Thursday, November 29, 2007


With a continuing war in Iraq, a never ending struggle to secure Afghanistan, a looming clash with Iran and the on going “war on terror”, conventional wisdom would have us believe that Americans would be yearning for a candidate with strong credentials in foreign policy. However poll after poll – on both sides of the aisle – have shown voters’ support for foreign policy/military affairs neophytes.

The democrats have Hilary Clinton trying to pass her husbands successes as her own: they have Barack Obama arguing that the time he spent out of the country (ages 6-10) was foreign policy experience, and John Edwards barely mentions foreign policy issues This while foreign policy heavyweights Bill Richardson (former U.S. ambassador to U.N. and negotiator); Joe Biden (long time Senator and leader of Foreign Affairs committee, who has one of the most detailed plans for dealing with the Iraqi situation) and Chris Dodd, languish in the poll basement.

On the Republican side you have a man who has tried to use his admirable response to 9/11 (domestic), to overcome his paltry foreign policy credentials. Then there is Romney who relies on blaster as his only credential (seriously: “double the size of Guantanamo”) and former Arkansas governor, who rarely mentions foreign policy, except may be for the Jihadists. This while John McCain (Vietnam vet, former chairman of Senate Armed Services and supporter of the Iraq surge) and Duncan Hunter (former marine and head of the House Armed Services committee) can’t get any poll love.

In an election dominated by matters of national security, it boggles the mind when those with the greatest experience in such matters are totally discounted. Wonders never cease.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


In recent history of American politics, and in particular Democratic party politics, there have been two strategies to dealing with controversy: deal head on and counter attack; or ignore lest you give credence to attacks.

In 1992 the Clinton campaign epitomized the former, the development of the War Room, led by James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, served as a campaign rapid fire response team, dealing with scandals as they came and counter attacking. By responding quickly, they were able to capture the initiative, control the stories and minimize the effects of scandal. Moreover, they were able to change the topic back to the issues of the day rather quickly.

The 2004 Kerry campaign response to the “swift vote veterans for truth” ads is an example of the latter (ignore lest you legitimize attacks). The Kerry campaign never did effectively deal with the scandal, instead allowing the Swift Boat vets allegations to permeate the public consciousness and undermine what was one of Kerry’s strengths: his military service.

The recent ODM/Muslim MoU debacle seems to fall in the latter category. After the initial controversy bust into public consciousness (with attendant ‘fake” copies of the MoU) the ODM camp put forth a weak defense with no specifics and only promising to publicize the MoU at a later date. Raila allowed the issue to permeate the public consciousness and gave its opponents ample opportunity to use rumor and innuendo to undermine his candidacy. The recent release of the “innocuous” MoU was – as the EA Standard reported – anti-climactic, there was no bombshell clauses about majimbo, or Islam being the only true religion etc. Moreover, the ODM team pointed out that Kibaki had signed a similar MoU in the 2002 election cycle. What a downer.

What should have been at most a one-week non-controversy was allowed to metastasize into a large-scale religious conflagration, giving rise to fears of religious favoritism and distracting from the real issues of the day. The seemingly innocuous nature of the recently released MoU leads one to question ODM’s tactical judgments, and though they hope the controversy will die, many will wonder why it took so long, and what they were hiding. This is a situation that would have called upon the ODM strategists to quell the fires before they spread too far, now it’s too late. the damage has been done.

Religious Tests: Romney and Mormonism

Forty seven years ago while he was running for the presidential election, John F Kennedy so it fit to address an issue that had been bedeviling him for a while, his religion. Mr. Kennedy in that famous speech did not defend his church’s beliefs or discuss its views on policy, but defend that his right – as an American – to run for office irregardless of his religion: If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.”

The argument made by JFK then, should apply to Mitt Romney today, however Romney should not have to make a speech to justify his candidacy. JFK’s speech should have been enough to quell all future discussions of religious tests: And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.”

Romney should let his record and the “real issues” rule the day; a speech on Mormonism will not assuage that fears of those (a minority) who are concerned about it and may just serve to distract from the real issues of the day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hilary Clinton's Experience

Over the past couple of days there has been a lot of chatter about Clinton's continued attacks on Obama's inexperience. Whenever Obama is mentioned by the Clinton camp, the words inexperienced, not ready or some version of the same is attached. First it was his response to "republican dirty tricks", then it was his economic inexperience and last his lack of foreign policy experience (except living in a foreign country from ages 6 to 10). Obama's response to the economic argument was right on: “My understanding was that she wasn’t Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, so I don’t know exactly what experiences she’s claiming.” She has little to no experience on economic issues and as Maureen Dowd notes, is betting the success of her husband. Mitt Romney has been harping on this for a while now, and it is a line of attack that could work against Clinton, the democrats should not allow her to pass of her husbands successes as her own. And Obama should continue to hit her on that.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sports Weekend of Half Victories.

On Friday I professed to my buddies that this would either be one of my worst sporting weekend, or the best. Two of my favorite football teams (American that is) were in line for what would arguably be their most crucial tests of the season. Both had unbeaten records (both 8 - 0), were ranked amongst the best teams in the country, and going in to hostile territory against teams ranked just below them on the tables.

So Saturday comes and I am prepared for the worst, my college team finds itself playing an early game (for some reason they never perform well before 7 pm) and having to come back from an early 21 – 3 deficit (seriously that opposing QB matched his team down the field with ease, three touchdowns in their first three possessions. Those folks shouting for him to be a heisman candidate might just be right), in the first quarter. The second quarter was brought a better performance from our defense, but the offense continued to sputter. And that was the story of the game, defensive stops and offensive malaise. Needless to say we lost. 35 – 23. College team 8-1

So Sunday roles in and I fear my prognostications will come true. Alas, I was wrong, this was going to be a weekend of half victories, and my pro team remains undefeated (9-0).

And Arsenal tied Man U.