Following the conclusion of tonight’s presidential forum, host Chris Matthews immediately began to focus on the pressing issues. He offered an array of trifling analysis that included musings about Sen. John Edwards’ height, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s use of the word “girl,” and Clinton’s Chicago accent. Watch it:
Due to a timing error, I didn’t realize when the Democratic debate was on, and wound up only catching the post-game spin. I hadn’t realized until this very segment with Chris Matthews that David Axelrod sports that preposterous moustache — he should consider a shave. That said, on the merits Hillary Clinton’s notion that it’s inappropriate to debate Pakistan policy in public doesn’t really make sense to me. Just deciding that we can trust our overlords to do the right thing — even if they’re Democratic Party overlords — hasn’t worked out extremely well for us in the past. That’s how we got into Iraq.
Um . . . consider this an open thread?
Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, traveled to Iraq recently with Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack. In a write-up of his impressions from the visit, Cordesman says he takes issue with the Brookings analysts:
It is scarcely surprising that my perceptions of a recent trip to Iraq are different from that of two of my traveling companions and those of several other recent think tank travelers to the country.
From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq’s ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq’s politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development.
Read Cordesman’s full report here.
Our guest blogger is New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
This morning, I delivered a speech at the Chautauqua Institution in which I reflected on my first seven months as Governor of New York and outlined a type of politics that I believe we need in order to change the status quo in New York and in our country.
– First, it is my core belief that without passion and conviction in politics we are doomed to fail.
– And second, there are serious risks that occur when those same qualities – passion and conviction – are not tempered by humility. Whether it is foreign policy abroad or domestic affairs here in New York, I believe that how we as political leaders manage these risks will ultimately determine our success.
Hubris has been a major fundamental flaw behind the Bush Administration’s failed foreign policy.
During a debate in the 2000 election, President Bush was asked how he would project America’s power in the twenty-first century. He replied:
If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we have to be humble.
That is precisely the right idea. But President Bush hasn’t understood that humility has to be more than just a talking point.
In the wake of 9/11, he ramped up exactly the wrong way. His approach, and the rhetoric that would define it, perverted our foreign policy with arrogance and moral complacency – laying the groundwork for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We had no exit strategy because the Administration didn’t think we needed one. The President and his neoconservative cohort were so sure history had ended and that the triumph of liberal democracy was inevitable. Mission accomplished.
This tension — the need for both passion and humility — has also played a major role in my first seven months as Governor.
On one hand, the passion and conviction we have shown has enabled us to achieve dramatic change — including universal health care for kids, a major investment in stem cell research funding, campaign finance reform, and the largest property tax cut in state history.
Yet, over the past few weeks, it has become evident that the second principle — the need for humility — was forgotten. We were fighting so hard for what we believed was right that we let down our guard and allowed our passion to get the best of us.
Passion and conviction are necessary, but they must be tempered by soul-searching and the recognition of our human capacity for error. That is the maxim that should inform our approach to every challenge, from reforming state government to engaging in foreign affairs.
After all: hubris is terminal.
Read the full text of my speech HERE.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today released “a first-of-its-kind report that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on network television. ABC, with shows like Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty, received the highest ranking of the five networks. NBC, once home to Will & Grace, ranked fourth, and FOX scored lowest.”
When I read this story about conditions falling apart in Basra after British troops handed practical control over to the locals, I thought it was yet-more ammunition for my quest to persuade whoever will listen that the US ought to end its tragic military engagement in Iraq. Somehow, though, I never got around to writing the post and it occurs to me that, of course, the article could be used to prove the precise reverse — that we can’t afford to leave lest we wind up with a country-sized Basra.
This sort of thing, ultimately, is why no conceivable September report will make any real difference to the Iraq debate. It’s not that ideological blinders prevent people from seeing the facts, it’s that the facts don’t really determine anything. Signs of improving conditions can be a reason to stay or a reason to leave. Signs of deteriorating conditions can be a reason to leave or a reason to stay. Ultimately, the issue doesn’t hinge on fine-grained appreciation of the facts, nearly so much as it hinges on broader questions of how you look at American interests in the region and whether or not the prospect of spending tens of billions of dollars a day for an indefinite period of time on maintaining a military presence in a foreign country against the will of the population is the kind of thing that makes you queasy.
For Oklahomans “looking to show their terror-fighting pride while tearing up the asphalt,” the Oklahoma Tax Commission has extended the deadline to order the global war on terrorism license plate. Officials had set a May 31 deadline for the $37 vanity plate that features a bald eagle transposed in front of the Twin Towers. See the plate design below:
A day after Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai declared the Taliban “defeated” and “hiding,” “a group of 75 Taliban militants tried to overrun a U.S.-led coalition base in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a rare frontal attack that left more than 20 militants dead, the coalition said in a statement.”
The White House has engaged in an all-out spin operation to downplay its new warrantless wiretapping powers. Yesterday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino falsely alleged that the new law returns the FISA law to “its original intent.”
After the New York Times explained that “by changing the legal definition of what is considered ‘electronic surveillance,’ the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on conversations without warrants,” spokesperson Tony Fratto issued a statement attacking the Times, arguing that it is “highly misleading” to say Congress has broadly expanded Bush’s authority:
[U]nder FISA, court approval is required for the government to target an individual located in the United States, and nothing in the new law changes that.
Fratto’s claims are baseless. Today on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, who blogs at Salon.com, debunked the White House’s claim that the new FISA law requires “court approval” prior to spying on an “individual located in the United States.” In fact, as Greenwald explained, the law now allows the government to “listen to our conversations, read our e-mails, with no connection to terrorism, with no proof that anyone has ever done anything wrong” — without judicial oversight.
Specifically, the new FISA law permits warrantless domestic surveillance in the U.S. as long as the target of the call or e-mail is “reasonably believed” to be overseas. The implication of this loose clause, Greenwald notes, is far-reaching:
The government can monitor every single phone call that London is making to you in Washington, D.C., to any of the viewers at home. … They can listen to every single international call that you make or receive, every e-mail that you write, and e-mail that you receive, in complete and total secrecy.
Under the new FISA law, the “sole authority” to authorize the warrantless surveillance of people is now granted to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.