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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

And you wonder why Clinton and McCain are screaming "elitist?"

This is from a week ago.

Carter and Gore to endorse Obama? Masterminded in Congress?

Definitely treat this as rumor, but also a definite must read.
Democrat grandees Jimmy Carter and Al Gore are being lined-up to deliver the coup de grâce to Hillary Clinton and end her campaign to become president.

Falling poll numbers and a string of high-profile blunders have convinced party elders that she must now bow out of the primary race.

Former president Carter and former vice-president Gore have already held high-level discussions about delivering the message that she must stand down for the good of the Democrats.

"They're in discussions," a source close to Carter told Scotland on Sunday. "Carter has been talking to Gore. They will act, possibly together, or in sequence.".......

A number of options are being considered by the higher echelons of the Democrats, but they fall roughly into two categories. One is for Carter and Gore to go to Clinton privately and ask her to step down. The other is for both men to appear in public and endorse Obama – a move which would see a majority of superdelegates go with them.

The campaign to force Clinton to make an early exit is being masterminded in Congress, home to the most influential of the superdelegates. Senate Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have called on superdelegates to hold an unofficial congress in early June to anoint a winner, rather than waiting for the convention in Denver.

No mention on the timing of any of these supposed meetings, probably before this latest blowup. The article does seem to indicate any actions would come after Pa.

Treat this with caution. (Why is it leaked to foreign press? Why now?) My gut says there's a secondary play in this story but I really can't tell what it is. (If it's true, force them to move or maybe keep them from moving by the exposure. Maybe change the subject? Let Clinton play underdog? Maybe reintroduce the Obama, inevitable narrative?)

You gotta figure that every US reporter will be working every contact they have with Carter, Gore, Pelosi, Reid, the DNC, etc., so, we should get some kind of feedback within a couple days.

Rumor. Rumor. Rumor. Foreign press? Rumor. Single source? Rumor.

Later: On ABC, Jimmy Carter says he has no intention of endorsing until the convention, but again makes it very clear he's for Obama.

The Clinton camp's remaining argument

The Clinton camp is trying to fan the Obama comments as hard as they can hoping to turn a spark to fire. Above board, you've got profile Indiana surrogate Evan Bayh and new pollster Geoffrey Garin pushing this thing to the media and superdelegates.

Hillary Clinton is even trying to attack Obama on guns and the second amendment. (Hillary Clinton, second amendment???)

I can only imagine the pressure the Clinton folks are trying to put on their media contacts behind the scenes.

As I noted below, the media isn't really buying yet. They're not nearly as excited as the Clinton people want them to be, and most of the media framing is "Clinton attacks Obama's "bitter" comments," putting the role of judgment on her, not a neutral narrative of a campaign ending gaffe like "Obama endangers electability" that the Clinton camp would want.

Later: A couple more points. 1) (CNN) Bill Clinton apparently isn't being allowed to say word one about all this.

2) (FirstRead) The Clinton camp talks of spontaneous grassroots outrage and is then caught smuggling a box of "I'm not bitter" stickers backstage.

3) (Ambinder) "Is this the moment where 80% of the remaining superdelegates switch to HRC? I doubt it...."

4) At what point does pressing this make the Clinton camp look bad? ("Outrage" is less effective when it's an openly discussed campaign strategy.)

5) On the other hand, no one's talking Colombia trade deal or Bosnian sniper fire.

Curious superdelegate fact

On NPR this morning, I thought I heard them say that 65% of the uncommitted superdelegates are from states that Obama has won.

If true, I find that interesting.

Picture of the Day

(Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stage a protest rally against the Iraqi government and U.S. military after Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City April 11, 2008. (REUTERS/Kareem Raheem))

It's all Iran again

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Bill Gates tried once again to raise Iran as the primary enemy in Iraq.
Iranian support for militias in Iraq has grown, top U.S. defense leaders said Friday, asserting that recent battles in Basra gave the Iraqis an eye-opening view of Iran's increased negative role there.

And, in the WaPo,
Last week's violence in Basra and Baghdad has convinced the Bush administration that actions by Iran, and not al-Qaeda, are the primary threat inside Iraq, and has sparked a broad reassessment of policy in the region, according to senior U.S. officials.

Similar comments by Ryan Crocker in the NYTimes.
“I don’t think a proxy war is being waged from an American point of view.” But, he added, “When you look at what the Iranians are doing and how they’re doing it, it could well be that.”

(Of course, according to Petraeus yesterday, the Basra fiasco was mainly a failure of Maliki's government.)

The Iranians are unquestionably acting inside Iraq, but I think it's important to look at the timing and political utility of how and when Iran is brought up. Having that external enemy has a utility in shaping and selling the war effort.

(Someone in the GOP needs to make sure John McCain knows that Iran is Shia.)

I guess we aren't in the future yet

From Popular Mechanics
Last year, three armed ground bots were deployed to Iraq. But the remote-operated SWORDS units were almost immediately pulled off the battlefield, before firing a single shot at the enemy. Here at the conference, the Army’s Program Executive Officer for Ground Forces, Kevin Fahey, was asked what happened to SWORDS. After all, no specific reason for the 11th-hour withdrawal ever came from the military or its contractors at Foster-Miller. Fahey’s answer was vague, but he confirmed that the robots never opened fire when they weren’t supposed to. His understanding is that “the gun started moving when it was not intended to move.” In other words, the SWORDS swung around in the wrong direction, and the plug got pulled fast. No humans were hurt, but as Fahey pointed out, “once you’ve done something that’s really bad, it can take 10 or 20 years to try it again.”

It sure would get my attention if my heavily armed robot warrior swung its gun around past me!

(Here's two links on SWORDS. Defense Review, and Army News Service. It really does sound like a pretty good idea, however, I always wonder about running armed platforms by wireless remote. Effective against Iraqis, but maybe a more sophiticated enemy could hack the controls. They're estimated to cost about $180,000.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama friendly media

Obama laid out a pretty huge clanger that came to light today, but, I think, what's as interesting is the way the media are handling it.

Notice that alot of the media websites are freely providing Obama exculpating context with some even embedding the Obama campaign's YouTube response in their posts.

If you want the Obama friendly media, it's out there tonight.

Sat Morning: Wow. The AP headlines the "Indiana is important story," but no headline in this in the top ten. The WaPo has it buried as a little blurb "Critics Paint Obama as Elitist" underneath an article on McCain. USAToday carries an AP piece that focuses on the "bitter" (non-controversial) part. The word Obama isn't even on the NYTimes web front page!

I understand what he said does have a broader context, etc, etc, and maybe it's not perceived as big by the media because it falls into the campaign's "themes" in a way, but still.... it's a pretty bad moment, and it looks like he's getting a pass.


Picture of the Day - 2

(An Iraqi boy shouts slogans during Friday prayers in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City. Gunmen shot dead a top aide to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq's holy city of Najaf on Friday, sparking fury among his followers and calls for calm by senior Sadrists. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye))

Whoever killed him wants the Sadr/Maliki/US violence to go on. Lots of candidates for that.

Bill Richardson sticks his nose in.

Bill Richardson gives an interview to the LATimes saying that he nearly endorsed Clinton, and then he explains why he didn't.

I guess once the bridge is burned.....

Things we shouldn't be hearing

The Penn/Colombia story first broke in the WSJ a week ago, and it's still generating problems.
"I have nothing but contempt for Mr. Penn," said (Paul) Begala at a New York City breakfast sponsored by the non-profit group Public Agenda. "And for those of us who wanted to see him out from the beginning, it became almost a Rumsfeldian thing. And he is not even fired. He has been demoted. How could this be?"

And, Bill Clinton (after his mistakes yesterday,) tells about his conversation with Hillary Clinton regarding the Bosnia trip.
“Hillary called me and said ‘I misstated it, you misstated it.’" President Clinton said. “She’s right, I wasn’t there, I don’t remember the facts either.”

He said ultimately his wife told him, “you weren’t there, let me handle it,” to which Clinton says he replied, “yes, ma’am.”

They're ten days from the do-or-die Pennsylvania primary that could mark the end of her years long campaign effort, and we're getting all this internal chaff out in public?

Picture of the Day

(Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is hugged by British singer Elton John on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York, during a campaign fundraising event, Wednesday, April 9, 2008.(AP Photo/Andrew Theodorakis))

Political bits

(Politico) Bill Clinton is getting knocked around for his "misstatements" yesterday defending Hillary Clinton's in the Bosnia sniper fire thing. (Sometimes it seems like subconsciously he wants to undermine her.)

(WaPo) A frontpager on how some of Obama's donors are actually big donors and bundlers. (Am I supposed to be shocked?)

(PhilDailyNews) Clinton introduces crimefighting plan. (Traditionally used to target white middle class voters like those in the battleground of Pa.)

And, keep an eye on the "add-on" superdelegates (Obama +4, Clinton +1 yesterday.) This is a relatively big story, about 80 delegates, that isn't getting much press.

Their convention votes count just as much, and the they are likely to break even or more to Obama. They are likely to substantially shift the delegate/superdelegate math.

Basra is just the beginning

I just want to point out that the recent flareup in Basra and the current conflicts in and around Sadr City are likely just the beginning of the pre-provincial election violence. The Iraqis are currently scheduled to hold the reshaping provincial elections in October which means that the violence will likely be spiking in the summer and early fall right into US political conventions.

The AP has an analysis piece on the likely reshaping through those elections (more Sadrist, much more Sunni,) but I want to point to something far simpler. Broadly, do you think pro-American/pro-Maliki or anti-American/anti-Maliki is more likely to win elections in Iraq?

Maliki and the ISCI are going to lose some power. Their only real avenue to hold onto it will be militarily against the Sadr/Mahdi complex, and likely through arrests and court cases (and some killings) against the Sunnis.

Also: (AP) "Iraqi officials say gunmen have killed a senior aide to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf." (Read "gunmen" as ISCI/Badr.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The AP confirms the torture cabinet

It's official, and you gotta love the "insulated" deniability for Bush.
The Associated Press has learned that top Bush administration officials, from Vice President Dick Cheney on down, signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against terrorist suspects after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality.

The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, were discussed and ultimately approved.

Not that they thought they were doing anything wrong.

Picture of the Day - 3

"Yup. Best moment of my presidency. The fish was about that long."

(President George W. Bush talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Summit conference in Bucharest, Thursday April 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Making John McCain happy

Iraq forever.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he has abandoned hope that troop levels in Iraq will drop to 100,000 by the end of the year.

A word of caution on the Pa polling.

The Pennsylvania polling may be closing, but I would urge some caution in taking the numbers too precisely, beyond the usual polling cautions.

Pennsylvania is a "machine" state, and with the political machine firmly behind Clinton, you have to figure that's worth a few points.

Later: (LATimes) Obama gets into a clash with some Philadelphia ward leaders over the dispensing of "street money."

So far left unsaid

One of the reasons the Bush administration is so aggressively negotiating the status of forces agreement with the Maliki government (or whatever they're calling the arrangement where the US stays indefinitely) is that, from their view, it needs to be in place before the scheduled October Iraqi elections.

Open elections will likely offer up a new Iraq that is more Sadrist, more nationalist Sunni, and less pro-American.

That's why Maliki went to Basra after all, to try and put his man in charge down there (Juan Cole.)

Picture of the Day

"He didn't have a lot of experience in running a presidential campaign, did he."

Colin Powell gives Obama some love on Good Morning America.

(Barack Obama at a rally at Washington High School in South Bend, Ind., Wednesday, April 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

Afghanistan's secret kangaroo trials.

With the US's Guantanamo "trials" once again stalling out, ((NYTimes) "there is a growing consensus among lawyers inside and outside the military that few of those cases are likely to actually come to trial before the end of the Bush administration,") is it any surprise that the US military is now turning to the Afghanis to hold kangaroo trials?
Dozens of Afghan men who were previously held by the United States at Bagram Air Base and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are now being tried here in secretive Afghan criminal proceedings based mainly on allegations forwarded by the American military.

The prisoners are being convicted and sentenced to as much as 20 years’ confinement in trials that typically run between half an hour and an hour,...

The prosecutions are based in part on a security law promulgated in 1987, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Witnesses do not appear in court and cannot be cross-examined. There are no sworn statements of their testimony.

This is as bad as the worst dictatorships in the world.

McCain's foreign policy

The NYTimes has an interesting piece voicing the concerns of the "realist" foreign policy Republicans that John McCain has already given himself over to the neocons.
One of the chief concerns of the pragmatists is that Mr. McCain is susceptible to influence from the neoconservatives because he is not as fully formed on foreign policy as his campaign advisers say he is, and that while he speaks authoritatively, he operates too much off the cuff and has not done the deeper homework required of a presidential candidate.

(That's why Bush likes them.)

We'll have to watch how this line of argument develops. McCain's "experience"/national security campaign argument rests on a belief that his vision is more seasoned than Bush's and that he can "execute" better than Bush.

If that comes into real question, his "national security" rationale collapses, and he really is four more years.

The Iraq hearings did not do him any favors.

Just take out the middle man.....

According to the Telegraph, Zalmay Khalilzad is sending signals that he may run to replace Karzai as the president of Afghanistan in the elections next year.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"History will not judge this kindly." - John Ashcroft

Big story. Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet, and Ashcroft are all put in the torture jackpot by ABCNews.
In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.....

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

These are war crimes, folks.

(How do you function as Secretary of State if travel to other countries risks arrest?)

Picture of the Day - 2

(Sen. Barack Obama is surrounded by photographers on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2008, prior to the start of the committee's hearing on the status of the war in Iraq. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

More "Political bits?"

(CNN) Postal workers union endorses Obama.

(ABC) Obama tries out his response to the public financing thing, "We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it...." (Ummmmm....)

(FirstRead) The Pa GOP is distressed by all those switches to Dem for the primary, "the Republican Party estimates it has lost 1.79 percent of its membership this year."

(FirstRead) "Seriously, the two Dem gubernatorial candidates in North Carolina are fighting over who supports Obama more. In fact, one candidate (Richard Moore) is using paid advertising to tout his Obama support. Maybe we should stop pretending North Carolina is going to be competitive; it's not."

And, Pa. Polling: Both Rasmussen and Strategic Vision Clinton +5.

(WaPo) "Offering the gloomiest assessment of personal economic progress in close to half a century, a new survey has found that most Americans think they have not made economic progress over the past five years..."

Political bits

The Penn/Colombia trade thing continues into another day, now including Bill Clinton. I updated yesterday's post to include the newest "my husband supports it but I don't" Clinton line.

The Clinton camp is desperately trying to find something to blunt it. (CNN) Hillary Clinton tries to equate the thing to the muddied Goolsbee/Nafta/Canada flareup, and (WSJ) Clinton surrogate Lanny Davis tries to keep the Wright thing alive in a WSJ editorial (re-printing Wright quotes, like we don't know them by now.)

(Reuters) I'm not a big fan, but the online trading markets are closing on Obama winning (80+ to 12%.)

(Ambinder) The Michelle Obama advance team gets caught in the Carnegie-Mellon paper saying "Get me more white people, we need more white people." as they set up the backdrop for an appearance. (Every campaign does it, but you don't get caught!)

(NewsGazette) The DNC factsheet on McCain's Iraq statements.

(Politico) Vandehei tries to equate Clinton's campaign missteps with her credibility on running a White House. (FirstRead echoes)

(TimeBlog) Karen Tumulty flashes back to when Mark Penn was wrecking Al Gore's presidential campaign.

And, We're beginning to see the first stages of overt pressure from below on the superdelegates. (USAToday) In Virginia, local party leaders are going public to pressure Virginia superdelegates to endorse Obama.

Also, I'm seeing more and more sites like this (neutral) one, posting contact information for superdelegates. (I can't imagine the superdelegates will be happy about this. The ones who haven't committed, largely haven't committed because they don't want that spotlight.)

Picture of the Day

(President Bush takes part in a Medal of Honor ceremony, Tuesday, April 8, 2008, in the East Room of the White House, for Petty Officer 2nd Class Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, who was killed in Iraq in September 2006. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

The power to ignore any laws.....

Needless to say, this was passed under the Republican Congress in 2005. Remember the ginned up fervor?
Securing the nation’s borders is so important, Congress says, that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, must have the power to ignore any laws that stand in the way of building a border fence. Any laws at all.

Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.....

For good measure, Congress forbade the courts to second-guess the secretary’s determinations. So long as Mr. Chertoff is willing to say it is necessary to void a given law, his word is final.

Just like Bush

Politico did a somewhat empty piece on the relationship between Lindsey Graham and John McCain. This is a little thing, but it jumped out at me.
“If John’s not belittling you, you’re in trouble,” Graham said. “He calls me lots of other names, too, but they’re not appropriate for the newspaper.”

How much does that sound like our current nicknaming and belittling president?

With all the articles about McCain's outbursts and dealings with other people, I often wonder what the inside of that White House would look like.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Picture of the Day - 3

Seriously, GOP, this is the best you can do?

(Sen. John McCain speaks to reporters aboard the campaign airplane in route from Phoenix, Ariz. to Kansas City, Mo. Sunday, April 6, 2008.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))

Mark Penn, Colombia, and many, many Clinton days off message

Sam Stein at HuffPo looks at Bill Clinton's ties to Colombia and his previous support and connections to the trade deal. (Clinton's strength is that she's been "vetted," right?)

(Politico) The Clinton campaign is still trying to describe how Mark Penn was fired, but not fired.

(Politico) Ben Smith offers two guesses as to why Mark Penn hasn't really been thrown under the bus. "Penn knows everything, and might go on a damaging (on or off-record) media tour if cut loose; and the campaign owes Penn money, and it may be hard to terminate his contract without paying him."

(WSJBlog) Obama Surrogates Attack Clinton Over Penn’s Lobbying

It's not going away yet, is it?

The presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that her husband, the former president, supports a free trade agreement with Colombia that she strenuously opposes.

Also a similar headline and tone on page 4 of the WSJ.

This just keeps getting messier for Clinton.

Political show on Capitol Hill

The Petraeus/Crocker testimony is nothing but a show. It's posturing on all sides. It's about politics. It's about Washington. It's only secondarily about the war.

The policy is not going to change while George Bush is President. There aren't 60 votes in this Senate for anything about this war except to continue funding it....

Meanwhile, in the actual war, Sadr ups the ante.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened Tuesday to lift a seven-month freeze on his militia if the Iraqi government does not halt attacks on his followers or set a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal.

(This comes after Sadr tried to create the impression of Sistani and the Shiite clerics' authorizing his militia. Read here.)

Later: We did learn that McCain's campaign strategy will be Al Qaeda in Iraq (even if it's not supported by the facts or commanders on the ground.)

Picture of the Day

(Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands with a young supporter after speaking at a town hall meeting in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday, March 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

Political bits

(ABCblog) Sources tell ABC News, two top advisors made the case to the Senator to remove Penn -- Harold Ickes and Tina Flournoy.

(Politico) Paul Begala says on CNN that there are many in Clinton's camp who think Penn's demotion is not enough. He should be fired outright.

(NYTimes) Penn wasn't the only one in the Clinton camp with ties to lobbying for Colombia.

(ABC) "Sen. Hillary Clinton made a blunt appeal to North Dakota delegates to switch their support to her, despite the fact that Sen. Barack Obama handily defeated her in the state's caucus in February."

(WaPoBlog) "That's another thing: Do you do you realize how much longer it takes me to get ready than my two opponents?" Clinton asked. "I think I should get points for working as hard as I do, plus having to spend so much time getting ready." (She brings that up?)

(Politico) "In the days and weeks ahead, the Barack Obama campaign is going to pose a simple question.... If Hillary Clinton can’t run a good primary campaign, how is she ever going to run a good campaign against the Republicans?"

(ChicagoTrib) What are the ethics of Bill Clinton charging big dollars for charity speeches?

(Politico) John McCain, said Tillman, “has pretty well zero relationship with the African-American community that I know of.” (They do point out that John McCain has several black friends... No, they really do.)

Happy Birthday, Chuck Todd.

And, the polls are a bit all over the place, but there is an indisputable tightening going on in Pa.. (Add Quinnipiac.)


Yesterday there was a story, (Reuters) "Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is ready to disband his militia if Shi'ite religious leaders demand it...." which sounds very positive and very rational, except for the fact that Sadr's done this before, and the Shiite leaders made it very clear that that level of politics is not within their purview.

So, it's really no surprise that the religious leaders refused to issue an edict calling on the Mahdi to disband. (CNN missed this headline. More than likely what they said is that they will not rule/issue judgement on the matter.)

(AP) "Meanwhile, security forces were reported to be blocking al-Sadr's supporters from traveling to Baghdad from outlying areas to attend an anti-U.S. rally scheduled for Wednesday."

The Guardian has a story on the indefinite, unrestrained agreement the US is seeking for a permanent presence in Iraq. (Very likely to be rejected in the Iraqi parliament.)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

Read the caption.

(Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton cups her ear as reporters ask her about Mark Penn, the pollster and senior strategist for Clinton's presidential bid who left the campaign Sunday, at the airport in Albuquerque, N.M., Sunday, April 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Yesterday we learned that she hadn't talked to any reporters for three days since the Penn thing broke.

So, this is funny because she "can't hear" their completely legitimate questions. Ha Ha Ha Ha....

Political bits II

John McCain would be crazy to pick Condi Rice as his VP.

If the words of James Hoffa, leader of the Teamsters, are any guide, the Obama backing unions are going to hang Penn around Clinton's neck.

(Politico) The SEIU (backing Obama) is putting $740,000 into literature and canvassing in Pa.

(Politico) The Democrats have never won "white men" with Bill Clinton winning only 38%.

(WSJBlog) Obama's stretching his lead in the national tracking polls.

(Ambinder) McCain raised all of $15 million in March. (McCain clinched on Mar. 4, so there was no great rush of celebratory support.)

Do I believe that John McCain called his wife a "c***" in front of reporters?

And, two interesting reads. Kos' Newsweek column (the long primary hasn't been bad for the Dems, but Clinton can't win,) and John Dickerson in the WaPo anecdotally talking about past candidates' decisions to end their campaigns.

So, is Penn gone, or what? (Answer: what)

The "firing" is looking more and more like a sham.
Mr. Penn took part on the campaign's morning message call this morning, as usual.

This afternoon, he is also scheduled to be on a call with Clinton and other aides to begin to prepare for Saturday's presidential debate in Philadelphia.

Mr. Penn "is still going to be very much involved," a senior campaign official said.

Josh Marshall notes that the Penn firing appears to be about appearances more than any real change, and Politico says, it "likely will portend no dramatic shift in message."

Reading Ambinder, it sounds like he's going to keep doing the same job.

If they're going to keep him around, you'd think they'd at least have the decency to hide him from the press.

Also: Penn's supposedly out of the loop, but there's a new Pa ad out today coming straight out of his "experience" campaign theme.

9% of every dollar donated to the Clinton campaign went to Mark Penn

By my math, a little more than 9% of every dollar donated to the Clinton campaign has been paid to Mark Penn or the polling firm he owns.

("$13 million in campaign billing" includes salary (approx $5 million through Feb.) and billing to his polling firm. Hillary Clinton has raised $141 million.)

Picture of the Day

More disturbing the longer you look at it.

(Cindy McCain poses for a picture with supporters of her husband, Thursday, April 3rd, 2008, at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Jake Roth))

Political bits

(NYTimes) In Superdelegate Count, Tough Math for Clinton.
Even if Mrs. Clinton narrows Mr. Obama’s delegate lead to 100, and if no further superdelegates make commitments through the end of the primaries, she’d wake up June 4 needing to win over two-thirds of the still-uncommitted superdelegates.

(I would reiterate again, that number is actually far higher as the "add-on" delegates, 69 of the 330 remaining, are expected to break at least 50-50 or more towards Obama.)

(CNN) Poll of polls shows race tightening in Pa. (Generally, "poll of polls" is not a great measure, because it includes ridiculous outliers, but I think Clinton+7 or +8 is about where we are.)

(WaPo) A "popular vote" breakdown.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a 421,000 vote lead over Sen. Barack Obama among registered Democrats in the votes conducted so far. Obama more than makes up for that deficit with an 860,000-vote margin among independent voters and a 130,000-vote edge among Republicans who have participated in Democratic contests. Obama's overall popular vote lead stands at 791,879 votes, or 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. (The totals omit a handful of states that don't release their caucus vote counts.)

(I think it's important to note that the press is not including Fla and Mich in their totals. The Clinton camp needs them to do so.)

The US gets dragged in.

(CBS/AP) Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces battled Shiite fighters in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood in clashes that killed 22 people and wounded more than 50, despite a cease-fire between the government and the militia, officials said Sunday.

Maliki wants final conflict with Sadr before the US's November elections

Maliki takes it up several more notches.
Iraq's prime minister raised the stakes in his showdown with followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, saying in an interview broadcast on Monday they would be barred from elections unless their militia disbands......

"Solving the problem comes in no other way than dissolving the Mehdi Army," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in an interview with CNN. "They no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army."

It was the first time Maliki has singled out Sadr's Mehdi Army militia by name and ordered it to disband. He said government troops would continue a crackdown -- first launched in the southern city of Basra late last month -- in Sadr City.

So many thoughts, I don't even know where to start. 1) This is not about "criminals," this is about Iraqi politics and Maliki wanting to break the Mahdi and solidify his coalition, ISCI and Dawa.

2) Maliki knows the likelihood of a significant shift in US presence coming in less than a year. He knows that if he wants to make this power play with US troops backing him up, he is nearing the end of his window to do so.

3) By shifting the attacks on the Mahdi from Basra to Sadr City, Maliki is dragging the US along behind him. In the current situation, the US has little choice but to follow al-Maliki into this conflict with Sadr. (In the current war politics, could the US let security in Baghdad degrade?)

4) Over the last few days, the US has been pushing into the outskirts of Sadr City in an effort to limit the rocket and mortar fire on the Green Zone (as well as maintaining checkpoints and blockades along the major entry points.)

5) Watch very closely to see if Maliki moderates his statements over the next few days. I have a hunch that the US will not be too happy that it is being dragged on Maliki's terms.

6) This is what is taking place instead of political reconciliation. The US is being dragged into choosing the Dawa/ISCI side of the civil war.

7) It was the Sadrist Shia who were the subject of Saddam Hussein's most vicious purges, and now the US is backing a new Iraqi government who is similarly killing them.

8) In Iraq, it is the ISCI/Badr who is perceived to be working with the Iranians, not Sadr. It is the ISCI/Badr who are considered the militia/death squads in government uniforms.

9) How long until Sadr, who has been framing himself as a nationalist, begins to cut a deal with the equally unhappy Sunnis?

Later: On the other hand, maybe the Americans will jump in with both feet. It does serve the war politics.
IRANIAN forces were involved in the recent battle for Basra, General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, is expected to tell Congress this week.....

Petraeus intends to use the evidence of Iranian involvement to argue against any reductions in US forces.

(Juan Cole points out that there were very likely Iranians in Basra on pilgrimages to Karbala who got pulled in, but that's a step removed from the Iranian government.)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mark Penn to resign.

Per ABC,
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and Eloise Harper report: Sen. Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn is stepping down from the campaign, sources close to the campaign tell ABC News.

Later: It's official. AP.

(Although it actually sounds more like a demotion. He's still going to be involved in the polling and offering "advice.")

And, This is interesting, "Mrs. Clinton has not spoken to reporters since the news of Mr. Penn’s meeting with the Colombian officials broke at the end of last week." (Three days.)

3 US soldiers killed. Dozens wounded.

(BBC) "Three US service personnel have been killed and 31 wounded by rocket attacks on the Green Zone and a base elsewhere in Baghdad, the US military has said....."

Picture of the Day

(President George Bush laughs as Afghan President Hamid Karzai walks behind to his seat at the start of the NATO Summit meeting on Afghanistan, being held in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, April 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Flashback (All votes must count, We must see the process through)

LATimes Blog. Dec 2007.
(At a California fundraiser) The race, she told her audience on an audio recording obtained by The Times, "is all going to be over by Feb. 5."

Or maybe you prefer Clinton on ABCNews also back in December,
"That's what I intend to do, so I'm in it for the long run. It's not a very long run. It'll be over by February 5th.”

(Snarky Youtube edit, and, an interesting, longer transcript.)

Or maybe Terry McAuliffe after NH, "Saying the race will likely be over by February 5, McAuliffe hopes for more nights like Tuesday."

Etc. Etc.

Funny how the votes of the people in Pennsylvania weren't so important back then (when she thought she would win.)

Political bits - Weekend catchup

(NYObserver) On Thursday night, some top Clinton donors gave Howard Dean an earful at a donor meeting over Florida and Michigan.

(CNN) By Friday afternoon, the DNC had returned $45,000 to three Florida donors. (I'm sorry we couldn't agree, but don't let the door hit ya.....)

(CNN) John McCain (temporarily) returned $3 million to donors (that they can/will later regive) to set himself up for public financing.

(NYTimes) An Ohio hospital contests a healthcare story Clinton has been telling on the stump. (Not really a big deal, except that it echoes Clinton's larger problems on trust/honesty.)

(Politico) The Colombian government fires Mark Penn.

(ABCNews) Clinton's popular vote argument now must include language explaining why Florida and Michigan should be counted in the tally. (That argument has to be strong enough to justify overturning the pledged delegates.)

(Politico) Even Clinton loving Rahm Emanuel thinks it will likely be over at NC.