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In The Middle: John Murtha

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From: Phillip Winn @ Center-Right
To: Eric Berlin @ Center-Left
Subject: John Murtha

Polls showed President Bush’s approval rating to be plummeting, and it seems that his political foes were eager to push their advantage. Even some Democrats who had voted in favor of invading Iraq publicly apologized for their votes and began to call for withdrawal plans. Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha went even farther, calling for the United States military to “immediately redeploy” troops, withdrawing from Iraq. Representative Murtha is certainly passionate, but I wonder how much credibility he can claim to have, given his record on the war in Iraq.

Prior to the Iraq authorization vote in 2002, Murtha questioned the resolution on primarily strategic reasons (it might alienate allies to go ahead without United Nations approval), but ended up voting for it anyway.

In 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandals, he called for more troops to be sent to Iraq, arguing that, “We cannot prevail in this war as it is going today,” and “We either have to mobilize or we have to get out.”

So far this seems reasonable. I, too, was worried a bit about the lack of UN support, though I decided eventually, as did many others, that UN support would never come, no matter what Hussein did. The Abu Ghraib revelations were disheartening, and I would certainly have supported more troops had the military leadership called for them. Still, that was a tactical decision, one that should be made free from political influence. Whether political issues are unduly influencing those decisions, I don’t know, but certainly Rep. Murtha’s statements don’t represent politics-free decision-making, either.

Where things start to seem a little odd is later in 2004, with a bill introduced by Democrat Charles Rangel. Introduced in 2003, the bill would have reinstated a military draft, a political ploy designed to publicize the claim (which began in 2002) that a mandatory draft was unavoidable, and that President Bush was trying to avoid the issue until after the 2004 election. The bill was forced to a vote in 2004 in order to clear it off the docket, and even the bill’s sponsor voted against it. Only two people voted in favor of reinstating the draft, and one was John Murtha. Of course, once the 2004 election cycle was over, nobody mentioned a draft again.

Just before Thanksgiving, Rep. Murtha seems to have decided that troop increases were no longer enough, and began to call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. On November 17 on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, in an interview with Margaret Warner, Murtha said, “I say that the fight against Americans began with Abu Ghraib. It began with the invasion of Iraq. That’s when terrorism started.” That comes as a bit of a surprise to anyone who remembers September 11, 2001, I’m sure! Still, Rep. Murtha is no critic of the military, and his intentions are clearly found at least in part on a concern for troops who are fighting what seems to him to be an unwinnable war.

But still we have an odd contrast between Rep. Murtha’s statement and his votes, because after calling for an immediate withdrawal on the 17th, he voted against a bill suggesting just that the next day! The bill was defeated by a vote of 403 to 3 with six abstentions.

Let us make no mistake: What John Murtha actually said on Thursday, November 17, was this (emphasis added): “I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid-December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice: The United States will immediately redeploy—immediately redeploy. No schedule which can be changed, nothing that’s controlled by the Iraqis, this is an immediate redeployment of our American forces because they have become the target… My plan calls for immediate redeployment of U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces to create a quick reaction force in the region, to create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines, and to diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.”

This may actually not be a bad idea, and I would support this plan if the military commanders were to call for it as the best way to proceed.

Republican Duncan Hunter took those words and turned them into a resolution, which said, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately. Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.” It is against that resolution that John Murtha voted.

I have to wonder, what’s going on with John Murtha?

From: Eric Berlin @ Center-Left
To: Phillip Winn @ Center-Right

I think that Rep. John Murtha is a very interesting figure to emerge at the center of the ongoing debate about what to do about Iraq, Phillip. Murtha, a fairly conservative Democrat, has strong ties to the military and defense issues throughout his career as a military man and politician both.

I see Murtha’s statement on redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq as a passionate stand by a man who deeply believes a change in policy is needed to make things better — both in Iraq and for American forces and long-term security for the United States. Indeed, his character, values, and beliefs now stand at stark odds with the President, who again today (Wednesday) rattled off standard and (verrrry…) long-standing slogans about staying the course and fighting until victory is at hand.

You seem to imply, Phillip, that Murtha’s call for redeployment might be a political ploy designed to increase support for the growing anti-war sentiment in Congress (driven by relentlessly gloomy and across-the-board poll numbers). I can understand why some might feel this way, but I think a closer look at the actual proposal is warranted. The idea is that Iraq won’t stand up for itself until it is basically forced to. Therefore, American forces would, under this plan, redeploy to neighboring or nearby areas so that they could easily go back in should it be necessary. This is actually a very interesting way to pull American soldiers away from the specter of Sunni-Shiite civil war yet put them in position to stamp out terror cells and training camps quickly and efficiently. I’m not military expert enough to comment upon the viability of such a plan, but I believe we’ve reached a time where many options should be closely examined under the umbrella of free and open debate.

The reason why Murtha voted against the forced vote by the GOP a few weeks ago (and talk about ploys, that was about as big of one as you can get!), as far as I understand it, is because that bill called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, and not the redeployment as sketched out above.

As far as military commanders asking to redeployed, the sad but certain truth is that this will never happen. It can’t happen — at least in public — because soldiers are trained to attempt to complete the mission, whatever the odds. In any event, we’ve seen already what happens to high-ranking officials and soldiers who question Bush administration policy. It’s up to our civilian leadership to change course based upon recommendations and facts on the ground. A significant problem here may lead back to the “Bush Bubble,” or the tight circle in which President Bush surrounds himself, unpunctured by contrarian voices and, as has been famously stated, any form or news or media reporting.

So I think what we have is two clear positions emerging, with Bush on one side and Murtha as a new and leading figure on the other. Most others are in the middle, the confused and muddled variety and not the sharp as tacks, witty, and vivacious varietals found at In the Middle.

From: Phillip Winn @ Center-Right
To: Eric Berlin @ Center-Left

The Hunter resolution was definitely a stunt, intended to do exactly what it seems to have done: force Murtha to take a stand rather than rely solely on rhetoric. They’re all stunts, and it’s all politics. The interesting point is the stand Murtha took when it came to a vote.

Placing a lot of emphasis on the word “redeployment” overlooks the fact that Murtha spelled out the details of what he was talking about. Details that can be summed up succinctly as “withdraw from Iraq, but stay close by just in case.” In other words, a plan entirely consistent with the Hunter resolution, which was also consistent with Murtha previous statments about needing to “get out.”

As I mentioned, originally, I’m not against the general idea, I just want it to be driven by the military commanders on the ground, not politicians thousands of miles away. A recent Pew poll reveals that military personnel and the general American public are the two groups which have the most positive opinion of the progress in Iraq, and I think that’s telling. While it is certainly the case that public disputes from military commanders are unwelcome for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the message that sends to those against whom we’re fighting, privately the opinions of the officers on the ground ought to be given the highest level of consideration, and I believe that they are.

Tactics have changed many times since the original invasion of Iraq, and continue to change in response to changing conditions. I heard a report on NPR recently in which two congressmen, one from each party and both recently returned from Iraq, expressed how impressed they were by the progress that is being made there, as Iraqi troops are more involved over time with military operations, and as those against whom we’re fighting control less and less ground. We are making progress, though the progress is slow and expectations are high due to both unrealistic ideas in the age of Media War and also false hopes trumpeted as realities in the early days of the war.

I don’t actually think that Murtha and Bush are very far apart in their views. Both want to see the troops come home, and both want to see Iraq succeed. I believe that Bush feels that he has to send a message of unwavering committment, to demonstrate to those who would otherwise press against what they perceive as weakness on our part that we will not bow under the pressue of more or bigger explosions. I think Murtha is more concerned with how people here in the the United States perceive things, and also, because he isn’t the President, has more freedom to suggest things than Bush does. Both of them also, of course, care quite a bit for the safety of the troops.

The primary difference between their positions as I see it, aside from their relative abilities to speak freely, is that Bush believes that the Iraqi troops are making substantial progress right now, while Murtha believes that they will only make substantial progress with the pressure of stark necessity.

Still, I can’t help but think that some of what we’re seeing is political grandstanding, an attempt by critics of President Bush to use the time of the year — when people are thinking about family and missing their loved ones — and Bush’s falling poll numbers in ways that aren’t even necessarily the most effective at actually accomplishing their goals.

From: Eric Berlin @ Center-Left
To: Phillip Winn @ Center-Right

While I agree that politicians act like “politicians” nearly all the time, I still have to wonder why you seem to imply that Murtha’s actions are purely Machievellian in nature. In my view, he immediately has credibility as a lifelong military man and foreign policy hawk who stood up from the back benches of Congress to demand change to a policy he in some ways helped to craft. To me, that shows backbone and courage and the fortitude to demand progress and accountability and transparency from our government.

I can’t tell you exactly why Murtha voted against the Hunter resolution. Members of Congress get into “trouble” all the time for these kinds of in-house machinations (see: John Kerry, ’04), which was exactly why the House GOP rolled out what could only be described as a designed mousetrap. But personally I’ll take him at his word in stating that his preference is that changes in military policy should be driven by the commanders on the ground. Last night on Hardball, Murtha echoed what many others are saying in expressing that military commanders are privately horrified at the war effort but refuse to say so in public. This presents a conundrum, which circles me back to what might be a general unwillingness by the Rumsfeld-Cheney-Bush inner circle to change policy in the face of bad information, intelligence, and voices of dissent. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell would likely be the first to tell you that breaking
into that inner circle is a nearly impossible task.

I agree that Bush’s and Murtha’s goals are very closely related, as are the views of the vast majority of both parties and the American people: leave Iraq safe and secure and preserve American security and the lives of as many of our citizens and soldiers as possible. I disagree that the politics are being driven by the “time of year” as much as the normal souring of the American public toward foreign military adventures that drag on and don’t show visible signs of progress. This is exactly where Bush’s “stalwartness” gets him into trouble, as it should. Expressing unbound optimism and bumper sticker slogans can demonstrably yield political victory but it can’t turn the tide on a murky-to-ugly military picture.

Many of our In the Middle columns seem to circle back to a few Big Picture questions (and as we all know, I’m a Big Picture guy). One that most are asking and will continue to ask is: How is the war really going? As Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, recently said, perhaps the government and namely the president needs to do a better job of explaining how the war is going in unadorned and unspun terms. This leads back to my call for transparency.

If 2005 has shown us anything, it’s that the American public is desperate for honest leadership. That may well be one of the largest factors in why John Murtha is now a household name.

From: Phillip Winn @ Center-Right
To: Eric Berlin @ Center-Left

I agree completely that we need more information about how the war is really going. I think Bush’s speech this week might signal the beginning of just such a change in strategy. I hope so! I understand that they’ve been reluctant to spell things out for fear that our very media-savvy opponents in this struggle will learn important things from satellite television, but I think the time has come when the concerns of the voting public need to outweigh that fear in most cases, allowing for a certain amount of short-term secrecy for tactical reasons.

One other concern they’ve probably had involves the short-term mentality of many people, who really seem to expect any military operation to be wrapped in about as long as it took to film Saving Private Ryan. If we have a bad week, or bad month, in the ongoing war effort, will short-sighted people call for withdrawal too soon? Will such fears cause military commanders to avoid taking necessary risks, in order to manage the images and numbers we see here at home?

Still, I’d like to see maps, and charts, and lists. I suspect those would reveal a somewhat different picture of the situation in Iraq than the mental image many people have, but there’s only one way to know for sure!

I don’t think I’d say that Murtha moves are “purely” manipulative, but I think that there is a strong element of politican showmanship in the timing and nature of his statements. As a congressman, he has avenues which he could pursue which would be more likely to result in action, but chooses instead to spend his time on television talk shows and at press conferences. I have to believe that this is in large part an effort to create an image like the one you described, in which Murtha is seen as the anti-Bush, despite their views being far more similar in reality than those of many other members of Congress.

Murtha’s somewhat inconsistent back-and-forth speechifying suggests to me that there is a little more going on there than a natural progression of ideas.

In any case, I think we agree that the time has come for more transparency about what’s going on in Iraq, and the poll numbers to which I linked a little while ago suggests to me that CNN and Fox News are not necessarily the best sources, given a strong tendency to pessimism.

From: Eric Berlin @ Center-Left
To: Phillip Winn @ Center-Right

CNN and Fox News have something in common?

Okay, but seriously… I’ll counter and say that Murtha’s Stand (how’s that for grandiose?), coupled with diving poll numbers and general unease about the war throughout Washington, are the very factors that brought out Bush’s speech this week. So while you might see it as grandstanding and speechifying, I actually see it as actions that have brought about results (i.e. spelling out the beginnings of a strategy, to be kind) not seen in two-and-half-years of war!

I think Bush has proved that he’s immensely capable of not listening to detractors, the media, or anyone else (perhaps not even his father or Bush 41’s able foreign policy team) once he’s made up his mind about something. When Bush says “stay the course,” I for one believe that that means until the end of time, if not sooner. One of Bush 43’s problems has always been his inability to change course (while staying on it, of course) in the face of changing data and changing times and public demands, from tax cuts to stem cell research
to Iraq.

Fred Kaplan’s Slate piece covering Bush’s speech does a really good job of summing up the somewhat little, hopefully not too late substance of the National Security Council’s newly printed “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” That said, it’s better than nothing, and perhaps it’s a start to a coherent Iraq strategy.

I can’t fault patriots, whether it be John Murtha or John McCain, for demanding that from the president.

Focusing on the future, Kaplan did an excellent job in pointing out four crucial factors that Bush continues to ignore. They are:

  • The potential for the U.S. occupation to fuel the very insurgency its fighting
  • The huge X factor of the ability of the Iraqi military and police forces to effectively handle security on their own
  • The enormous strain on the U.S. military in terms of personnel, recruiting, and morale
  • The fact that the vaunted war on terrorism does not come close to the level of threat posed by Nazism, Imperial Japan, or the Soviet Union

Those factors could well point the way to the next installment of In the Middle, I should think.

Phillip Winn is a registered Republican, but considers himself independent. He lives in Dallas, Texas, and didn’t vote for President Bush in 2000, but did in 2004. He is a co-owner, designer, and technical administrator for Blogcritics.org.

Eric Berlin is a registered Democrat who currently lives in Pasadena, California. Pretty predictable voting record: Gore ’00, Kerry ’04. He is a co-owner and Executive Producer of Blogcritics.org.

In The Middle is an attempt to focus more on what unites us than what divides us. Can two reasonable people from opposite ends of the political spectrum put aside partisanship and meet in the middle? We think so. A topic is picked, e-mails are exchanged, and the results are published here.

In The Middle is a Blogcritics experiment. We’re trying to talk about things civilly, and we strongly request that all commenters do the same. We seek polite comments and questions, not ideological rhetoric or personal attacks.

Be passionate, think before you write, respect others, and have fun!

Previous articles from the In The Middle crew have addressed Bill Bennett, Harriet Miers, Iraq as a “Media War,” the CIA Leak Case, Samuel Alito, Jr, and Vice President Cheney.

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About pwinn

  • I apologize to EB for taking so long to get this posted. The conversation above actually took place last week.

  • Nancy

    Great post, guys. I really, Really, REALLY have come to look forward to the In The Middle articles.

    That said, I think a major part of the Iraq problem (on the US side) lies in the nature of the beast itself, i.e. BushCo: here we have a president who can’t/won’t admit to being anything but 100% correct, ever; a vice president whose credibility & character are matters for serious suspicion, and Cheney’s creature & fellow neocon, Rumsfield; and none of the three have ever served or have a clue as to the reality of military ops, as they demonstrated so plainly by ignoring all the military advice before the invasion – and after, for that matter.

    On the Iraqi side, I do think Murtha & co. have a point, that the Iraqis won’t become self-sufficient unless forced to. Why should they? I certainly wouldn’t, if I could get someone bigger & richer (& stupider) than I to do my fighting for me. BushCo. keeps handing out figures on the number of Iraqi battalions supposedly taking control (latest claim: 30), but I’ve noticed this figure fluctuates depending on the weekday & weather & who’s talking, to the point where this information has no credibility either. BushCo I don’t trust to tell me the sky is blue, and the military I don’t trust not to try to suck up to (or follow orders from) BushCo & falsify their figures, either. All this compounded by the (thus far) demonstrated lack of discipline & frankly, courage, of the Iraqi would-be military & police troops. It’s like watching real-life “F Troop”, just pathetic, pitiful, & shameful. A bigger group of cowards, sellouts, and stumblebums I’ve never seen – except for the ones on the Hill here in DC.

    As for Iraqi civil war, with everything going on, Sunni “insurgents” vs everybody else in Iraq, it seems, aren’t they in a civil war now, for all intents & purposes? To call it an insurgency seems to me to be nit-picking with terminology. Thanks for your comments.

  • Twenty years ago Murtha’s statement would have been embraced by both sides, but not in such a time of war.

    And I’m not talking about the one overseas — I’m talking about the one in Congress.

  • Nancy, I think that your effort to assign “blame” leads you to make statements that are factually incorrect (the President has reversed himself on a variety of issues, and EB notes within this very piece that Bush’s recent war-update speech reflects a change in policy that is possibly the result of pressure from the Democratic party) and even amusing (Rumsfeld has a long history of involvement with the military).

    I never disagreed with Murtha’s assertion, though, and asked only why it seemed to be stronger in rhetoric than in action. In fact, it appears that the Iraqi forces are improving; the questions are whether they are doing so quickly enough, and whether they would so more quickly with more pressure, and whether that pressure would have other, negative consequences.

    Your distrust and negative opinions of politicans in Washington would be shared by me if it applied to members of more than one party. The partisan variety, however, is somewhat irrelevant to the discussion here at In The Middle.

    NPR recently aired a series about the larger numbers of Sunni Iraqis who are involved in the political process and upset at attacks in their country, so no, it doesn’t seem that “civil war” is an appropriate label by any objective standard. Whether the folks killing civilians should be called “terrorists,” “insurgents,” or (their preferred term) “the resistance” is the terminalogical nitpick of choice, I think.

  • Nancy

    My dislike & pox on both their houses (congress, that is) is, I believe, pretty well-known; I ascribe more liability to the GOP since they are the current holders of the majority & have been running things for some years now, and also since it was BushCo which lied us into this mess. Rumsfield’s “long history of involvement with the military” is limited to theoretical desk-jockey experience. Like all the chickenhawks, he has been very careful to keep his precious butt out of any actual danger in active service. And civil war doesn’t require that the majority of persons in any country be engaged as active participants, just that two segments be in physical struggle, while the rest either support one side or the other, or remain neutral. I cite our own civil war & England’s as historical examples.

  • “BushCo,” “lied,” and “chickenhawks” are terms which serve to squash all productive conversation, and that is something we would like to avoid in Blogcritics.org comments in general, but certainly most of all at In The Middle. Thanks.

  • Getting back to Murtha, is this someone the Democrats are trying to slate as one of their leaders?

    D.C. should remember the last time the Redskins did the quarterback carousel in the Steve Spurrier era, rotating between Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews as if the Ol’ Ball Coach woke up, blindfolded himself and threw a dart at the wall.

    Is Murtha just the next in line to be Democratic Party Employee of the Month and get the primo parking spot and complimentary cheese and sausage basket, or is this man a legitimate ’06/’08 name to reckon with?

  • Suss, can’t both be true? Clearly the Democrats are trying to pick their next candidate, as they should. They would be smart to go with someone like Murtha, who has the gravitas and the experience to inspire voters. However, he has been in Congress too long, which means he’ll have a voting record that can be used against him (as all voting records can).

    He could easily be more popular than Reid, who doesn’t seem to catching on, for some reason.

    In the end, I bet they’ll end up picking a governor from a southern-ish state. It seems to be what’s needed to win these days.

  • Kathleen Blanco?

    So a candidate needs to be respected, but not have too long a paper trail. Also their name has to be no more than two syllables and not end with a spoken non-Y vowel.

    So Murtha’s out, on two counts.
    Obama’s out.
    Kerry’s out.
    Hillary Clinton, John Edwards are in.
    Dean’s not out, but not in.
    Mark Warner is very, very much in.

    Sign me up with a prediction of that last one.

  • Nancy

    I don’t think anybody knows who they’re vetting for ’08, least of all the Dems themselves. They can’t even seem to settle on an agreed, uniform position on Iraq, let alone a rep. I don’t think Reid is catching on, because he also has a long record, doesn’t he? Also, he has been fairly *blah* as far as political personality goes; I never heard of him until relatively recently, and I consider myself a political animal. I would suspect they’ll eventually throw in behind Hillary, if she elects to run, but they’d have to balance that out with someone from the South – unless they can run Obama, too. May be: it’s 3 years away, after all.

    I know McCain wants to run & was promised the GOP gift list if he would stand by Bush instead of pretending he had to stay home to wash his dog, but the GOP doesn’t seem to be very anxious to keep that promise … so who are they lining up? Surely not Jeb?

  • Nancy

    Yeah, I hear groundswell mutterings about Warner, too.

  • I have to circle back to what I said in the piece and repeat that I really believe that Murtha stood up for something he believed in, plain and simple. His background, history, and politics lend him the gravitas you mention, Suss. Therefore, I see this is as much more heartfelt belief than political stunt / ambition. Plus, let’s face it: the guy’s pretty old. I don’t think he said, “Wow, if I reverse position and stand up against the war now, I might have a primo shot at the ’08 nom, even though no one knows my name today!” I don’t think so.

    I agree that voters are always desperate to be inspired. In ’08, inspiration matched with honesty and experience are going to be very high on the agenda.

  • I don’t think Obama will make it, because it’s too soon. People in Washington a long time will ensure he puts in his dues first, I suspect.

    Clinton has problems, I think, but is still a possibility if balanced with someone more southwestern. She’s got a touch of Obama’s problem, but her time in the White House — so to speak — is in her favor there.

    John Edwards is out, I think, despite the southern factor, simply because he’s been part of a losing ticket. He didn’t bring to Kerry what he has supposed to bring, basically.

    Dean has been painted as a nutjob, in part due to his role as DNC head.

    Warner is definitely a strong possibility, and maybe with Clinton as veep?

    It’s early yet, but I do think they’re trying, and I think that Murtha’s recent public statements are part of that process, as well as being serious suggestions worth taking seriously.

  • Warner is going to be a hot name for both places on the ticket for some time to come. I think he clearly comes to the top of the list of governor names on the Dems side, over and above Vilsack and perhaps a good ways in front of Richardson as well.

  • I think there’s no way in hell that Clinton would accept a VP slot. Clinton-Warner or Clinton-Richardson or Clinton-Clark are all strong possibilities.

    I see the Dem nomination process as shaking out to a race between a centrist and liberal or center-left candidate. In a sense, I think we’ll see two races. Edwards devotion to poverty issues and his recent admission that his vote on the war was a mistake makes him a strong candidate to challenge Clinton from the left. Dean has said, I believe, that he won’t run in ’08.

  • Nancy

    I caught his “last public rally – as Governor”; the dude definitely has his OWN presidential ambitions. Not veep: prez. Plus he was married to Liz … I suppose he could always find a vote or two having her stump for him.

  • Nancy

    I don’t think anyone would vote for Dean at this point anyway; too much of a ‘nutcase’ rep, & some of his comments since becoming DNC chair haven’t set well with the rank & file, either. Obama may have more of an edge than you think: putting up a black guy with a woman? That would be one tough combo for the GOP to beat up on: attack either one, and they’ve automatically alienated all kinds of groups. Besides, Barak’s eye candy.

  • I’m on record from a couple of years ago stating that my dream matchup would be Hillary Clinton for the Dems and Condoleeza Rice for the Reps. Add Obama for the Dems and… whomever for the Reps, and let’s see what happens.

    A boy can dream!

  • Would Murtha have a large enough base to generate White House buzz?

  • I think Obama is extraordinarily gifted politician as well. 2012 will likely be right on his radar if the Dems lose in ’08. He’ll also be highly touted as a potential VP candidate. A southern white governor matched with a northern black dynamic Senator would be a very powerful combo… if Obama’s willing to go for it.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    John Warner, GOP Senator from Va., was married to Liz Taylor. Mark Warner is a much younger guy who’s a Dem.

  • It’s totally possible to end up with an all Virginia race in ’08: Sen. Allen v. Gov. Warner.

  • RogerMDillon

    “terms which serve to squash all productive conversation, and that is something we would like to avoid in Blogcritics.org comments in general”

    I can appreciate your sentiments, Phillip, even though at times I get a laugh from the attacks. Does that same rule hold for feature columns?

    Suss, why can’t have a party have different leaders on different subjects? While bloggers are omniscient, most politicians aren’t, which they illustrate on a regular basis.

  • RMD,

    They can have role players (and the party has plenty), but the Democrats are searching for the leader, and like the Redskins, they can’t keep taking that “Hello, I’m the Leader” nametag off every week and slapping it on another of their own.

    Because, as we all know, taking nametags on and off begins to get all those little fuzzies on the tags and, before you know it, the tag becomes as adhesive as Joe Paterno’s teeth.

  • MCH

    “”BushCo,” “lied,” and “chickenhawks” are terms which serve to squash all productive conversation, and that is something we would like to avoid in Blogcritics.org comments in general…”

    And don’t forget terms like “pinko,” “commie,” and “f—ing pacifist.”

  • Then it shall be. A six-pack of stupid!

  • Suss — Because Dems are in the minority across the board, it’s very very difficult to declare one person the “party leader.” There’s no huge platform (like the White House) to project from, in other words. Thus, some in-fighting and tangling about an agenda is natural and even positive at this stage. The Dems have all of ’06 to get together why they’re a better altnerative than the Republican majority.

  • Bennett

    Thanks Phillip and Eric for the in depth analysis of the Murtha situation. I leaned quite a bit!

  • I’m gonna throw this out there…

    Warner/Bayh in 2008.

  • troll

    what do you think Murtha meant by: “diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.”



  • G. Oren

    Another intersting and thought provoking post from the guys in the middle – kudos to you both!

    As a paleo-conservative, I have to scratch my head about the fact that I tend to agree with Eric in these little vignettes. Gotta put the kid in bed, back in a bit.

  • G. Oren

    Carrying on – Eric sites the Kaplan piece wherein Kaplan points out that the threat from Islamic terrorism doesn’t rise to that posed by our opponents in WWII or the cold war, although they may hate us and even do us significant damage, the Islamo-fascist are not a threat to our existence. Add to that that despite the rhetoric of being at war, we’re not really serious about putting the nation on anything like a war time footing, and its easy to see why the public has lost interest in supporting this war. Four years after 9/11 the prospect of another attack in the U.S. or upon U.S. interests abroad has taken a backseat to the conflict in Iraq. As the 9/11 commission pointed out today, we aren’t making much progress in really protecting the homeland. As we’ve discussed ad nauseum, the goal of our involvement in Iraq was suspect from the start as far as protecting us from an actual threat, but we’re there and can’t leave until we’ve provided for a stable government and stable security. Does Murtha’s pronouncement help or hinder that effort. I tend to think it helps, if for no other reason than it forces the administration to begin benchmarking the goals for disengagement. That is, what areas can be turned over to the Iraqi’s and when, what level of competence do the Iraqi security forces have to reach to be effective. The administration talks as if Zarqari etc… will take over the country if we leave, I don’t find that credible, what I do find credible is that the Sunni and Shiite factions will fall to fighting each other and the central government will collapse. Frankly, I don’t think there is much we can do about that without a whole lot more troops. In the end, it really is up to the Iraqis to keep the peace and govern themselves. This is where we needed to have a plan for the handover to an indigenous ruling party or oligarchy when we went in, even if that had required a semi-authoritarian group, we could have stage managed a more effective transition. Powell’s “pottery barn rule” has come back to haunt us in spades. The Iraqis desire order and security and the assurance of a civil society, we don’t seem capable of providing that by force of the arms we have there.

    I’ve been reading some of Thomas P.M. Barnett’s posts on his website. Barnett is a War College consultant with some big ideas about how our involvement in these nation building exercises will increase in the near future. He views the role of the marines as integral to these asymmetrical engagements. Goes back to his “Core vs Gap” analysis and globalization. Now, I have little use for a doctrine of preemptive war, I think that has something of the overtones of the Japanese attack on us at Pearl Harbor (if we were serious about preemption we would have nuked North Korea by now – but there are always more complicated repercussions to consider), and I’m not convinced that the candle is worth the price of the game as far as nation building is concerned. It all depends on the situation on the ground in that particular country. As you guys have heard me say before, I think we can have a muscular and resolute policy to attrit and hunt down these terrorists – but it takes patience, good intel and allies willing to play ball and even be bought off to allow us or our proxies to strike. We still need that overarching policy that doesn’t require us to blow up the house to kill the cockroaches.

  • Good, thoughtful comments, GO.

  • Always enjoy your comments, G. Oren… and I often find myself agreeing with you as well. I don’t know if that makes me a paleo-conservative (I actually often agree or am at least intrigued by Pat Buchanan’s political analysis right up until the moment when we espouses his own views) or you a “center-left” Democrat!

    And I could not agree more with regard to Barnett! I watched this guy give a speech late one night on C-SPAN and was absolutely riveted (geeky? yes… true? also yes). His ideas on “transformation” of how our military and specialized services need to meet the modern-day needs of our governmental actions make Rumsfeld’s Pentagon look downright “paleo.”

  • I’m gonna throw this out there…

    Warner/Bayh in 2008.

    Very strong centrist ticket, Scott. Will be very very interesting to see where the Democratic Party aligns and what the public in general will be looking for going forward.

    By the way, John McCain gave every appearance of a man who is going to run for president in ’08 during his Meet the Press interview this week.

  • Bennett and El B and G. Oren and Nancy and all others who have taken the time to compliment the column: big time thanks !

  • Just realized that El Bicho was complimenting G. Oren… thought GO meant “go!” … Nonetheless, I very agree!

  • Dave Nalle

    I never disagreed with Murtha’s assertion, though, and asked only why it seemed to be stronger in rhetoric than in action.

    I think you – and many others – may have misread the significance of Murtha’s statement on Iraq and his vote against the resolution. The fact is that Murtha is NOT against the war in Iraq, even at this date – at least not the larger war in the middle east. He just wants to move some of the troops out of Iraq proper and deploy them to deal with other problems in the region. If anything he wants to expand the war in Iraq to the entire region, but take it from a ground war to a war of rapid strikes against specific targets in many different countries. That’s why he voted against the resolution, because it was promoting a true pullout, when what he wants is a partial pullout and a change in focus. He didn’t make this entirely clear in his statement on the floor, but it was abundently clear in interviews after the fact, especially with Russert the following Sunday.

    Getting back to Murtha, is this someone the Democrats are trying to slate as one of their leaders?

    Not in a million years. They almost immediately started distancing themselves from him when they began to realize what he was really getting at.


  • I disagree — everything I’ve heard from Murtha indicates he wants a full pullout ASAP with the option of going back in to knock out terrorist camps. He even used the example in interviews of less convoys being just as vulnerable to attacks as more convoys in the Sunni Triangle.

  • EB,

    Sorry not to mention it before, but I do enjoy the column a great deal, especially in contrast to some of the other political articles that appear on site. You both should really look at sending it to other venues because it’s woefully needed in the world.

    I usually find the piece so well done that there’s nothing to add on my part. I think it’s a flaw many readers suffer. At least that’s what I keep telling myself in regards to my own commentless pieces.

  • Dr. Kurt

    I just want to ad one more piece of praise, gentlemen: your dialogues are terrific! This is how we learn – via respectful conversations. Keep ’em up, please.

  • Dave Nalle

    I disagree — everything I’ve heard from Murtha indicates he wants a full pullout ASAP with the option of going back in to knock out terrorist camps. He even used the example in interviews of less convoys being just as vulnerable to attacks as more convoys in the Sunni Triangle.

    You clearly didn’t hear him on Tim Russert discussing rapid deployment forces based in the middle east and keeping substantial forces ‘on the horizon’, as well as a gradual pullout from Iraq.


  • I bet we can resolve the difference between Dave and Eric be assigning dates to the respective utterances. As in, I bet the “immediate” rhetoric preceded the forced vote, while the more sensible gradual withdrawal talk came after that vote.

    I could be wrong, of course, but I’d be surprised. And if I’m right, then it lends a bit of support to the “political stunt” idea, eh?

  • Dave Nalle

    What day was the vote on Philip? As I recall the speech was on Tuesday and Russert was on Sunday. Was the vote between those dates?


  • G. Oren

    I think you are right on that Phillip.

  • The vote was back on November 18th, a Friday.

  • Rapid deployment and “on the horizon” basically mean “troops in the region” as I talked about in the original piece and the comments. I didn’t see him on Meet the Press (watched the whole segment with John McCain instead, which was very interesting) so maybe he’s changed his views on phased withdrawal.

  • That would likely be the Friday between his speech and Meet the Press on Sunday. He sure sounded hawkish on Meet the Press. I sadly didn’t get up early enough to catch McCain.



    If Sen. Murtha wants to pull trooops out but be able to use them to come back in and hit terrorist groups, then he is suggesting areturn to the stalemate situation in Iraq that existed throughout the ’90’s. We will lose a lot of credibility and a lot of hman intelligence by not being in Iraq itself. With no one to call on in the face of terrorist threats, intimidation and killing, the IRaqis who are cooperating with the Iraqi and American forces will either be killed or or be forced to cooperate just to survive. We will then lose a lot of information about what is going on within the country. Intel gathering is not like a Tom Clancy book, one satellite picture is rarely enough to launch an attack.
    As it is, as Iraqi forces slowly but steadily increase their presence and abilities, local tribal leaders are beginning to cooperate with security forces against insurgents. It will take time to brin these eforts to full fruition.

  • So how long would you keep the troops there, SFC? Forever, until we’ve “won,” five years, two years, 50 years, etc.?

  • Eric, the answer really should be “as long as it takes”, but too many people aren’t accepting that right now, even though it’s the only responsible answer to give.



    Personal opinion, 10 years. I felt tht was a good estimate at the beginning of this war, and I still feel that way. Do I think we will have to keep 130,000+ there for that length of time? No, again, personally, I think that a phased withdrawal, “we stand down as the Iraqis stand up” is the most likely, and best course of action. I believe, and I hope that I will be proved right, that US forces will withdraw after the elections in December, though how many I could not guess.
    One short note, even though Iraqi forces are taking significant losses, there are till Iraqis lining up to take the place of the fallen. If that isn’t making an effort, as some Americans say Iraqis need to do, I don’t know what is.

  • Well, the perception of the majority of the public is that not enough progress is being made and that there’s not a plan to either win or get out. So I think it’s fair and right that Congress is feeling that pressure now and talking about alternative courses of action.

    And I think it’s more than fair that when a person with gravitas of John Murtha stands up and says something about this war, that everyone should take pause and think about it.

    Anyway, thanks for your very fair answer, SFC. I’m very much willing to admit that I don’t know the answer to the question I posed. I will say that I’m upset by the number of casualties, particularly because I’ve disagreed with a slew of policy decisions that have led us up to this point.

    One further question: many feel that the US military cannot sustain the troop levels we have over there for much longer unless we do something drastic. I’m guessing for that reason and for political reasons, Bush will try very hard to drop the number of troops in Iraq to below 100,000 in 2006. That sound about right?


    While an outsider looking in might suppose that the military is being bled white by Iraq, it’s not entirely true as units in theater are eperiencing record high reenlistments, as I’ve written elsewhere. That isn’t to say that it isn’t taking its toll, or that it won’t affect retention and end strength; it does in many ways. That is the main reason that there is such a push to reduce troop levels in Iraq, to make it possible to rotate fewer troops more often, as necessary, as well as free up troops to handle other situations. Really, IMO the early ’90’s drawdown of the military was the result of wishful thinking “peace dividend” plans. Almost immediately, the operations tempo increased for post Desert Storm, specifically in tthe Balkans, but in many other global hotspots. To civilians, Iraq may look like a large scale movement of military personnel, but a career Soldier has probably spent most of his or her time in uniorm deployed somewhere other than the US. The name for this is OPTEMPO, and it has been an issue for over 10 yers now.

    As to progress being made, there is quite a bit; deposing a dictator and putting him on trial in front of his own countrymen, holding elections, drafting a constiution, improving infrastructure and believe it or not, security. One has to look at these events as a whole, rather than isolated incidents of bombings and such, to see that genuine progress has been made. Not to lay it at the feet of the MSM, but the “it bleeds, it leads” way of reporting news does overshadow almost all the positive, albeit gradual, progress being made.

    BTW, I relly liked this column, and I am glad that civiliy has been predominant throughout the comments.

  • When two different people talk about how long we should keep troops in Iraq, I tend to feel that they have two different ideas about what that means. I’ve mentioned before that when we invaded Germany and ended World War II, we faced insurgency and resistance from Germans which lasted for some time, and had the hatred of most German people to boot.

    And here we are, 60 years later, still with troops in Germany. Only these days it’s all about the chocolate and beer, and it’s considered a plum assignment.

    On that basis, we could keep troops in Iraq for 60 years. If it remains a fight against a building insurgency, clearly our political will cannot sustain that.

    I suspect that attacks will decline over time, and as they do, the American people will feel a little more optimistic about the situation in Iraq. Already as I pointed out above, more than 50% predict that we will succeed in bringing stability and democracy to Iraq, and that number may shrink before it grows, but I think it will eventually grow. I certainly don’t agree with Howard Dean, who claims that the idea that we will win the war is “just plain wrong.”

    Ski, thanks for your comments. It’s a bit embarrassing to have so many people write such glowing praise, but I too am glad that people have remained respectful in the comments. I think we make a lot of progress toward understanding when we remain civil!

  • I am more than a little late to the party here. Fellas, first rate job on the discussion again.

    Let me pick up on something I read in the comments here regarding the former senator, John Edwards. I am still astounded they chose a southern populist with at least some degree of charm and then didn’t run an add in his home state or anywhere else in the South.

    This past election was razor thin and I cannot remember a single John Kerry ad being run in the state of Alabama. If you know you can’t/won’t compete in the south than choosing a southern running mate is kind of pointless. I think Kerry was kind of forced into it against his will. I don’t think Edwards failed to deliver as much as he was prevented from even trying. Would he have succeeded? I doubt it. We’ll never know now.

    As to his 2008 chances… not sure. I think he is the type of candidate the Dems better run. Southeastern populists fare much better than NE Libs on a national basis.


    “Only these days it’s all about the chocolate and beer, and it’s considered a plum assignment.”

    You are right about that, it’s not the only reason I made the military a career, but it was a strong incentive. Given the choice between Gerany and a lot of the podunk military towns surrounding US bases, I know which I prefer.
    The next few years will see a big change in the number of US personnel in Germany, however. Surprisingly, some don’t enjoy the challenges of living in outside the US, but most people do enjoy their time overseas if they learn a few words to get around, and get out and experience all there is to see and do. I am sure I would not have seen 1/4th as much of Europe, or North Africa and the Middle East as I have seen if I had not been stationed in Germany.

  • Phillip — Your reasoning makes a lot of sense if we assume that an American presence in Iraq will generally lead to a more peaceful scenario. Many are not sure if that’s the case, and some conservatives even believe that our presence there is, over time, undermining the very security we’re trying to establish (I’m working on a piece on that topic right now, actually).

  • DJR — In a national campaign, every dollar spent is precious. The Democrats could have spent millions in a state like Alabama and still come up short. That said, Howard Dean as DNC has made it a priority to make Democrats — from local levels and on up — competitive in all 50 states. I think this is a marvelous strategy that will pay substantial dividends in 2006.

  • I agree with you, EB. I am not saying the Dems were wrong not to spend money in Alabama (or the rest of the south). I was just suggesting the Democratic ticket’s failure in the south really should not be seen as a reflection on John Edwards.

  • It’s a marvleous strategy, incidentally, but only if you can get people to buy what you are selling.

    My perception in a lot of corners is that Democrats just aren’t trusted in Alabama (won’t speak for the rest of the south, just my current home state). Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments battle and such all played out here in this state. There is a perception that Democrats hate Jesus and want to steal your money.

    The former is not even close to universally true, I have my suspicions on the second part. =) I am not trying to be inflammatory. I am trying to indicate Howard Dean and the Dems have a lot of work to make inroads in Alabama and I wager much of the south.

  • Yeah, I agree DJR, on Alabama and Dems and Edwards. I think Edwards has as good a shot as anyone of taking on Hillary Clinton from the left in ’08… and then moving into the center. Would he get blown out of the water by a McCain in the general? Yep.

    Incidentally, I like the language I hear from “the left” on religion these days. Linking the values of helping the poor, caring about fellow citizens, etc. will be effective, I hope, in bridging what is a serious divide between the parties on religious versus non-religious voters.

  • As a Christian, I like a lot of what I’m hearing from the “Religious Left” these days as well. For too long religious terms have been hoarded by hard-core conservatives and used to justify all manner of ill treatment, as well as some good things mixed in.

    DJ, in my experience the South has a lot of distrust of big government, and the Republicans are seen as the party of small government. I think Bush reveals that particular notion to be nonsense, but then again, both parties are riding pretty heavily on images and ideas from the past these days.

  • Interestingly, as a left-leaning non-religious Jew, I feel much warmer toward the “religious world” when I hear a variety of different voices talking about religion and values and politics.

    What’s funny about Bush is that he’s a hardcore Big Government Conservative! He likes to fund programs via debt, not taxes…

  • I am very excited about the prospect of a real discussion of national values (something along the lines of what I might have mentioned in a recent podcast). I think it would be good for the country if Democrats really did decide to engage Republicans in that debate.

    I agree with you, Phillip, but I think the mistrust is religion-based as much as government-based. Maybe that’s just because I suffered through the Moses Roy Moore story.

  • Along those same lines – wouldn’t it be an interesting presidential matchup in ’08 if it was Edwards or Warner against Guiliani? Being a southerner myself, I think that Guiliani would be seen by a large chunk of the voting population here as a big city liberal and voters would be much more inclined to support the Democrat.

  • Nancy

    Edwards/Warner vs Guiliani? Good Lord! That DOES blow my mind. Now, that would be a fun one to watch. But I’m 99.9999% sure McCain’s the one the GOP will be having to support in 08, even tho the current GOP/neos hate him. Even if Frist is exonerated, he’s out because there’s a whiff of suspicion still clinging to him, altho if the neoGOP insists, they might try to run him, or Jeb; but I do think it would be forcing too much down the throats of the moderates, who even now are champing at the bit at the way the neos on the far right have (in the view of the moderates) crippled the GOP by moving it so far right that it’s becoming demonized to way too many voters. Whatcha think?

  • G. Oren

    Nancy – IMO the neo-cons (otherwise known as neo-jacobins) have pushed us to the left on domestic policy. Their national greatness conservatism presumes an affinity for gov. spending and control that would make walter mondale proud. The rightward lurch you describe is better decribed as a bellicose foreign policy, now dressed up as a globaloney campaign for democracy – a Wilsonian idea, not a conservative one. So maybe the paradigm of what is left and right, conservative and liberal, are going through one of those periodic shifts?

    But to get to the practical point – Edwards and/or Warner would make good candidates in 08 – the dems need to nominate a moderate southerner who speaks in clear declamatory sentences – not a northeastern eastern liberal who talks in elliptical paragraphs. Another intriguing possibility is the return of Al Gore from the wilderness, he may look much more attractive as a candidate in 08 than he looked in 00 and 04? Echoes of Nixon. People already seem eager to move past the W years (can we fast forward past more dead rhetoric and blathering poses of toughness and resolve)and Gore reminds them of the good 90’s without the negtaives of Hillary. Meanwhile Hillary is trying hard to erase her negatives and convince people she is not from the land of fruits and nuts – ideologically speaking.

    The GOP’s choices will rise and fall with what happens in Iraq – W’s presidency will be defined by Iraq – so if things look pretty good in Iraq by the 3rd quarter of 07, those more closely associated with W’s views may look a litle better. Movement conservatives are uncomfortable with McCain, but there may be no movement conservatives left to support if Iraq falls apart – McCain is in the catbird seat because he has kept his integrity. He has supported the administration but in a way that emphasized his own judgement.

  • I think McCain currently is in the position Clinton was in six months ago i.e. far and away front-runner in the super prognosticating game we’re all playing. Things can change, but I think McCain is looking very strong, whereas Clinton’s position on the war and move to the center will open up a number of challenges.

    I maintain that conservative primary voters will ultimately reject Giuliani for his liberal social positions. McCain might be a “maverick,” in there view, but his conservative cred matched with his populist appeal will give him a sizeable advantage over the ex-mayor of New York City.

  • G. Oren, your take on the GOP is apt. I like to think of Bush as a Big Government Conservative, or a tax-and-don’t-spend conservative on my more partisan-leaning days. True, I’d love to rearrange that money into programs/policies that more suit my values, but that doesn’t change the facts.

    I agree also on Bush and Iraq — Katrina and even 9/11 will be secondary to how this war is seen in the rearview mirror down the road.

  • G. Oren

    A New York Republican is like a Maryland democrat – Guiliani may get high marks for his magt. of NYC and for not losing his cool on 9/11 – but that won’t take him far on the chicken fried steak circuit. By the way, after reading the 9/11 commission report, I’m not sure anyone in NYC did the right thing before and during 9/11, Guiliani may have done fewer wrong things – guess that makes him a hero in our degraded post-modern way of defining heroism. Guiliani might make a good showing if McCain doesn’t run and the rest of the field consists of folks like senator Allen. Newt Gingrich would stand a chance in that crowd.

  • McCain’s problem is he needs more support from his own party. The far right aren’t sold on him and may never be since he doesn’t simply toe the party line. Sure, it makes independents and even Democrats love him when he takes a stand in opposition to his own party, but it wins him no support among the right. So, I guess the question is: how far is McCain willing to go to get those folks into his corner? How can he appease the Republicans while still maintaining appeal to Independents and moderates? It will be an interesting balancing act.

    The same can be said of Guiliani. Being pro-choice and generally liberal on social issues will get him zero support among the conservative right. He does have support across the board, much like McCain, but the need to shore up his own party’s number is crucial. I dare say that he (and McCain) can’t win without it. So, how far right are they willing to go?

    Being from the south, I have witnessed first-hand how 85% of southern christians vote. They vote for the guy they perceive as being against abortion. Every election is a referendum on abortion for many of them. So, really, if you have Guiliani, a pro-choice Republican against Mark Warner or John Edwards (both of whom I assume are pro-choice) then you eliminate the issue with which the southern conservative christian decides for whom they will vote. They will either a)not vote at all or vote for a third party candidate or b)be much more likely to vote for a Democrat, particularly a moderate southerner. Something to ponder.

    Maybe this was a tangent but it just came to me.

  • Bliffle

    I don’t think McCain, Kerry or Gore has a chance, for one simple reason: no fighting spirit. It remains to be seen about Hillary, but I’m guessing she’ll fail The Test, too.

    GWB successfully bullied McCain, Gore and Kerry in turn without suffering a fight from any of them. They never laid a glove on him. He’s a successful street fighter and I think that is what US voters have wanted for several years. I think there is a perception abroad in the land that the US is a patsy with everyone taking shots at us and so the great Silent Majority voted for a guy with the effrontery to square his shoulders and start throwing punches. Call it paranoia, call it belligerence, call it what you like, I think a huge number of US citizens were and are ready to start batting someone around. And who better than Saddam Husein, the ugly nerd in anyones playground.

    McCain failed in the SC primary when GWB stood alongside some dope (named ‘Buckeley’ as I recall) who denounced McCain as cowardly and unamerican in Vietnam, and McCain failed to followup his mild gentlemanly rebuke with a hardhitting personal denunciation of GWB. He lost right there. Same with Gore, same with Kerry. I think if anyone of them had come out swinging at GWB we’d have a different president right now.

  • Nancy – IMO the neo-cons (otherwise known as neo-jacobins) have pushed us to the left on domestic policy. Their national greatness conservatism presumes an affinity for gov. spending and control that would make walter mondale proud. The rightward lurch you describe is better decribed as a bellicose foreign policy, now dressed up as a globaloney campaign for democracy – a Wilsonian idea, not a conservative one. So maybe the paradigm of what is left and right, conservative and liberal, are going through one of those periodic shifts?

    I have to point out that the great TR was not exactly opposed to a moderately aggressive foriegn policy where US interests were at issue, and a lot of relatively sane Republicans look to the Big Stick as an example. It’s not imperialism on the Neocon scale, but it’s not isolationism either.

    Another intriguing possibility is the return of Al Gore from the wilderness,

    Ah, is THAT why he grew a beard? He’s like an old testament prophet wandering in the wilderness?

    he may look much more attractive as a candidate in 08 than he looked in 00 and 04? Echoes of Nixon.

    Will he still be Gore?

    Movement conservatives are uncomfortable with McCain, but there may be no movement conservatives left to support if Iraq falls apart – McCain is in the catbird seat because he has kept his integrity. He has supported the administration but in a way that emphasized his own judgement.

    And with any luck we can indict or discredit or discourage the extremist republicans in the next few years and send them packing back to the democrats where they belong. But McCain still presents some problems because the fundies don’t like him and he’s a lot more conservative than some of the real moderates are comfortable with.


  • I’ve been how surprised at how much I’ve liked the post-2000 Al Gore. I think a spirited Gore, unhinged from pollsters and grizzled from what would be his fifth national campaign, could be a powerhouse nominee.

    Don’t forget that he won the popular vote in 2000 and it took the Supreme Court to put the presidency in hands of Mr. W. Bush.

  • G. Oren


    I like the TR example – walk softly and carry a big stick. W talk’s tough, uses our big stick, then what? I think we need the policy that is not squishy isolationism but engages all of our assets properly. We’ve learned a lot from the Iraq operation – let’s commit troops where we have the greatest chance for success. The key thing is it must be in the imperative interest of the U.S. to do so. We know how to defeat insurgents, we did it in the Phillipines a hundred years ago, but the in-country circumstances have to be right for nation building to succeed.

    Gore might present himself as a credible candidate – the dems might find him a good alternative, a known quantity – like Nixon in 68. Stranger things have happened, it all depends on him, but he’ll need to run away from Howard Dean and the anti-war crowd – run as a Southern moderate – he might even win Tennessee if he pulls that off.

    McCain has the negatives you point out, but I have a feeling the fundies are going to have a hard time agreeing on anybody this time around and the GOP as a whole will be quite chastened by the time the 08 campaign kicks off. McCain looks pretty good right now. On “Meet the Press” Sunday he certainly talked like a candidate – though he demurred on whether he’ll run or not.

    Bliffle – I remember the South Carolina campaign in 00, McCain did call out W in a nationally televised debate. He had copies of some of the scurillous literature that had been passed around the state by W’s underlings. W made a weak comment about that not being his position etc… McCain should have hit him harder, maybe. The damage had already been done to McCain among the fundies. Your comment about W’s fighting spirit, the people trusting him to be more solid in stopping terrorism etc.., how does that look now? And is it going to wash well with the public if another Republican tries to take the same tack? Remember too that W showed no such inclinations in the 00 campaign, if anything he sounded like he was less inclined to get us involved in peace-keeping nation building than Gore. Now we know the neo-cons had other ideas all along.

  • G. Oren


    Your point about southern christians (fundies) is well taken. Where will the South (and Ohio) turn, that will decide the primaries and the election in 08. Let’s say that former govenor of Montana runs – what’s his name Racicot (something like that). He’s young, reasonably intelligent and well-spoken, if he hits the right buttons with the fundies – who knows? The fundies will need to find someone like that, someone with no baggage (or easily explainable baggage), and someone who can credibly make a case for their ideas; with a fresh start. Former govenors have a better chance of being nominated and elected than senators have. I’m pondering too!

  • Dave Nalle

    I’ve been how surprised at how much I’ve liked the post-2000 Al Gore. I think a spirited Gore, unhinged from pollsters and grizzled from what would be his fifth national campaign, could be a powerhouse nominee.

    I think ‘unhinged’ is the key word here. But I agree that of the pack of weasels and creepy statists the Democrats have to offer Gore is the least unappealing.


  • Just because someone holds a passionate view that differs than your own doesn’t necessarily equate to “unhinged.”

  • G. Oren and Scott — I believe that both partes have a number of candidates looking to appease factions both at the center and the fringe. A bunch of GOP candidates will look to put the fundies in their pocket. Sen. Brownback is a perfect example of a likely contender who will go straight to the right (well, he’s already there of course) to try to lock in the activist social conservative vote.

  • Bliffle

    G. Oren,

    I saw the ENTIRE exchange between W and McCain recently on a TV reprise, and the effect was electrifying. McC rebuked W with “You should be ashamed George”, but W fought back vigorously with something like “Nobody can tell me what I am! Nobody can tell me I’m a rotten campaigner…”, etc. He rebuked McC FORCEFULLY and aggressively. And McC said NOTHING! He didn’t defend himself in the face of a blantantly phony attack! I was thinking “my god! if it was me I’d get nose to nose with W and tell him what a phony SOB he was to bring that idiot Buckeley on and attempt to defame a guy who spent 7 years being tortured by VC, refusing to take early release, and him , W, just a draft dodging ANG champagne unit dork”. Or words to that effect. McC lost the campaign right there by not demonstrating the courage and fight spirit that a president needs. How could you trust the guy to defend the US after that? W screwed McCs credentials! Without a whimper from the guy!

    The democrats, and potential rep primary candidates too, know McC is a HASBEEN! He’s finished! How can he resuscitate his rep. He’s not a fighter, he’s a stoic, and the citizenry wants a fighter and winner. Hell, I could beat McC in an election! I’ve already got half the qualifications: I’m an ANG draft dodger!

  • G. Oren

    Bliffle – I will yield to your more recent reliving of the event. My memory of the debate did not include much of a showing by W in response to McCain’s challenge – though I remembered he refused to apologize – which is what McCain was trying to mousetrap him into doing.

    Regardless, your premise is the “citizenry wants a fighter and a winner”. If that means they want bluster and big talk, then God help us, they want another cheerleader Prez who talks but refuses to think. My other point was that W showed no inclination to pugnacity in 00, remember he was the uniter-not-the-divider; If that had only been so (as it was here in Texas). IMO, W remains a caricature of himself as he was on say 9/15/01, he has adopted pugnacity as a policy, not just a pose, because it has been the only thing the public connected with him on – our instinctive reaction to the attacks of 9/11. That pugnacity is now, in my view, a liability, because we’re sick of hearing tough talk and cheerleading when we still haven’t brought Bin Laden to justice four years later.

    McCain may well be washed up as you say, but that is not my sense of things at the moment -he may well be too old by 08 (or feel to old) – we’ll see.

  • I think that in that debate McCain wanted to appear reasonable and not reactive and confrontational – a statesman like demanor – so he chose not to sink to Bush’s level. Clearly a major strategic error and one that could be corrected next time around, except that he’s going to be so damned old. Too old to run, IMO.


  • I disagree — I think that unless McCain hits a major health set back he’s going to run.

    I think John McCain, at this point, has the best chance to be the next President of the United States by at least a goodly margin.

  • MCH

    Re comment #81;
    “Hell, I could beat McC in an election! I’ve already got half the qualifications: I’m an ANG draft dodger!”

    No way Bliffle. Only the silver spoon phonies can get away with skipping out on two years of Guard meetings, and then 30 years later get away with sliming the patritism of a decorated combat vet and POW.

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