With regard to this morning’s snark against Steny Hoyer, I should say I’ve gotten some pushback from Hill folks who say the media is straining to find intra-caucus divisions (“Democrats in disarray,” don’tcha know) rather than legislative leaders simply doing the job correctly by keeping the lines of communication open with the other side. We’ll see; Hoyer’s record makes me skeptical, but it’s true that one shouldn’t leap to conclusions.
I was ragging a bit on John Edwards’ national security record yesterday, but there’s no question that what he’s been saying lately has been very congenial. Here, thanks to Jonathan Singer is Edwards speaking in Portland on the subject of the “war on terror” rhetorical construct:
And I don’t know how many of you even noticed this or how many of you watched the Democratic presidential debate from South Carolina, but I suspect some of you did. But a question was asked whether you agree with the language – the Bush language, which is what it is – “Global War on Terror.” And I did not. And I said, I took that position at the debate…
This is a political frame and political rhetoric. They use it to justify everything they do. They use that language to justify the war in Iraq. They use it to justify Guantanamo. They use it to justify torture. They use it to justify illegal spying on the American people.
It is time for us to quit kowtowing to these people. We have to say what we really believe. Now, are there really dangerous people in the world? Of course there are. We need to be smart and aggressive and intelligent, use intelligence – did I say dangerous people? – we have to use intelligence to fight them and stop them. Everybody recognizes that. But the one thing that’s been proven beyond any doubt as a result of what’s happened in the last six years is raw power alone will never make you a leader. You actually have to have the moral authority.
Quite right and good for him. What I’m really waiting for, though, is a clearer explanation of how and why it is Edwards came to revise his views over the years.
UPDATE: Petey assures me the answers I’m looking for are in Mike Allen’s Time article, but I need to leave now and can’t read it. No worries — more blog later!
Via Ross Douthat, Edward Luttwak has a curious article in the British Prospect making the provocative argument that “the Middle East doesn’t matter.” In fact, though Luttwak doesn’t doesn’t seem to see it this way, he’s simply endorsing the traditional anti-imperialist view that the best solution to America’s problems in the region is to simply . . . get less involved and Middle Easterners go their own way.
He differentiates himself from the left in a few ways. One is to use insulting rhetoric like calling the Middle East “backwards” and other similar language liberals wouldn’t use. Second, he invents a straw position he disagrees with which holds “that if only this or that concession were made, if only their policies were followed through to the end and respect shown, or simulated, hostility would cease and a warm Mediterranean amity would emerge.” Third, and most interestingly, he denies the significance of the Israel-Palestine conflict:
Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the middle east from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan, Muslim-Igbo violence in Nigeria, Muslim-Muscovite violence in Chechnya, or the different varieties of inter-Muslim violence between traditionalists and Islamists, and between Sunnis and Shia, nor would it assuage the perfectly understandable hostility of convinced Islamists towards the transgressive west that relentlessly invades their minds, and sometimes their countries.
Some of this seems clearly true, but the part at the end is wildly unconvincing. Luttwak speaks of the “perfectly understandable hostility of convinced Islamists toward the transgressive west that relentlessly invades their minds, and sometimes their countries.” This seems to suggest that there’s a binary “hostility/non-hostility” dynamic, when obviously the real issue is how many people are hostile and how hostile are they. Arabs and Muslims are, clearly, quite hostile to Israel and since the US is such a heavy backer of Israel, some of this hostility attaches to us. If there were a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, there’d be less hostility to Israel and therefore less hostility to the United States. The alternative would be to radically curtail our backing for Israel, which Luttwak should really say clearly if it’s what he intends to propose.
That said, it’s a very interesting article that makes many sound points.
Today on the House floor, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) compared the war in Iraq to a Major League Baseball feud, asking fellow members of Congress to “Imagine my beloved St. Louis Cardinals are playing the much despised Chicago Cubs.”
The Cardinals are up by five finishing the top of the ninth. Is this a cause for celebration? Is this a cause for victory? No. Unbelievable as it may seem, the Cubbies score five runs in the bottom of the ninth to throw the games into extra innings. There the score remains until 1:00 AM five innings later. However at the top of the 15th, the Cardinals fail to field a batter. The entire team has left the stadium. … Who wins? We know it’s the team that stays on the field.
The war in Iraq isn’t a baseball game. No one gets killed in a Cardinals v. Cubs game. U.S. troops need to withdraw from Iraq not because the other “team” is beginning to catch up, but because our presence there is helping to fuel the violence and forcing our troops to referee an intractable civil war.
Transcript: Read more
Roughly six-in-ten people in the Pew sample (59 percent) said they want their member of Congress to back an Iraq funding bill that includes a timeline for American troops to begin withdrawing. Of that 59 percent, more than half (54 percent) said Democrats should “insist” on a timeline’s inclusion in the legislation while 42 percent backed the party working with Republicans and the Bush Administration on a solution.
By contrast, only 33 percent of the overall sample said they preferred that their lawmaker oppose a timeline as part of the Iraq funding bill.
There’s no real tactical justification for indicating that Democrats are ready, willing, and eager to back down. The public’s on their side. Maybe Hoyer wants to capitulate because he opposes the timeline on the merits (he’s one of the few “Hard Power Democrats” Michael O’Hanlon praises by name, after all) but if that’s the case he shouldn’t have backed the bill Bush just vetoed.
Word of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) bipartisan delegation to Syria was first made public on March 30 during a State Department press briefing.
Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, “In our view, it’s not the right time to have those sort of high-profile visitors to Syria… [W]e don’t think it would be appropriate for high-level visitors, even those from the Congress, to pay a visit to Syria right now.”
Apparently, one month later, the time is right to meet with Syrian officials:
A senior Iraqi official and a senior Arab diplomat say Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Egypt on Thursday or Friday.
It would be Rice’s first meeting with a Syrian foreign minister since she took over at the State Department in 2005, adding potentially significant bilateral talks to a regional session meant to help stabilize Iraq.
As Carpetbagger notes, “Literally just one month ago, the Bush administration said U.S. officials should not have contact with the Syrian government.” Vice President Cheney called Pelosi’s effort “bad behavior.” President Bush said Pelosi’s delegation was “counterproductive.” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino suggested Pelosi was visiting to “have a photo opportunity and have tea” with Syria’s prime minister.
The supreme irony: two weeks ago, President Bush reportedly pulled Pelosi aside after a meeting and “told her he did not criticize her recent trip to Syria.” Bush told Pelosi “in an unsolicited comment that it was actually the State Department that criticized her.”
Thomas Edsall’s latest piece for TNR is, I think, a great example of why the sort of “interested in ideas” / “interested in consequences” dichotomy that Jon Chait in part relies on in his article on the netroots doesn’t really hold up. What Edsall thinks, it seems to me, is that when Harry Reid made is “war is lost” comment he raised the stakes in an unnecessarily risky way under circumstances where it would have been better to say something like “Bush has lost the war.” The claim that “Bush has lost the war” is a more politically effective message than “the war is lost” seems reasonable, and writing a column on that subject is a reasonable thing to do.