Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2008 Democratic Analysis

While fatigue and frustration resulting from the seemingly endless election cycle we’ve been in since about 2005 have dissuaded me from following the 2008 developments too closely, I figured I’d at least give my early view of the Democratic field since I did catch a bit of last night’s “YouTube” debate. I enjoyed the format, and hope we move closer and closer to real people asking questions and holding the candidates accountable for their typically evasive answers. Now, on to the list, starting with front-runners….

Jane Doe” – a shoe-in – she worked in the executive branch for 8 years and knows the ins and outs of White House politics. She’s a second-term Senator who has garnered support from members of the opposite party in a non-native state. Politically savvy and tough, she has a strong yet amicable personality that endears more and more voters who meet her. But wait – her name isn’t Jane Doe, its Hillary Clinton – and as a result, talk turns to “electability” instead of “inevitability.” Suppose it’s too late in her life for a name change?

Barack Obama – speaking of too late in life for a name change, the man whose name is one letter off from “Osama” is doing remarkably well given his inexperience. That said, he’s a fresh face with a resume eerily similar to Abraham Lincoln, who turned out to be a remarkable president in a time of crisis. He’s got good ideas, charisma, and the common touch that a lot of politicians lack. He’s forcing this nation to reopen the dialogue about race, an issue that still touches nerves on so many levels. Win or lose, he’s not going away and the weight on his shoulders is much more than that of most other presidential candidates, for better or worse.

John Edwards – Still has the common touch, but running for president for six years straight does not count as experience. If he’d held off in 2004 and won reelection to his Senate seat, he’d be a serious threat. The failure of Kerry-Edwards will hurt him in the long run, and the slew of stronger, more experienced candidates will keep him from breaking through. Name recognition alone is keeping him going at this point.

Joe Biden – The opposite end of the spectrum from Edwards. Probably the most knowledgeable guy in the field and he actually comes across as a straight talker in spite of spending over half his life in the Senate. He may have been the nominee in 2004, but the 2008 field is strong and crowded. Biden would be well served to play nice and prepare to be the next Secretary of State; he would be a sound choice for a President from either party.

Bill Richards – Another would-be nominee from 2004, his résumé is tremendous and he’s more than qualified for the spot. His personality is keeping him out of the top tier, and the debates aren’t helping. Another great cabinet member for any future president.

Dennis Kucinich – An important candidate, not because he will win the nomination but because he forces the field to reconcile with the liberal base of the party, all the while standing on pure ideological principle. His courage is to be admired, even if some of his views are “fringe.”

Mike Gravel – A less chipper version of Kucinich, he still brings some interesting insights to the debates.

Chris Dodd – good ideas, lots of experience, but it doesn’t seem that this is the year for old, white men in the Democratic Party. Maybe he should run as a Republican – they like them exclusively and seem to be more and more open to “moderates”…

Al Gore? – would be top-tier if he joined, but he seems to be enjoying his retirement, writing books and making movies in order to irritate Republicans and force the Democrats to focus on environmental issues. However, he’s still young; if the Dems fail in 2008, watch out for them to turn to their favorite martyr in 2012.

For the record, I’m still “undecided,” in part because it seems like the people of Iowa and New Hampshire get to decide for me. Something needs to change in the primary system. That said, I think the Democrats have a strong field overall, and suspect that the Vice-Presidential candidate will again come from within the existing field. Things should get much more interesting as fall turns into winter.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Time to Go

While its been too long since my last post (approaching a year, so it seems), today I felt the pressing need to publish my thoughts on the Iraq matter, to articulate them to the best of my ability. Since it became rather lengthy and I feel all parts are vital, I will not risk sending it to any newspapers. So, in conclusion, horray for the internet.

Call it flip-flopping if you must; I’d call it evolution of thought, a change of ideas based on facts, contemplation, and evidence collected over time. Though I’ve resisted my liberal tendencies thus far, I can no longer continue to support our massive troop presence in Iraq. It is time to bring our men and women home, to refocus our efforts back to the real war on terror, to find Bin Laden and bring him to justice, and to play nice with our allies once again in order to deal with growing threats around the world.

Recommitting and refocusing on the war on terror necessitates that we leave a small force in Iraq to deal with the Al Qaeda threat that has developed since our invasion, though many of the groups that claim alliance do so just for the hope of financial support from the worldwide group. While we need to make sure Iraq does not become a haven for international terrorism, most Iraqi nationals do not want these outsiders there any more than they desire a continued American presence. Many “insurgents” tolerate the terrorists because they have a common enemy in what they view as a much more powerful occupying force. Still, a select group of American Special Forces could probably see to this issue and greatly diminish the image that we are there for permanent plunder.

Up to now, I have relied on the fear and the belief that if we left, Iraq would descend into total chaos. Everyday in the news, I see evidence that such a state of affairs already exists, and that the risk of it increasing is in no way diminished by a massive American presence. The “surge” might have worked if we had done it in earnest or earlier in the conflict; however, a creeping surge this late in the game was ill-fated from the start and should not be allotted much more time to fail; the lives of our soldiers are too valuable for that. While I would like nothing more than success or, at the very least, a clear change in Iraqi fortunes, increasing our numbers merely served to reinforce the idea that we are there for good, creating more enemies and catalyzing even more chaos, which is seemingly the only true force dominating the nation as a whole at this time.

Quite possibly, Iraq may break apart if we leave; it may also break apart if we stay, as support for the Americans is yet another issue that divides rather than unites the Iraqis. At the very least, a greatly decreased U.S. presence will force the hand of the Iraqi government either into the success that we cannot create for it or final failure, perhaps leading to something new and better. We simply cannot divine the future – but we cannot control it even if we are there. As such, the risks to our troops simply outweigh the benefits.

Risk – a word with new meaning since 9/11; a recent report stated that the terror threat from Al Qaeda has grown yet again and that they are preparing another attack on the United States. The war in Iraq has not diminished or even really addressed this threat. Rather, it has taken our eye off of the ball; we live in risky times and cannot afford further distraction. As Russia seems content to escalate old tensions, Pakistan continues to refuse to fully cooperate against the Taliban and the hunt for Bin Laden, Iran and Turkey threaten to expand the Iraq conflict into a regional war, North Korea remains unstable, genocide continues more or less unchecked in Darfur – the threats to international peace are everywhere, including within our own borders. With all of our resources tied up in Iraq, how can we expect to act as a superpower and world leader? How can we meet the needs of our own people and deal with our own domestic challenges as we struggle to do so for a nation whose prime minister already told us that we are “free to leave”?

And so, while my support for our troops, our brave men and women in uniform remains unwavering (and should not be questioned because of my position, but alas, we live in an area where the patriotism of all dissenters is doubted), I can no longer support their massive presence in Iraq. The time has come for us to go and to bring our soldiers home, to disengage them from a dangerous civil war where the mission is unclear, the end game undefined, and the original purpose blurred by years of changing platitudes emulating from President Bush and his cronies who dominate our foreign policy and have steered it down a reckless and self-aggrandizing path.