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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Check out the change in tone.

This level of criticism would have been spiked by the AP a couple months ago. (Someone's actually allowed to criticize Petraeus?)
Iraq's new army is "developing steadily," with "strong Iraqi leaders out front," the chief U.S. trainer assured the American people. That was three-plus years ago, the U.S. Army general was David H. Petraeus, and some of those Iraqi officials at the time were busy embezzling more than $1 billion allotted for the new army's weapons, according to investigators.....

Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, freestanding Iraqi army has seemed always to slip further into the future. In the latest shift, with Petraeus now U.S. commander in Iraq, the Pentagon's new quarterly status report quietly drops any prediction of when homegrown units will take over security responsibility nationwide, after last year's reports had forecast a transition in 2008.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton receives a chocolate and peanut butter pie from the Southside Inn Restaurant in New Albany, Ind., Saturday, March 29, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Maliki's trapped himself in Basra

Maliki made a mistake.
Despite the mounting crisis, al-Maliki, himself a Shiite, vowed to remain in Basra until government forces wrest control from militias, including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. He called the fight for control of Basra "a decisive and final battle."

There's no way that the Mahdi will ever be actually defeated in Basra, and now Maliki has drawn a line by his presence. At some point, he'll have to leave (declaring victory or not) and the Mahdi will walk back out onto the streets and claim victory.

Also, the around the clock curfew in Baghdad has been extended indefinitely.

They aren't "standing up," they're switching sides

Multiple reports of Iraqi police switching sides or refusing to fight against the Mahdi in both Basra and Baghdad. Here's two, and I saw two more this morning, but lost the links.

Later: One more.


I think if your opponent is having to spend their time explaining/defending why they're not quitting the race, your campaign is going pretty well.

Picture of the Day

(Barack Obama along with Pennsylvania State Sen. Sean Logan, left, former Pittsburgh Steelers NFL football player Jerome Bettis, top left, and Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., center, rear, pose for photos with workers during a stop at U.S. Steel Corp. in Braddock, Pa., Friday, March 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

Political bits

(AFP) "Obama tries to wrest Clinton's blue-collar base in Pennsylvania."

(WaPo) Howard Kurtz looks at the calls for Clinton to quit.

(HuffPo) Mike Lux describes superdelegates who want to back Obama but "who are scared to publicly support Obama because of the Clintons' well-known penchant for vengeance."

(NYTimes) Clinton in describing the Dodd/Leahy calls for her to step out, "In a conversation with two Democratic allies, she compared the situation to the “big boys” trying to bully a woman." (Poor little Hillary Clinton being bullied?)

(NYTimes) Pa Gov. Ed Rendell goes race again, “Just flip it for a second,” Mr. Rendell said. “Let’s say Senator Clinton was ahead by about 110 delegates and ahead by less than 1 percent of the vote cast, and she and her supporters started to call on Senator Obama to get out. Just picture what the media would be saying. They’d be saying you’re being racist, you’re being everything in the world. It’s nuts! It’s nuts!”

Slate has begun a Hillary Deathwatch page.

And, On Olbermann last night, Jonathan Alter was pressing a some rumor that a group of Clinton backers are talking about trying to work her into the NY Governor's office as a fallback/way for her to exit with grace/way for her to position for 2012. (Smells like garbage to me. I haven't seen it anywhere else.)

Maliki and the Mahdi

(CBS) The U.S. military is sending advisers down to Basra to help the Iraqi army coordinate an operation which American officers say was "put together on the fly" and has degenerated into a stalemate. These officers complain Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki acted "impulsively" in ordering an offensive his army was not prepared to conduct, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin."

(CNN) "The Iraqi military push into the southern city of Basra is not going as well as American officials had hoped, despite President Bush's high praise for the operation, several U.S. officials said Friday.

A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting in Basra shows that Iraqi security forces control less than a quarter of the city, according to officials in both the United States and Iraq, and Basra's police units are deeply infiltrated by members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army."

(Reuters) The death toll rose above 130 after days of fighting in Baghdad where U.S. forces have been drawn deeper into an Iraqi government crackdown on militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

(WaPo) An account from a reporter who was trapped in a house by the fighting in Sadr City.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(Senator Hillary Clinton addresses the media about her solutions to rising fuel prices at an Independent Gulf station in Pittsburgh, March 14, 2008. (David DeNoma/Reuters))

Is Howard Dean deciding the election?

I found this very interesting. Howard Dean is now calling on the superdelegates to make up their minds between now and July 1 to avoid a chaotic convention.

Think about what this means. This would mean that superdelegates make up their minds before any questions of Fla. and Michigan could be introduced at the convention, meaning that the superdelegates are "deciding" with Florida and Michigan out of the mix.

Isn't that pretty much Obama wins?

This statement by Dean is also notable because just yesterday on FoxNews, Clinton said this regarding Florida and Michigan, "We can always go to the convention -- that's what credentials fights are for."

(Coupled with his call for unity and civility, it feels like Dean's beginning to exert pressure to close this thing out.)

Dean also made the July 1 deadline on Good Morning America, and in an interview with the AP. He wants this everywhere and he wants it firm.


Ralph Nader writes a public letter to Clinton telling her to stay in.

With the current questions over "damaging the nominee" (Obama) and after the blame Nader took over Gore 2000, I'm not sure this is the endorsement Clinton camp really wants.

(Plus, the nastier this gets, the better for Nader. People may say they'll defect to McCain, but Nader will pick up alot of it.)

Political bits

(PhiladelphiaInquirer) Bob Casey endorses Obama and gets on the bus.

(ABC) Patrick Leahy echoes Dodd's call from yesterday that Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race. (on Vermont Public Radio. Hardly a huge platform.)

(CQ) Edwards donors broke 2 to 1 to Obama. (Roughly the same as his voters?)

(STLToday) This is weird. The Clinton camp is disqualifying some of their Missouri delegates elected at the county conventions.

(NYPost) Unsurprisingly, Giuliani eyeing run for NY Gov.

(CNN) For what it's worth, NBC polling says black or female is more electable than over 70.

(Ambinder) The DNC is pushing this, "Women panelists in the focus groups reacted surprisingly strongly to the fact that Senator McCain opposes requirements for health plans to provide contraceptive coverage and favors abstinence-only sex education."

(FirstRead) Chuck Todd had an interesting speculation that one of the reasons we're seeing thess "donor letters" from the Clinton side is that the big donors think the campaign has screwed up and are "freelancing" to try fix it. (I don't know, just interesting.)

And, Obama seems to have survived his wobble. For the little their worth, he seems to have reclaimed his lead in the national polls.

Howard Dean made the phone call....

It sounds like Howard Dean made the phone call telling both Clinton and Obama to cool out.

(Because suddenly yesterday, (AFP) "Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vowed Thursday the Democratic Party would heal its wounds, whoever wins their toxic White House race, and would unite to thwart Republican John McCain.")

Picture of the Day

(A Mehdi Army fighter flashes a victory sign in Basra yesterday. (Reuters))

Well, the Mahdi isn't losing.....

Let's start off with Juan Cole's observation that one of the reasons for Maliki undertaking this attack on the Mahdi is the complex multi-sided politics of Iraq,
My reading is that the US faced a dilemma in Iraq. It needed to have new provincial elections in an attempt to mollify the Sunni Arabs, especially in Sunni-majority provinces like Diyala, which has nevertheless been ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. But if they have provincial elections, their chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council, might well lose southern provinces to the Sadr Movement.

We probably should add that both the Maliki government and the Bush administration are keenly aware that after the US election, the Iraqis will likely begin losing at least some of their US backstop. (Provincial elections in October originally planned as a "success" for McCain?)

Right now, the US and Britain are stepping in "to assist" the Iraqis. (WaPo) The US is rolling into Sadr City, and (AP) The British jets have begun to drop bombs on targets in Basra (Iraqis designating targets or British troops on the ground?)

(BBC) Maliki has had "to extend" the deadline of his ultimatum by 10 days. (He went in to "personally supervise" the operation, and now he's stuck there.)

The evidence seems to be that the Iraqi forces have made no dent in the Sadrist neighborhoods in Basra, and we have reports that (TimesOnline) sections of Baghdad have been taken over by the Mahdi and "members of his own security forces defected."

(NYTimes) The violence has also spread into the critical towns on the southern edge of Baghdad, Nasiriyah and Mahmoudiya. (These are important because they are on the main roads out of Baghdad to the south.)

(PS. The Iraqi government is trying to retake those parts of Basra (a city of 2 million) with a force of 30,000 (15,000 Basra police and 15,000 soldiers.)

What are their sectarian makeups? All SIIC/Badr? Are there Sunnis in this Shia mess? Mahdi sympathizers/defectors/spies?)

(And this "surprise offensive" comes just a week after Cheney visited.)


Things have gotten very nasty between the incoming Pakistani majority and the US perhaps best summed up by this very public jab at Negroponte.
“How is Pakistan different to Honduras?” Mr. Saleem asked, a query clearly intended to tweak Mr. Negroponte about his time as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, when he was in charge of the American effort to train and arm a guerrilla force aimed at overthrowing the leftist government in Nicaragua. He was later criticized for meddling in the region and overlooking human rights abuses in pursuit of United States foreign policy goals.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Inspiring confidence for over 60 years...

(AP) Gates orders inventory of US nukes

Picture of the Day - 3

Remember just two months ago when your campaign told everyone that I was part of an heretical, non-Christian cult? Ha Ha Ha Ha.....

(Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak on the airplane as they arrive in Denver, Colo. Thursday, March 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

A little more on the Pelosi letter

Several bits on yesterday's "donor letter" threatening Pelosi.

First, Pelosi pretty much said, "screw you" through a spokesman.

The Clinton camp has decidedly not disavowed the tactic.

And we've got at least one big donor offering to make up the difference, and some of the Obama online folks trying to do the same. (Later: Moveon, too.)

(Now there's another "leaders and financial supporters" letter to Howard Dean about Florida and Michigan.)

I don't have any evidence, but I find it hard to believe that this tactic is going down too well among the non-Clinton supporting superdelegates.

"As Americans and Iraqis scrambled to cope with a newly violent Iraq,...."

Besides that one unbelievable line, this is a decent AP catchall.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday Mar. 24. (Photo:AP))

Observation - A change in tone

After all the discussion of superdelegates becoming disenchanted with the Clinton campaign's tone and tactics, has anyone else noticed that in the last 24 hours the Clinton campaign has gone completely non-negative?

No nasty conference call today? No snark, no Wolfson, no Penn?

Maybe her bringing up Wright finally generated enough blowback, maybe it was the new polling on her negatives, or maybe the serious change in narrative, but suddenly, today, we have a different tone out of the Clinton campaign.

Suddenly, she's going after McCain.

I may be wrong, but something to watch.

Later: Looking at the other side, nothing really negative from Obama today either. So, I'm guessing a call was made to both sides.... but by whom?

Also, Vaguely unifying, (CNN) "Clinton tells Democrats: Don't vote for McCain"

Picture of the Day

Iraqis march during a protest in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

The Mahdi flare up is showing signs of expanding

(AP) (Sadr City) "Shiite militiamen are everywhere. Police and Iraqi army checkpoints are nowhere in sight. U.S. soldiers are keeping their distance.....

Al-Sadr's militia forces, estimated at about 60,000, now seem itching for a fight." (Good overview article.)

(AP) "Shiite militants are hammering the U.S.-protected Green Zone with rockets and mortars for the fourth day this week. Thick, black smoke is billowing from inside the heavily fortified home to the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government."

(Reuters) "Saboteurs blew up one of Iraq's two main oil export pipelines from Basra, cutting off a third of the exports from the city which provides 80 percent of the government's revenue.....

A massive mortar bombardment struck the main riverside police base at Basra palace before noon on Thursday and heavy shooting broke out in a main commercial street in the city.....

Mortar bombs, most apparently fired from the Sadr City area, have exploded across Baghdad for days."

(TimesOnline) "Fighting has spread in the past two days to the southern cities of Kut, Hilla, Diwaniya, Amara and Kerbala."

(NYTimes) Iraqi Army’s Assault on Militias in Basra Stalls.(Good read.)

Later: (AP) "A Pentagon official said Wednesday that reports from the Basra area indicate that militiamen had overrun a number of police stations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly."

(PS. Maliki went down to Basra to "oversee" the operations. He gave the local Mahdi a 72 hour ultimatum. What happens if it doesn't resolve by Friday/Saturday? Does he stay in Basra for weeks? Leave and give the impression he's failed?)

Pentagon warns Bush on troop strain

With Fallon gone, the most outspoken of the critics, I'm sure all will be rosy when Bush calls for an extension of troop levels.
Behind the Pentagon's closed doors, U.S. military leaders told President Bush Wednesday they are worried about the Iraq war's mounting strain on troops and their families. But they indicated they'd go along with a halt in pulling out troops this summer.

(PS. This meeting was held in the super secure "the tank," but I'm reading a report within hours?)

Picture of the Day

U.S. Army soldiers from Third Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment rest between missions at Combat Outpost Rabiy in Mosul. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


FirstRead has a post citing superdelegates being turned off by the Clinton campaign's tactics.

Then there's a post on the new NBC poll which makes some interesting reading. (Usual disclosure: One poll, collection methods, etc, etc.)

And, I thought this was interesting as it's an inversion of the "fearful superdelegate" argument I made last night. (My version: Supers won't vote to overturn pledged delegates because of the cost. His version: They won't push Clinton out because of the cost.)
But there's actually a third possibility -- that most party elders would prefer that Hillary withdraw but don't want to pay the cost of pushing her out of the race. ... the collective benefits of pushing Hillary out are much larger than the individual benefit to any one party leader. Why would Pelosi or Reid risk becoming a hated figure to millions of Hillary's supporters? As a result, everyone is likely to sit back and hope that someone else will pay the cost of forcing her out.

The Clinton donors try to flex their muscle (and threaten the superdelegates)

An interesting tidbit over at TPM, a group of big money (Clinton supporting) fundraisers wrote a letter to Nancy Pelosi to chastise (threaten) her regarding her recent statements that superdelegates should affirm the pledged delegate totals.

But this isn't about Pelosi at all.

By formalizing this in a letter and making it public, there's no way that Pelosi could capitulate. The point here is to get the attention of all those politicians looking at reelection, to pass through a threat to the fundraising of those House members (and other politicians) who are superdelegates.

The message is, "if you say "pledged delegates rule" or otherwise publicly speak against Clinton, you will be on the Clinton donors' bad side," and "if we can threaten Nancy Pelosi, think what we can do to you."

That's what this is all about.

(This comes in the wake of several profile superdelegates saying in the last few days that "pledged delegates" should determine the winner. Sen. Maria Cantwell and the Tennessee Governor just yesterday.)

Also, this is a rather interesting step as it also puts a cloud over the Obama "coattails" argument. The message being, "sure he can bring out voters and raise money for himself, but can he work the machine for you?"

I wonder how this will go down?

A different language from Pakistan

We'll have to wait to see how much of this is simply a difference in language rather than in policy, but Pakistan's new government is taking shape.
The top State Department officials responsible for the alliance with Pakistan met leaders of the new government on Tuesday, and received what amounted to a public dressing-down from one of them, as well as the first direct indication that the United States relationship with Pakistan would have to change.....

“If America wants to see itself clean of terrorists, we also want that our villages and towns should not be bombed,” he said at a news conference here. Mr. Sharif, a former prime minister, added he was unable to give Mr. Negroponte “a commitment” on fighting terrorism.

The statements by Mr. Sharif, and the cool body language in the televised portions of his encounter with Mr. Negroponte, were just part of the sea change in Pakistan’s domestic politics that is likely to impose new limits on how Washington fights militants within Pakistan’s borders.

The next pertinent question is how the power struggle between Musharraf and the parliament/PM shakes out. Who ends up with the levers of the military/intelligence? (Or who is levered by them?)

Picture of the Day

(A Tibetan monk is struck by security forces, outside the Chinese embassy visa office in Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday March 25, 2008. (AP Photo/ Saurabh Das))

The Mahdi flare as symbolic of failure

Some of the coverage of the current Mahdi flare up is a bit too far. It is certainly a significant development, but we're yet to know whether this is one battle or the beginning of a significant shift.

BUT, I would like to point out that this current situation with the Mahdi is symbolic of the larger failures of the Iraq policy. Much like relations with the Sunnis and other groups, the Mahdi had entered a relatively long period of agreed limited violence, but, during that time, none of their political issues were dealt with.

There were nine months in there, and, like the Sunnis, the political issues that drove their violence were largely ignored.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

Hillary Clinton sits with Richard Mellon Scaife during a visit to the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Scaife, if you'll remember, was the prime media pusher of the Vince Foster story, and one of the main funders of the "vast right wing conspiracy".

Or this Scaife gem,
Scaife was quoted more than once calling Foster's death "the Rosetta stone to the Clinton administration," adding in an interview with George magazine, "Once you solve that one mystery, you'll know everything that's going on or went on—I think there's been a massive coverup. … Listen, [Bill Clinton] can order people done away with at his will. He's got the entire federal government behind him. … God, there must be 60 people who have died mysteriously."

(Picture from Byron York.)

Is there no line?

(Ambinder) "The Clinton campaign is distributing an article in the American Spectator (!) about Obama foreign policy adviser Merrill McPeak and his penchant for.. well, the article accuses him of being an anti-Semite and a drunk."

(JTA) Obama, Clinton in dead heat among Jewish Democrats

Chuck Todd on Olberman tonight said that, off the record, many of the uncommitted superdelegates he spoke to today were growing "very concerned" about the tone of the campaign.

(PS. For those of you truly foaming at the mouth, there's a theory floating around that Clinton is trying to tank Obama now so that she can run in 2012. I don't buy it, but there it is.)

Harry Reid: No convention chaos

Harry Reid talking to a Las Vegas reporter.
Q: Do you still think the Democratic race can be resolved before the convention?

Reid: Easy.

Q: How is that?

Reid: It will be done.

Q: It just will?

Reid: Yep.

Q: Magically?

Reid: No, it will be done. I had a conversation with Governor Dean (Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean) today. Things are being done.

That's all the Nevada Democrat would say about it.

The Clinton Chinese fingertrap

The narrative of "Obama inevitable" is gaining some traction, and now Clinton finds herself in this weird space where any negativity from either side in the campaign pretty much gets blamed on her simply because she's "still in the race."

(I'm not saying it's right. I'm not saying it's fair. It just is.)

Both sides are getting worse in their nastiness. Clinton is now directly raising the Wright issue herself as a desperate haymaker, is poisoning Florida and Michigan voters against the likely Dem nominee. A DNC official called Clinton Tonya Harding. It's getting nasty, so I'm skipping out for now.

I just wanted to make the subjective observation that, in the wake of that Politico piece, it does feel a bit like the primary ground has shifted.

(Even Sen. Maria Cantwell is now saying pledged delegates rule.
As I wrote last night, that's the "safe" superdelegate position.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Barack Obama vacationing on the island of St. Thomas. Photo:CNN/Welch.)

This is your opponent

Dear Dems, PLEASE, stop being so afraid. It is McCain who is in the bad position.
Fresh off his eighth Iraq visit, Sen. John McCain declared Monday that "we are succeeding" and said he wouldn't change course — even as the U.S. death toll rose to 4,000 and the war entered its sixth year.....

"We're succeeding. I don't care what anybody says. I've seen the facts on the ground," the Arizona senator insisted....

The facts on the ground: The Mahdi begins again?

Understand this is all about the internal Shia politics of Iraq and the potential provincial elections, but still it may take very little for this to flare big. (On the bright side, the current Mahdi focus on the political goal of "Iraqi nationalism" means that the more inflammatory attacks on the Sunni are less likely. This is Shia/Shia or, more exactly, Mahdi against SIIC/government.)

(McClatchy) "A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.

Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr's Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr's followers that they'll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra."

(AP) "Rocket attacks on the U.S.-protected Green Zone may carry a message with implications across Iraq: rising anger within the Mahdi Army militia.

The Shiite fighters led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are reorganizing their ranks, taking delivery of new weapons from Iran and ramping up complaints about crackdowns by U.S. and Iraqi forces that could unravel the Mahdi Army's self-declared cease-fire, according to militia commanders.....

Police said Mahdi Army militiamen have also issued general strike orders in three other areas of southwestern Baghdad and in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of the capital."

(AP) "Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have called for a nationwide civil disobedience campaign to protest raids and detentions....."

(Reuters) In Basra, "Television pictures showed Iraqi troops running through empty streets and helicopters flying overhead.

"There are clashes in the streets. Bullets are coming from everywhere and we can hear the sound of rocket explosions. This has been going on since dawn," resident Jamil told Reuters by telephone as he cowered in his home....."

And then there's this: (Reuters) "Major Tom Holloway, a spokesman for British forces in Basra, said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in the city to oversee the operation."

Picture of the Day

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Monday, March 24, 2008

A statement of my understanding

It is my opinion that the superdelegates will not, under any reasonable circumstances, overturn the pledged delegate lead. I don't see how it happens, and here's why.

Voting for the pledged delegate leader (Obama) is the "neutral" position. It is the simplest defensible direction to go, and the blowback from that safe decision would be far less.

What the Clinton supporters/defenders are asking is that superdelegates take the less defensible position, the decision far more likely to draw significant blowback from their constituencies, all on semantic arguments. Semantic arguments they would then have to try and explain, many of them in an election year.

The one main remaining hope among the Clinton camp is that somehow they can craft an argument that they've won the popular vote, and that that should outweigh a pledged delegate lead in the eyes of the superdelegates, but even that's not a clean presentation as it would likely require the inclusion of Florida and Michigan.

(Frankly, I don't even believe that winning the popular vote would be enough unless it's a huge gap. At best it's going to muddy the waters. We're still in a situation where you're asking superdelegates to go on the record, before their constituencies, to reject the candidate with the stronger argument, and I just don't see that happening.)

You have to understand that the Democratic party extends beyond Hillary Clinton. These superdelegates are tasked not only with picking a nominee, but also acting in the best interests of the broader party hopes. You're asking them not only to risk themselves, but to risk a party schism that could cost downticket elections, congressional seats, governor's seats, local races.

Do you really think that these "party elders" are going to step away from the "safe" decision, the "neutral" decision, just to help out Hillary Clinton? Are they going to risk squandering the likely Democratic advantages of this year just so she is the nominee? Is the difference between the two candidates so great as to justify all of that risk?

You can build whatever contorted electability arguments you want. You can write whatever ugly arguments you want in the comments,
And about the "they won't vote for the black guy" argument--it ain't pretty, but it has substantial basis in fact. Democrats who care about winning in November need to consider it....

But I believe that you're asking too much of them out of your own hopes and emotions. Short of a massive Obama scandal, the superdelegates are not going to overturn the pledged delegate lead.

This is where I am.

Picture of the Day - 2

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Evansville, Ind., Thursday, March 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The "economic stimulus" is a credit company bailout

This is the point I was making when the "checks for everyone" plan was debated/announced. 70+% of that $160 billion will go straight into financial institutions.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that 41% of respondents plan to use their rebates to pay off bills, and 32% will put the money in savings. Just 21% of those polled intend to spend the money, while 3% said they will donate the extra money to charity.

It's an indirect credit/mortgage company bailout (with the political benefit of letting people think you're giving them money.)

Cultural heresy

If you hold 48 basketball games, you're likely to have several upsets.

Picture of the Day

(Members of Turkish Communist Party or TKP hold anti-U.S. banners as they chant slogans in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, March 24, 2008, during a protest against U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's visit. (AP Photo/Serkan Senturk))

Bubbling in Iraq

(Reuters) "Tensions are simmering again in once bloody Anbar province, Washington's prize good news story for security in Iraq."

(WaPo) In Fallujah, Security Flows From Hussein-Era Tactics

(DPA) "US forces have killed 30 persons in the northern city of Baquba.... In one incident, US helicopters attacked four residential houses in the Dhalka area of the city, killing 15 people of a single family, Iraqi officials told Deutsche Presse-Agentur."

On the Shia front, from the AP,
But the cease-fire has come under severe strains in recent weeks. Al-Sadr's followers have accused the Shiite-dominated government of exploiting the cease-fire to target the cleric's supporters in advance of provincial elections expected this fall.

Al-Sadr recently told his followers that although the truce remains in effect, they were free to defend themselves against attacks. Al-Sadr followers have demanded the release of supporters rounded up in recent weeks.

U.S. officials have insisted they are not going after Sadrists who respect the cease-fire but are targeting renegade elements, known as special groups, that the Americans believe have ties to Iran.

But the pattern of the attacks against the Green Zone could be a signal to the Americans and their Iraqi partners to ease their pressure against mainstream Sadrists or the special groups.

And, of course, the tragic milestone of 4,000 US soldiers dead.

Big explosion in Pakistan

Nearly 40 trucks carrying fuel to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have been destroyed in two bomb attacks on the Pakistani border. Officials say about 100 people have been injured.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The newest Clinton talking point.

This one is a beaut.
“So who carried the states with the most Electoral College votes is an important factor to consider because ultimately, that’s how we choose the president of the United States,” Mr. Bayh said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”....

So far, Mrs. Clinton has won states with a total of 219 Electoral College votes, not counting Florida and Michigan, while Mr. Obama has won states with a total of 202 electoral votes.

This is very clever, if semantically deceptive. It's just a different version of the "big state" argument which has the bonus of giving the impression that New York and California are "winner take all" primary states. (and Obama could never carry New York and California....)

Later: It's official. Here's another citing by Ed Rendell.
Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Edward Rendell noted that if the Democratic primaries were winner-take-all instead of proportional, Clinton would be ahead by up to 70 electoral votes.

So, only through proxies at this point. They must know the weakness of the argument.

Later Still: The WSJ's Harwood has a slightly different Clinton argument, that Obama's wins in Republican states shouldn't be valued the same (That's a little better argument.)

The counter would be that Obama's decisive wins in red states coupled with his stronger pull among independents and Republicans gives him greater reach in the general. (Winning a Dem primary in a "big state" isn't the same as winning it in the general.)

(PS. The Clinton "electoral" map includes her winning Texas, both in the primary (arguable) and in the general election (impossible.) (Texas has 34 electoral votes.))

Judge for yourself.

Picture of the Day

(Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney in Ramallah March 23, 2008. (Loay Abu Haykel/Reuters))

Admitting mistakes

Would it be good strategy for Hillary Clinton to admit that her campaign made mistakes as part of its final case?

It's been well discussed that they had never planned for post Super Tuesday, that they ended up broke and had no ground organization in the following contests.

Also, a decision appears to have been made post-Iowa to ignore the caucus states where Obama ran up big numbers and to deal with these contests only by deriding the caucus process.

Without those mistakes, I feel pretty confident guessing that this race would be far closer.

So, the question is, would it be to Clinton's benefit to include an admission of these mistakes in her final argument? Does this hypothetical reality strengthen her by showing what could have been or does it highlight the mathematical gap that does exist?

How would superdelegates, all of whom have been personally involved in numerous elections, judge this?

(Just filling space on a no news Sunday.)