23 years ago today, October 23, 1983, a truck bomber struck a building in Beirut that housed U.S. Marines. 241 of those U.S. Marines were killed. President Reagan responded by pledging to keep a military force in Lebanon and not give in to terrorists. In February of the following year - four short months later - he pulled American troops out of the region. You can find the names of the dead on this list.
Why were the Marines there? Why were they left vulnerable to such an attack? What lessons did and should we learn from the incident? These questions remain as relevant today as they were two decades ago....
...[In 1983], military activity and the American efforts to train the armed forces of the Christian-dominated Lebanese government, convinced Muslims that the multinational force had taken sides. Warnings about this change in perception went unheeded in Washington.
If this scenario - this gross misjudgement of the hearts, faith, and minds of the people struggling to create their own democracy - doesn't even remotely remind you of what is happening in Iraq's civil war today, I'd ask you to sit back and think a little harder.
Frank Rich on Obama & Dems: No More Human Weather Vanes
In a column about the Liberal love affair with the decidedly impressive freshman Senator Barack Obama, Frank Rich speaks frankly (no pun intended) about the Democrats' fatal malady - putting up "another Democrat who won't tell you what day it is before calling a consultant, another human weather vane who waits to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand."
If the Democratic Party is to be more than a throw-out-Bush party, it can't settle for yet again repackaging its well-worn ideas, however worthy, with a new slogan containing the word "New." It needs a major infusion of steadfast leadership. That's the one lesson it should learn from George Bush. Call him arrogant or misguided or foolish, this president has been a leader. He had a controversial agenda - enacting big tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, waging "pre-emptive" war, packing the courts with judges who support his elisions of constitutional rights - and he didn't fudge it. He didn't care if half the country despised him along the way.
According to Mr. Rich, a Democrat with a snowball's chance in hell of winning will need to "stick up for core principles when tested and get others to follow him." It seems that Senator Obama is being groomed as a poster-child [and pollster-child] for what Mr. Rich labels as "the party of terminal timidity and equivocation." Mr. Rich will still need to be convinced that Barack Obama is battle-ready and firm in his convictions in the hard-knock political arena. Let's hope the Democratic party has learned from past mistakes and isn't in too much of a rush to lose 2008.
In an Adam Nagourney/Jeff Zeleny article in today's NYT, an Obama campaign advisor named Steve Hildebrand was quoted to have said the following regarding the reaction of Iowa Democrats to the party's rising young star: “The reaction that Obama got in Iowa was like nothing I’ve ever seen before with another politician.” Not that it is untrue, but Mr. Hildebrand has a professional stake in saying so, of course.
I am not paid a dime to give my opinion. I can state with certainty, keeping close association with a good number of Democratic grassroots activists in Iowa, that Senator John Edwards strikes the most common chord with Iowa Democrats for 2008. But you don't need my witness for proof. The WaPo's Chris Cillizza wrote about the Hawkeye State Surprise last June.
Bloomberg political chief Al Hunt has what I see as the wisest quote. He says, if American politicians were stocks, that Sen. Obama "would be a Warren Buffett investment: great long-term value."
In a NY Sun article by Josh Gerstein, there is a quote from former Democratic chairman from South Carolina Richard Harpootlian that doesn't quite complete an intellectually rational circuit when it comes to the mostly unpredictable phenomenon known as American politics.
Admitting that he is not excited about any prospective Democratic candidate [whew - there's a real vote of confidence in your party's leaders], Mr. Harpootlian says that he doesn't think Sen. Obama can win the nomination, particularly because he has "never served in executive office." Mr. Harpootlian is surely not a big fan of Sen. Clinton as a presidential candidate, judging by this quote [found on a Hillary Clinton-dedicated website]:
"We all believe she's wonderful. But we also believe that if she's the nominee, it sets up perfectly for the Republicans to win the White House for another four years...Do we really want to rehash Whitewater and all the stuff we had before?"
In Josh Gerstein's current article about Sen. Obama, Mr. Harpootlian says,
"He's a tremendously talented young man but I think he's a little green at this point .. I'm sure it's flattering to hear this talk, but I think he needs to stay in the Senate awhile…He's got to get re-elected first. That was John Edwards's problem the last time around."
I think Mr. Harpootlian is not only hypercritical of all three potential presidential candidates, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, but he is also wrong in this statement because national politics, especially today, is not about how much time you've spent in Washington, D.C. The majority of Americans feel that our nation is headed in the wrong direction and that the D.C. leadership culture is not working for their best interests. It's more about who you are and how long the public has had to get to know you that determines how well you'll do in elections. Politics does not require a set list of prerequisites. For all we know, it could very well turn out that the public decides that they like Sen. Obama well enough to understand he didn't recently fall into D.C. out of some pumpkin patch - that he spent many years in Illinois politics - and that he's ready to lead the country. Perhaps his entrance into D.C. politics has not been lengthy enough to have hurt him. The political culture is changing rapidly with the sharp downward turn in public confidence in the federal government.
Remember this: The fact that former Senator John Edwards is not in D.C. with a Congress that is receiving 16% approval ratings today may be far more of a winning political strategy than Mr. Hartpoolian realizes.
Being articulate and interesting to listen to is definitely a delightful anti-Bush concept - perhaps it's refreshing to those citizens who long desperately for a more intellectual discussion of issues - but does it equate to readiness for leadership of the free world? Voters will have to decide, but I'm afraid that in a race for POTUS, voters will decide against someone so very new to them and so very young, regardless of how articulate and intelligent he may be. When I say "I'm afraid," I mean it. We have witnessed far too many Democratic losses over the past decade. We can no longer believe that it is not a great fault in the Democratic party's strategy that has strengthened the great right wing machinery's death-grip on the American mind and the voting booth. The MSM uber-hype over Sen. Obama has me greatly concerned. One exciting convention speech does not a world leader make. I firmly believe that Sen. Obama has the potential for greatness, but it takes time to build trust and confidence in any one American citizen who would be in the running for POTUS - especially in the post-9/11 and post-Bush 43 world. Voters will always have the last say, but we all know too well what uber-hype can do. Look at the Howard Dean campaign for one example. America was just getting to know him and the MSM stroked him like their furry little pet kitten one moment and flattened him the next over his [and his supporters'] enthusiam - as if enthusiasm was a crime. The Democratic party did not want to risk a man of such strong conviction in 2004 and wound up with Sen. Kerry, a candidate who, as much as you may like him, would not defend himself or his convictions when the time was right and ripe for him to do so.
It would be my wish for Mr. Harpootlian - and all of us - to become excited about a Democratic candidate. My point is that the MSM is still a tool that reaches millions of Americans who never read blogs or the alternative media. What they - in conjunction with the Democratic strategists - pump out as hype still has a major effect on our political successes and failures.
I totally disagreee with Chuck Todd and Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf in their opinion that, if Obama were to enter the presidential race, that, along with Sen. Clinton, it would "suck up all the oxygen" in the Democratic political room. That's rather unimaginative and an insult to all Democrats out here in America who desire and welcome a wealth of diverse voices in the Democratic primary presidential race. If anyone were to accomplish the task of political oxygen-sucking, however, I think most Democrats would agree the person to do it would not be Sen. Obama, but instead would be none other than Albert Arnold Gore Jr. When you consider the change in the dymanics of the race for 2008 that former Vice President Al Gore's entry would bring about, I believe that the possibility of an Obama entry pales by comparison.