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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nuclear early, nuclear often

Check out the newest McCain ad.

"He made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras..... McCain, Country First."

(This is a tiny distribution "buzz promoter," shown one time in Denver, and one in Washington DC on Sunday.

Is this a "topic setting ad" for the Sunday shows or an effort to obscure Obama's trip or McCain's seismic shifts on Afghanistan and Iraq policy?)

Do you see Rove protege Steve Schmidt's hand yet?

Remember, McCain was going to run an "honorable" campaign.

Later: Come to find out the "gym visit" was the meeting with US troops in Kuwait.

Print anything.....

I'm not amazed that a paper in Afghanistan printed this garbage, but what the hell is Reuters doing promoting it as one of their "top ten" stories.

(Reuters) Iran main entry route for militants: Afghan paper

I mean, what the hell?

Quote of the Day

From March 21, 2008, four months ago......
Flanked by fellow Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, McCain noted they'd undertaken their week long fact-finding tour of Iraq, Jordan, Israel, England and France as members of Congress's Armed Services committee — not as some sort of campaign foreign road show. Perhaps, but discussing international affairs with foreign leaders and enhancing McCain's presidential hopes aren't mutually exclusive. Still, McCain acted the apt pupil. "I wish every senator, every senator would make this same trip," McCain said.

Picture of the Day

(President Bush at the airport in Peoria, Ill., July 25, 2008. (AP/Evan Vucci))

"Leaking" on attacking Iran

Judge this for what it is (somebody wants it out there,) but I found it thought provoking.
Another former senior Mossad official, who reportedly served during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's administration, told the American magazine (Time) that "Iran's achievement is creating an image of itself as a scary superpower when it's really a paper tiger."An additional Israeli source told Time that Israel sees the period between the U.S. elections in November and the president's inauguration in January as the "window of opportunity" for a possible attack on Iran.

The source explained that any military move against Iran would not be carried out before the elections, because it would negatively impact the presidential candidates, especially Republican candidate John McCain and "No Israel leader wants to be blamed for destroying the Republican chances," Time cited the source as saying.

However, the magazine quoted intelligence sources as saying that an Israeli attack on Iran would likely stall the Islamic republic's nuclear aspirations only by "a year or two."

Launching a long-range strike against a multitude of hidden targets in Iran entails huge risks and uncertain rewards, which makes the cost-benefit analysis weigh against an air strike on Iran, according to some senior Israeli officials who urge caution.

There's a lot of "leak" politics going on with
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi making a round of meetings in Washington.

(Here's the Time magazine article.)

The "Sunni Awakening" extorts

Frankly, this has been going on since the beginning of the "Sunni Awakening," but I thought it was a good example,
The Iraqi officer leading a U.S.-financed anti-jihadist group is in no mood for small talk -- either the military gives him more money or he will pack his bags and rejoin the ranks of al-Qaeda.

"I'll go back to al-Qaeda if you stop backing the Sahwa (Awakening) groups,"

I'm definitely not against the policy, firing money (at Iraqi rates) is alot cheaper than firing weapons, and I don't think this guy is flipping back to "Al Qaeda," but this does highlight a bit about the Iraqi "success" that doesn't get too much coverage.

The Iraqis are "on board" so long as it fits their interests, and right now it takes significant cash incentives to tip the Sunni balance to make it in their interests.

Friday, July 25, 2008

They got a lot of glass houses in Arizona?

Wow. As his own flubs and gaffes turn against him (as well as Maliki's big statement on withdrawal,) McCain tries to turn the Iraq debate into an attack on character.
"I am accusing, I am stating the facts. The facts are that I don't question Sen. Obama's patriotism. I'm sure that he's a very patriotic American," he said in an interview from Denver, Colorado, where is making a speech and will later meet with the Dalai Lama.

"I question his judgment because he lacks experience and knowledge, and I questioned his judgment. … Sen. Obama just views this war as another political issue, which he can change positions,” McCain said.

This is a desperate gamble.

There are three and a half months until the election. How long can McCain "accuse" and not have it blow back?

They must be feeling pressure, have some internal polling, see degeneration in the fundraising, or something, because this is way out there with alot of time to go.

Later: Add in this ridiculous bit in a CNN interview. McCain said Maliki's 16 month timeline "is a "pretty good timetable," but Barack Obama's 16 month timeline is treasonous.

They've gone to the Bush model. Say anything, say it alot, and don't accept any challenge that it's ridiculous or untrue. Will the media let them get away with it?

Later Still: McCain uses the phrase "the audacity of hopelessness."

(They're trying to sour the post-trip bump.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(In this Jan. 29, 2008 file photo, then Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain gives two thumbs up at his primary victory celebration in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz))

Obama is winning by Karl Rove's analysis

Karl Rove & co has another electoral estimate out (.pdf), and as of right now, they estimate Obama with 272 electoral votes. If he lost every Rove designated tossup (Florida, Ohio, Missouri) and just held the states he's leading by +5% or more, Obama still wins in this estimation.

As Larry Sabato said the other day,
"While no election outcome is guaranteed and McCain's prospects could improve over the next three and a half months, virtually all of the evidence that we have reviewed -- historical patterns, structural features of this election cycle, and national and state polls conducted over the last several months -- point to a comfortable Obama/Democratic party victory in November. Trumpeting this race as a toss-up, almost certain to produce another nail-biter finish, distorts the evidence and does a disservice to readers and viewers who rely upon such punditry. Again, maybe conditions will change in McCain's favor, and if they do, they should also be accurately described by the media. But current data do not justify calling this election a toss-up."

And none of this accounts for the estimated differential in turnout.

(Here's the Rove map in .pdf or FirstRead's totals as a blog post.)

Also, Here's the Pollster Map. Obama 284, McCain 147.

Picture of the Day

(Supporters listen to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama at the Victory Column in Berlin, Thursday, July 24, 2008. (AP/Jae C. Hong))

A big explosion in Tehran

A "massive" explosion in Tehran last weekend targeting a military convoy.
"This was a massive explosion that was heard throughout Tehran, one (western) official told the Daily Telegraph. "Even though lots of people were killed (15?) the Revolutionary Guards are trying to conceal what really happened."

Alot of potential actors, Balochs, Kurds, Israelis, US.....


In a NYTimes story on McCain's bad week,
Campaign advisers to Mr. McCain say that the mood is not good at headquarters in Arlington, Va......

(I think this is Mark Salter saying this.)

AP: Food industry bitten by its lobbying success

An absolutely great story on how the food industry's efforts to "lower regulation" have not only led to more food scares, but has also cost them far more than anyone could have imagined. Read it.

Playing chicken on VP announcements

The "McCain will name his VP" mantra is still going on, properly seeded by the McCain campaign to get a WaPo frontpager today, "He's in a position to make [the decision] on short notice if he wanted to," said Charles R. Black Jr....," but I wonder how much of this is about a game of "chicken" with Obama.

Because of the way the calendar lays out, next week is really Obama's best window to name a VP. Reading this last round of McCain VP speculation, I wonder if the McCain campaign is trying to affect the timing of Obama's announcement.

Obama in Israel

Stepping back a day in "the trip...."
Obama reportedly told Olmert that he is interested in meeting the Iranians in order to issue clear ultimatums. "If after that, they still show no willingness to change their nuclear policy, then any action against them would be legitimate," an Israeli source quoted him as saying.

Single sourced, in Haaretz, so judge it for what you will.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2 - Can't help but compare

This is the image gap today. Obama in Berlin (AP/Jae C. Hong,) and McCain with a water retenting Lindsay Graham standing in front of a "Fudge Haus." (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

(With the persistent rumors about him, you wouldn't think Lindsay Graham would want to be pictured there.)

Obama speech video

Video of the Obama speech today. CBS. YouTube.


It’s the economy, dumba$$. No longer does the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” suffice....

(FirstRead talking about the economy as an issue in their polling.)

Picture of the Day

From the Dept. of Subliminal Imaging: Was it really a good idea to have your candidate stand in front of the "Dole" orange juice?

(Both photos, AP/Carolyn Kaster)

The Obama speech in Berlin is around 1:15 PM EST today.

Our "allies" in Pakistan

(NYTimes) "The Bush administration plans to shift nearly $230 million in aid to Pakistan from counterterrorism programs to upgrading that country’s aging F-16 attack planes...."

(CNN/AP) Pakistan has sent an official letter to 50 nations threatening a nuclear arms race if India is granted the US nuclear deal.

Why McCain abandoned his New Orleans trip

Again, yesterday McCain canceled the "oil rig appearance" that was supposed to be his counterimaging to Obama's Germany appearance today.

The official reason for the cancellation was weather (I live in Houston, 240 miles closer to the hurricane, and he could have done it here,) but I think this is the real reason for the cancellation.
And then, improbably, a 600-foot oil tanker collided with a barge on the Mississippi River, creating a 12-mile oil slick and causing diesel fumes to waft over the city's French Quarter. The trip was off.

The entire day was intended to be about attacking Obama on offshore drilling, with the stop in New Orleans likely to highlight the lie that no oil leaked during Katrina..... and then you have the likelihood that reporters would be smelling a massive diesel spill as he said those words......

Is this the week the McCain campaign became a joke?

Although it's certainly an exaggeration, I'm not fully kidding either. The McCain campaign has looked wildly out of control this week.

Alot has been made that McCain should try to turn this election into a referendum on Obama, but over the last two weeks, all of the judgments appear to be cast on McCain.

After this week of McCain disasters, we have next week where Obama's expected to name a VP. Then there's the Olympics, followed immediately by the Dem Convention.

Is this a decisive week in the campaign?

Later: CW reporting David Broder, "But now the ground has shifted -- and his opponent was right where he needed to be to capture the advantage. July has been a cruel month for McCain."

Read Juan Cole

Juan Cole has a long post on what happened during "the surge."
As best I can piece it together, what actually seems to have happened was that the escalation troops began by disarming the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad. Once these Sunnis were left helpless, the Shiite militias came in at night and ethnically cleansed them.

It's long, but there's alot there.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush reacts to fans after a Tee Ball game on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, June 30, 2008.
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst))

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain falls back on "semantics" (and more McCain chaos)

McCain has pushed back over criticism that he misstated the Iraq timeline regarding "the surge" and the changes in the Sunni west.

His contention now, is that "the surge" was underway well before it had been introduced to the President. His campaign is claiming it's all a matter of semantics.


There's also this "redefinition" picked up by Ambinder, “First of all, a surge is really a counter-insurgency strategy," McCain said.....

(This is getting still more coverage, extending into another day.)

Also, McCain's "oil rig appearance," the thing the McCain camp has been touting for two days as his big opposing image to Obama's Berlin appearance, has been canceled.

(CNN) Jindal rules himself out as VP. (I'm guessing he was told he was out, and they let him leave with dignity.)

(Politico) Yet more evidence that Maliki said what he said.

(Politico) The McCain campaign is going to try an online "money bomb" on August 1, ala Ron Paul. (If it fizzles.....)

(AdAge) Obama's got enough money to buy $5 million of ads during the Olympics.

And (Politico) The Obama campaign responds stupefyingly calmly to the McCain camp's latest over the top "traitor" charge. (Effective.)

Picture of the Day - 3

They don't look happy, do they.....

(Sen. John McCain talks with supporters at his campaign headquarters in Bethlehem, Pa., Wednesday, July 23, 2008.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster))

America supports an Iraq timetable

NBC is teasing their new poll to be released tonight (which they generally do when there's something surprising in it.) Here's one interesting bit.
With the news that Iraq's prime minister wants the US to set a timetable for withdrawal, 60% of registered voters believe it's a good idea for the US to set such a timetable, while 30% say it's a bad idea.

Robert Novak Hit and Run

What does Robert Novak have to do to finally get bounced from Washington?

Read it. There's no way Novak didn't know he hit a pedestrian.

McCain rewrites history. The surge even affected events 6 months before it was decided on. (Updated)

I'm not sure this is the breathless story that some on the left are painting it, but it is pretty notable that in the McCain interview with CBS that he credited the Sunni "awakening" to the surge even though it clearly began 6 months before. (Olberman report, Democracy Arsenal, DailyKos diarist)

Maybe this is truly a historical mistake and a true misunderstanding, but I think it's as interesting as a political mistake. McCain under intense political pressure over the shifts in Iraq politics is floundering about, trying to claim all credit for "the surge."

"The surge" is really the only thing he has left to run on. He has no other "popular" policies to run on.

The press has widely accepted McCain's claim of entire self credit for "the surge." McCain presents it as if the whole thing was all his product, when really he was just an outspoken Senator in support. Yes he was loudly for it, but, really, he was just a small part in getting it done.

Later: CNN actually picked up the gaffe story. Also AP.

Check out the very ugly, blunt response from Tucker Bounds, McCain campaign spokesman,
"Democrats can debate whether the Awakening would have survived without the surge, or whether the Shiite militias would have unilaterally disarmed without US troops and our Iraqi allies disarming them by force, but that is a transparent effort to minimize the role of our commanders and our troops in defeating the enemy, because to credit them would be to disparage the judgment of Barack Obama and praise the leadership of John McCain," Bounds also said.

"If Barack Obama had had his way, the Sheiks who started the Awakening would have been murdered at the hands of al Qaeda, and US forces would have already left Iraq in defeat," he added.

And, Mr. Townhall, Mr. "happy banterer with the press," has just canceled his one scheduled McCain press conference of the week.

But I thought he was whining about media coverage......

How familiar does this sound?

Not a great article, but I was struck by how similarly the McCain camp is befuddled by Obama in the exact same way the Clinton camp was.
There is a debate in Republican politics—and inside the McCain campaign—about what's plaguing the GOP contender. A central question is just how much time McCain should spend attacking his opponent. Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru in the National Review argue that he needs to get more aggressive in raising doubts about Obama, whose advantages put him in a position, they fear, to run away with the race. Other longtime McCain allies argue for an almost opposite approach.

Sound familiar?

Repost - I want to point this out again

Ron Paul is planning a three day, 18,000 person counter event in Minneapolis during the Republican convention.

Think about the optics of that. 10,000+ Ron Paul supporters holding an alternate convention expressing dissatisfaction with their own nominee and party.

Can you imagine the press if this were Clinton supporters?

Picture of the Day - 2

"Obama and Hagel and Reed, oh my."

"Weeee'rrreeee..... off to see the wizard....."

"...five, six, seven, eight. Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.... we're gonna do it..."

(Senator Barack Obama shares a laugh with Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel at the Amman Citadel in Amman July 22, 2008. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

Iraqi election law passes, sort of.... not really

Technically, an Iraqi provincial election measure passed their parliament yesterday, but implementation as it stands is still pretty doubtful. The Kurds walked out on the vote over questions over representation in Kirkuk, and much of the ISCI followed in sympathy.

(LATimes) "Although the measure Tuesday was passed by parliament through a secret ballot, it requires approval by the three-member presidential council led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who is all but certain to reject the legislation."

Juan Cole sums up the mess with this wonderful post title, "Passage of Electoral Provision Likely will Delay Elections."

Picture of the Day

(Sen. Barack Obama rekindles the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 23, 2008. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner))

Political bits

(WaPoBlog) Lieberman is not only selling out his fellows Democrats in his support of McCain, he's also now selling out his fellow Jews by appearing at Rev. John Hagee's church.

(Politico) McCain loses Joe Klein over the "Obama would rather lose a war" line.

And, I didn't see this when it first came around. Take a look at Meghan McCain's video blog of the McCain, media barbeque from way back when. It's like a having privileged peer of Paris Hilton as first daughter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

It was a madhouse at the US embassy in Iraq when Obama walked through. I mean, they went nuts.

Take a minute to watch the ABC/Nightline report last night. About 50 seconds in.

Political bits

(CNN) Ron Paul is planning an three day, 18,000 person counter event in Minneapolis during the Republican convention.

(Politico) Robert Novak admits he was used by the McCain campaign in pushing the McCain VP report. (Told ya.)

(Politico) And look at how the McCain campaign is played coy with all this. (The media don't like getting played.)

(BostonGlobe) "Romney's decision to formally reclassify his loans as contributions - a seemingly small bureaucratic gesture - removes a deceptively large obstacle to his vice presidential nomination." ($45 million for VP?)

(Politico) Read Mark Salter's casual comments to get a sense of how whiny the McCain camp has become about Obama's media coverage.

(Tapper/ABC) The media whining by McCain is "like Britney Spears complaining that the hype around Miley Cyrus far exceeds her talent."

(CNN) At a McCain townhall in New Hampshire, a woman got up and told McCain that he should fire his entire state campaign staff. (Have you ever heard of anything like that?)

(CNN) Same townhall, (Give em hell, New Hampshire) McCain ends up exchanging for eight minutes with a woman who opposes the Iraq war. First off he's now assuring people that withdrawal will come (time unspecified,) and second, in a question I hope is put to him again in a later interview or debate,
The woman asked if McCain thought the U.S. presence in Iraq is inflaming the Muslim word. "I do not," McCain replied.

And, (Ambinder) Check out the new line in McCain's stump speech, "Apparently Sen. Obama, who does not understand what's happening in Iraq or fails to acknowledge the success in Iraq, would rather lose a war than lose a campaign."


Maybe McCain's so upset at the "friendly" Obama coverage because that used to be him.

He used to be the media darling.

Picture of the Day

You would think that if you were worth a hundred million dollars, the former leader of the free world, and on your own "compound" in Kennebunkport, that you wouldn't have to put a damn sign on your golf cart to tell the help to leave it alone.

(Senator John McCain arrives for a news conference with former U.S. President George Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine July 21, 2008. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Not the first to be skinned in a middle eastern bazaar....

Take just a minute to appreciate how far the US has slipped on the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq.

Two months ago, the US was talking about a hundred year US presence in Iraq spread across 15 to 22 bases, total contractor immunity, and completely independent operations by US forces on Iraqi soil (freedom to launch air surveillance/attacks on Iran.)

They were expecting to have that deal signed by the end of June.

A whiff of desperation or just a publicity ploy.

Robert Novak has a little blurb saying McCain will name his VP this week to try and take some steam out of Obama's trip.

I don't know if he'll actually name a VP, but fueling the speculation that he might accomplishes that goal as well.

(Explanatory note. The top level right uses Robert Novak as a press release agency for "leaks." So, at any time, what Novak prints may be true or may not be, but you can be certain that someone wanted it out there for a reason.

Interpret this within that context.)

Too far by the McCain campaign?

I'm obviously not impartial in this election, but, to me, this feels like it seriously misses the national mood.
"Barack Obama admitted tonight that he would rather see failure in Iraq than concede that he was wrong about the surge," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. "A candidate who places his political ambition ahead of our national interest does not pass the threshold to be commander in chief."

Or maybe this, directly from McCain himself,
The Arizona senator disparaged Obama as "someone who has no military experience whatsoever."

"When you win wars, troops come home," McCain said. "He's been completely wrong on the issue. ... I have been steadfast in my position."

On Afghanistan, McCain said, "I've always said it's long and tough and hard."

As to Iraq, "We've succeeded. We're not succeeding, we've succeeded," McCain said later at a fundraiser.

These statements feel like they're more about McCain being "hurt" and angry about the current campaign flow.

I see a striking similarity, although on a different topic, to the frustrations that vented out of the Clinton primary campaign.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(Bigger and better if you click it.)

(Gen. David Petraeus flies with Sens. Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel from Baghdad International Airport to the International Zone. (Photo: SSG Lorie Jewell, US Army))

Made me laugh

Battleground state Nevada:
Citing a lack of interest, the Nevada Republican Party has called off its state convention and will instead pick its delegates to the national convention by private conference call.....

Obama got $25 million in one day?

Do I believe this?
After locking up his party’s presidential nomination, Barack Obama’s fundraising operation came roaring back to life in June, generating more than a million dollars on five days, including a whopping $25 million that came in on the last day of the month (June 30.)

Two points. 1) That would seem to indicate that June was only a little better than average until that last day, (did they put out a call?,) and 2) That's more than McCain raised the entire month.

UPDATE: (HuffPo) The big Clinton donors still aren't donating to Obama. Her top 300 bundlers donated only $20,000 to Obama in June.

Picture of the Day

Question for the Day:

Are Republican hearts lower in their chest cavities?

(Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani stand for the National Anthem at the start the the Major League Baseball game Sunday, July 20, 2008 at Yankee Stadium.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig))

Political bits

(NYPost) Rudy Giuliani is starting a fundraising committee to funnel cash to NY politicians feeding speculation that he'll run for governor.

(NYTimes) Hillary Clinton has had to loan her campaign another $1 million to service debt and pay bills. (I haven't chipped in to help her out, but I also don't want this to happen. Probably why they put this story out there.)

(NYTimes) Romney's stock is rising for McCain's VP. (Is the McCain campaign feeding VP speculation to try and take some focus of Obama's trip?)

(WashTimes) "Condoleezza Rice has instructed U.S. overseas missions to provide only minimal support to foreign visits by the two main presidential candidates." (Funny how this happens after McCain has made several trips and Obama's on his first, no?)

(WaPo) Bush seems to be making a concerted effort not to say Barack Obama's name.

(AdAge) The DSCC and DNCC are starting to spend ad money. ($5 million buys a whole lot of media in Maine against Susan Collins.)

And, you gotta love this snarky headline from the AP.
Unlike McCain, many seniors depend on the Web

It's never good when you become a punchline.....

On campaign spending

I don't have the link, but John McCain spent more than the $22 million he raised last month while, in the same month, Obama spent $26 million (also more than McCain raised) of $52 million he raised in June.

McCain spent far more than Obama on media (especially as a percentage of fundraising/cash on hand.) McCain is spending on media, Obama is spending on campaign offices/staff and significantly raising his cash on hand (Obama $72 million to McCain's $27 million.)

Faced with a likely cash gap, I find it interesting that McCain is spending heavily on media so early.

A couple thoughts/theories: 1) The McCain camp feels they can get more bang for the buck spending to "define" Obama now rather than waiting to do the more traditional back and forth ads later.

2) In order to bring in donors later, McCain needs to show some polling gains now. If people don't think he can make up the ground, they will not donate to an obviously losing campaign.

Or, 3) They're spending now with the idea that the huge donors will come in to save them through the RNC and 527's.

I don't know, just thinking out loud.

Pakistan fighting somewhere else

I don't know if this means anything, but I thought I'd point it out. There was some significant fighting in Pakistan, 41 killed, south and west of the tribal regions in the Iran abutting Balochistan.

There's an independence movement there, and likely some refugee flow out of Afghanistan, but I note this mainly because the Balochs have conducted terrorist acts in Iran. It's a nexus/fracture point between Iran, Pakistan, and the "opium west" of Afghanistan.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Picture of the Day - 2

(AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Continuing the Maliki/Obama./withdrawal story

If you haven't, you should probably read the next post first, and then come back to this one.

Two additions to the thread. The AP's Robert Reid has a pretty good analysis of how Maliki is playing this against the Bush administration.

And, Now it comes out that al-Dabbagh's clarification of Maliki's statement came after "a call to the prime minister's office from U.S. government officials in Iraq."

(Once again, why are US military and non-political officials intervening in this largely political issue?)

Later: One more bit. Now it comes out that the interpreter who supposedly "mistranslated" was Maliki's translator.

Trying to put the genie back in the bottle

Since Maliki made his pro-Obama statements, following right on the "general time horizon" for withdrawal statement the Iraqis made the administration issue, the Bush administration has been trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

There was the US distributed statement by Maliki's spokesmen, and now we have a more indirect attempt by Joint Chiefs Chair.
A fixed timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq could jeopardize political and economic progress, the Pentagon's top military officer said Sunday.

Adm. Mike Mullen said the agreement between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to set a "general time horizon" for bringing more troops home from the war was a sign of "healthy negotiations for a burgeoning democracy."

Notice the way that last sentence is phrased. Doesn't that make it fairly clear that the Iraqis forced the administration into the "general time horizon" statement?

Maliki's playing them. He knows that it doesn't matter if his spokesman tries to back off the statement. It's already out there, timed to perfection. The damage is already done.

If Maliki seriously wanted to defuse the statement, he would be the one vociferously denying it. (Ben Smith has a great exploration of how Maliki's not really working to knock back the statement. Read it.)

(PS. Maybe someone should ask the question of whether the military, CentCom, or the Pentagon should be involved in knocking down or spinning what is primarily political statement related to the election?)

Picture of the Day

After all the press that McCain doesn't know how to use a computer, I can't help but see pained patience on the faces of the other two men.

(Sen. John McCain makes a campaign stop at Werner Enterprises with, in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, July 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster))

The enthusiasm gap

One of the stories I don't see written enough is the enthusiasm gap between the campaigns,
For now, the numbers favor Obama: 38 percent of his supporters say the election is exciting compared with 9 percent of McCain's. Sixty-five percent of Obama's backers say they are hopeful about the campaign, double McCain's, and the Democrat's supporters are three times likelier to express pride.

As another measure,
At political gift stores across America, Barack Obama schlock is outselling John McCain schlock at least five to one, according to interviews NBC News conducted with gift-shop retailers and t-shirt manufacturers.

I've said it before, but, I think it's very important. There is no group passionate about a John McCain candidacy, not the religious right, not the anti-tax people, not even a band of veterans.... That equates to far fewer volunteers, far fewer phone callers, door knockers, envelope stuffers, far fewer election day volunteers. For McCain, alot of that work will now have to be paid.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is swimming in volunteers.

Don't underestimate this gap. A volunteer gap like this is probably worth several percentage points on election day. This is not a small thing.