Woo! Go Giants!
Yes it’s true, elections alone don’t make a democracy. So why does western policy often seem myopically focused on elections? I used to wonder about this until I heard a wise man (but I can’t quite remember who, I think he worked at Carnegie, though) explain that the international community tends to overemphasize this point because that’s what we know how to do. If a government sincerely wants to run a free and fair election, we can help make that happen. We can give political parties advice about how to organize. We can monitor elections and have a pretty good system for assessing them. When it comes to elections, we know what we’re doing.
The rest . . . well, we know that the rest is very important. The rule of law, in particular, is crucial. But while have have a lot of knowledge about, say, the rule of law we don’t have much know-how about instilling it elsewhere. So you see a lot of emphasis on elections.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from Mark Penn’s latest strategy memo: “No one believes that if Hillary had been president she would have started the war.”
I don’t have an incredibly firm view on the counterfactual here. After all, it’s a bit hard to specify a scenario in which Hillary Clinton would have been president in the spring of 2003. But when Bush did start the war, Hillary surely could have said that despite her vote to authorize him to start a war she believed he was making a mistake in doing so. She didn’t do that. She didn’t say that in March of 2003, and she didn’t say it in April of 2003 and she didn’t say it in May of 2003. To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t start saying anything of the sort until years after the invasion had happened. So I hardly think it’s wildly unreasonable to take her statements, actions, and silences at face value and say she thought Bush was more-or-less doing what she would have done in his position.
Or maybe not. I lot of people I know are convinced that Hillary did, in fact, all along believe that Bush was committing a huge strategic blunder but that she pretended not to believe that because she thought it was important to her presidential ambitions. I don’t think I really buy that. Among other things, I don’t think Clinton would have thought that backing a huge strategic blunder would help her presidential ambitions. Insofar as she thought the war was politically savvy, that would almost certainly have been related to a view that the war wasn’t a huge substantive error. But either way, if Mark Penn thinks his candidate was only pretending to approve of Bush’s conduct he ought to say so plainly. Clearly, she wasn’t a major critic of his conduct at the time.
DFW airport appears to have discovered an as-yet-unknown-to-me way of making air travel unpleasant — there are no electrical outlets anywhere. At first, I’d thought this was just a particular instance of the common airport phenomenon of insufficient outlets. But no — there are these power charging stations where you can pay money and charge up your iPod, cell phone, laptop, whatever. Nice work. It makes you wonder why they let you use the restrooms for free. Both in the airport and on the plane, that’s a potentially lucrative profit center.
During the “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” segment of the Chris Matthews Show today, Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart predicted that if Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “wins the general,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “leaves the Senate to become Secretary of State.” Watch it:
The latest polling has things very close in California with some even showing a lead for Barack Obama. Exciting stuff. It is worth noting that given the vagaries of the delegate allocation process, the odds overwhelmingly favor the February 5 outcome being fairly indecisive.
On Fox News Sunday today, the Fox “all stars” discussed the possibility of Hillary Clinton being chosen as a vice president. Bill Kristol argued that Clinton would not be a valuable vice presidential pick because she lacks support beyond the “Democratic establishment and white women.” The “establishment” can be ignored, Kristol argued, but “white women are a problem.” He added, “But we all live with them.” “Not me,” said Juan Williams. Brit Hume chimed in, “For the record, I like white women.” “I know, I shouldn’t have said that,” Kristol concluded. Watch it:
On Fox News Sunday today, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked about his claim that 100 years in Iraq “would be fine” with him, he said “it’s not a matter of how long Americans stay, it’s a matter of American casualties.” “And those casualties are coming down,” added McCain.
McCain then declared that “we don’t need to have casualties” because of the “surge,” which he says is “experiencing significant success”:
One of the obligations, unfortunately of being a great superpower, is that we have to take care of the world’s security. But we don’t need to have casualties because we can succeed in this strategy called the surge, which is now, I think experiencing significant success.
Unfortunately, McCain’s claim that U.S. troop “casualties are coming down” is misleading happy talk. In reality, casualties actually increased this past month:
Not only did casualties increase in January, but the number of U.S. troops who “died from hostile action” was higher in January than the total number of casualties in December 2007.
In declaring “significant success” in Iraq, McCain appears to be using the Bush administration calculus that says increasing levels of violence are equal to “signs of success.”
One question that arose about the new Pau-ered Lakers is how effective they can be with Lamar Odom at the three. Some evidence is provided by the 82games.com’s five man units page for the Lakers. Their most popular lineup this season has been Fisher-Bryant-Walton-Odom-Bynum. Second most popular has been Fisher-Bryant-Walton-Odom-Brown. But their third most popular lineup — Fisher-Bryant-Odom-Radmanovic-Bynum — has actually been more effective than either of those two. And Pau Gasol is a clear step up from Radmanovic, so I think they’ll be fine.