Sunday, December 30, 2007

Me, Sic Transit

Electability , like legacy, is an inanity. It’s a mark against us, that they get so much air play. It has no meaning. It has no existence. And more than half the experts are wrong about its presence. Did Michael Dukakis really have more “electability” than Gary Hart? Or did they both lack it and nobody caught on? Who was more “electable”, Gore or Bush the Younger? Did Carter and Bush the Elder possess “electability” and then lose it?

Any of these guys could win in 2008. And all of them could lose. Certainly none of them, and nobody across the aisle, has seized America as unstoppable necessity, the one whose election will legitimize our electoral process, whose defeat would indicate a failure of the American system. The voters are about as settled as five-year-olds at a pool. Nobody is going to capture the nomination without a majority of voters throwing over their current stated position. There’s no basis to declare X has the loyalty of the base, and will grab the independents--but Y does not. X, Y and Z haven’t even got a third of the partisan vote tied in.

Let’s cease arguing that the Force is with McCain or Romney or Giuliani--and get back to what we expect a President to do for America in 2009.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Getting the Old Time Religion

I'm seeing a lot of complaint about how much of the election cycle is given to faith and religion and who's got it and who's faking and who's a kook.

There's really not much earthly matters they can discuss intelligently. Immigration? Energy? War? The budget? I guess they can't come right out and say "It depends who controls Congress, and by what majorities"...but they might as well.

2008 is about winning the power to make whatever quid pro quo is possible for four years, and staking out a position in advance isn't the way to bargain. We didn't have to end up here as a country, but the organized parties insist it be run that way.

And looking ahead, if the value of being a "Republican" or a "Democrat" doesn't mean anything in terms of votes on legislation or policy, but just a sharing of campaign cash...then the power of the two main parties cannot be sustained, in the long term. The reason a state governor or state legislator has to be one of the two Big Parties is to tap into their national organization and campaign chest and voter pool.

But if Ron Paul can go out and raise $6 million dollars online, and fellows like Schwarzenegger can make hay of opposing the national party on almost every issue--then we'll see more state elections become nonpartisan contests. Not all, perhaps not most, but it will become increasingly possible. And that undermines the notion of a "Democrat voter" and a "Republican donor". It will make federal elections more vulnerable to independent challenges.

Should be an interesting century.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Planning for Defeat in Iran

From Newsweek, a depressingly stupid tale:
It has been a tough few years for the old Washington foreign-policy
establishment, the sort of moderate, non-ideological types who were reared to
believe that partisanship stops at the water's edge. [Secretary of Defense]
Robert Gates gives them hope that the pendulum is swinging back, that it is
possible to forge a foreign policy by consensus and common sense and not wishful
thinking or righteous zeal.

Right now, Gates is seen as the best insurance that the Bush
administration (read: Vice President Cheney) will not leave a legacy of ashes in
Iran. According to many former and current government officials who have
conferred with Gates publicly and privately, he takes the conventionally
accepted view that Iran should not be allowed to build nuclear weapons. He
pointedly refuses to rule out military force while calling for more-effective
economic sanctions. But the secretary of Defense has also told associates that
bombing Iran would create chaos in the oil region, unleash terrorism on Europe
and possibly the United States, and serve to strengthen, not weaken, the fragile
and fractious Iranian regime—while only postponing for a year or two its nuclear
ambitions.

To avoid that scenario, Gates has used his considerable bureaucratic
skills to lower the temperature on Iran. He has cautioned military commanders in
the Gulf to guard against the risk of accidents that might give a provocation
for war—the capture of a pilot, say, or a collision at sea. In recent weeks U.S.
commanders in Baghdad have intentionally sought to praise Tehran for being more
cooperative in Iraq. According to two separate sources who declined to be
identified discussing military plans, Gates has also pared down strike options
against Iran, cutting the targets to its nuclear facilities alone. It is a
mistake to make too much of this—the military is constantly being asked to
devise new options for civilian authorities. But Gates has also allowed the top
brass to make public their qualms about attacking Iran, which makes it that much
harder for the White House to steamroll them. This is classic Gates: no noisy
confrontations with the likes of Cheney, just low-key, pragmatic steps to avoid
sparking a conflagration.

This is wishful thinking of the worst sort.
If Iran is not stopped from building nuclear weapons, they will do so.
A nuclear Iran will "create chaos in the oil region, unleash terrorism on Europe and possibly the United States, and serve to strengthen, not weaken, the fragile and fractious Iranian regime" with impunity.
Faced with a nuclear Iran, nobody will give a damn whether the DoD was run with a pragmatic smirk in the final years of the Bush Administration. Not the American people, not our former allies among the Gulf Arabs, and not the phony cowards Gates is smooching up to. After that strategic failure, the best he can hope for is historical anonymity, and let the blame fall on President Bush.
Our strategic goals cannot be achieved by inertia and inaction. That is what the Democrats desire, and Gates seems ready to give it to them.
We are very badly served.