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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Meeting of DNC Focuses on Way To Unseat GOP

From The Washington Post:

Democratic Party officials continue to assemble the pieces for their midterm election strategy, but questions about the party's overall message, differences on Iraq, reservations about their leaders, and debates about campaign tactics contribute to concerns that they may not be positioned to take advantage of the most favorable political climate since President Bush was elected.

The Democrats came to New Orleans this week to highlight what they want the midterm elections to be about: a referendum on Bush's leadership and competence. Just as Iraq symbolizes Americans' disenchantment with Bush's foreign policy, New Orleans stands as a poignant reminder of the breakdown of government after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

"We have to do two things," said Bobby Kahn, the Georgia Democratic Party chairman. "One, disqualify the Republicans, and two, provide an alternative. The first part, they've done for us, and the second part, we need to do."

Still, some party leaders believe Republican advantages in running campaigns has begun to erode with Bush's declining poll numbers. In 2002, for example, Georgia was at ground zero in demonstrating the power of GOP campaign techniques, as an unexpected surge of Republican voters defeated both then-Sen. Max Cleland and then-Gov. Roy Barnes. In 2004, the Republican turnout operation proved superior once again in many battlegrounds.

Now Kahn sees hope for Democrats. In past elections, the appeal of Bush as messenger helped motivate grass-roots Republicans, and party mechanics did the rest to get them to the polls. "They had the ultimate messenger," he said. "Well, I don't think that works right now -- not even in Georgia. The national meltdown has found its way to Georgia. Now we have to pick up the ball and run with it."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lawmakers Plan Ambitious Agenda as Voter Anger Rises

The Washington Post reports:

Members of Congress will return to Washington next week to face deep challenges including a budget morass in the House and an immigration quagmire in the Senate, while new polls indicate that voters increasingly view the legislative branch as dysfunctional.

How well Republican leaders navigate their way through the legislative mess could greatly influence the outcome of the midterm elections in November, suggests a poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

"The American public is angry with Congress, and this is bad news for the Republican Party," the authors of the poll concluded.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Is the cure worst than the disease?

I know you must have read about what is going on within the Democratic Party, but if you have not, go to the Political Insider entitled "Sonny Perdue’s new bodyguards -- Democrats Cox, Taylor try to slam the lid on a negative TV attack on their Republican opponent."

This is truly amazing and unprecedented. Kristin Oblander is the Democratic Party's premiere fundraiser, and as the Politcical Insider noted, "has the biggest Rolodex of Democratic money in Georgia."

Stay tuned. I wish this thing had not started, but it is not over. And today's Political Insider has a link to the subject 30-second TV ad.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran Again Holds Hostages—Bush and the GOP

A generation ago, the Iranian hostage crisis cost Jimmy Carter and the Democrats the White House. Now, 26 years later, another Iranian hostage crisis threatens to do the same thing to George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

By Howard Fineman

In 1979, young Islamic radicals (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have been one of them) imprisoned 52 Americans in Teheran for 444 humiliating days. Today, the whole world is hostage—not only to Iran’s fanaticism but, ironically, to America’s diminished power, and the president’s diminished standing, in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

A nuclear-weaponized Iran is every sane person’s worst nightmare. And yet talking to politicians, diplomats and military types here, you get the sense that President Bush is trapped in every direction. A “war president” can’t launch a strike if the country isn’t behind him, if the likely costs in blood and treasure are obviously too high, and if voters are dubious about the benefits—in terms of their own safety—of the battles he’s already chosen to fight.

For as long as I’ve known him, Bush has liked to muse aloud about his theory of “political capital.” His dad’s mistake, he told me more than once, was to have not spent the vast political capital he accumulated in 1991 as the “liberator of Kuwait”—a failure that led, in his son’s mind, to Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992.

After the attacks on 9/11, after the successful (and globally popular) obliteration of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and after the midterm congressional elections of 2002, President Bush was sitting in the White House with a colossal pile of military, diplomatic and political capital in front of him. And then he pushed the entire pile to the middle of the poker table and bet it all on his predetermined decision to invade Iraq. I said at the time and still believe that it was one of the most momentous decisions any president had ever made.

Now, and largely as a consequence, Bush finds himself bereft of political capital at precisely the moment when he (and the rest of the world) needs it most. To use his father’s terms (from his 1989 inaugural address), we have neither the will nor the wallet to take care of business in and with the bullies in Iran.

Here’s how the president is boxed in:

In terms of public opinion, Bush is at the low point of his presidency, not just in terms of job-approval ratings but—more dangerously—in terms of the kind of personal qualities for which people used to give him credit and leeway. Forget what the Democrats think—they don’t matter until, well, they do. And forget the vast majority of hard-core Republicans, who will stick with this president almost no matter what, and certainly as they scare themselves silly with visions of what a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency would look like.

What matters is that independent, swing voters—and some moderate Republicans belong in that category—have become deeply skeptical of the president’s credibility, competence and motives. They’re the ones who’ve pushed his ratings down to the regions previously occupied by Carter, Nixon and LBJ.

Unlike Iraq, a country cobbled together by the Great Powers in the early 20th century, Iran is the major leagues, in history, unity and population if not, as of this minute, in homegrown nuclear technology. Saddam Hussein was a bellicose character, but Iran has four times the population and several thousand more years of unified national identity. Iran also has big-league ballistic missiles capable of reaching, and ruining, lots of places in the Middle East region, including Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Iran also has millions of Shia allies in Iraq who would regard (and be asked to regard) an attack on Iran as an attack on Shia Islam. One retired general I checked in with (who asked to remain unidentified because he sometimes is called on for counsel by the administration) says that American troops in Iraq—who’ve been working in many ways with the Shiite majority there—would risk coming under attack by them, especially if there was any effort to redeploy them.

I’m told by someone who used to work for him that Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is as convinced of the seriousness of the case against Iran as he was dubious about the one against Iraq. The same European powers who were so reluctant to join with the American effort in Iraq are at least talking a tougher game on Iran. The genuine concern at the United Nations, paradoxically, will require that the U.S. work more closely with the international body. As he assembled the “Coalition of the Willing,” Bush essentially dismissed the U.N. as weak and accommodationist. But now the U.N. looks like a useful, if not indispensable, tool. And once you acknowledge the primacy of the U.N., you’ve got to stick with it, which gives something akin to veto power to the Russians and the Chinese.

Spot oil prices are at $69 a barrel—almost double what they were in the two years before we went to Iraq. Leave aside for a moment the possibility that the Iranians would fire missiles at the Saudi oil fields, the worldwide petroleum choke point. Leave aside the likelihood of stepped up sabotage in Iraq. Opening another battlefield in the region would surely send prices skyrocketing. If the GOP gets hammered in this fall’s congressional elections—and it looks increasingly like they will—gasoline prices could well be one reason.

Rooting out Iranian Islamofascists who bankroll and threaten the world with terror attacks: important. Being able to gas up your family’s fleet of cars: priceless.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Bush Wanted War

By Richard Cohen of The Washington Post:

It is my firm belief that if, say, a few dozen people simultaneously did an Internet search for the words "Bush lied," computers all over the country would crash and the energy grid would buckle, producing a rolling blackout that would begin somewhere around Terre Haute, Ind., and end in Barnstable, Mass. So common is the statement "Bush lied" that it seems sometimes that I am the only blue-state person who does not think it is true. Then, last week, the indomitable Helen Thomas changed all that with a single question. She asked George Bush why he wanted "to go to war" from the moment he "stepped into the White House," and the president said, "You know, I didn't want war." With that, the last blue-state skeptic folded.

I would not go so far as to say that Bush wanted war from Day One in the White House, but there was plenty of evidence he had Saddam on his mind and in his sights from the very moment he got the news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We have it from Richard Clarke, formerly the White House's chief anti-terrorism official, that within a day of the attacks Bush was inquiring if Saddam might have had a hand in them. When told no -- "But, Mr. President, al-Qaeda did this," Clarke told him -- it became instantly clear that this was not the answer Bush wanted. "'Look into Iraq, Saddam,' the president said testily," Clarke writes in his book, "Against All Enemies."

Similarly, Bob Woodward says in his book, "Plan of Attack," that not only was Bush fixated on Iraq, but by Thanksgiving of 2001, he already had told Don Rumsfeld to prepare a plan for the invasion of that country. "Let's get started on this," the president said, cautioning the defense secretary not to tell anyone. Rumsfeld said that eventually he would have to take CIA Director George Tenet into his confidence. "'Fine."' Woodward quotes Bush as saying -- "but not now."

As for myself, I was told by a European intelligence official that after flying to Washington right after the 9/11 attacks, he was stunned to discover that talk had already turned to Iraq. This was particularly true at the Pentagon, where Paul Wolfowitz was obsessed with Iraq, and that seems to have been true of the White House as well. And now we know from various British accounts that close aides to Prime Minister Tony Blair recognized early on that Bush was going to go to war -- and that Blair, his poodle at obedient heel, would follow along. More recently we learned -- again from British sources -- that even though Bush went back to the United Nations for yet another resolution condemning Iraq, he was determined to make war almost no matter what.

None of this necessarily means that Bush doctored U.S. intelligence to make a purposely false case that Iraq was seething with weapons of mass destruction. There is plenty of evidence that others in the administration -- Dick Cheney, in particular -- exaggerated such that their pants must have caught fire, but nothing so far proved that Bush knew he was making a false case. Indeed, foreign intelligence sources were in agreement with Bush on Iraq's WMD and so were Clinton administration officials who had seen some of the same intelligence. Even within the Bush administration, critics of the war -- and there were some -- were just as convinced that Saddam had WMD. Colin Powell, you may recall, soiled his stellar reputation with a United Nations speech that is now just plain sad to read. Almost none of it is true.

There remains, though, the little matter of what was in Bush's gut -- not his head, mind you, but that elusive place where emotion resides. It was there, in the moments after 9/11, that Bush truly decided on war, maybe because Saddam had once tried to kill George H.W. Bush, maybe because the neocons had convinced him that a brief war in Iraq would have long-term salutary consequences for the entire Middle East, maybe because he could not abide the thought that a monster like Saddam might die in his sleep -- and maybe because he heard destiny calling.

Whatever Bush's specific reason or reasons, the one thing that's so far missing from the record is proof of him looking for a genuine way out of war instead of looking for a way to get it started. Bush wanted war. He just didn't want the war he got.