who have quit places like Time and the WaPo for greater freedom, and the usual hopes of internet start-ups).

"I don't have a partisan reaction to Allen's name."

He's displaying the most common reaction of all of reporters: hostility towards any source who doesn't schmooze, or at least go on background.

He quotes Obama thusly: "He replied: 'It wouldn’t be fair to everybody else. We didn’t do a press avail for everybody else. Absolutely no questions this evening.'"

That strikes me as pretty reasonable, but color me unsurprised that a reporter might not take it well. It's not clear to me that there's more going on here, though of course there might be.

"Changing the tense here completely changes the meaning."

Yep, my bad. {Suppressing comma snark]

Still, there's the process story - Obama's no-reporter event, Clinton friendly and open. If Obama's our nominee I want the press pulling for him.

"If Obama's our nominee I want the press pulling for him."

I'm tempted to wax a bit cynical (who, me?) about the press tending to be sheep -- or pick your favored animal metaphor, so long as it's one that runs in packs/flocks, darting back and forth -- inevitably, at the very least, there's usualy at least a wave of contrarian views whenever anyone's popularity hits a certain point. The question of how and when press attitudes towards politicans are more dynamic than static, or vice versa, is an interesting, and rather complicated one, though, I think.

In some cases, their hostility seems fairly static -- I lean towards thinking of Al Gore, though I also recall that back prior to '92, he tended to get an awful lot more favorable press, it seemed to me, than certainly post-'96 -- but he was also, of course, simply a far lesser target as simply a Senator, as is always the case -- and then I think of the press being generally thought of/known as hostile to Richard Nixon, but also recall just how many New New Nixons they bought into. And look at the way the sheen has fallen away from McCain.

Anyway, I'm simply noting that the press will never be 100% "pulling for" for a candidate, at all times, though that's probably sufficiently banal that I shouldn't have bothered writing this. But I'm practicing my chat un-skills.

Yeah, it's sausage-making - I'm just sayin'.

Btw nice to see you around, Gary.

Dreams from My Father, Obama's memoir, is a phenomenal book. Anyone who says Obama is a blank slate will feel otherwise after reading it.

Thanks for the feedback on my edwards' concerns.

I still think his change in position on the Iraq war was politically motivated. Nov. 2005 is pretty late. He has changed his stance on numerous other issues since he retired from the Senate. With regard to free trade, he voted for fast track authority for trade agreements. That's a pro-business move.

I think what worries me most about Edwards is that he has a very short record to run on, and what he did with his time in office is make numerous mistakes. Iraq, trade, patriot act (he sponsored the original), yuca mountain. So everything his says now we have to take on his word because his actions previously said otherwise. If Kerry was a flip-flopper, what is Edwards?

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