Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Salute to Rick Ankiel: The Natural

Check out Rob's place.

On Mining Safety

In the wake of the tragic, apparent loss of 6 miners and 3 rescuers in Utah, it's likely that Congress will at least consider legislation to try to make sure nothing like this happens again. One problem with that approach: Congress did it 14 months ago -- in the wake of the loss of dozen workers at the Sago mine in West Virginia. The MINER Act requires (click the link for a more detailed summary):

A comprehensive, proactive approach to safety:

  • For the first time, every mine will have a comprehensive emergency response plan that provides for evacuation of miners and the maintenance of miners unable to evacuate.
  • The plans must address post-accident communications, tracking, breathable air, lifelines, training, and coordination with local emergency response personnel.

Coal mines must provide oxygen to save miners’ lives in the event of a disaster.

Every mine must have flame resistant lifelines.

MSHA must take action to prevent future disasters due to blown out seals.

Mines must have two-way wireless communications and electronic tracking.

Every mine must have a well-trained rescue team nearby.

New programs included in the MINER Act will advance safety technology and train a new generation of skilled miners and safety inspectors.

National Journal's the Gate has a very interesting post that puts some perspective on this tragedy:
Technological advancements have done little to mitigate the dangers of mining, one of the most risk-fraught occupations today. But mining also offers relatively lucrative pay without requiring a college degree, making it an attractive job prospect in some parts of the country.

In Utah, miners made an average of more than $62,000 last year, the Deseret Morning News reports. Disasters have befallen central Utah mining communities before. And while residents are hardly shocked by tragedies like the one playing out now, there are signs native Utahns are abandoning the trade. Migrants from Latin and Central America are filling the void, Reuters reports, and three of the trapped workers are reportedly Latinos.

Another group of foreigners may also be eyeing the developments in Utah closely. China may have the world's worst record on mine safety, with 4,746 fatalities last year compared with fewer than 50 in the U.S. Cave-ins, explosions and fires are a fairly regularly occurrence, and workers more or less are the canaries in the coal mine. Under pressure from the usually cautious Chinese media, officials there are taking steps to improve safety for miners.
It's ironic that at the same time Americans are focused on the accident in Utah, 181 miners in China are feared dead due to a flood. You can bet the response of the US Congress the Utah mine disaster will be greater than whatever the Chinese government does.

Bush to Propose Drawdown

The New York Times says that the Bush administration will propose to do in Iraq exactly what logistics and reality seem to have imposed. When they are no longer able to sustain the surge (in April), they will begin to draw down troops. And it appears that as troops are pulled out of the country, the mission will begin to change to reflect something approaching what the Iraq Study Group recommended:

“The surge, we all know, will end sometime in 2008, in the beginning of 2008, and we will begin probably a withdrawal of forces based on the surge,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 officer in Iraq, said Friday. “We must consider the complexity of the threat and deliberately reduce our forces based on the situation on the ground as well as the capability of the Iraqi security forces.”

General Odierno said the five additional brigades added this year under the president’s troop increase were likely to be withdrawn on a timeline parallel to their arrival in Iraq. Under this timeline, which is not yet the official plan, the troop increase would end by April with the five brigades leaving Iraq one each month, with American force levels returning to the troop levels existing before the increase by next August, he said.

Central to the internal debate on a “postsurge” strategy is the extent to which American troops would be able to ask Iraqi forces to take the lead on security missions in critical sections of the country, particularly in Baghdad. Many Democrats in Congress, and even some Republicans, have demanded that Americans hand over more security missions to the Iraqis.

Although no decision has been made about the full extent of the American combat mission next year, administration officials and military officers say the troops in Iraq would shift priorities to training and supporting Iraq forces. They said the large contingent of Special Operations forces now in Iraq would continue missions to capture and kill terrorist and insurgent leaders, and to disrupt their networks.

As Odierno says, as Admiral Mullen testified a little while ago, and as has been clear for some time, we will reduce overall troop levels when it is impossible to do otherwise.

The big question is just what the mission will be once troop levels are reduced. We recall too well the dissatisfaction with the 'whack-a-mole' strategy we were playing before Operation Phantom Thunder. We were making little progress and the losses were unacceptable to Americans. So it makes sense that the mission would have to change. We will see what the Iraqi government is capable of with a reduced commitment from American troops.

Politically, this announcement will give Democrats something of a free ride. They seem likely to have navigated a year in the majority without directly influencing the shape of the mission. They will be in a good position to claim that the President 'owns' Iraq. Events on the ground in Iraq -- and the opinion of the American people -- will go a long way to determining whether they will see it as politically in their interests to continue criticizing, or leave well enough alone.

But if the Administration submits a plan to limit our commitment to Iraq and sticks to a timetable to do so -- while arguing that we need to keep some troops in Iraq to preserve gains and fight Al Qaeda -- the public might be largely satisfied. That may end the domestic political fight over Iraq.

Maliki Tries to Change the Game

As we approach the September progress report on Iraq -- whoever delivers it -- there are signals that leaders in Iraq recognize the importance of signaling to the American people that things have changed. To that end, we got the report the other day that General Petraeus may be prepared to recommend the drawdown of US forces in areas of Iraq where violence has been suppressed. Now comes the world that Nuri Al Maliki has flown to the hometown of the late Saddam Hussein to make a personal appeal for unity to Sunni leaders. Ed Morrissey has the story:

Maliki didn't stop there. He made what looks to be a clean break with Moqtada al-Sadr yesterday, signing an accord with the Kurds and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The coucil commands the Badr Brigade, which has fought Sadr's forces in the south for control. Maliki apparently has co-opted them into the government, isolating Sadr even further than ever after the radical cleric pulled his ministers from Maliki's government.

Opposing Sadr will help build trust with Sunni leadership. They have bitterly complained about security efforts being focused on Sunnis while Sadr's Mahdi Army continues to operate against Sunnis in mixed sectarian populations. If Maliki has broken with Sadr, then the Sunnis will have an opening to flex some political muscle. And with the effort of General Petraeus and the American forces in western and central Iraq, the unity and purpose of those Sunni tribes can work to Maliki's benefit with recalcitrant Shi'ites.

The personal appeal, coming directly to the heart of Saddam's former power base, is a spectacular move by Maliki. Up to now, he's mostly been known as a sectarian forced to deal with Sunnis and Kurds by circumstance. He may have finally taken the necessary steps to become the statesman Iraq needs, and the father of their liberated national unity most of them desire.

It's tough to flip from partisan to statesman overnight, and feelings have been pretty well hardened among Sunnis and Shia over the last few years. At the same time, there seems to be a sense of urgency among those Iraqis who want to see the US mission continue. They recognize that the US is coming to a crossroads on Iraq. And while these changes won't lead to a change of heart by Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, their positions are irrelevant if a significant chunk of the American public can be swayed to back more time.

One thing that could affect the perception is if Maliki is able to re-enlist support among some of the Sunnis in Parliament:

Mr. Maliki's trip to Tikrit came under heavy security a day after announcing a new Shiite-Kurdish coalition that he said was a first step toward unblocking the paralysis that has gripped his Shiite-dominated government since it took power in May 2006. But the reshaped power bloc included no Sunnis and immediately raised questions about its legitimacy as a unifying force.

Let's see if Maliki's move to change the game bears fruit.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Brookings: US Military Falling Behind on Reporting Progress in Iraq

From the latest Brookings Institution Iraq Index:

After a trip of 8 days one of us (O'Hanlon) took to Iraq this July, revisions are needed in some key numbers in the Iraq Index. This is in part because fresh data have recently become available, and in part because the U.S. military and Bush administration have not done a sufficient job getting data into the American public debate. It required a trip to Iraq to get access to some information that really should be widely available on this side of the Atlantic.

A more thorough accounting will follow in the coming days, but in short, civilian fatality levels in Iraq now seem to have declined substantially more than previous Pentagon reports or data had indicated. In particular, the monthly civilian fatality rate from sectarian violence appears about one-third lower than in the pre-surge months. That is still far too high, and remains comparable to violence levels of the 2004-2005 period, but it nonetheless reflects progress...

On balance, Iraq at the end of July is showing significant signs of battlefield momentum in favor of U.S./coalition military forces, but there is nonetheless little good to report on the political front and only modest progress on the economic side of things.

Any improvements are welcome, although the report shows pretty clearly that there remains lots of work to be done. Nevertheless, we were hoping for dramatic reductions in sectarian violence and it seems to be dropping dramatically.

Most Americans Want to Win in Iraq

Jules Crittenden has the story:

47 percent of Americans now think we’re making progress in Iraq, despite the best effort by our major news media organizations to ignore this, to bury it, to cast it in the worst possible light.

This is before our top generals have had the opportunity to address Congress and the nation. This is after repeated efforts by Congress and presidential candidates to portray Iraq as a disaster we must abandon at allow costs, though it very likely would mean we bear witness to genocide and wear a national stain of shame and cowardice in perpetuity.

I'm not sure the poll is quite as encouraging as Crittenden paints it -- although there clearly are upbeat aspects. People oppose the war by a margin of 64-33. Give yourself a pat on the back if you note that the poll is among 'adults.' To get the opinion of actual voters you probably have to skew each number 6-10 points in the direction of the President. Furthermore, there's more or less an even split on the question of whether we're making progress: 49-47 against.

The other potential reason for optimism is the figure of 28 percent who say they're more likely to support the war if Petraeus's report is positive. There's probably significant overlap in that group with the 33 percent who say they support the war, but it's still something.

Newsweek: Manly Men Making a Comeback Thanks to Plastic Surgery, Hair Transplants


Measuring 6 feet 3, with chiseled pecs and a bushy beard, George seemed like a model of manliness. Yet two years ago the 47-year-old Virginia businessman (who declined to give his full name to protect his privacy) decided he didn't look quite macho enough. So he went to see Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a Miami hair-restoration surgeon, to have 3,000 hair follicles ripped from his scalp and transplanted into his face, chest and belly. He wasn't satisfied. So a year later he returned to get an additional 2,400 grafts done. "I could still have another surgery and not be completely covered," says George today. "I'm very pleased, but 2,400 grafts is not a very hairy chest."

George's quest for maximum hirsuteness isn't as unusual as it may sound. He's part of a growing group of "retrosexuals"—men who shun metrosexuality, with its often feminine esthetic, in favor of old-school masculinity. Cosmetic and hair-transplant surgeons on both coasts report increases in patients seeking a more rugged look: hairier chests and beards, squarer chins, more angular jaw lines. Dr. Paul Nassif, a well-known Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, has noticed the change in the photos patients bring in to show him their ideal image. A few years ago "they were bringing in a pretty-boy look," he says. Now, though, the requests are different: " 'Give me a big, strong, manlier chin'," he says...

On the cosmetic front, some surgeons say that men are also asserting their manliness through rhinoplasty, or nose jobs, asking for a more pronounced proboscis. Among them is Mike Love, 20, of Arizona. Last year he underwent surgery to pare down what he considered an oversize snout and to achieve "facial harmony," as he puts it. But what he ended up with, he says, was "too small, almost feminine." So Love now has a second surgery scheduled for November. He's much happier with the new version of his nose that he's been promised. "It looks more masculine," he says. "It's much more suited for my face." Unless, of course, the next fad to sweep in causes him to reconsider.
If you want to alter your appearance to appear more manly, don't do it like a sissy. Do it some traditional 'retrosexual' way -- like weight lifting, chopping wood, fist fighting, going to war, chain-smoking, or suffering an industrial accident. I know lots of people who have plenty of body hair, and it doesn't make them look especially manly. A surfeit of hair pales in comparison to a scar, or a lost digit or two.

If you're one of those who wants to get that 'manly look,' drop me an E-mail. I'll be glad to sell you some of my back hair -- or just chop off one of your fingers. Whatever it takes to help you impress the girl of your dreams.

Friday Funny

I don't know who Petra Haden is, but this is pretty funny:

Who Says News Writers are Economic Illiterates

The Albany Times Union:

Half the nation's families earn below the median family income of about $56,000.
Well -- it is true.

Median: a value in an ordered set of values below and above which there is an equal number of values


Charlie Cook: Not Much Room for a Bloomberg Indie Bid

Charlie Cook is one of the more respected and listened to election analysts in DC. He thinks that it would take a lot for Bloomberg to win the Presidency:

Obviously, trying to win the presidency is an even more formidable exercise for an independent than for a major party nominee. An independent might start with the support of about 11 percent of the electorate. Combining that with the $1 billion that Bloomberg could pump into his own campaign, it might not be implausible for his support levels to hit the mid-to-high 20s, perhaps even attracting the 30 percent or so who seem particularly open to an independent candidacy. But for Bloomberg to get from, say, 30 percent to the high 30s, the level probably needed to win the necessary 270 electoral votes, the public would have to be repulsed by both major parties' nominees because they had been so badly damaged.

Right now it seems there's a good chance that both parties' bases will be largely satisfied with their nominees. Certainly Hillary seems to have pacified the extreme Left wing of her party pretty well -- with guys like Markos Moulitsas saying nice things about her, there probably won't be much room to her Left. And if Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee, he probably begins with the base locked up. With regard to Rudy Giuliani however, it's hard to see how Mike Bloomberg would have room to steal his base.

So will Bloomberg try to beat the odds?

Sean Penn: Journalist

Spicoli is hanging with Chavez now, but as a journalist he had to refrain from reporting on his visit to Venezuela until he did some 'fact-checking:'

Were you not aware that Penn is a 'journalist?'

How much of that is going to end up in whatever story Sean Penn writes?

Penn claimed that he was in Venezuela to take in what was going on and then write about it. Nothing wrong with that, ostensibly. It's what journalists do. He even tried to play I'm-not-a-movie-star.

"I'm here as a journalist," Penn told The Associated Press. "So I'm not going to give quotes to anyone."

So there you go. Just your average ink-stained wretch.

To give Sean some help, here are some questions from a Venezuelan journalist that he might want to address in his anticipated news piece:

"Why are 1.8 million poor families waiting for houses while you are spending $5 billion on surface-to-air missiles, naval frigates, submarines, fighter jets and killing machines?

"Why are the military guys hiding their Rolexes up their sleeves when they shake hands with me?

"What's this about cocaine deliveries from Venezuela to the US going from 50 to 250 tons per year? Who's profiting from all that?

"Why do you have to produce all this black excrement for California SUV's? That's hard to take. Isn't there a way you could get into solar power? You've got some big time sun here.

"Why are you giving $200 million in discounted oil to Americans when half these poor Venezuelans wearing red shirts and screaming your name are living on $1 a day?

"What's so smart about putting 100,000 assault rifles in the hands of untrained teenagers wearing a uniform for the first time? Crap like that got the US in big trouble, especially in Columbine High School and Virginia Tech.

"How come I see bootlegged DVD's of my movies selling for a few Bolivars on the street? That's stealing the labor of a comrade, my man, not exactly what Marx had in mind, right?.

"What I'm hearing is a lot of talk about peace in Iraq but also, war in Venezuela. I'm here writing for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. So this part is getting hard for me to play. Mind if I ask Danny Glover to stand in for me on this one? I mean, Danny's got $20 million coming his way from you, isn't that right, I mean, doesn't he owe you one?"

The clip above was loaded to YouTube over a week ago. So far I haven't seen any statements from Spicoli on whether he's finished his fact-checking. If any appears, I'll gladly post it.

Note: Read also Fausta's post on Penn's visit, and a quote from a famous Venezuelan who actually loves her country.

Petraeus & Crocker to Testify

The brief dustup over the attempt by the White House to 'shield' Petraeus and Crocker from Congressional testimony appears to be over. The White House has signalled that they will be available for testimony:

The White House promised Thursday to allow Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, to testify in open session before congressional committees, denying reports that the administration had sought only private meetings with lawmakers.

“General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress in both open as well as closed sessions. ... That has always been our intention,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.

So expect to be treated to 'questions' of more than 7 minutes from some Senators, and more appearances like this one. Will the Democratic leadership be more or less likely to sway the public if they insist that Petraeus get a soapbox to discuss his views on Iraq (instead of say, Condi Rice). I say less:

See also the Politico and the Hill.

MORE Trouble for Ted Stevens

Mickey covered the confrontational visit of Ted Stevens to the editorial board of the Anchorage Daily News the other day. Stevens was... prickly, as he is wont to be.

Wonder if he knew this story was in the works:

An Alaska-based transportation firm that recently hired the son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has received more than $300 million in federal contracts over the past six years, many of which came from agencies over which Stevens has direct oversight authority in his current position as ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, federal records show.

Earlier this month, Bering Marine Corp., a subsidiary of the transportation company Lynden, hired Ben Stevens — a former Alaska GOP state Senator — to toil on one of its work boats as part of a support contract the company has with Shell oil company. The job will keep the younger Stevens in the Arctic Ocean for an unknown period of time...

Lynden CEO Jim Jansen has had long-standing ties to Ben Stevens. According to, Lynden paid Stevens $10,000 to work as a federal lobbyist in 1997.

Additionally, Jansen and Ben Stevens both served on the board of directors of the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, a nonprofit organization created by Ted Stevens to funnel millions in federal dollars to the state’s fishing industry. The FBI and IRS are investigating both Stevens and the members of the AFMB’s board of directors as part of the widening federal probe.

Over the past several years, Lynden companies have secured scores of federal contracts, according to federal records compiled by Since 2000, the various companies connected to Lynden and the Jansen family have received at least $312 million in federal funding, much of it coming through contracts with the Department of Defense.

The headaches keep coming for the GOP -- as they ought to when they engage in this sort of behavior.

A measure of whether anything is improving under Democratic leadership: their lobbying reform bill doesn't include any provisions to prevent this sort of abuse.

Update: In recognition of the ethics cloud starting to gather around Stevens, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza elevates Stevens' re-election run next year onto hist list of races to watch:

We never thought we'd write this, but Sen. Ted Stevens (R) appears to be in serious electoral jeopardy. Stevens, a legend in Alaska politics, has drawn considerable scrutiny from a federal investigation into a pay-to-play scandal involving an Alaska energy company. Democrats sense an opportunity and are optimistic that Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, the son of late Alaska Rep. Nick Begich (D), will decide to take on Stevens. A recent independent poll conducted in the state showed the depth of Stevens's potential problems: 44 percent felt favorably toward him while 40 percent felt unfavorably. Stevens, 83, insists he has no plans to retire. If the investigation continues to proceed, however, Stevens may rethink that plan.

One of the lessons drawn by GOP leaders after their drubbing in 2006 was the danger of allowing scandal-tarred incumbents to seek re-election. It both endangers the incumbent and creates problems for other GOP candidates. Whatever happens in Alaska, one can only hope there's no whiff of scandal there next year.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Huckabee Shows Off His Inner John Edwards

The other day I posted on some of Huckabee's rhetoric which has earned him some compliments on the Left. It looks like he's decided that this is fertile ground to plow:

“The headlines are that the economy’s doing great. … But if you go out and talk to the people who work on the floors of factories, or you talk to waitresses who are doing their second job and schoolteachers who have to work an extra job, you don’t get quite the confidence of how great the economy’s doing.”

“There are a lot of people who are working harder than they ever worked, they’re staying at best even. But their cost of health care, their cost of fuel, their cost of college education means that no matter how hard they’ve worked, they’re not quite making it to the next level. That’s a sensitivity the president better have.”

“If you’re really going to say I’m applying my faith to the world on which I live, that has to conclude concerns about the environment, it has to include concerns about poverty and hunger. It can’t just be about abortions and same-sex marriage.”

“It’s ridiculous to think that any one political group owns God. That’s absurd.”

“We can’t ignore that there are kids every day in this country that literally don’t have enough food. And don’t have adequate drinking water. In America.”

But all of the quotes were from former Republican Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at this morning’s Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

Frankly, I'm not really sure what this gets him. I can understand him deciding to take advantage of the attention to his strong showing at Ames. He has an opportunity now to showcase something that might vault him closer to the proverbial 'top tier.' But what in the world made him decide to show off his inner John Edwards?

If Huckabee wants to do something different and striking to make a strong positive impression on primary voters considering him for the first time. He could promise to maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. He could declare a pro-life litmus test for judicial appointments. He could promise that tax reductions would take a backseat to an expanded military under his administration. Heck. He could even promise to stop illegal immigration completely.

Why is he choosing to show off a side of him that earns unfavorable comparisons and turns off many primary voters?

Jack Kingston Returns from Iraq

He says that according to Deputy Prime Minister Salih, expecting Iraq to meet the benchmarks set for it by the US is like 'asking the US to pass civil rights legislation in 1865.'


Read it at the Standard.

Hillary: Cross Me & I Will Show You Real Terror

Brilliant campaign ad for Hillary - full of awesome Frank J lines ("you will beg me for death, but I won't listen"):

Visitor to Poe's Grave Revealed

It was a promotion designed to boost interest in the church where Poe is buried:

Now, a 92-year-old man who led the fight to preserve the historic site says the visitor was his creation.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," said Sam Porpora. "It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide."

Great story, Grandpa. Coulda used a vampire, though.

Sucking up to Hugo Chavez

The Mayor of Macon Georgia expresses solidarity with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. City Councilman-elect Erick Erickson (also of RedState) will sponsor a measure to ensure that taxpayer dollars don't get wasted in this way again:

Hat Tip: CA Yankee

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Weak Tea in Nuke Attack on Thompson

The Politico reports that in the 1970s and 80s, Fred Thompson lobbied for federal funds for the Clinch River Nuclear Reactor:

When Fred Thompson was a lobbyist, he advocated for one of his home state’s biggest government-funded boondoggles. Along the way, he made some important connections and a nice chunk of change – and he paved the way for the spending of a whole lot of taxpayer money.

It’s a part of his past that runs counter to the fiscally conservative outsider image he’s seeking to cast as he positions himself for an all-but-certain bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Proponents of the reactor argued that it warranted federal funds because it would be the first of a new generation of nuclear reactors, which would dramatically improve the US energy picture. It received those funds -- probably more than warranted -- on that basis. And it was ultimately killed not so much because it was a drain on tax dollars as because it was a nuclear project. And at that time -- 1983 -- environmentalists regarded nuclear power as perhaps the single greatest threat to our environment. Killing Clinch River went a long way toward killing nuclear power for a generation in the US.

How many think that was a good idea?

I am not an expert on nuclear power. I have no idea if the 'groundbreaking work' done at Clinch River would ultimately have paid off. But if nuclear power had not been killed in the 1980s, we would have an alternative source of power that does not pose the global warming problems that coal and gas do.

Go back and read this Heritage Foundation backgrounder from 1982 (can you believe they're online that far back?):
For many conservatives, Clinch River presents a dilemma.

They are, on the one hand, strongly supportive of nuclear energy, but they are also concerned about the burgeoning federal deficit.

Their opposition to the Clinch River Breeder, therefore, is born more out of a concern to limit federal spending than opposition to nuclear power. The stakes are high. If, as spokesmen for the nuclear industry contend, the death of Clinch River will lead inevitably to the death of nuclear power in the United States, conservatives would undoubtedly continue to support the project.
The author of the Heritage paper by the way, is Henry Sokolski -- who now tells the Politico that Clinch River belongs 'up there in the pantheon of nonsensical projects.' That may well be the case. But if Sokolski himself did not realize that in 1982, can Thompson be criticized for not realizing it several years before?

Did reasonable people think that the Clinch River reactor was important to our energy future? Well, a journal of the Los Alamos national labs printed a commentary in 1982 that said:
Our country’s energy future is not at all secure; another series of crises over imported oil and new demands and higher prices for uranium could make the breeder reactor very attractive thirty years from now. From our own experience and from watching the European efforts, we know that development and commercial plant production take twenty years or more. We also know that the costs of development and construction are rising rapidly. Much of the preliminary testing of breeder reactor components is done. Now the moratorium is over. It seems a good time to go forward either with a revised intermediate project at Clinch River or with a new large developmental plant—or both.
The author of this piece was Jay Boudreau, who went on to serve as Deputy Associate Director for Nuclear Programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (I don't find a current listing for him. If someone sends it to me, I'll print it below.)

So Thompson made money lobbying for a home-state energy project backed by everyone in Tennessee and many conservatives -- one that experts had high hopes for, but which was ultimately killed in the anti-nuclear frenzy of the late 70s and early 80s?

It doesn't strike me as a big deal. It sounds a lot more rational and justifiable than going to Iowa and pimping ethanol -- which doesn't seem to move anyone to write exposes.

Democrats Livid that Bush is Obeying the Law

The Left is angry that -- according to the LA Times -- the White House will prepare the September 15 report to Congress on progress in Iraq:

The Los Angeles Times reports that Gen. David Petraeus’ upcoming Sept. 15 report on Iraq will be authored by the White House:
Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
In other words, the Sept. 15 report promises to be much like the July mid-term report which purported to show “satisfactory performance on 8 of the 18 benchmarks.” A closer look into those claims revealed that the progress was purely White House spin. Yet, the report accomplished its primary objective of producing media reports which suggested that the overall picture in Iraq was “mixed.”

The White House has repeatedly employed Petraeus as a PR flack, using him to promote failing Iraq policies and the war czar nomination.
First let's note the LATimes' editorial 'despite.' Is there some inherent inconsistency in saying that report would 'reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker,' and that it would be written by the White House? Obviously not. Simply the LATimes trying to create a contradiction in administration statements where there is none.

It's also worth looking at exactly what Congress has required for September 15. I've written on it before. Here's what Congress passed, and the President signed:
(A) The President shall submit an initial report, in classified and unclassified format, to the Congress, not later than July 15, 2007, assessing the status of each of the specific benchmarks established above, and declaring, in his judgment, whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is, or is not, being achieved.

(B) The President, having consulted with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Commander, Multi-National Forces Iraq, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, and the Commander of U.S. Central Command, will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress.

(C) If the President’s assessment of any of the specific benchmarks established above is unsatisfactory, the President shall include in that report a description of such revisions to the political, economic, regional, and military components of the strategy, as announced by the President on January 10, 2007. In addition, the President shall include in the report, the advisability of implementing such aspects of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, as he deems appropriate.

(D) The President shall submit a second report to the Congress, not later than September 15, 2007, following the same procedures and criteria outlined above.
Is there any lack of clarity as to whom Congress tasked to prepare and submit the report? Anyone surprised that the report is being prepared by the White House, with the input of appropriate officials in Iraq and throughout the Executive Branch?

Further, does anyone doubt that IF Bush left responsibility for the report with Petraeus and Crocker, the same critics on the Left would not be blaming him for passing the buck? They'd charge him with trying to leave Petraeus and Crocker twisting in the wind, and say that he needs to take ownership of the war.

Fact is, they'll criticize him no matter who prepares the report, and no matter what the report says. Like the old saying goes, if he walks on water they'll mock him for being unable to swim.

Pryce to Step Down

We covered here the other day the news that Dennis Hastert was preparing to announce his decision not to seek re-election. Now Deborah Pryce will announce the same.

Pryce's district has a PVI of just +1 Republican. That means on the average, the Republican candidate runs just 1 percentage point better than the Democratic candidate. It's a classic swing seat.

Give the huge year Democrats had in Ohio in 2006, you can bet the seat will be heavily targeted. In a presidential year, coattails could prove decisive.

Iraq: Reid Acknowledges Success of the Surge; UN Goes Back

As the reports of successes in Operation Phantom Thunder seep through the national consciousness, I've tried to distinguish between opponents' arguments that it is failing to provide security, and that it is failing to prompt political reconciliation. In that regard, I believe we've hit a milestone: Harry Reid has stopped arguing that the surge is not improving security.

While our brave men and women continue to fight Iraq’s civil war, Iraqis remain far from a political solution and have not demonstrated any readiness to stand up and take responsibility for their own country. And as President Bush continues to cling stubbornly to his flawed strategy, Al Qaeda only grows stronger.
Reid then ticks off the evidence that political reconciliation is not happening:
  • Sunnis are deserting the Iraqi government;
  • Secretary Gates says recent developments are 'discouraging;'
  • Iraq's Parliament took August off without passing key initiatives;
  • Iraq has not assumed control of key reconstruction projects; and,
  • July was the 2nd-deadliest month for Iraqis.

This is a welcome development. As I've noted before, any decision on what to do about 'the surge' come September is based on two separate judgments: is the surge improving security; and is the improved security enabling sufficient political progress. With Reid now ignoring the first question, it's safe to say he recognizes the improvement. If this statement from him can be regarded as a preview of his arguments against the surge in September, it seems he's decided to focus primarily on the question of political progress.

In the meantime, Austin Bay looks at the decision of the UN to return to Baghdad. He sees it as a welcome development, but cautions against expecting too much.

Update: Ed Morrissey notes the LATimes report that Petraeus may recommend the withdrawal of some US troops from areas where there's been progress in reducing violence. That's the sort of dramatic move that might force some Americans to re-think what they thought they knew about our 'failure' in Iraq.

If it happens, and the Iraqi forces can keep the peace, it would mark an unmistakable 'turning-the-corner' moment.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Populist Huckabee's Bipartisan Appeal

So you like Mike Huckaee, huh? I've got something to cure you of that affliction. DailyKos likes him as well -- because he bucks conservative orthodoxy pretty consistently.

David Sirota points out that Huckabee is uncomfortable with free trade, supports a minimum wage, sounds like a Democratic populist on health care, and signed a statewide smoking ban.

Meanwhile, Mickey's favorite Ezra Klein suggests that on drug use and abuse, Huckabee sounds almost like a Democrat:

According to Rivera, he also calls the "three-strikes" law "the dumbest piece of public-policy legislation in a long time" and argues that "We don't have a massive crime problem; we have a massive drug problem. And you don't treat that by locking drug addicts up." Its good enough rhetoric to post twice.
They sound complimentary, but let's go to Huckabee's website to see whether guys like Klein and Sirota would really have a hard time attacking him during the general election. On health care:
We can make health care more affordable by reforming medical liability; adopting electronic record keeping; making health insurance more portable from one job to another; expanding health savings accounts to everyone, not just those with high deductibles; and making health insurance tax deductible for individuals and families as it now is for businesses. Low income families would get tax credits instead of deductions. We don't need all the government controls that would inevitably come with universal health care.
Free-market health care? Forget it. Huckabee will be crucified by Huffington Post.

On economics:
The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities.
His stance on economics includes some of the populist trade rhetoric that earns him the compliments on the Left, but HuffPo won't read past the FairTax before attacking him for wanting to shift the burden even more heavily on the lowest earners (who of course, pay no income tax right now).

And then to balance it out, let's look at what Huckabee says regarding the war on terror:
Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believe in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god. We go to great extremes to save lives, they go to great extremes to take them. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy. I will fight the war on terror with the intensity and single-mindedness that it deserves.
No, he wouldn't win any accolades from the professional Left if he actually got the nomination.

But that's not the key test of course. The question is whether Huckabee could make inroads among voters who haven't traditionally backed the GOP. I suspect that if he were the nominee, he might. A Republican candidate who talked about fair trade and wage equity might get a few more votes from lower-income voters who traditionally support Democrats. But in the heightened partisan atmosphere of a presidential race, with differences between the two candidates so sharply defined, I bet the number would be pretty small.

Further, the more populist rhetoric he indulged in, the more concern he would draw from the Wall Street Journal wing of the party. Therefore it's not clear to me that he would gain all that much.

And one also has to remember that the chances are almost nil that Huckabee will be the nominee. He is more likely to be a veep choice by someone like Romney or Giuliani -- northerners who don't want to lose the traditional GOP base in the South. But as the veep nominee, voters won't see much of the populist Huckabee. They'll just see another version of the man at the head of the ticket.

Note: Mickey also catches on to the fact that Huckabee isn't exactly in tune with conservatives on immigration.

Update: Soren says that Huckabee's foreign policy is 'neo-isolationist.' That seems a fair characterization.

Congress Finds that Tax Increases Don't Close Deficits

That's the conclusion of a study for their own Joint Economic Committee!

The historical evidence suggests that the future tax increases embodied in the recently passed Congressional budget resolution would likely be used to finance additional federal spending, not deficit reduction. A statistical analysis of the relevant data in the 1946-2006 period finds that each $1.00 of additional taxes was associated with $1.07 in additional federal spending. This finding indicates that tax increases have been an ineffective and self-defeating approach to reducing budget deficits...

The cause of the deficit problem does not appear to be inadequate taxes, but rather the political gains from spending, gains that are rising over time, particularly to finance redistributionist activity.

Does this mean that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are getting ready to table the tax increases and look at spending cuts, instead?

Cindy Sheehan Has a Lot of Ground to Make Up

Cindy Sheehan has declared her candidacy in opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but according to early polling, she's not exactly the favorite:

In an election for the U.S. House of Representatives, with Nancy Pelosi running as a Democrat, and Cindy Sheehan running as an independent, which describes you?

I would vote for Pelosi, no matter who the Republican is 66%

I would vote for Sheehan no matter who the Republican is 9%

I would need to know who the Republican is... 21%

Not sure 4%

I see the glass half-full: after electing Ms. Pelosi for so many years, who would have thought the voters of the 8th district had the sense to reject Ms. Sheehan?

Be Careful When Detonating Ordnance

The caption for this clip says 'a group of soldiers detonate a weapons supply in Iraq from about a mile away.' The lag between seeing the detonation and hearing it says they're much closer -- under a half mile, probably. Either way, they were too close:

Bomb Frag Almost Takes Out Cameraman - Watch more free videos

Congratulations to the cameraman. I don't think my language would have been quite so clean.

Jurassic Park IV: Channeling Calvin & Hobbes

Jurassic Park IV is greenlighted, and the plot is about another dangerous government project gone awry:

Bloody-Disgusting learned this weekend that Universal Pictures has officially begun casting for Jurassic Park IV, which will film in Kauai, Hawaii later this year! Laura Dern confirmed her return to the franchise as Dr. Ellie Sattler here as Sam Neill will NOT return. We're told that the film is about the government who has trained dinosaurs to carry weapons and use them for battle purposes. Based on the I can now safely declare that this franchise has entered 'ridiculous sequel mode'. Watch for more news soon.

If you're 35-45, you can't read this and NOT think of... Calvin and Hobbes:

I wonder if the filmmakers realize that what made this comic great is that it was so silly. Oh well. I suppose it's no worse than Snakes in a Plane.

Karl Rove Hyperbole Watch

I've not commented on Karl Rove's departure, because I think the reaction is overblown. A lame-duck President approaching the end of his term sees his chief strategist depart the administration -- presumably to appear on someone's campaign in 6 months or so.

But this quote made me laugh:

Brazile and others respect his political skills but condemn how he used them in the White House. "He created the polarization we see in the country," Brazile said. "He used to say good policy creates good politics. Many of us translated that as good policy equals good Republican politics."

He created the polarization?

By implication, the impeachment of President Clinton has been rendered the product of some sort of bipartisan consensus. Newt Gingrich was a uniter, not a divider. Hillary was loved by all -- which should make her campaign that much simpler. Ted Kennedy, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwater, Ed Meese, Richard Nixon, Dan Quayle, Barbara Boxer, Jim Wright, Rush Limbaugh, Jane Fonda... all products of a happier era when people of both parties could come together and discuss the issues that affected us in spirit of comity and good nature.

And then came Karl Rove to spoil it all.

Now that he is gone, how long does it take before we return to the 'era of good feelings' that prevailed until her darkened our door?

On Lobbying Reform, Veto Unlikely to Prevent Enactment

The other day I posted on a report that the Congressional leadership has decided to hold the lobbying reform bill -- which has already passed the House and Senate -- in anticipation of a possible presidential veto. While holding the bill can't prevent a veto of course, it will prevent the President from issuing a pocket veto. Democratic leaders believe that blocking a pocket veto will ensure more attention to it.

But while my Congressional contacts don't know whether the President will sign the bill or veto it, there are no indications that the White House is actively trying to line up support to sustain a veto. And that's probably the critical question.

Both Houses voted for the bill by decisive margins. It passed the House by a margin of 411-8 and the Senate by 80-17. To sustain a veto, the President would need to flip about 15 votes in the Senate or about 130-140 in the House. To do that takes some 'Member outreach,' and there seems to be no indication that it's happening.

Many conservatives (and the White House) oppose the bill because it guts earmark reform. But it's worth remembering that while there are few issues where bipartisanship is the rule, earmarks are definitely one. If the President does veto the bill, there are certainly a number of Republicans who might change their vote to side with him. But there are probably even more who would be just as happy to see an ethics bill enacted that does nothing major on earmarks.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hastert Preparing to Announce Retirement?

The Politico says that former Speaker Hastert Dennis Hastert has invited supporters to join him on Friday for a speech, where he is expected to announce his future plans. Since everyone expected him to retire last November and he has given no indication that he intends to run for re-election next year, it would be a surprise if he did anything other than announce that he will not seek re-election:

The letter does not say whether he'll run for reelection in 2008 or announce his retirement, but speculation skews heavily toward retirement. And neither Hastert nor his aides have done much to dispel the widely accepted opinion back home that he'll call it quits. For example, an aide did not respond to an e-mail about the weekend letter.

If this marks the end of Hastert's Congressional career, he had a good one. He stepped in in the lurch, after the resignations of former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his expected successor, Bob Livingston. His speakership began in the lame duck years of the Clinton administration, with no major legislative accomplishments in the 106th Congress. But starting with the election of George Bush, the Congress was very productive.

Like a good manager, Hastert knew when to press his chairmen, and when to lay back and let them manage their committees. Under his leadership, the House passed and Congress enacted President Bush's tax package, the Patriot Act, extension of Trade Promotion Authority, the Partial-Birth Abortion ban, intelligence reform and multiple free trade agreements -- along with the legislation needed to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terror. In many of these cases, it was party discipline in the House that allowed enactment of many of these pieces of legislation in forms that conservatives ultimately supported. Had the Republican majority not been so united, major pieces of legislation would have foundered more often. Hastert deserves credit for much of this.

The disappointment for conservatives of course, is that there's no balanced-budget amendment, or enhanced rescission (line-item veto), ethics overhaul, or other such reformist legislation on the list. That's what marks Hastert as a great manager, but not a visionary leader.

Say it Isn't So, Bear. Say it Isn't So

I don't think I can ever watch Bear again:

This is less clear cut, but still disappointing:

Hat Tip: Hot Air

NYTimes: The US Needs More Oil Reserves & Should Never Tap Them

Read it at the Standard.

A Cure for Cancer?

There is success reported in the use of High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound to rupture tumerous cells and cause the body's immune system to recognize and attack the cancer:

An intense form of ultrasound that shakes a tumor until its cells start to leak can trigger an 'alarm' that enlists immune defenses against the cancerous invasion, according to a study led by researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.

The new findings suggest that once activated by the ultrasound, the immune system might even seek and destroy cancer cells, including those that have spread through the bloodstream to lurk in other parts of the body.

The Influence Peddler has a regular reader who was worked on something similar to this. I promise that if he provides expert comment we won't make fun of him.

Sure You Can Do it With the Sunnis...

Critics of the war in Iraq have suggested that it was relatively simple to pacify Sunni fighters in Iraq who had become disaffected with Al Qaeda in Iraq, but that it would prove much harder to bring to heel the Shia militias. Former Spook says that with some Sunni insurgents having laid down their weapons, more troops are available to tackle the problem of the Shia:

But the article fails to mention that the surge will (likely) achieve similar results with the Shiites. With Al Qaida in retreat--and a mountain of new intelligence--U.S. commanders can devote more resources to the Shia "problem" and their Iranian support network. Last week's highly-publicized strike in Sadr City targeted a Shia/Iranian EFT cell, resulting in the deaths of 32 terrorists. We also learned last week that "Mookie" al-Sadr has high-tailed it to Iran (again), suggesting that Shia militants--and their leaders--are feeling the heat.

Make no mistake: the battle for Iraq is far from over. But the tide of battle has clearly shifted, creating problems for Al Qaida and its allies, various Shiite militant factions, and members of the American left, who long ago cast their lot with a U.S. military defeat in Iraq.

File it under the 'it would be nice if true' file.

What Effect Will Sheehan Have on Pelosi

Congressional Quarterly suggests that Cindy Sheehan's run against Pelosi will only help her nationally. The logic says that subjecting her to a challenge from the Left will make her appear more mainstream:

Yet some political analysts speculate that Sheehan’s candidacy actually could benefit Pelosi and her Democratic Party. While Sheehan is widely deemed as unlikely to pose a serious threat to defeat Pelosi, her arguments that Pelosi’s views are not liberal enough could provide a counterpoint to the contention often voiced by Republicans that the House Democratic leader is too liberal.

Pelosi has represented a liberal Bay Area constituency since winning a June 1987 special election and will seek an 11th full term next year. Republicans cast her as the embodiment of the “West Coast liberal” — and much as they did in the 2006 elections, GOP candidates are already invoking Pelosi’s name in their 2008 campaigns, warning their party base of what they contend is her determination to shift Congress far to the left.

But it is from the left that Sheehan is attacking Pelosi, which in turn might allow Democrats to cast the Speaker as more mainstream than she appears in Republican caricatures.

That's certainly a possibility, but I don't think there are many voters nationwide who pay that much attention. And of course, if Sheehan actually gets any traction -- something to be hoped for -- Ms. Pelosi will have to either forcefully argue that the pacifist apologist for Saddam and the Taliban is wrong, or she will have to echo Ms. Sheehan to appeal to her base. Either outcome would be welcome by Republicans.

Greenwald On Iraq

Any politician worth his salt knows that when you're debating an issue, you should always choose which question you'll answer. Even if the moderator doesn't pose it, you need to make sure you swing it back to the one you prefer.

Glenn Greenwald today notes the report issued by CSIS's Anthony Cordesman upon his return from Iraq. (Cordesman accompanied Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution on their recent trip. Greenwald reports that Cordesman differs dramatically from his Brookings colleagues -- he thinks the war has been very costly for the people of Iraq:

(1) As Greg Sargent first noted, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies accompanied Ken Pollack and Mike O'Hanlon on their storied 8-day-field-trip to Iraq and reached a much different conclusion than they did ("my perceptions of a recent trip to Iraq are different from that of two of my traveling companions and those of several other recent think tank travelers to the country")...

Cordesman's full report (.pdf) is well worth reading. It includes the following:

The US intervention in Iraq has driven more than two million Iraqis out of the country, including much of its most educated and professional citizens. It has displaced over two million more Iraqis inside Iraq, many of which have lost their homes and their businesses and jobs. Estimates of the total percent of underemployment and unemployment exceed 50% in virtually all of the country.

The number of Iraqi civilian dead now total at least 100,000, and no one knows how many have been wounded. Basic services, infrastructure, and security do not exist in many areas, and sectarian and ethnic cleansing continue in much of the country, including the area around Baghdad and virtually every area with mixed Sunni and Shi'ite populations. Various estimates put the number of Iraqis that have suffered severe hardship as a result of the war and its aftermath at close to 8 million and rising -- although such estimates are really “guesstimates” at best.

Of course, sometimes you do some cherry-picking to get the conclusion you want. To respond to Greenwald, I'll cherry-pick the title of Cordesman's report:

The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq

And Cordesman's summary, which leads the document:

The US can influence this process, and can still do a great deal of good. It may be able to push the Iraqis in the right direction and at a pace where the odds of success are significantly higher than they would be without a sustained US presence and intervention. The US cannot, however, prevent the pace of Iraqi progress from having major delays and reversals. US troop levels almost certainly can be reduced sharply over time on an Iraqi capabilities-based level, but many aspects will play out over a period that may well take a decade.

US policy will also have to steadily adapt and evolve over time. It will have to react to events, rather than shape them, and do so in a climate in which the odds of success in any given area are often less than even. Like it or not, the US can only achieve even moderate success by a sustained search for the least bad option, and will have to face years in which it must operate in a climate in which it also will have to search for the least bad uncertainty.

Now I'll stop playing and actually cherry pick:

It is also important to understand that reducing troop levels does not reduce risk or casualties unless it is conducted as part of a military plan. Leaving fewer troops exposed in either forward bases or compounds that can be targeted from the outside can easily raise casualties. The idea that the US can some how simply stand aside and deal with Al Qa’ida or the Sadr militia by relying largely on air power and Special Forces is equally absurd. The US could not target, it could not cover the country, it could not secure its bases, and it would lack the force numbers to act decisively without relying on Iraqi forces. Such concepts are little more than childish in practical military terms.

The US team is far more impressive than ever before, and far more experienced from Crocker and Petraeus down to the junior officer and US civilian in the field. The current F-Troop in Washington – and the F-Troop that existed in Iraq during the key initial years of the occupation -- has been replaced by the A-team.

Greenwald advocates a prompt withdrawal from Iraq. Why does he cite as support someone who rejects that view?

Wishing for Al Gore

If Democratic voters unhappy with the anticipated candidacy of Hillary decide that she cannot be beaten by the current crop of challengers, we'll see more of this:

Goreism is a pro-American energy policy that promotes safer and renewable sources; the protection of the planet that inevitably follows from those safer energy sources; avoidance of unwise wars and the use of diplomacy to avoid them when possible; integrity and truth in public debate; a reduction of the corrupting influence of money in politics, and respect for the rule of law and constitutional Americanism.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nunn-Bloomberg in 2008?

An acquaintance (friend?) of Sam Nunn's -- the archetypal southern, conservative, pro-defense Democrat -- says that he 'thinks' that Sam Nunn has an interest in running on a ticket with Mike Bloomberg:

What about a Nunn-Bloomberg or a Bloomberg-Nunn ticket? Two solid, middle of the road, non-doctrinaire men looking to what is best for this country. Two men who will not be hamstrung by the partisanship created by the Republican’s right and the Democrat’s left.

I would like to see a Nunn-Bloomberg ticket. But, Mr. Bloomberg has the money, so possibly it would have to be a Bloomberg-Nunn one. Either way, put Sam Nunn in charge of all foreign policy, which he knows so well, and let Mayor Bloomberg run the country like he has so effectively run New York City.

As I put forth this subject of Nunn’s being interested in an independent candidacy involving the Presidency, can I say that he has confirmed interest? The answer is “no”. But, do I think he has interest? The answer is “yes”.

Is this fanciful speculation? A trial balloon? A signal to presidential candidates that Nunn is still around and could be valuable to the right ticket? Hard to say.

A Bloomberg/Nunn or Nunn/Bloomberg ticket could be interesting. If Rudy Giuliani is the GOP nominee, I suspect that it gives the Democrat -- or an Independent -- an opening in the South that would not otherwise exist. For a candidate like Bloomberg, a conservative Southern Democrat running mate might make some sense.

At the same time, who can be sure what Nunn brings to the table -- as one who last sought office when George Herbert Walker Bush was President. And of course, a Bloomberg run for President is pure fancy, at least at this point.

But you can't keep people interested in a Presidential race without silly rumors, right? (Plus, you don't have Tommy Thompson to kick around any more...)

Note: Looking around a little, it appears that DonkElephant came across some comments from Nunn to suggest that he just might be interested in running.

Obi Wan Kenobi Buys a Car

Seems genuine. But could a salesman really not have picked up on it?

Are Surrender Advocates Giving Up

That's the suggestion by Jules Crittenden:

Surrender enthusiasts may finally be surrendering. Dem candidates say getting out of Iraq may take years:

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis.

This think piece from the NYT would appear to be part of the growing campaign to get on the right side of this war and support a Democratic congressional surrender in September. They have finally figured out they can’t pull the rug out from under the troops in the field, particularly when they are winning. Now, they need to make it look like it was their idea.

It's interesting to consider.

On the one hand, the Presidential candidates will continue to savage the President on the war rhetorically, even as their course for the future probably resembles his. Congressional Democrats will sound the drum loudly for retreat in September, secure in the knowledge that they are ineffectual.

Hillary, Obama and Edwards can probably maintain their positions unless one or more sees an advantage to shifting. Hillary maintains a lead -- so she need not shift. Obama is close, so it might make sense for him not to do so, either. But Edward is behind and has shown a great proclivity for pandering. If he sees Richardson gaining, and sees his own effort falling short, then he might be the one to fully embrace surrender. If it happens, that could change the dynamic among the top three. We'll see what the leaders do then.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

If there's one thing that's obvious about the 2008 presidential race, it's that the two major party nominees will both try to run on the change theme. President Bush's ratings are in the toilet and Congress's are worse. On immigration, the war, health care, the economy, education and anything else you can think of, the American people want change.

Mitt Romney recognizes that:

“Washington is broken,” Romney declared as freight trains whistled by just a few feet behind him in the parking lot of his local headquarters here. “Washington is unable to deal with the real challenges we have.” He cited immigration and spending, the two issues grassroots Republicans are most angry at their own party about.

But Romney also broadened his indictment. “Washington has not deal with the inadequacy of our health insurance system,” or Asian economic competition, he complained. Also, he said, “our effort against jihad needs to be expanded to include not just our military, though we need to strengthen our military, but also our non-military resources.”

The other leading GOP contenders are well-positioned to run on 'change' as well. Thompson hasn't held elective office in years and is not a career politician. McCain is anything but a typical Washington pol. Giuliani is a reformist Mayor who's never held federal office. Even Huckabee -- the darling of Ames -- is a clear outsider.

On the other side of the aisle, you have Barack Obama -- who's been in Washington for about a minute and a half. John Edwards' entire Senate career lasted about that long.

The only major candidate on either side who is a long-time creature of Washington is Hillary Clinton. She came to town with her husband, was in charge of health care policy when Tom Foley was Speaker of the House, and has generally spent the last 15 years pushing levers of power in DC while angling for higher office -- including changing her home state to expedite her rise.

Of all the major candidates, she is going to have the toughest time selling change. If you're a Democrat, that can't be a happy feeling as you consider her strong lead in the polls.