Palestinians need a Gandhi

International Politics

Maybe it’s because of MLK day approaching, but I’ve had this persistent thought (surely I am not the first to think it) since the latest violence in Gaza that what the Palestinians need is a Ghandi, a Martin, or a Tutu.  I am very sympathetic with their plight, and I don’t think that the violence of the many jihadist groups justify the kind of massacre that is going on now in Gaza and has gone on periodically over as many years as I can remember.  But do they seriously believe that lobbing rockets into Sderot, or blowing up a cafe is going to accomplish anything but more massacres?  Israel has and always has had the upper hand.  They have a military second (or maybe first) only to that of the US, more financial support, are an actual sovereign nation, and have the US vote at the UN.  Palestinians will never, ever, win a physical battle with Israel.  And whatever they might believe, they will also never win enough international sympathy to pressure the Israeli government into credible peace negotiations.

There are very few instances in history when a weaker party has bested their goliath opponent, and only three that I can think of off the top of my head: India’s independence, South Africa’s abolition of apartheid, and the Civil Rights Act in the US.  These three have one thing in common — the employment of non-violent resistance.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that all resistance was non-violent.  In each case there was violence.  But a just resolution did not come from violent uprisings but through non-violent protest and resistance.  Hopefully there is a young man or woman in Palestine right now studying the lives and teachings of the great non-violent resisters throughout history.  Hopefully they will not be killed before they have a chance to lead a movement for peace.


Pickled Herring?


Chris Weigant at HuffingtonPost sees a game afoot with the Hillary Clinton nomination to Secretary of State. I do too, but not the same game. Chris senses that the nomination itself is a red herring devised by Hillary to give her more stature in the senate, and that she will eventually decline.

If I am right, Hillary Clinton will be the one to hold a press conference — and not Obama — in the near future. She will say how honored she is to have been considered for the post, but that after reflection she has decided to continue serving the citizens of the great state of New York from her position in the Senate, where she thinks she will be more effective promoting Barack Obama’s agenda and helping the new president get important legislation passed, and so is therefore asking Obama to remove her name for consideration.

This move will bolster her stature and reputation among her many fans and supporters. It will show that she is the one turning the offer down, leaving her supporters feeling good about (1) the fact that she was “offered” the job, (2) the fact that Hillary’s power just seems to continue to grow, and (3) Barack Obama, for being gracious enough to allow her to make the choice about her own political future. It will almost completely remove any leftover sour grapes about the nomination race (and about the fact that Hillary was not offered the vice presidency before the convention as well).

I have a slightly different interpretation.  I think Obama offered her something of stature but that he knew she wouldn’t want in order to keep her out of his cabinet but show the proper deference to her.  His ally, Ted Kennedy, simultaneously offered her something in the senate that she would want — to head a working group focused on health insurance.  What a coinkidink.  This situation will eventually work itself out favorably for everyone.  I agree with Chris that she will decline the Secretary of State nomination and will stay in the senate to work on health care.  Meanwhile, Obama has made a good faith effort to mend the fences but gets to continue building his cabinet with the people he wants and without the conflicts that come with the Clintons.  Smooth move.


Strategery, Democrat Style

Politics, US Elections, US Politics

In the first presidential debate, Sen. John McCain accused Sen. Barack Obama of not understanding the difference between a strategy and a tactic. If I had to guess, I’d say that McCain’s eyes have been opened as to the extent of Obama’s understanding. As he thrashes about in the spider web laid by the fifty state strategy (hollering out “we’ve got ’em right where we want ’em”) McCain must, somewhere deep in side, be acknowledging to himself that Obama is better at this strategy thing than he is.

Make no mistake, McCain is a gifted politician and he has guts. He pulled his own primary campaign out of the mud of mismanagement with nothing but shoe leather. But he’s no match for someone who, a year and a half or more ago, came up with a really good plan and stuck with it. There’s just nothing quite like getting it right the first time.

Of course, it is still possible that Obama can lose this election, but if he does it won’t be because of how his campaign was run. Obama’s execution of the previously attempted fifty state strategy is not his accomplishment alone, of course. Aside from his campaign staff, he has Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton to thank for its success.

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Thoughts on Last Night’s Debate

Debates, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
John McCain and Barack Obama shake hands to begin debate.

John McCain and Barack Obama shake hands to begin debate.

I don’t have enough thoughts to write up a whole debate review, but I would like to point out two answers from Obama last night that I thought stood out. This is the second debate and the umpteenth time we’ve heard these two speak so there is very little that we have not already heard. That said, I thought Obama’s response about health care was effective. I won’t go in to how the primary candidate who took such heat for not having a mandate in his health care plan now has to answer to charges of forcing people to get health care. His best answer was about deregulation of the insurance industry and allowing insurance companies to sell their products across state lines.

And the reason that it’s a problem to go shopping state by state, you know what insurance companies will do? They will find a state — maybe Arizona, maybe another state — where there are no requirements for you to get cancer screenings, where there are no requirements for you to have to get pre-existing conditions, and they will all set up shop there.

That’s how in banking it works. Everybody goes to Delaware, because they’ve got very — pretty loose laws when it comes to things like credit cards.

And in that situation, what happens is, is that the protections you have, the consumer protections that you need, you’re not going to have available to you.

That is a fundamental difference that I have with Senator McCain. He believes in deregulation in every circumstance. That’s what we’ve been going through for the last eight years. It hasn’t worked, and we need fundamental change.

He gets a little bit muddled in that first paragraph, but his overriding point — that allowing companies to sell their products across state lines without having to comply with the regulations of the state they are selling too will give us the lowest common denominator of consumer protection. It is exactly what happened with the credit card industry, just as he said. The reason I think this was such an effective answer is that this is the first time that I have heard a candidate articulate this problem, and I think Americans are more open than ever to this argument.

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Obama: The Safe Candidate *Updated*

Debates, US Elections, US Politics

*Update* Krauthammer sees what I see.

I don’t know if this was part of the plan all along or if John McCain made it happen, but what seems to have happened over the last couple of weeks is that the most damaging talking point against Barack Obama has been rendered impotent. Starting in the primaries and continuing through the summer, the one argument against Obama that was difficult to counter was that he was dangerous. He was unknown, we were told, and couldn’t be trusted. He was untested, and we needed a steady, strong, and experienced hand in the White House. He was a radical — look at his preacher and that guy he served on a board with once whose occupation he can’t even remember. This idea was hard to fight because it wasn’t based on any debatable facts but on impressions, hunches, and intuition. But over the last three weeks, something has changed.

John McCain and Barack Obama debate in Mississippi

John McCain and Barack Obama debate in Mississippi

First, John McCain’s ride into Washington to save the day seems to have had the exact opposite of the intended effect. When I first heard him announce it, I thought it rang false but that many people would buy it. Folks love that, right? He’s a hero and a maverick and he can get things done. His announcement of the suspension contained severe language warning of the dire consequences of inaction. The crisis is so huge that… we must suspend the debates. Maybe that’s when the general public called bullshit. Or maybe it was when he didn’t actually hurry back to Washington at all. It began to look like he was taking a political gamble with a serious public crisis. He was baiting Obama. Would Obama jump on the wagon and implicitly concede that McCain was the leader? And if he didn’t, McCain must have believed, he would also be allowing McCain to own the leader role. But what hapened? Obama didn’t hurry with him to Washington or suspend his campaign or even agree to postpone the debate. He very calmly made the case for not storming Washington. It made sense — neither he nor McCain were on the committees involved in the negotiations, their involvement would inject campaign politics, they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Calm, even, and sure. That’s what people saw.

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My VP debate prediction *Update*

Debates, Politics, US Elections, US Politics

Expecting to see a repeat of the Couric interview on the stage Thursday night? Get used to disappointment. What we will see is Sarah Palin relentlessly attack Biden — about his gaffes, his age, made up stuff, whatever. Do not expect her to even try to answer a question with any depth. She is at her best when delivering snarky lines about her opponents with cutesy lip smacking femininity. Her base will LOVE it. Biden might too.

Thanks to Butryflynet for great information. Not everyone reads comments, so I’m adding them here. You can view one of Sarah Palin’s past debate performances here.

2006 Gubernatorial Debate — Sarah Palin, Tony Knowles and Andrew Halcro

Andrew Halcro reflects on his experiences debating Palin and has some advice for Biden.

“Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers, and yet when asked questions, you spout off facts, figures, and policies, and I’m amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, ‘Does any of this really matter?’ ” Palin said.

While policy wonks such as Biden might cringe, it seemed to me that Palin was simply vocalizing her strength without realizing it. During the campaign, Palin’s knowledge on public policy issues never matured – because it didn’t have to. Her ability to fill the debate halls with her presence and her gift of the glittering generality made it possible for her to rely on populism instead of policy.