Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

The general perception that our investment in Pakistan has not produced results, that the military/intelligence community there is intransigent and ambivalent to our objectives and that their leadership has consistently been unable to deliver on promises made in exchange for large sums of US taxpayer money is grounded in reality, but it is the reality of decades of wishful thinking and inattention on the part of previous US administrations who were unwilling to press their case or distracted by events elsewhere.

And the notion that the Pakistani Army is unwieldy, suited to the overanticipated conventional war with India but incapable of fighting a 'complex' counterinsurgency conflict is also a 'given' of our current perception and the news from Pakistan is disquieting, as the Pakistani military response to our insistence on taking aggressive action against the Taliban, at first glance, seems a counter-productive humanitarian disaster:


Pakistan's government signed a peace agreement with the Swat Taleban in February, allowing Sharia law there, a move sharply criticised by Washington.

The militants then moved towards the capital, Islamabad, causing further alarm.

Up to 15,000 troops have now been deployed in the Swat valley and neighbouring areas to take on up to 5,000 militants. The military has said it intends to "eliminate" the Taleban fighters.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Saturday called the conflict "a guerrilla war".

"This is our own war. This is war for the survival of the country," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

The fighting has already displaced some 200,000 people, while a further 300,000 are estimated to be on the move or poised to flee, the UN says.

On Saturday the government said that refugee camps would be set up in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, and to the north-east in Naushara.

Flight from Swat as Curfew Lifted BBC 10 May 09

And it's hardly surprising that the Pakistani army seems to be a sledge-hammer where a scalpel is wanted, though they are doing exactly what we promoted and have responded to the insurgent threat with considerable energy, including rotating six brigades from the Indian border to support this operation.  But there are also signs that the military can learn the lessons of counterinsurgency, at least in regard to operations by the paramilitary Frontier Corps late last year which may be worth considering, at least in part:


At first, the Pakistani military's response to the Islamists had been disastrous. Caught off guard by their onslaught, the Army had responded with brute force, trying, in the words of one officer, to "out-terrorize the terrorist." Such heavy-handed tactics had alienated locals, even while the intelligence services played a double game, trying to crack down on local Taliban while supporting them in Afghanistan so as to counter Indian influence there.

On arrival, General Khan realized he needed a new approach, one that emphasized holding and building areas after freeing them of Taliban gunmen. He began eating and bunking with his men to improve morale, and seeking the counsel of his officers--not a common practice in the hierarchical Pakistani military--on how best to engage the enemy and attract local support. In August 2008 he launched Operation Shirdil ("lion heart"), similar to the U.S. "surge" strategy in Iraq. Khan encouraged his troops to work with local tribes, shrewdly dividing pro-Taliban from pro-government elements, and, to gain legitimacy, backed tribal militias and sought the acquiescence of local jirgas (tribal councils).

Haider Ali Hussein Mullick - Where Pakistan is Winning Newsweek 2 May 2009

While this may have been an isolated success within the context of traditional military thinking in Pakistan it does suggest that there is at least some field experience of modern 'complex' warfighting to leverage for this and future operations.  

There's more...

Hillary at State

In spite of the somewhat puerile and inflammatory reporting of every little ebb and flow of the protracted negotiations surrounding Senator Clinton's imminent appointment as Secretary of State it seems the main actors in this unfolding development, Obama, Hillary and Bill, have conducted their respective roles with sobriety, meticulous attention to detail and unflinching good will which is at once apparently 'out of character' and yet indicative of a serious common purpose.

And while we are presented with commentary, much of it dissenting, from both the Obama and Clinton camps, it seems increasingly clear that the 'political' aspects to this unexpected appointment are not the motivation nor the cause of the lengthy deliberations in this process.

Here is a possible scenario which refutes or avoids most of the 'pros and cons' being debated publicly on the subject, and while it draws a long bow it has some inherent logic which may go a long way to explain both the motivations and issues surrounding this otherwise counter-intuitive offer.  It is premised on the following assumptions, that:


1.  Unravelling the Gordian Knot of a durable and lasting Israeli/Palestinian settlement is the key to resolving the global conflict between Islamic militancy and the worldwide trend toward liberal democracy.

2.  The differences between Senator Obama's and Senator Clinton's foreign policy, and that of their respective camps, while seeming to lose their distinctions in the posturing of the latter stages of the primary campaign are genuine and represent a clear schism in Democratic policy.

3.  The conservative hard-line positions and concerns of the Israeli right and AIPAC, which arguably has a disproportionate influence in both nations with which it is affiliated, must be assuaged and that only trusted actors would be acceptable to achieve a serious and permanent settlement

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that a Israeli/Palestinian solution is at the heart of this appointment there could be a powerful pressure brought to bear on Israel with Hillary's bona fides as a relatively conservative but powerful voice for American constituencies who might come to understand that a settlement there is our best chance to a successful prosecution of the 'war' on terrorism, as Hendirk Hertzberg notes:


The team of Barack "Grandpa Was a Muslim" Obama, Hillary "I'm a Clinton" Clinton, and Rahm "Israel" Emanuel (that's his real middle name! and he was a volunteer with the I.D.F. during the 1991 Gulf War!), with Joe Biden and Bill Clinton pitching in as necessary, would put the new Administration in an extremely powerful position to apply the kind of pressure that would give Israeli politicians the political cover they need to reach a settlement with the Palestinians. Everyone knows what the deal would look like, including Ehud Olmert. It's a question of having the political strength and exerting the will to make it happen.

Of course, the path could get awfully bumpy if the Palestinians can't manage to get their act together, and if, as seems probable, Bibi Netanyahu wins the next Israeli election. On the other hand, a settlement to which Bibi was a party would likely be as durable as Menachem Begin's peace treaty with Egypt.

Hendirk Hertzberg - The 'A' Team The New Yorker 20 Nov 08

One might further assume that that this overarching policy initiative was part of the challenging offer formally made to Hillary from the outset and that the conditions for her appointment include agreement that this is a prize for which the setting aside of 'political' considerations is worthwhile and that the uniting of their respective reputations and political allegiances in common cause pays significant dividends.  It may even be argued that neither could achieve such an ambitious outcome without the other.

In this context much of the speculation, leaked opinions and mundane political machinations publicly aired in the past week seem petty and unimportant.  One can easily understand the difficult choice presented to Hillary and admire her for rising to the occasion, along with her husband, to take the opportunity presented to genuinely share the accomplishment, clearly on her own merits, of such a momentous objective.

And while this is clearly supposition it does seem consistent with President-elect Obama's long standing theme of putting aside 'old' politics in the interest of pragmatic solutions to the challenges facing the US and resolving them for our mutual benefit using all the myriad resources at our disposal, irrespective of partisan positions, mundane ambitions and ideologies.

There's more...

New Mission in Iraq [Update]

One of the first challenges for the new Obama administration will be delivering on the promise to responsibly end the war in Iraq.  While this issue has not been the subject of much discussion in the recent electoral contest it remains a key expectation of the new government both here and abroad.  After the election Obama said one of his first policy directives will be to give military commanders and the Secretary of Defense 'a new mission in Iraq: ending the war.'  But therein lies a rather complex and difficult tale.

Presently the US and Iraqi leadership are in the process of finalising the 'status-of-forces agreement' which will replace the UN mandate which expires on 31 December 2008, and it remains problematic:


BAGHDAD, Nov. 6 -- Two days after the election of Barack Obama, Iraq's chief spokesman said with unusual forcefulness Thursday that his government will continue to insist on a firm withdrawal date for U.S. troops, despite American demands that any pullout be subject to prevailing security conditions.

"Iraqis would like to know and see a fixed date," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in an interview in which he also reiterated Iraq's position that American forces be subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction in some instances.

Iraqi officials, who see President-elect Obama's views on the timing of a U.S. withdrawal as consonant with their own, appear to be leveraging his election to pressure the Bush administration to make last-minute concessions. Dabbagh said negotiations to reach a status-of-forces agreement, which would sanction the U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond 2008, would collapse if no deal is reached by the end of this month.

Ernesto Londoño, Mary Beth Sheridan and Karen DeYoung - Iraq Repeats Insistence on Fixed Withdrawal Date Washington Post 7 Nov 08

The problem that this agreement faces is ratification by the Iraqi parliament, further compounded by upcoming provincial elections on 31 January 2009 and the electoral split in the provinces between the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Da'wa Party which may undermine the Shia coalition government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.  While some demands have been met, such as Iraqi inspection of mail and cargo to US troops in-country, the major sticking points of extra-legal jurisdiction of US servicepersons and the absence of a fixed withdrawal date remain:


The latest draft calls for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and withdraw from Iraq by 2011. It also lifts immunity for private U.S. contractors such as Blackwater, whose security guards were accused of uncontrolled shooting while on patrol duty, resulting in the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

It also allows for a joint U.S. and Iraqi committee to decide whether a U.S. soldier who's committed a crime outside a U.S. base was off-duty and where he should be tried. Iraqi officials wanted to make that decision on their own, but the Bush administration has apparently rejected the demand.

Leila Fadel, Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel - Iraqis seek more 'withdrawal' talks; U.S. says they're over McClatchy 6 Nov 08

The provisions of the agreement remain controversial both among State and Defense Department negotiators on the one hand and the Iraqi leadership on the other but it is now a 'take it or leave it' proposal by the United States:


Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the al-Maliki government will in coming months show the draft security agreement it has negotiated with the Bush administration to the main blocs in parliament to gauge whether they will accept the amendments it has wrung from Washington.  A source in the ruling (Shiite fundamentalist) United Iraqi Alliance told al-Hayat that there are no prospects for further negotiation with the U.S., and that the political parties in parliament will have to accept or reject it.

Juan Cole - Al-Maliki to Parliament on Security Agreement: 'Take it or Leave it' Informed Comment 11 Nov 08

With less than fifty days remaining to the expiry of the current mandate for the US forces presence in Iraq it is now in the hands of the Iraqi cabinet and parliament.  As well as noting an interesting sidelight to this story from the Obama transition team it is probably worth reviewing the political and security situation in Iraq to assess the threats and opportunities faced by the incoming administration in resolving this issue.  In spite of the lack of attention to this transitional phase in US-Iraqi relations there is no 'slam dunk' solution and the potential for trouble is acute.

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Divide and Forfeit

In the face of what seems an insurmountable electoral challenge, in spite of running the most negative of campaigns and dubious eleventh hour challenges to the rights of non-Republicans to vote, the Republicans have withdrawn to their last line of defence, unilateral declarations of treason on the part of their opponents:


"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America," Ms. Palin said, according to a pool report. "Being here with all of you hard-working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans."

Mark Leibovich - Palin Visits a 'Pro-America' Kind of Town NYT 17 Oct 08

'Wonderful little pockets of what I call real America?' As Obama spokesman Bill Burton wondered, 'What part of the country isn't pro-America?' But never mind, they're just throwing out red meat to the remaining 'little pockets' of their constituency, right?  Apparently not, from these recent comments by McCain surrogate, Representative Michelle Bachman:  


"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or Anti-America?  I think the American people would love to see an expose like that."

thereisnospoon - Help Kick Michelle Bachmann out of Congress. NOW. www.MyDD.com 17 Oct 08

So now we have McCain surrogates questioning the loyalty of our elected representatives?  This kind of 'madhattery' would lead you to believe that these are just isolated outbursts from reckless and undisciplined voices in the campaign, wouldn't it?  But the evidence is starting to accumulate that we are seeing a concerted effort to delegitimise the majority of the country which doesn't happen to be McCain Republican.  For example, specific localities are being targeted for rhetorical disenfranchisement, in this case the non-rural areas of Virginia:


It's all about division. For Sarah Palin, it's about dividing "pro-America" communities from those parts of the nation she's less fond of. For Michelle Bachmann, it's about dividing "un-American" members of Congress from the rest of the chamber.

And for the McCain campaign, it's about dividing individual swing states, pitting one region against another.

On MSNBC this morning, McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer asserted that "real Virginia" does not include Northern Virginia: "I certainly agree that Northern Virginia has gone more Democratic.... But the rest of the state -- real Virginia if you will -- I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain's message."

MSNBC host Kevin Cork gave Pfotenhauer a chance to revise her answer, telling her: "Nancy, I'm going to give you a chance to climb back off that ledge -- did you say 'real Virginia'?"

But Pfotenhauer didn't budge, and instead dug a deeper hole: "Real Virginia, I take to be, this part of the state that's more Southern in nature, if you will.

This comes just two weeks after Joe McCain, the senator's brother and campaign surrogate, referred to Virginia's two most northern counties as "communist country."

Steve Benen - The 'Real' Virginia... Washington Monthly 17 Oct 08

If there is a winning electoral strategy in all of this one could be forgiven for failing to see it.  'Real' America is very likely about to deliver the biggest defeat Republicans have had for a long time.  It would seem that instead of contesting this election on it's merits the Republicans have in fact conceded the 'real' election and are retreating to the bunker of false rhetorical divisions, indefensible distinctions of 'values' and politically useless assumptions of moral superiority.  Am I missing something here or are the Republicans conceding the election and preparing to fight a bitter war of absurd ideological legitimacy to explain their pending failure?:


"It comes down to values - in America, do we simply value wealth, or do we value the work that creates it?" Obama said at a rally under the Gateway Arch. "I'm not giving tax cuts to folks who don't work. I'm giving tax cuts to folks who do work. That's right, Missouri - John McCain is so out of touch with the struggles you are facing that he must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people `welfare.'"

Obama made the remarks at a rally that drew an estimated 100,000 people--second only to the 200,000 people who turned out for his speech in Berlin, Germany, and more than the 80,000 people who attended his Democratic National Convention speech--in a state that John Kerry had pulled out of at this point four years ago.

[...]

"At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives," McCain said in his Saturday radio address. "They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Sen. Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it's just another government giveaway."

Obama would "convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington," McCain said.

Carrie Budoff Brown - 100,000 at Obama rally--calls McCain 'out of touch' Politico 18 Oct 08

Socialist? Republicans have regressed into the anachronistic culture wars of the 20th century as we move forward toward the greatest challenges of the current one.  If they are 'redefining' the Republican party it is certainly starting to look like a paranoid, poorly informed and angry little group.  We just might have a good, long run in government if this is the alternative they seem determined to offer the American public for the future.

There's more...

McCain/RNC Robocall Disgrace

If anyone was wondering to what depths the McCain campaign and the RNC would stoop in the face of their desperate electoral prospects the truth is now revealed:


We now have documented four McCain/RNC robocalls, some known to be running in multiple states:

One that questions Obama's patriotism by saying he put "Hollywood above America" during the financial crisis.

One that says that Obama and Dems "aren't who you think they are" and claims they merely "say" they want to keep us safe.

One that attaches him to "domestic terrorist Bill Ayers," whose group "killed Americans."

And, now, the above, which dishonestly paints him as indifferent to the lives of babies.

These aren't the work of any fringe groups. Every one of these is paid for by the McCain campaign and the RNC. It looks like there's a huge wave of them blanketing the country.

Greg Sargent - Latest McCain Robocall Alleges That Obama Denied Babies Medical Care TPM 16 Oct 08

These robocalls are demonstrably false accusations framed in insinuating language which would probably be grounds for a libel suit in any other context than a partisan political campaign.  But as we have often observed there is no ethos of integrity in the modern Republican party, and the presumption of 'honour' so widely promoted as the McCain mystique and employed liberally in his campaign rhetoric is merely a ploy behind which it is 'business as usual' for the GOP we have come to know so well:


When McCain/Palin offer sleazy attacks in a speech, it's easy to hold them accountable. When they offer scurrilous lies in a television ad, it's almost as easy, especially with the whole "approve this message" line and media scrutiny of campaign advertising.

But McCain, Palin, and the Republican Smear Machine save some of their most offensive work for automated robocalls, which fly just below the radar screen. It's obviously abject cowardice, but decency and honor are the last things McCain is worried about now.

Steve Benen - The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel... Washington Monthly 16 Oct 08

This robocall offensive is a major initiative of the McCain campaign and an obvious priority in their allocation of limited resources.  This is the McCain campaign revealed in harsh light as typically underhanded, a campaign which will 'do anything and say anything' to win an election no matter what the methods; without integrity, oblivious of the consequences of it's actions and certainly bereft of honour.  These are the right-wing zealots manipulating our collective political process with falsehood and insinuation, dividing our nation and questioning our patriotism all the while.

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Obama on ACORN [Update]

The ACORN voter registration controversy has now occupied the mainstream media for a cycle or two, largely, it seems, because they are still looking for any opportunity to keep the 'horse race' narrative going in the face of a McCain campaign which seems to be incoherent and tanking fast.  The McCain campaign is inaccurately depicting the submission of registrations of ineligible voters by ACORN as 'voter fraud' which is clearly incendiary and untrue:


ABC News noted that "Senator McCain today said that 'there has been voter fraud going on in the battleground states. ACORN is tampering with Americans' most precious right; there has to be a full and complete investigation.'

Jake Tapper, Andy Fies and Sunlen Miller - Obama on ACORN Controversy: "A Distraction... We Don't Need ACORN's Help" ABC 14 Oct 08

In a press availability outside his hotel, in Oregon, OH, not far from Toledo, Senator Obama delivers some timely, and reasonable, remarks on the subject:


"My understanding in terms of the voter fraud, because having run a voter registration drive, I know how problems arise, this is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations and these folks, not wanting to actually register people because that's actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid," Obama said. "So there's been fraud perpetrated probably on ACORN if they paid these individuals and they actually didn't do registrations."

"But this isn't a situation where there's actually people who are going to try to vote 'cause these are phony names," Obama said. "And, it's doubtful Tony Romo is gonna show up in Ohio to vote. So this is another one of these distractions that gets stirred up in the course of a campaign."

Jake Tapper, Andy Fies and Sunlen Miller - Obama on ACORN Controversy: "A Distraction... We Don't Need ACORN's Help" ABC 14 Oct 08

But the real issue, as we all know, is that this is being used as a smokescreen for claims of 'fraud' and false equivalences with traditional Republican voter suppression activities.  Our candidate lays it on the line:


"But what I want to make sure of, is that this is not used as an excuse for the kind of voter suppression strategies and tactics that we've seen in the past. Let's just make sure everybody is voting, everybody's registered.  Let's make sure that everybody's doing it in a lawful way."

Jake Tapper, Andy Fies and Sunlen Miller - Obama on ACORN Controversy: "A Distraction... We Don't Need ACORN's Help" ABC 14 Oct 08

The more insidious narrative surrounding ACORN, taking the 'fraud' argument at face value, is that it is yet another example of inappropriate relationships in Obama's past and that 'you need to disclose your full relationship with ACORN.'  Pretty unattractive stuff in spite of McCain's relationship with ACORN as recently as 2006, when it suited him.

There's more...

Bailout Basics

Let's get down to brass tacks, the market has, predictably, tanked at the failure of a flawed bill that Democrats have supported out of concern for the welfare of the US economy.  The deal was for each party to deliver at least half of their members on this vote, the Democrats did, the Republicans didn't.  It should be pretty clear by now that some Federal remedial action is necessary:


With the economy already looking like it's headed into a serious recession by any definition, the risks of doing nothing look too high.

Paul Krugman - Bailout questions answered NYT 29 Sep 08

OK, so nobody likes the bill as it stood, but for a staggeringly wide variety of different reasons.  Partisan ideology aside, what's the basic problem?:


...the Democrats could start over, with a bailout plan that is, say, centered on purchases of preferred stock and takeovers of failing firms -- basically, a plan clearly focused on recapitalizing the financial sector, with nationalization where necessary. That's what the plan should have looked like.

Paul Krugman - Bailout questions answered NYT 29 Sep 08

This is a significant difference from the plan as originally proposed by Paulson and tinkered with over the last week.  Nouriel Roubini, who has been warning us about this crisis all along, agrees with Krugman on the merits of recapitalisation through purchases of preferred or common stock as opposed to buying 'toxic' assets:


For example if the private sector had done its fair matching share only $350 billion of public money could have been used; and of this $350 billion half could have taken the form of purchase of bad assets and the other half should have taken the form of injection of public capital in these financial institutions. So instead of purchasing - most likely at an excessive price - $700 billion of toxic assets the government could have achieved the same result - or a better result of recapitalizing the banks - by spending only $175 billion in the direct purchase of toxic assets. And even after the government will waste $700 billion buying toxic assets many banks that have not yet provisioned for such losses/writedowns will be even more undercapitalized than before. So this plan does not even achieve the basic objective of recapitalizing undercapitalized banks.

Nouriel Roubini - Is Purchasing $700 billion of Toxic Assets the Best Way to Recapitalize the Financial System? No! It is Rather a Disgrace and Rip-Off Benefitting only the Shareholders and Unsecured Creditors of Banks RGE Monitor 28 Sep 08

Well, that's beginning to sound like a sober plan that directly invests taxpayer's money in a legitimate asset with a stake in the profits when the market recovers, and it is the preferred option when looking at the international 'banking crisis' track record internationally.

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'Could Be a Rout' Says Trippi

A welcome, insightful take by one of my favourite political personalities:


...I have to say, that though the polls may still be showing the race to be tight, it feels to me like Obama is opening up the real possibility of an Electoral College rout over John McCain.

McCain didn't need to just win the debate last night, he needed to disqualify Barack Obama - demonstrate that Obama wasn't ready and wasn't a safe choice.

McCain did his best with a flurry of "you don't understand", "that's dangerous", "very dangerous" and "naïve". But Obama was still standing - and the guy that looked a little scary was McCain.

Joe Trippi - The Race is Still Close but It's Beginning to Feel Like It Could Be a Rout for Obama Huffington Post 27 Sep 08

At the risk of jinxing almost two years of breathless anticipation, actively, obsessively having watched each milestone along the way, and especially having seen the outcomes of last night's debate, one is inclined to agree:


The erratic behavior of his campaign over the past week - suspending his campaign - left most scratching their heads and asking what the hell was that about? Disastrous. Then in the debate last night there was John McCain ready to take anyone on - Russia, China, North Korea, Iran - all of them, and then turned and said Obama didn't get it.

Joe Trippi - The Race is Still Close but It's Beginning to Feel Like It Could Be a Rout for Obama Huffington Post 27 Sep 08

So the penultimate hurdle is cleared, Obama passes the unwritten 'commander-in-chief' test standing on the stage next to a self-proclaimed and unreconstructed Cold Warrior.  One of them was reassuringly calm, perhaps detached, 'and the guy that looked a little scary was McCain.'


I know the polls show it is close - but when states like Missouri, Florida and Virginia are still in the toss-up category that signals a potential Obama rout to me. And it certainly isn't the electoral map you want to be looking at if you work for McCain at this point.

And then there is the Obama campaign - far from erratic - a strong candidate and the strongest campaign organization in American political history. Obama delivered last night in what should have been his toughest debate - his campaign organization should deliver a one to three points in additional voters to the polls in get-out-the-vote operations in key states the campaign is targeting. So if these states are close in the closing days of the campaign, Obama is likely to win most of them.

Joe Trippi - The Race is Still Close but It's Beginning to Feel Like It Could Be a Rout for Obama Huffington Post 27 Sep 08

Thanks, Joe.  We have all felt that way for a long time but the skyline is just appearing over the horizon.

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Risky Business: McCain as Gambler-in-Chief

What's the chances that John McCain's temperament and management style is more informed by high-stakes gambling than prudent governance?  Maybe he just loves the thrill:


The casino craps player is a social animal, a thrill seeker who wants not just to win but to win with a crowd. Unlike cards or a roulette wheel, well-thrown dice reward most everyone on the rail, yielding a collective yawp that drowns out the slots. It is a game for showmen, Hollywood stars and basketball legends with girls on their arms. It is also a favorite pastime of the presumptive Republican nominee for President, John McCain.

Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf - Candidates' Vices: Craps and Poker Time 2 Jul 08

Sound familiar?  We've had the Palin VP selection experience, arguably a 'throw of the dice' in itself which may or may not pay off in the long run but certainly overshadowed the Democratic convention and pulled the campaign into uncertain territory, for Democrats and Republicans alike.  And now this 'suspension' of his campaign.  Risky business:


NEW YORK, Sept. 24 -- John McCain is a gambler by nature, and the bet he placed Wednesday may be among the biggest of his political life.

The Republican presidential nominee is hoping that his abrupt decision to suspend campaigning, seek a delay of Friday's debate with Democrat Barack Obama, and return to Washington to help prod negotiations over a financial rescue package will be seen as the kind of country-first, bipartisan leadership he believes Americans want.

What he risks, if things don't go as he hopes, is a judgment by voters that his move was a reckless act by an impetuous and struggling politician that hardened partisan lines in Washington at just the wrong moment and complicated efforts to deal with the biggest financial crisis in more than half a century.

Dan Balz - Selfless or Reckless? McCain Gambles On Voters' Verdict Washington Post 24 Sep 08

Indeed, and the stakes are now somewhere North of $700B, not to mention the future stability of the US economy.  The Palin nomination was just a starting bet, apparently, in the wild ride McCain is taking us all on to his presidency.

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Bush's Phone Call to Obama [Breaking]

This was the punch-line of the joke:


Bush and McCain are tag-teaming...  Here's a statement from the Obama campaign:


"A few moments ago, President Bush called Senator Obama and asked him to attend a meeting in Washington tomorrow, which he agreed to do.  Senator Obama has been working all week with leaders in Congress, Secretary Paulsen, and Chairman Bernanke to improve this proposal, and he has said that he will continue to work in a bipartisan spirit and do whatever is necessary to come up with a final solution.  He strongly believes the debate should go forward on Friday so that the American people can hear from their next President about how he will lead America forward at this defining moment for our country.

Marc Ambinder - Bush Invites, Obama Accepts, White House Invite The Atlantic 24 Sep 08

Nasty and premeditated.  OK, so now we take on the McCain campaign's and the Bush administration's political ploys.  Schmidt and Rove.  Bring it on...

[Update] Now on the ABC wires too:

ABC News has learned that President Bush called Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., this evening and invited him to participate in a meeting about the Wall Street bailout bill tomorrow afternoon in Washington, DC, with other congressional leaders, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Obama accepted the president's invitation, a source tells ABC News.

The invitation comes at an interesting time. The President has not been in the middle of negotiations with Congress, leaving that task to his Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

McCain earlier today announced he was suspending his campaign -- and his participation in the first presidential debate Friday night -- in order to return to the Capitol to work on the flailing bill. McCain's move has been denounced by Democrats and political observers as a political gimmick, though the McCain campaign insists the senator is trying to put politics aside to solve the stalled legislation.

President Bush's move could be seen as an attempt to aid McCain's gambit by creating a presidential-level meeting where the Arizona Republican is present.

Obama still intends to attend the debate Friday evening.

Jake Tapper - Bush Invites Obama to DC to Work on Bailout Bill; Obama Accepts ABC 24 Sep 08

This is an opportunity for Obama to show his stature in the face of a difficult combination.  Stick to your guns Senator and make them work for it.  There is a big, fat silver lining on this cloud and the next two days may well determine the outcome of this election.

There's more...

Diaries

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