Archive for the ‘Iraq War’ Category
Kate Phillips reports the following in the NY Times on August 20, 2008 (article here):
“A dividing line shows up in this [NY Times/CBS] poll, according to the analysis by Mr. Cooper and Ms. Sussman:
Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was trusted more by voters to handle their top concern, the economy. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they were confident that Mr. Obama would make the right decisions on the economy, compared with 54 percent who expressed confidence that Mr. McCain would. When it came to foreign policy, the image was inverted: 66 percent expressed confidence in Mr. McCain to make the right decisions, and 55 percent in Mr. Obama.
The economy ranks far higher than national security or the Iraq war as a top concern among voters in the new survey, which indicated that respondents were more negative about the economy than at any time since 1992 when, as the article notes, Bill Clinton won the presidency with the admonishment that ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’.”
McCain has hung out the bait: you hate the war, well I am going to keep making outrageous claims about winning it. Come and get me. And we will if we are not careful. Because he was wrong about the war from the get go and his foreign policy is a throwback to the Cold War. But it’s a trap. While most Americans agree that the war is bad news, it is not what they are mainly concerned about right now. Or more to the point, it is not the central concern of most of the undecided voters, those who will determine the outcome of the election. They want to talk jobs, wages, foreclosures, mortgages, retirement, and medical care. If Americans are basically confident that Obama can handle foreign policy, and the poll suggests that 55% of them already are, then Obama has crossed the most significant threshold. He doesn’t have to top McCain. He just has to make sure that enough people feel comfortable about his ability to handle foreign affairs so that they can go ahead and vote for him based on economic self-interest.
My conclusion: as painful as it might be for Obama and his supporters, they should avoid responding to McCain every time he raises the Iraq War and foreign policy. A better course: remind the American people as often as possible that the war is costing us 10 billion a month when we have no health care and the economy is tanking. (And they should also remind the American people that McCain said that he needed to study up on economics just a few months ago. A captain of the economy he is not.)
P.S. Yes, of course, there will be times that Obama and his supporters will have to respond about the war and discuss foreign policy, but this is different from getting sucked into an endless debate about the war. It was and is wrong, corrupt, and strategically stupid. But this is going to be a pocket book election unless something unforeseen and very big happens internationally. Focusing on the Iraq War and foreign affairs is not going to win the election for anyone but McCain. And then we will have to stare at this for years to come……
UPDATE: August 23, 2008. The selection of Joe Biden as the VP candidate should work beautifully with the strategy outlined above. The basic premise of this strategy is that Obama does not have to poll better than McCain on foreign policy; he just has to convince a majority of Americans that he can handle foreign policy well. The NY Times/CBS poll suggests that he has already crossed this threshold. Biden will not only help to make sure that he remains above this threshold, he will help Obama improve his standing. My guess is that the selection of Biden, and other moves that Obama will make, will push him well into the 60% range on the question of confidence in handling foreign affairs. (A 3-4% lead in the popular vote will almost surely translate into an electoral college win. That’s a 52%-48% win, without third party candidates included.)
Since this Blog began a few months ago it has been called, “Mitchell Aboulafia,” which happens to be the name of the author of the postings. But as the Blog grew in circulation, it needed something a bit snappier (than me) for a title. Hence, “UP@NIGHT.” (The author is a bit of a night owl, but he also wants you to know that he is working away at all hours of the day and night to produce UP@NIGHT.)
I have had some very nice feedback on the site and I hope that readers continue to enjoy it. I know that I have enjoyed participating in “the collective experiment” of internet writing and communication. (And it certainly allows me to be more playful than my academic work.)
UPDATE: August 21, 2008: On August 20th I added a little feature to the site, a cluster map. If you click on the map, you can see the locations of the visitors to this Blog. I have noticed that on the first day of its use it is not registering all of the visits, but I have been informed that there is often a delay (and there can be more than one visit from one location, since a location is an IP address).
On August 9th, The Decider spoke at the Olympics on national sovereignty:
“Georgia is a sovereign nation, and its territorial integrity must be respected….We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for the end of the Russian bombings.” “Georgia and Russia Nearing All-Out-War,” New York Times, August 9th.
Really George, territorial integrity? Mighty strong words from a man who began a war against a country that had not attacked us and was not a threat to us.
Just what are Bush’s remarks worth on the world stage given how the U.S. has behaved? Tears and laughter. But unfortunately this is not solely Bush’s issue. The American people elected him and then reelected him in 2004. In addition, it appears that Bush 3.0, the John McCain version, actually has a substantial number of Americans willing to vote for him. (How many years in Iraq, John? Did you say, 1,000? And what about Iran?) And guess what, McCain claims, “In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.” It’s just so twentieth-century.
In August of 2002, when Bush was still riding high in the popularity polls, I wrote a piece wondering about why the American people didn’t see that Bush was a lemon. Oh, I knew the answers. Of course there was the cynical use of 9/11 (but it was a year later). I knew how the Republican machine had worked since Nixon to divide the country and make so-called liberals appear to be unpatriotic and elitist. (Just as McCain is now trying to do by attacking Obama as a celebrity/elitist.) I knew about their use of racial divides to win the South, etc. But I still wondered. Why did I wonder? Because Americans typically have a pretty good nose for a lousy product. They are good consumers. And Bush was obviously a lemon.
On this theme, I offer an echo from the past, namely, a piece that I did not publish and which I did not even bother to edit for publication. I gave up in frustration. What could political humor do when things were so bleak? But now with the ease of publishing blogs, and the prospects for a real change in November, I offer it as I left it on August 20th, 2002 (except for the graphics and a fixed typo). My, how times have changed. When I wrote it I thought that I was insulting Bush. I now realize that I was in fact insulting the Edsel.
Oh, there is one other reason for offering this now. I hear that part of McCain’s new energy program will put an Edsel in every Republican’s garage. Fabulous gas millage (if you are Exxon/Mobil).
I’ve been thinking about the return of the Edsel. For those too young to remember, the Edsel was a line of cars produced by Ford in the late 1950′s. Actually I am barely old enough to remember. Although I do remember images of the Edsel: long, often two-toned, front grilled with what appeared to be a cross between a giant mouth and a nose , and generally very shiny all around. A glitzy wildebeest of a car. The Edsel was named after Henry Ford’s son, Edsel Ford, who served as the nominal president of Ford Motor company, seemed to be a nice enough guy, died at only 49 in 1943, graciously suffering for years under the heavy hand of Henry.
But I am not here to talk about the man Edsel Ford. It’s the idea of the car that’s gotten under my skin. The Edsel became synonymous in my youth with the word “lemon,” as in, that’s a real lemon or that’s an Edsel. It was widely ridiculed. People thought it a silly thing. No one in his right mind would buy one. Yet I don’t recall that its problems were mainly mechanical. People seemed to object to the very idea of the critter, for it was all glitter, and seemingly would not have come into existence had not a very rich and powerful man, Henry, wanted to honor the memory of his son. Its merits were few. It had not earned its place on the open road. It was an upstart. Today we might disparage it as a consumer item calculated to appeal to the tastes of omnivorous Yuppies, except that we do not frown on Yuppie longings as people might have in 1958, nor would today’s Yuppies be caught dead in something so ostentatious. It seems that one of the main problems with the Edsel was that it could not decide on what it wanted to be. It was pitched as a luxury item, yet it just might have a blue collar soul, or at least the pretense of one. People were suspicious. Its outside did not match its inner core. It was an inauthentic auto. And it didn’t take long for Americans back in the late 1950′s to realize that Ford was trying to pull off a marketing coup at their expense. The Edsel line lasted three years, but people laughed as the first models rolled off the assembly line
. For years now I have been envious of my elders because they were fortunate enough to experience and appreciate the Edsel phenomenon, namely, people collectively rising up and saying as they chuckled, “hell no, we are not so stupid as to actually buy a trophy car because corporate America and Madison Avenue tell us that we should.” I have always wanted a chance to experience the American people rallying in this fashion, laughing at the big guys, putting them in their place, bringing the house down. And just recently I came to believe that my chance was at hand. Isn’t it obvious, I thought, that George Bush is an Edsel. Can he not be likened to a car whose career was born of the right connections? Is this man not an upstart? Had this man done anything before becoming president to earn his position? Can anyone imagine that he would have gotten to where he is now if his dad had not been president? Is there not, even for a politician, an unusually transparent mismatch between the core George Bush–ill informed, self-serving, glib yet insecure, business failure, a man with little reason for holding his job except that it serves his friends well–and the image that his handlers present of an involved, well-informed, caring, active, hands-on, captain-of-industry kind of guy? Is he not like the Edsel, all presentation and an unreliable heart.
Sad to say, things have not gone according to plan. In 1958 it didn’t take long for the American people to figure out that the Edsel had to go. It was a mistake. It should never have been made. Yet in 2002 I look around and I don’t understand why people can’t see that there is an Edsel parked right there in the middle of the Oval Office. I fear that something has gone very wrong with us Americans. Have our critical faculties have abandoned us? Are we no longer as savvy as our ancestors? Has the sophistication of Madison Avenue and political consultants broken our will to resist? Do we care less about the presidency than a car? Are we just tired? Is there some sort of kryptonite lying around messing with our superpower powers? Questions come more easily than answers.
I don’t know about you, but I worry a lot about these matters. I lie awake nights and then on the days that follow I can’t take my mind off them. I try to occupy my days by doing the right thing. I try to be a good American and support the economy. I go shopping, moving from one national chain to another. But I can’t seem to buy anything that makes me understand what has happened. Unenlightened, I return home. I try to watch some TV, but there on the tube all I can see are the ever-present faces of the winsome threesome, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ashcroft, reminding me of their boss. I become discouraged. I try to sleep. I go to bed and say my prayers. Please, Lord, tomorrow when it is morning in America, let the people wake to the realization that they have been sold an Edsel. And then let them listen to what their dad and their dad’s dad taught them. Don’t hold on to a lemon. It won’t get any better. Sell it and make it someone else’s headache.
Okay, I am taking bets. Well, if not bets, comments. The evidence is mounting. Webb’s appearances in the national media are increasing. On the night of May 20th, the day that Obama will definitely go over the top in the majority of elected pledged delegates, Webb will be making at least two national TV appearances, one on CNN and one on MSNBC, Olbermann’s Countdown. Webb can help Obama win: a military guy, who is something of a populist, with blue collar appeal. He has been a dogged opponent of the Iraq War, and he shares with Obama the loneliness of the long distance writer. Obama strategist David Axelrod recently said that, “the primary characteristic Mr. Obama would look for in a vice president was someone with whom he was extremely comfortable” (New York Observer, May 13th). Webb seems to fit the bill here also. And for what it’s worth, Intrade has him as a close second to Hillary for the VP slot. (But Hillary fails the comfort test that Axelrod mentions. Not sure if the Intrade traders have factored this in.) [Update, May, 22, Intrade now has Webb slightly ahead.] I am not surprised that there is a draft Webb movement underfoot. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Obama_Webb08/
However, if Webb’s military background proves insufficient, I have a suggestion. I don’t think Obama should mess around. I’ve heard that these GOP characters can play pretty rough. And they like surfing the waves in swiftboats. Obama may need phasers and shields. He will need someone who knows how to use them. He will need someone whose citizenship no one would dare to challenge, given the consequences. He will need:
UPDATE May 19, 2008, 5:00 PM. In comments on this site and other sites, concerns have been expressed about misogynistic statements made by Webb. If true, this would be an extremely serious problem for his candidacy, to say the least. I have been under the impression that claims about his alleged misogyny originated from his opponents in his race for the Senate in 2006. Webb is a novelist. It appears that passages from his fictional works were used by his opponents to represent his views. Needless to say, this is dirty pool. It is called “fiction” for a reason. But if readers have more information on this topic, please reply.
UPDATE May 22, 5:00 PM EST. I haven’t heard any further comments about Webb’s alleged misogyny. And while it is true that he is currently trying to hawk his new book, what he is saying in his appearances on TV are very much in line with what Obama has been saying. Consider their comments the last couple of days about our having negotiated with adversaries who were much stronger than Iran, for example, the USSR and China. And how we must not confuse negotiation with capitulation. Also, consider how both are declaring that the needs of poor folks, white and minority, have not been adequately addressed. To say that they are on the same wavelength would be putting it mildly. (Of course, Obama will have to weigh numerous factors in making the final decision for VP.)
UPDATE June 6, 2008 Washington Post, Kristen Mack reports that at a rally in Virginia, “Obama thanked Webb, saying, ‘If you’re in a fight, and we are going to be in a fight, you want Jim Webb to have your back.’” I still think that he is very much in the running. Regarding concerns raised about misogyny. I have learned that he made some very bad calls about women in the military, as well as unacceptable comments about Tailhook. However, I have also heard that he has since apologized and that his record has markedly improved. Webb was a Republican. He is something of a changed man. The questions is, how much has Webb changed? I believe that his populism is for real. I want to hear more.
UPDATE June 21, 2008. Well, the Webb for VP story just doesn’t appear to be going away. Again, for what it is worth, Intrade today as him as the favorite for VP ahead of Clinton. In terms of the issue that could be most damaging to his selection, his record on women’s issues, the following was reported today in a Wall Street Journal article cited on the Huffington Post. ”Sen. Webb’s spokeswoman points out that he has received “100%” scores from Naral, a pro-choice women’s group, and just last week introduced a bill that would provide four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees.” “Arming Obama,” The Wall Street Journal, June 21st.