Thursday, December 28, 2006

Et tu, Snow White?

Check out this fantastically honest and charming article written by Peggy Orenstein in this past weekend's New York Times Magazine concerning the rise of the Princess nation (amongst the littlest ladies in the USA). Worth a read, on many levels. Look out, Chris!

Edwards and Upwards

Welcome, John Edwards. My admiration and support for the Senator is no secret. It's safe to say that he has come a long way in a short time in both the clarity and depth departments, from the first time I watched him wow the crowd from the center of the VFW Hall on a cold winter's night in Solon, Iowa, to his recent appearance on Hardball.

Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson turns out a great summary of Edwards' path from 2004 to his announcement today.

Unlike, say, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney (who e-mailed a defensive, Inside-the-Beltway reply to me after I complained to him about his 12-19 article) as the 2008 contest solidifies, my partiality will be out in the open. May the best candidate get the Dem nod. Obviously, this excludes Hillary (she's not a foregone conclusion, folks!).

Gerald Ford, rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back to the Future

In the "Person of the Year" Issue of Time (it's me...and you!) tiny Joe Klein hands in a short, obvious slice of journalistic homework handicapping the 2008 situation on the ground for Democrats in Iowa. Klein (with the help of the Davids Yepsen and Broder) posits that people in Iowa really like Edwards, no one really wants to actually vote for Hillary, and Obama was catching a wave of support even prior to his recent multi-media blitz (his Monday Night Football introduction was risky genius--if you missed it, here). Yepsen acknowledges that Iowans don't yet view Vilsack in a "presidential frame" (I bet it's a pretty frame...I wonder if its gilded?). Klein then insolubly suggests if Iowans deem out-of-towners too slick Vilsack could benefit (but I thought Iowans already liked Edwards?). Ah, well, who needs logic when you occupy such a small part of the magazine? Limited copy, limited deduction.

So after some "mainstream media" respect for Edwards' numbers in the first caucus state, we get this junk from Adam Nagourney in today's Times. Noting that Edwards' will most likely announce his candidacy next week in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Nagourney writes:

Democrats said his campaign was gambling that the television networks and cable news programs would find New Orleans a compelling setting in a week when they were desperate for news and when many Americans would be in front of their television sets, albeit looking for football more than politics.

Unconventional announcements are conventional for Mr. Edwards. In 2004, he made his announcement on Jan. 2. That, of course, didn’t work out so well for him.

Snarkiness aside, this last line is objectively untrue. Only in America, when a one-term Senator with a working class-to-riches life story runs for President, places a surprise second in the Iowa caucuses, becomes the Vice Presidential nominee of a major political party and then finds himself well-positioned for another run at the White House in 2008, could a "reporter" label this not "work[ing] out so well."

It's going to be a long race. Happy shopping.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me

With a terse David and Goliath metaphor as his guide, Senator Evan Bayh bowed out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination this weekend. Now, weeks ago when Governor Mark Warner gave a pass to the race this was easy to rationalize, but Evan Bayh had both the resume and cash to hit the ground running. What's with these guys? Suddenly the thick political oxygen of celebrity and donorship is thinning for white men, and they're fading into the wilderness faster than you can say, "Obama".

Most analysts suppose Bayh's Bye-Bye is good news for John Edwards, and I would agree. Hotline on Call suggests Edwards will become the only "crusader" in the field, although it seems pretty ridiculous to call a populist-tinged candidate a "crusader" while allowing religion-and-values-heavy candidates like W. in 2000 or Romney in 2008 the mantle of "reformer." Methinks the labels should be switched, and that Edwards' eventual mantra, should he run, will be much more in line with reform and realism than the stark moral "crusading" of men like Romney or Huckabee.

It's all in the labels.

It seems Hillary is making the TV talk-show rounds this week for the re-release of her book "It Takes a Village," now sporting a full-color photo of the Senator surronded by happy children. Does anyone else notice the irony in Hillary repackaging an old work rather than writing something fresh for public consumption? It takes a cynic.

Update: Political bravery delayed is good policy denied. She makes me sick.

In case you missed it like I did, here's a week-old Washington Post column from David Broder regarding Tom Vilsack, titled, "An Iowan You Should Know."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Out of Africa

If you have a spare moment amidst the holiday shopping this weekend, the article "Somalia’s Islamists and Ethiopia Gird for a War" in Thursday's Times is a riveting read. A whole world beyond the Middle East exists and needs our attention, respect and diplomatic nuance. Hopefully our next President will recognize the significance of this region.

I'm Humble, Just Ask Me

Arizona Senator and presumptive GOP Presidential candidate John McCain completed a trip to Iraq this week, and the New York Times aptly revealed what's really going on inside the Senator's head. A clue: all strategery, no genuine thoughtfulness. Tastes great, but truly less filling. Per the Times:

...Mr. McCain said personal ambition would not guide his Iraq policy.

“I take the position I’m taking with the full knowledge that only 15 to 18 percent of the American people agree with my position that we need more troops,” he said. Still, he said he supported the troop increase to stabilize the situation in Baghdad and other turbulent areas and give Iraqi leaders time to work out compromises to bring the Sunni insurgency and Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence under control.

The visit by Mr. McCain came at a time of disarray in Washington and across the United States over how to proceed in Iraq. Mr. McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is effectively doubling down his bet on the war, figuring that embracing a strong resolution in Iraq will give him an effective campaign cudgel. If the administration sends more troops, Mr. McCain can hope for a speedy resolution in Iraq that allows him to claim partial victory; if President Bush pulls back and chaos persists, he could contend that his advice was ignored.

Without a troop increase, Mr. McCain said at the news conference, “the results are going to be inevitable, in my view” — a defeat for America and for its Iraqi allies that would create a terrorist haven that could be used as a base for attacks in the United States.

He contrasted the situation with the Vietnam War, saying, “when we came home, the war was over.” But now, he said, Iraq’s Islamic militants “will follow us home” if the American effort fails.

Even Mr. McCain, a decorated Vietnam hero, acknowledged the perils of his approach. He described a troop increase as “the least bad option” and said it could cost him his shot at the presidency. “I happen to feel that I have to do what my many years of life involved in the military dictate to me,” he said. As if to emphasize his military credentials, he and other members of the delegation left Baghdad by helicopter after the news conference to fly to an embattled Marine base at Ramadi, 85 miles west of the capital, which is considered one of Iraq’s deadliest places.

Least bad option. Could cost him his shot. Must do what his many years involved in the military dictate. What a brave man! McCain is recommending an option that is completely at odds with the weary nation, next-to-impossible from a personnel standpoint, and short-sighted by failing to recognize the failures of the past 5 years--and he wants all of us to be grateful at his courage to be self-consciously disingenuous? Perfect.

This guy is so brazenly transparent, his power grabs make Hillary look like a principled leader.

Over the Hillary

Great, early news on the ground in Iowa for John Edwards, who continues to consolidate his support among caucus-goers. Most of the media has chosen to focus on Edwards' front-runner status, but the more interesting aspects of this poll are Obama's hard number (13%) and Hillary's decline since the last poll (from 26% to 16%). To focus on the Hillary issue, it seems that this new poll displays not only how weak her support is when it comes to actual voters, but also that after all this time in front of the nation, Iowans at least aren't buying what she will most likely be selling. As for Vilsack, the single digit showings don't help much.

This Alfonse D'Amato quote from a Friday New York Times article seems misdirected and more applicable to Senator Barack Obama and not D'Amato's object of affection, Ms. Clinton: "“My Republican colleagues would do well to take notice of a very focused, energetic, organized, articulate, bright senator who, if she does run for president, should be taken as a very, very serious candidate.” Change the "she" to a "he" and you've got a truism (again, someone all about that Clinton "energy"...please, stop, please). Also note that D'Amato actually believes Giuliani would run as McCain's VP on the GOP ticket. Evidence of delusions? Perhaps D'Amato has seen a submissive side to Rudy no one else has...

An obvious link from the Huffington Post, but a significant glimpse into the fact that the Obama's actually live in the real world (unlike, that "energetic" Hillary!). A quote from Obama:“Being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option... Now I will tell you, this is something, this is one of the least-attractive — not the part about being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option. But even just having a security apparatus around you; one of the things that I have been very proud over the last several years, is, for all the hoopla, I am not an entourage guy. . . I have been accessible, and Michelle and I have gone out of our way not to change our habits. Even if I am not to run for president, the crush of attention has created a different set of problems.”

Hopefully polls like this from the Wall Street Journal are reflecting America's true collective wisdom. The poll notes that "eight in 10 Americans would be 'comfortable' or 'enthusiastic' about an African-American or woman running for president," and also notes that if you want to be elected President in 2008, it's worse to be connected to the Bush Administration than to be gay.

An excellent quote from Chris Matthews this week, an aside the host made to his live Hardball audience during a break from taping a show with Senator John Edwards: "This is not hardball, this is batting practice. This guy is killing me. He couldn't do this four years ago."

Sounds like 2004 taught at least one Democratic nominee how to better communicate his message. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Edwards on the scene.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"But does he know how to sing it?"

At least UN AmbASSador John Bolton is consistent in his inability to be a diplomat. After attending a farewell dinner held at the White House for outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Bolton snidely joked that, "nobody sang 'Kumbaya.'" While a "joke," Bolton's comment is a clear window into why our nation's foreign policy is a disaster. President Bush has a knack for finding white guys with the distinct capacity for heaping scoops of hubris on top of ignorant indecency. Annan's laughing comment after being told Bolton's joke is a window into exactly how to handle these W. acolytes, and also the man's character: "But does he know how to sing it?"

Slate's John Dickerson trailed Obama in New Hampshire this weekend and filed a concise, interesting take on the visit and the choice facing the junior Senator from Illinois. In an age when our greatest sports stars enhance their performance with chemicals, when pop musicians are explicitly manufactured, and scripted television shows actually get called reality, it might be time to acknowledge charisma and clear-headed eloquence have been undervalued in American politics for too long, and that "experience" is too often a double-edged sword.

On the opposite end of this spectrum, the man with the most impressive and painfully excessive experience in American politics has not ruled out a run in 2008. I won't be the first to say this is an inconvenient truth for for Hillary and Barack, however far-fetched.

Ah, Dennis Kucinich returns to tag along. On one hand, why not, and on the other, kind of pathetic.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926-2006

One of my favorite professors my senior year at Georgetown was former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who taught a course on styles of political leadership throughout history. Ambassador Kirkpatrick was often late, but once she arrived and took her chair at the front of the classroom, the lectures began in her low, throaty voice with phrases like, "One time I was talking with King Hussein of Jordan, and he said..." I also remember she sometimes wore a bright pink raincoat, a choice that seemed so out-of-character it was a delight. Jeane was an intelligent, classy, respectful and serious woman and will be missed.

Sunday Morning Pick: Read a Book

Meet the Press: Like everyone but Stephanopoulous, Russert is stuck with James Baker and Lee Hamilton, a duo who's passive recommendations will help Iraq probably about as much as Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton's aggressive recommendations assisted the nation's fight against terrorism. Word is that Lee Hamilton will soon publish his book, "Ignored Commission Recommendations Greatest Hits" sometime next year. A group of old white guys will also stop by to discuss the Study Group findings. Next.

This Week with George Stephanopoulus: A little better, but not much. Senator Joe Biden and Senator Gordon Smith (I know...who?) will stop by to give their two cents on the Study Group recommendations. This is followed by a roundtable with the regulars, including George Will and Cokie Roberts who will both, I'm sure, find a way to say something politically tone-deaf and insulting about someone in the Democratic Party.

Face the Nation: Baker & Hamilton regurgitate further thoughts to the echo chamber. Senators Carl Levin and Trent Lott also stop by to discuss how Michigan and Mississippi do not have the same abbreviation. Or do they?

Fox News Sunday: Third tier all the way. More from Baker & Hamilton. Senators Christopher Dodd and Sam Brownback bask in the faint 2008 glow while they still can.

Enjoy this old picture of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Selling Out, in the Good Sense

Go, Obama, go.

Go, Richardson, go.

Anyone but Hillary.

Red Corner

In a stern editorial discussing the Iraq Study Group's "Report" today, The New York Times aptly notes that, "The world has watched as Mr. Bush painted himself into a corner and then insisted it was a strategic decision." Not only does this apply to Iraq, but it also describes the base-pandering Republican Party as molded by Karl Rove. Evidence of this Rovian Red Corner-painting is found in today's interesting column from Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post who writes:

Following the gospel according to Rove (fear not swing voters but pander to and mobilize thy base), George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, together or separately, had already blocked stem cell research, disparaged nonmilitary statecraft, exalted executive wartime power over constitutional niceties, campaigned repeatedly against gay rights, thrown public money at conservative churches and investigated the tax status of liberal ones. In the process, they alienated not just moderates but Western-state libertarians.

Since sneaking into the White House in 2000, the Republicans took a gamble that moderates weren't needed to win or perhaps didn't even exist--recall that recently Bill O'Reilly told an Oprah audience that "there is no center" in American politics--but the reality is that most Americans are comfortable with centrist policies, not only because compromise is the lifeblood of democracy and helps move policy forward, but because we all have to live together every day. Extremism complicates and interferes with our daily lives, not thoughtful compromise.

Have you noticed how blithely revisionist some folks are when it comes to the independent bid for the Presidency made by Ross Perot in 1992? After all that hype and free press surrounding the Texas billionaire, Perot only garnered 19% of the popular vote, respectable for certain, but hardly within the realm of victory. If anything, Perot nudged Bill Clinton closer to the White House. New York magazine sure thinks Michael Bloomberg is the cat's meow. Discontent might be high in 2008, but I don't think that a 3rd party led by Bloomberg is the answer to our nation's problems.

I have always contended that McCain is no maverick. All recent evidence suggests he'd sell his soul to be Commander-in-Chief, and now he has the perfect guy lined-up to run his campaign: Terry Nelson, the man behind those race-baiting anti-Harold Ford ads in the Tennessee Senate race.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Free Time: Party Twins, Rudy's Dictatorship Tendencies & Obama

Michael Kinsley writes an excellent and original main page article for Slate about the Bush twins and their failure to weigh in on the war created by their father. Kinsley writes:

Living your life according to your own values is a challenge for everyone, and must be a special challenge if you happen to be the president. No one thinks that the president should have to give up a child to prove that his family is as serious about freedom as these other families he praises. But it would be reassuring to see a little struggle here—some sign that the Bush family truly believes that American soldiers are dying for our freedom, and it's worth it. Who knows? Maybe they have had huge arguments about this. Maybe George and Laura wanted the girls to join the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps, or do something that would at least take them off the party circuit for a couple of years. And perhaps the girls said no. But I doubt this scenario, don't you?

Cintra Wilson of Salon offers up a true and important aspect of Rudy Giuliani often overlooked--that while Mayor of New York City he was an excessively authoritarian, egotistical leader. She notes:

On 9/11, all Americans were frightened children, and in a moment of mythic personal heroism, Mayor Giuliani filled the gaping leadership void. The president looked like a petrified chimp; Cheney was spirited to an underground bunker. Only Giuliani could pull himself together sufficiently to get on TV in the midst of the wreckage and show America that a grown-up was still breathing. On that terrible day our reptile brains looked at Rudy Giuliani and said, "We're OK now. Daddy's home."

And we forgot, some for a moment, some permanently, that Daddy was psycho.

Markos at the Daily Kos writes a provocative piece all-but endorsing Barack Obama for President. The piece pretty much proves why restraint is often best in political journalism, because Markos plays his hand a little too much and comes across as a lazy amateur in the process, i.e. assuming Vilsack will win Iowa which is plainly ridiculous. Kos writes:

Again, we don't know what the final field will look like, so things can dramatically change. But an entrance into the race would make Obama the prohibitive favorite. If politics is about seizing opportunities, it would seem a no-brainer for him to enter the race now.

What's more, Obama would then be tough to beat in the general. He would very well be the favorite in that race, even against a McCain, and would probably be a net positive for Democrats running down the ballot. So it wouldn't be a terrible thing by any means.

I agree it wouldn't be a bad thing, but Kos' piece proves pundits are feeling the pressure to stake out territory with their predictions and fast. The bottom line is that a lot can happen tomorrow, let alone one year from tomorrow. We don't even know who's running yet. Stay tuned.


A tasty morsel of hope in today's New York Times: Barack Obama is acting more and more like a candidate, giving well-attended speeches and meeting with possible donors. Some key graphs:

One of the donors who met with Mr. Obama, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend Mrs. Clinton, said that he and several others had supported Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaigns but were not committed to her as a presidential candidate.

“I like Hillary a lot, but I’m also impressed with Obama — his message, the way he connects to people,” said the donor, a prominent New York business person. “It’s a little too early for Democrats to be certain that Hillary is the strongest bet for 2008. There are a lot of good people interested in running.”

Agreed. But this passage takes the cake:

John Catsimatidis, a loyal Clinton donor, said he had recently received a phone call from Mrs. Clinton asking to have dinner before the holidays. He believes she wants to run for president and is moving to ramp up her Senate fund-raising operation for a White House campaign.

“I think they have a phenomenal political machine set up that’s far superior to any of the other candidates, or theoretical candidates,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “Now they’re getting ready to put that machine to use.”

Oh yeah, nice machine! Too bad it's a machine with no voters involved! I don't know anyone who supports Clinton. When I ask folks out here in California about her, all I get is variations of a grimace.

Speaking of variations of a grimace, it looks like the response to Senator Kerry's "botched joke" (which I sincerely believe was a simple mistake) has knocked Kerry off course when it comes to an '08 run. His previous plan to decide early in 2007 has been pushed to Spring. Even Nixon had to wait two cycles before his White House comeback. But I suspect Kerry's chance at a comeback will never come back.

Even more hope on the 2008 front: Senator John Edwards appeared on CBS Sunday Morning over the weekend, showing off his new home in North Carolina, discussing his new book, and generally reminding me why he should not be counted out this time around. His genuine focus and confidence were evident; Elizabeth looked great and back to full form as well. Here's a link from the CBS website detailing the appearance that includes some clips from the show. Within the last few days, Edwards also snatched up former Michigan Congressman David Bonior as a senior advisor--a solid move in step with Edward's consistently populist behavior since his 2004 loss.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What's In a Name

In late 1999, First Lady Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University and I was in the audience. The topic of the speech is anyone's guess. I forgot the substance of the talk the moment my person exited Gaston Hall and returned to the sidewalks of campus. My memory of the speech consists of one blunt and simple concept: through-the-motions.

Almost seven years later, now that the First Lady is a twice-elected junior Senator from New York and is slowly assembling the framework for a run at the White House, I am revisiting that concept and hereby making it the foundation for my vigorous opposition to her candidacy for the Presidency.

Where the heck has Hillary Clinton been for the past seven years?

No, really. I'm dead serious. Where has Hillary been? I'll tell you where: going through-the-motions. Sure, sure, everyone in Hillary's inner circle will leap up to tell us what a diligent and thoughtful legislator she is, how dogged and detailed her approach to policy is, how careful and responsible she maps out her myriad positions. My response to this is: so what? Where has she been?

In the past seven years our nation has entered an incomprehensible and endless war that Hillary Clinton supported and only grew stern against once it was too late and even then only when the cameras were rolling. In the past seven years, our federal government policy has completely reversed any middle class economic gains initiated by Hillary's husband and even worse has compounded the gains for those in the tree-top upper class, those who know of wealth but little of work. In the past seven years, evangelicals and Christian conservatives have hijacked the social atmosphere of the nation, pushing their way into our bedrooms and classrooms and pocket books. As soldiers died in the name of energy dependence, as our elderly got ensnared in a Big Pharma giveaway prescription drug plan for Medicare, and as American children have remained stuck in underfunded and over-tested classrooms, these moral crusaders have used a puppet Congress to target and attack and turn the nation againt groups ranging from homosexuals to women to immigrants. And in the past seven years our President has insulted our intelligence, lied to our faces, and refused to be held accountable or hold any of his comrades accountable for deep and latent mistakes.

So where was Hillary?

I don't care about her well-written policy speeches on the Senate floor or her grandstanding questioning of Don Rumsfeld or her chidingly mild and useless words on the President's bold grabs at power. What I care about is hearing a counterbalancing force in American politics. An angry voice. A blunt voice. A non-triangulating, non-focus-group-tested, non-cynical voice.

We've heard Hillary, because yes, she's been talking. But she has said nothing to defend us, not when it counts, and not with a loud, clear shout.

This country deserves a woman President, and soon. But not Hillary. She has not stood up for any of us. She has only stood up for herself.

Sunday Talk Re-Cap: Who's on First

Due to odd L.A. programming for CBS Sunday morning, I was unable to follow my own advice, and only caught This Week (as well as the great Frank Rich column). This was the first glimpse of Evan Bayh that I've had, and I suppose two things struck me: he's calm and smart, and his voice is kind of radio-announcer-y. We'll see what happens with him. Vilsack also seemed calm and smart but his makeup was weird (red lips?) and it distracted me overall. The lame-o panel afterwards quickly wrote Vilsack off due to his lack of "passion" but I'm not sure what they expect; I doubt modern political passion requires full-throated zaniness, a la Howard Dean or Al Gore 2.0. Besides, when John McCain speaks he has the enthusiasm of a rural banker opening a savings account and no one seems to question his passion (or question him, period). And I don't think Hillary Clinton has any real passion beyond her trademark snark. Whatever though, right--at this early stage the pundits are at their weakest zenith in terms of power-- what matters most is signing up talent and raising the funds.

Here's an interesting devil's advocate take on why Vilsack's road to D.C. is a bumpy one.

One evening as a Congressional page I was leaving the Hart Senate office building and I stood in line at the ATM behind a staffer for Senator Brownback. The Senator stood waiting nearby, holding some dry-cleaning. He casually struck up a conversation with me asking where I was from, etc. He was friendly and very sincere. It's too bad his brand of theocratic conservatism has no place in American democratic governing, now matter how genuinely held his values are. However, I suspect Brownback will be able to participate in the primaries for a while, occupying the true Far Right corner once warmed by the tired persona of George Allen.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sunday Show Pick: Face the Nation

Meet the Press: Big yawn, here. I'm definitely sleeping in. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Sens. John Warner and Carl Levin, and former President Jimmy Carter. I wonder which one will wear the most colorful tie. That'll be the extent of the excitement on this one. Oh, and as an aside, I thought Tim Russert's interview last week with my Governor, Arnold the Tan, was ridiculous. As a double aside, I did not comment on Russert's interviews with Senators-elect Jon Tester and Jim Webb two weekends ago because the whole show was insulting. I don't even think Tim prepares for interviews with Democrats. His follow-ups are so passive aggressive it's sad. If I have to hear him ask one more Democrat what "redeployment" means... Anyway...

This Week with George Stephanopoulos: OK, double bookings are just lame. Surprise! George hosts Stephen Hadley. BUT George also has taped segments with Senator Evan Bayh and Governor Tom Vilsack. Maybe I'll TIVO this one. I wish the Bayh interview was live, but oh well. At least this show will try to be newsworthy.

Face the Nation: OK, triple bookings are just useless. Why even have these shows? Lord. Is everyone interesting busy? So you know the drill-- Captain Camera-Hog Stephen Hadley appears with Host Bob to spout the Party line about how Iraqis will stand up, we'll stand down, and how W. is God. Then we have much more interesting guest Senator Chuck Hagel, who may drop some hints about his 2008 plans. But, just to remind us that too much pleasure is a bad thing, we get to listen to oh-so-self-obsessed Joe Lieberman of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party talk about how pretty he is. Oy vey.

Pick: Face the Nation, with the Lieberman segment on mute. Cracker Watch: 24

December 1, 2006, 232pm PST:

Crackers: 24
African-Americans: 2 (!)
Actress Eva Mendes: 1
Yellow Blow-up Seal: 1

Outside Sources

The Washington Post's White House Briefing from Dan Froomkin is a tad heavy-handed, but a good summary of just why the evolution of our nation's Iraq policy no longer involves the President of the United States. The best quote comes from James Fallows, who contends that when it comes to where we go from here, "the choice is between a terrible decision and one that is even worse."

That's kind of how I felt about the 2004 election.

Slate's Fred Kaplan provides even more reasons why the Iraq Study Group is a bad idea in theory. He begins his piece noting:

Judging from the advance leaks and previews, the Baker-Hamilton commission's upcoming report on Iraq will do exactly what these blue-ribbon salvage jobs are meant to do: a) Stake out a position halfway between the president and his critics without fully satisfying either; b) provide "bipartisan" cover for both sides to shuffle toward middle ground; and yet c) sidestep the central question, which is too unsettling for anyone to face and which can still be kicked down the road for a bit, to everyone's relief.

I think that Kaplan's (c) is 100% correct. Bad students love to procrastinate! What did Ellen DeGeneres once say? "Procrastination is the answer to all of our problems. Procrastinate now. Don't put it off."

ABC's Note provided fair coverage to Iowa Governor Vilsack's presidential announcement today. The Note does point out why Vilsack's climb is steeper than ever, citing that, "Coverage of Vilsack's announcement by the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood seems to say more about Sen. Obama than it does about Gov. Vilsack. 'The person with the greatest chance of altering the race appears to be Sen. Barack Obama . . . whose message of hope and optimism has created a political sensation.'

Nothing like a level playing field...