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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Clinton attacks Edwards in SC?

Is Hillary Clinton targeting Edwards with nasty little robocalls in SC because she's worried about third or because she's trying to steal his voters?

I mean, why attack Edwards?

Picture of the Day - 2

It's not as creepy as it first looks.

(Mitt Romney signs a girls shirt during a campaign stop at Opinicus Corp. in Lutz, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero))

McCain is really going after Romney

McCain is really going after Romney. First we had the comparison to Kerry in the remake of the windsurfing ad, now he's saying Romney wanted to pull out of Iraq.
John McCain accused Mitt Romney of wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq, drawing immediate protest from his Republican presidential rival who said: "That's simply wrong and it's dishonest, and he should apologize."

I'd love to see the McCain internal polling. Surely it shows McCain trailing (why else do all this?,) but more curiously, does it show a "wimp factor" in Romney's perception or is this just the attack they have available?

(I also find it historically interesting that John Kerry is such an effective insult among the Florida GOP.)

Picture of the Day

"Wait until that Mormon prick gets ahold of this one....."

(John McCain and Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., talk off stage before Martinez announced his endorsement for McCain in Miami, Fla., Friday, Jan. 25, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

The Iraqi Mosul offensive

There's alot of coverage of PM Maliki's commitment to send 3,000 Iraqi soldiers to Mosul to battle Al Qaeda (Sunni insurgents) there.

One thing that's not getting mentioned is that these 3,000 troops are largely Shia being sent into the ethnic battleground of Ninevah. Mr. Maliki vowed to “finish the last battle with Al Qaeda, the gangs and the remnants of the past regime.”

(It should also be noted that he's pulling them out of Baghdad.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

McCain gets nasty

Check out this web ad put out by the McCain campaign. It's exactly the John Kerry windsurfing ad with Romney's face poorly pasted on top of Kerry's.

The official explanation is that the McCain campaign were jokingly going after Romney's "flip flops," but really, portraying Romney, the ex-Mass governor, as John Kerry is the intended effect among GOP primary voters.

I guess McCain did learn something in 2000. When facing elimination, go dirty.

Picture of the Day - 2

This is one of those I like where the wire photographer strayed from the direct shot for a broader statement.

(The shadow of Republican presidential hopeful, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is seen as he walks off stage after speaking at the Republican Party of Sarasota County Dinner in Sarasota, Fla. Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Not going so well for the Egyptians on the Gaza border

(AP) "Hamas-backed militants driving bulldozers knocked down more fortifications Friday along the Gaza-Egypt border — a brazen challenge to Egyptian riot police, who abandoned their positions after attempting to reseal the frontier using human chains, dogs and water cannons."

(If these were Egyptian protesters in Cairo do you think the Egyptian government would be more effective shutting it down?)

McCain gets a big Florida endorsement

Within the politics of the Florida GOP primary, this endorsement could be huge.
Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida will endorse his Senate colleague John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination, the Arizona senator's press office said Friday.

With the polls showing Romney a shade ahead of McCain, if Mel Martinez could bring some of the ex-Cuban vote towards McCain, that would be a really big deal.

The Clinton strategy is working

Credit where it's due, the Clinton campaign has been hugely successful in taking Obama off message. After Iowa, Obama made that speech, THAT speech, "They said this day would never come....," and even his concession in NH was lauded as inspirational.

Think back over the last two weeks. Have you seen any soaring, "change" type rally speeches carried on the news? That's Obama's best medium, and now we see him attacking and defending, quibbling over language and arguing with Bill Clinton.

Whatever you think of the Clinton tactics, they've worked.

Picture of the Day

(Palestinians throng a market in the Egyptian side of Rafah after crossing over from the southern Gaza Strip. Egypt has sought to seal its border with Gaza, using electric batons to herd Palestinians back into the territory in a bid to stem a three-day uncontrolled flood of people. (AFP/Mahmud Hams))


(CNN) Robert Gates repeats the idea of sending US troops to Pakistan for "training purposes." (Is the US talking about this so Musharraf, facing election, can posture against the US?)

(NYTimes/AP) Another bombing in Lebanon kills 5 including a top police/intelligence official tasked with investigating previous bombings.

(AP) Egypt deploys security forces to try to close the Gaza border. ("Some threw stones at the Egyptians, but quickly stopped after being booed.")

(AFP) "The United Nations said at least 700,000 Gazans have poured into Egypt to stock up on desperately needed supplies since the border was blasted open on Tuesday -- nearly half the territory's population of 1.5 million."

(AFP) Israel conducted two missile strikes killing the Hamas commander in Rafah and two other Hamas members.

(TimesOnline) "Britain and Afghanistan fell out in spectacular fashion yesterday after President Karzai accused his British allies of bungling the military operation in Helmand and setting back prospects for the area by 18 months."

(TimesOnline) David Satterfield, a top US diplomat working on Iraq, "I think that in many ways Iraq may be seen to be the good war, the success story with all reservations and cautions that are appropriate. And Afghanistan the much more threatening, bad picture."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(John Edwards eating Wendy's with Tyra Banks, to be aired Friday.)

For what it's worth - NYTimes endorses Clinton, McCain

The NYTimes endorses Hillary Clinton on the Dem side. If you believe in newspaper endorsements, it's a pretty good one, citing experience and known competence.

Much more entertaining is the endorsement of John McCain, not for what it says about McCain, but for what it says about Giuliani.
The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking......

The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign.

Not that Republicans care what the NYTimes has to say, but still...


From yesterday's press briefing.
Q Does the U.S. have any contact with anyone in Hamas? Is there any pressure, direct pressure the U.S. can put on?

MS. PERINO: As you know, we've had a policy of not talking with Hamas.


Picture of the Day

(John McCain speaks to reporters at a news conference in New York January 22, 2008. McCain rose to the top of Republican presidential pack in California,with former front-runner Rudy Giuliani's popularity down sharply, according to the latest Field Poll released on Wednesday. (REUTERS/Mike Segar))........ Also: Giuliani a falling 3rd in Fla.

Political bits

After railing against 527's throughout the campaign, a fairly transparent pro-Obama 527 has been set up in California. So, is Obama still railing against 527's?

In Dan Balz's daily blog, he mentions that both Clinton and Obama have been talking with (courting?) John Edwards.

(MiamiHerald) Clinton has a HUGE lead in Fla, 42-23.

(AFP) McCain won the Louisiana caucuses.

(AP) Buried down in this AP piece is the mention of the Democratic "superdelegates," 800 Democratic figures given their own vote at the convention. That's twice as many delegates as California, more than three times New York. (It takes 2,025 delegates to win.)

(AFP/NYTimes) Bill Clinton keeps attacking. (Let's not forget that Obama's "Reagan comments" relegated the Clinton presidency to a placeholder. It marked a broader Obama strategy turn to run against the negatives of the Clinton presidency.)

The NYTimes outlines that all the Republican majors hate Romney and has this weird article on Giuliani that makes him sound crazy.

(AP) Stephen Colbert has raised $171,000 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund through sales of his "wriststrong" bracelets.

Believe it or not, we've got a State of the Union speech Monday.

And, (AP) Americans United for Change, "a liberal advocacy group," plans to spend $8.5 million over the next year with the sole goal of keeping Bush's approval number down. (Their stated goal is to help the Dems in the election by putting the nail in the legacy.)

Later: Kucinich abandons his presidential bid (likely needing to defend his congressional seat.)


The NYTimes has a big article on the Sunni insurgent/Al Qaeda strategy of bombing the US supported Sunni militias and their leaders as I've been mentioning for the last month. It appears to be working to undermine these groups. (There's also a bit in there blaming the Mahdi for some of the attacks.)

(AP) A Police Chief in Mosul killed in a bombing that killed 34 and wounded 224.

(AP) Above the table, Sadr refuses talks with the US.

(WaPo) Democrats in Congress are going after the "security agreement" that the Bush administration is trying to craft to replace the UN mandate to allow a long term US presence in Iraq.

(Politico) "The White House confirmed Wednesday that its new budget next month will not request a full year’s funding for the war in Iraq, leaving the next president and Congress to confront major cost questions soon after taking office in 2009."

And, (Guardian) Ahmadinejad is planning a visit to Baghdad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Military advisers"

It's only planning, but....
The commander of U.S. forces in Central Asia has launched planning for more extensive use of U.S. troops to train Pakistani armed forces, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

Is the problem really the Pakistani's training, or their willingness?

Picture of the Day - 2

(AP Photo)

Will there be a Clinton backlash?

It seems to me I'm hearing more anti-Clinton comments as I walk around in my daily life. I don't know if that's a result of the shift in tactics towards more attack or a response to her return to "inevitability," but I just feel it.

I have to wonder if at some point coming up towards Feb. 5 there's going to be a moment of national reconsideration.

Perhaps losing South Carolina might just be the best thing for her as she looks so strong in Florida.

(Completely anecdotal, so make of it what you will.)

McCain gets Schwarzkopf

A huge endorsement among Republicans, John McCain gets Florida resident Norman Schwarzkopf.

Picture of the Day - Hamas wins

The Israeli plan was to use the forced deprivation in Gaza to undermine Hamas.

Instead, Hamas symbolically tore down the wall separating Gazans from their Arab neighbor.

(A Palestinian man celebrates as heavy equipment destroys a section of the border wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt January 23, 2008. Palestinian militants blew up part of the wall between Gaza and Egypt on Wednesday, and tens of thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt to stock up on food and fuel in short supply due to an Israeli blockade. (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa))

(PS. They tore down large sections of this barrier.)

Retired generals call for Musharraf to step aside

I don't know Pakistani politics well enough to judge this, but
An influential group of retired officers from Pakistan's powerful military has urged President Pervez Musharraf to immediately step down, saying his resignation would promote democracy and help combat religious militancy.

This might be nothing, officers sympathetic to Sharif or something, but, coupled with the news from a few days ago that the new army chief Kayani is trying to sever Musharraf's influence on the military, we might be seeing a real movement.

(And, don't miss Musharraf's admission that he's not hunting Bin Laden.)

DeBaathification farce hits the front pages

This is not an "I told you so," it is a genuine question. If little old me was able to determine ten days ago that the Iraqi deBaathification law was a disastrous joke, why did it take so long for this to make a front page?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Political bits

Not only is Huckabee in the financial problems I outlined below, but also (Politico) "some of his aides aren't getting paid anymore and adviser Ed Rollins said others had quit." He's pretty much bailed out of Florida and won't be running any TV ads.

On the other end, (TPM/NYDailyNews) Giuliani is spending $350,000/day on Florida TV, "a pace that would leave him essentially broke after Florida's Jan. 29 primary."

(Giuliani's campaign staff is already working without pay.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Trying so hard to be NASCAR.

(Rudy Giuliani wife Judith and the Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum return from an airboat tour of the Florida Everglades January 19, 2008. (REUTERS/Peter Andrew Bosch))

Our "ally" in Pakistan

I understand our priorities are different, but.....
Musharraf: Pakistan isn't hunting Osama

That bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri are still at large "doesn't mean much," (Musharraf) said Tuesday..... He suggested they are far less a threat to his regime than Taliban-linked militants entrenched in Pakistan's west.....

But in Washington, the State Department's counterterrorism chief, Dell Dailey, said the Bush administration was displeased with "gaps in intelligence" received from Pakistan about the activities of extremist groups in the tribal regions.

"We don't have enough information about what's going on there. Not on al-Qaida. Not on foreign fighters. Not on the Taliban," he said.

Question: If Musharraf did accidentally capture Bin Laden, do you think he'd turn him over to the US?

That would stir up big domestic trouble, and it would be a whole lot easier for Musharraf simply not to find him in the first place.

Fred Thompson is out

Fred Thompson finally ended his halfhearted presidential campaign. The general speculation is that if he endorses, he endorses McCain, although, buried in a WaPo piece, his advisers said there would be no endorsement soon.

I would take you on a photo journey of his memorable moments, but, really, were there any?

(Later: I forgot the pig.)

Another Iraqi "breakthrough" lost

Remember when the Bush administration tried to claim that oil revenue sharing was already taking place because the Iraqis had agreed to a national budget?

Well, (Reuters) "Iraqi lawmakers have refused to pass the 2008 budget because of rows over funding, including how much money to give the autonomous Kurdistan region."

The overt disagreement is whether the Kurdish region represents 12 or 17% of the population, but the backstory is the continuing argument over the KRG's signing of regional oil deals which channels a percentage of the oil money directly to the Kurds, around the normal process.

(They can't even agree on a flag, "The new flag will last for one year, during which time talks will continue on what the final flag should look like.")

Picture of the Day - Bernanke

(Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke pauses while discussing the near-term economic outlook during testimony before the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill, Jan. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook))

A surprise 3/4 point rate cut this morning.

Candidates out of money

The current "backstage" story appears to be that all of the '08 candidates are running low on money with some variations, Romney out of his own pocket, Dems with more than Repubs.

In the wake of this, I feel I should take just a moment to thank the fine people of New Hampshire and Iowa for taking all the robocalls, the mailers, and the deluge of TV ads for the rest of us. Your dinners were disturbed so mine won't have to be. Thanks.

As to a specific, (ABC) Huckabee has canceled his support for the press covering him. No more scheduled buses or hotel rooms, and, by his own admission, he may pull out of Florida if he's not competitive.

He's now just chasing convention delegates, not the presidency.

Also, The WaPo piece about no money raises this possibility,
At least two of the 2008 presidential contenders, seeking bang for their buck, have privately discussed bypassing a barrage of targeted local ads in favor of buying a spot with potentially more impact to run during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl broadcast.

Take a minute and imagine that at your Superbowl party. Surely it will spawn conversation, but how does that conversation go if the ad is for Obama, Clinton, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani.....?

More to come on the Attorneys' scandal?

Take just a minute to read what The Hill is reporting.
Two inquiries by the House and Senate ethics committees are examining whether several congressional Republicans, including one running for the Senate this year, improperly interfered with investigations.....

Investigators from these offices (OIG, OPR) have been questioning whether senior officials lied to Congress, violated the criminal provisions in the Hatch Act, tampered with witnesses preparing to testify to Congress, obstructed justice, took improper political considerations into account during the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys and created widespread problems in the department’s Civil Rights Division, according to several people familiar with the investigation.

The actual firings may be far enough behind us that they lack political whammo, but when you start talking perjury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering among elected and appointed officials, the zazz quickly comes back.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Because the important thing about MLK Day is how it affects the 2008 election......

(Much bigger if you click it. Take a moment.)

Has Huckabee gone back to running for VP?

Way back when two months ago, before his Iowa success, it was my theory that Mike Huckabee was in the race to present himself as a VP candidate, valuable to a Giuliani to shore up the evangelicals.

Well, times change, things change, and Huckabee's far stronger while Giuliani is far weaker. So, are we now seeing a Huckabee pivot towards being a possible VP for McCain? He would bring McCain all the evangelicals.

Just as a teaser, look at how Huckabee's conducting himself now, practically toadying for McCain while trashing Romney at every stop. In some ways, he's campaigning as if he's already McCain's VP.

(At the very least, Huckabee will travel to the convention with delegates to trade or sell.)

Giuliani's collapse

Giuliani's "lose until Florida" strategy is being revealed. Rasmussen has him third in Florida. Local polls have him losing by double digits in New York.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Barack Obama reacts as he holds a baby at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, January 20, 2008.(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters))

Military politics in Pakistan

The McClatchy interpretation is that this is an effort to restore the credibility of the Pakistani military by creating distance from the Musharraf government, but I wonder if it's also an effort to reduce Musharraf's influence in the military.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was named to the top military job in late November, took two steps this week. First, he barred all senior military officers from meeting directly with Musharraf without prior approval and prohibited officers from having any direct involvement in politics. Second, he recalled many army officers from civilian job assignments.

It could be Kayani trying to consolidate his power.

The price of sanctions on Iran

From an LATimes article looking at the impact and effectiveness of the sanctions on Iran,

"Now, doing business with anywhere other than China or Russia is too much of a pain...."

Is this a Clinton mistake?

I'm not enough of a macroeconomist to pass a judgment on the economic plans that Clinton is proposing, but I'm more fascinated by the political context of this big NYTimes leader.

Her language in the interview sounds far more populist than the actual bullet points of the plan, and I'm assuming that's an intentional effort to reach out to the Edwards voters, but at the same time, some of this language targeting Edwards voters may also come back to bite her in the general.

Interesting that the most risky bit is credited to advisers, not Clinton herself.
Republicans say that her tax increases on the affluent and her spending proposals would increase the deficit, but Mrs. Clinton’s advisers respond that she, like her husband, is a fiscal conservative. They add that reducing the deficit is no longer sufficient, because today’s problems have less to do with the size of the economic pie than the way it is divided.

I think the key to interpreting this highly visible statement, though, comes on the second page, "Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign initiated the interview....."

They want this out there, and they want it out there now.

Yoo-hoo... Edwards voter.

Picture of the Day

Gotta learn not to wave like that!!

(Hillary Clinton waves to supporters on the street after attending worship services at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, January 20, 2008. (REUTERS/Chip East))

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gaza in the dark

The authorities in the Gaza strip have shut down their only power plant for lack of fuel after the Israelis closed the border crossings to food, fuel, and other goods three days ago.

We can argue about the rocket attacks and the provocations and the fact that Israel has some right to retaliate, but this is collective punishment and it's illegal under international law.

From the NYTimes version: "Moshe Kariv, a spokesman for the Israeli government body that deals with the Palestinians, said the situation in Gaza is “difficult” but that there was enough food “for a few days.”"

Later: Per the BBC, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized electricity cuts after the rocket attacks.
Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai, who led the team which formulated the plan, said Israel would "dramatically reduce" the power it supplied to Gaza over a period of several weeks.....

Officials said the electricity would be cut at first for 15 minutes after each rocket attack and then for longer and longer periods.

Picture of the Day - 2

Lindsey Graham waves to draw attention to Roberta McCain, mother of Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain as the two take the stage during an election night watch party at The Citadel, in Charleston, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Sunday Reading

The NYTimes has an article about "overseas investors" coming in to buy US assets at record levels during the economic distress and hideously weak dollar. The interesting bit to me was the discussions of the "sovereign wealth funds," the governmental monies of China, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Also in the "look what we're paying for" category, Saudi Arabia is taking their oil money and building new cities. (New cities!)

And in the WaPo, a revealing look at how the Bush administration is conducting its lame duck foreign policy like a fire sale.

("I'm your best friend; you are not going to get a better deal than with me in office," was how one official familiar with the meeting described the message Bush delivered at Olmert's residence this month.")

WTF is going on in the Pentagon/Iraq military command

On Wednesday, Gen Petraeus stated there had been a spike of EFP attacks since the start of the year pointing a very accusatory finger at Iran.

On Friday, Sec Def Gates repeated this.

US: EFP attacks in Iraq declining

The U.S. military said Sunday that attacks in Iraq linked to Iranian explosive devices have fallen off in recent days after a sharp increase earlier in the month, and that the overall flow of weaponry from Iran has dropped.'

If you read these, they are not completely exclusionary stories, but the switch in tone from Wednesday to today is notable.

A read on Huckabee

Without question, Thompson siphoned off enough evangelical support from Huckabee to make the difference in SC, but here's a far more interesting barometer on where the Huckabee campaign is.
(After Iowa, Huckabee) "also spent time fundraising, trying to raise $10 million by Feb. 5, more than the campaign totaled in all of 2007. So far, the campaign has raised $2 million."

$2 million is not much money at all after the Iowa win in this year's politics. Obama raised almost $1 million online the day after Iowa with no fundraiser or appeal. Clinton raised something like $600,000 the day after NH.

The point is that the Huckabee bandwagon appears to be full. He's going to have to find a way to juice his current crop for all the money and votes that he needs. He will go into the convention with (maybe lots of) delegates, but he's failed to reach that next level beyond "his people."

Picture of the Day

Is it distasteful to use the phrase "whose campaign was left for dead" when referring to a 72 year old?

(John McCain celebrates at his South Carolina primary election night rally in Charleston, South Carolina January 19, 2008. (Joshua Lott/Reuters))