Yesterday on Fox News, host Bill O’Reilly tried to argue that Afghanistan has been “successful” and that “there’s no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country.” At the worst, he said, the Taliban will be “annoying.” When his guest, Harvard University professor Sarah Sewall, pointed out that people on the ground disagree, O’Reilly dismissed her, stating, “I talked to everybody.” Watch it:
Supreme NATO commander Gen. James Jones recently stated that Afghanistan is close to becoming a “narco state,” whose $3 billion dollars in annual drug profits are financing the Taliban. Council on Foreign Relations Afghanistan expert Dr. Barnett Rubin said that Afghanistan Afghanistan is at a “tipping point” and that the Afghan people believe “trends are going in the Taliban’s favor.” Gen. David Richards, a British officer who commands NATO’s 32,000 troops, warned that unless coalition forces begin stepping up reconstruction efforts, 70 percent of the country could decide to back the Taliban.
Doesn’t sound like O’Reilly talked to everybody.
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A new right-wing ad targeting African-American Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN), who is running for Senate in Tennessee, features “a scantily clad white woman winking and inviting [Ford] to ‘call me.’” The woman “speaks in a hushed, suggestive tone and says that she met Ford at ‘the Playboy party.’”
Yesterday on CNN, former Republican senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen called the ad a “very serious appeal to a racist sentiment” and said it reminded him “of what happened in North Carolina with Harvey Gantt, a purely overt racist approach.” Watch it:
Some history on Harvey Gantt:
In 1990, locked in a tight race with an African American Democrat, former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, [Sen. Jesse] Helms aired a final-week TV ad that showed a pair of white hands crumpling a rejection letter, while an announcer said, “You needed that job and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.”
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Amount U.S. taxpayers will end up paying for every additional second spent in Iraq.
This morning, coverage of U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey’s Baghdad press conference was briefly interrupted.
The TurkishPress notes that “the hall was plunged into darkness by one of Baghdad’s regular power cuts, despite the fact the venue was in the capital’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, also home to the US embassy.” Here’s a screenshot from CNN:
While the power cut may have been an inconvenience for the media outlets and for Khalilzad — who “kept talking in obscurity for three or four minutes until order was restored” — it’s part of daily life for residents in Baghdad. Electricity levels in the city are at an all-time low. Residents now receive an average of just 2.4 hours per day, compared to 16-24 hours before the U.S. invasion.
Does this chart to the right, conveniently stolen from Kevin Drum really show that “class is still far more important than religion in America, despite the culture wars of the past couple of decades?” What it clearly does show is that class — if, at least, by class you mean “income” rather than educational attainment or some other signifier — has a real, large, independent influence on voting behavior. Across the board, as people get richer they get more Republican. This is true even of white evangelicals and of Jews, two religious groups oft said to simply leave their pocketbooks behind in the polling booth.
That said, the chart also seems to me to show that religious differences largely dominate income differentials. There are three religious groups — Jews, the non-religious, and African-American Protestants — such that the highest-income cohort of all three groups is less likely to vote Republican than are the lowest-income cohorts of the three other groups — white evangelicals, white mainline protestants, and white catholics. And, again, rich white mainline protestants are less Republican than are lower-middle class evangelicals.
This, I think, is fundamentally what makes American politics tricky. It’s often said that class doesn’t matter — or doesn’t matter any more — and our current politics is defined by culture. But that isn’t true, and the chart clearly shows it. Movement up and down the economic ladder has a big impact on voting behavior. But religious affiliation also has a very large impact — an impact so large it’s doubtful to me that any sort of political strategy is really going to transcend it. Politicians and operatives just need to deal with a very complicated political landscape that’s not amenable to the sort of simplifications that make for a good 800 word column.
The American public wants a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. In response, the Bush administration has started throwing around terms like “timeline” and “timetable.” Watch some excerpts from today’s press conference with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr.:
Unfortunately, this rhetoric is not accompanied by any change in strategy. The Iraqis have agreed to a 12-18 month “timeline” to control violence in Iraq. But if they don’t meet the benchmarks they’ve agreed to, there are no consequences. The “timeline” is disconnected from a drawdown of U.S. troops.
Casey noted, “I said a year or so ago that if the conditions on the ground continued the way they were going, that I thought we’d have fairly substantial reductions in coalition forces.” That plan was thrown out in “early July.”
Casey made it clear that if the latest effort to get the Iraqis to assume more responsibility doesn’t work out, he’s ready to reinvent the wheel again. This is the same approach the Bush administration has been pursuing for more than three years. Staying the course provides very little incentive for Iraqis to assume control of their own security problems.
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On the latest BloggingHeads.tv, I express some skepticism about Barak Obama that Noam Scheiber conveniently tried to debunk before Ross Douthat and I even recorded the segment (well, okay, Noam was arguing with someone else). My worry is this — Obama has never really faced a major electoral battle. Sure, he seems like a charismatic guy and a good public speaker, but we don’t really know anything about his performance as a candidate. I agree that “experience” can be easily overrated in presidential politics, but virtually nobody makes it to the kind of statewide office Obama now holds with such a paucity of electoral experience. Noam retorts:
It’s not as though a group of party elders is just going to hand him the nomination and send him off to battle against John McCain or whomever with an affectionate pat on the behind. If Obama wins the Democratic nomination against the likes of Hillary, John Edwards, John Kerry, Evan Bayh, etc., he will by definition have been tested. If he can’t take a hit, we’ll know it by his failure to win the nomination.
For one thing, one shouldn’t underrate the role of party elders. There are several second-term red or purple state governors any one of whom might make a good presidential nominee but none of whom seem to have a realistic shot precisely because party elders (the dread “Washington insiders”) seem to lazy to offer any exposure to anyone who’s not either a Senator or else the governor of Virginia. Second — and perhaps more important — Noam’s argument could be applied to 2004-vintage John Kerry but as we saw there it’s not really true. Weird shit happens, and a candidate who was eerily not-tested throughout a long and contentious primary campaign wound up shooting up the polls in Iowa and locking things up with shocking speed. And — perhaps more to the point — a primary campaign against other Democrats just isn’t the same as facing off against the GOP.
There’s perhaps no holder of comparable office who’s had less experience tangling with the Republican Party than Barak Obama. This worries me. Now, on the other hand, it’s true that he’s a very appealing person in any number of other ways. What I’d like him to see is to find some way to get himself down in the muck — put himself in a position where he’s leading some kind of fight and the GOP feels compelled to try to take him down a notch or two. How well does he handle that? Maybe he’ll handle it very well. But I’d like to know.
Having abandonned “stay the course” rhetoric, the question arises, exactly, of how the administration’s new plan for Iraq differs from the old one. If it doesn’t differ, of course, then we’re just staying the course. Well, the new plan has substantive components and a procedural one. Substantively, it calls for the disarmament of Shiite militias and talks aimed at incorporating Sunni Arab groups into the political process. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen these exact same initiatives proposed before and touted as progress. Half a dozen? Twenty? Who knows?
Procedurally, there is a new wrinkle — the dread timeline, or at least a “timetable for a series of milestones to be pursued in the coming year.” Nevertheless, General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad “did not say what American officials planned to do if the timetable is not met.” So there’s no actual timetable for the implementation of the new policy, and there’s no actual new policy.
Meanwhile, administration figures have correctly discerned that it would be easy to manage the situation in Iraq — to at least keep some kind of lid on the bloodshed — if Syria and Iran were cooperating with us. Unlike weak-kneed appeasers who want to try and achieve this through talks including the governments of the United States, Iraq, and Iraq’s various neighbors, the administration has hit upon the awesome “new” “policy” of talking shit about Syria and Iran in hopes that empty rhetoric and a hostile attitude will lead to the rise of a new spirit of benevolence in Damascus and Teheran. The president is like a five year-old sitting in the sandbox hoping that if he cries and screams long enough his mom will drop by and sort out his disagreements with the other kids in the park.
53. America’s ranking on Reporters Without Borders’s global press freedom index, dropping from 17th place in 2002. “Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of ‘national security’ to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his ‘war on terrorism.’”
“Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in the war on terror,” U.N. anti-torture chief Manfred Nowak said yesterday.
19 percent. Number of Americans who believe the United States is winning the war in Iraq, an all-time low. Fifty-four percent of Americans believe the U.S. economy is getting worse.
The natural world is being degraded “at a rate unprecedented in human history,” and if current consumption levels continue, “two planets would be needed to meet global demand by 2050.” The new report by the World Wildlife Fund also found that the world’s species have declined by 30 percent since 1970.
The House ethics committee “spent more than six hours Monday grilling” Scott Palmer, “Hastert’s chief of staff for more than 20 years.” “Kirk Fordham, Foley’s former chief of staff, said he alerted Palmer several years ago to his concerns about Foley’s friendships with pages.” Read more