Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts

7/21/2008

John McCain and Obama's Trip: A Failure of Bravado

John McCain and Republicans have repeatedly criticized Barack Obama for not visiting Iraq and consulting with the military and political leaders there. Many Republican officials and conservative bloggers mocked him by starting a clock keeping track of how many days it has been since Obama last visited Iraq. These clocks have been common fixtures on Republican and conservative blogs. The Republican National Committee was the impetus behind this clock, as this quote from Chairman Robert Duncan indicates:

"Barack Obama has only visited Iraq once--and that was 871 days ago. Obama's failure to visit Iraq, listen and learn firsthand, and witness the surge's progress demonstrates weak leadership that disqualifies him from being Commander in Chief."
Even Republican vice presidential hopeful Mitt Romney blasted Obama for not visiting Iraq:
"I don’t see how a United States senator who is looking to be the nominee of his party and create policy with regards to terrorism and policy with regards to Iraq could simply avoid going to Iraq and learning about how the surge was working. I mean the surge was working. It's too bad he missed it."
Obama eventually called their bluff and scheduled a trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, and Europe. The McCain campaign initially minimized Obama's trip as an overseas campaign rally (after ridiculing him for not even going), and that's when the wheels came off.

In just one week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has come out in support of Obama's plan by saying he wants military troops to leave Iraq by 2010. President Bush is calling for a "general time horizon" regarding the future in Iraq which contradicts McCain's position of not creating "timelines." And the United States has recently sent mid-level envoys to meet with the Iranians in Switzerland, further buttressing Obama's openness to initiating dialogues with rogue nations. And as the situation in Iraq improves, the battle in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly perilous. Now it might become militarily necessary for troops to be taken out of Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan to help stabilize the situation there. That further undercuts McCain's message of staying in Iraq until "victory" is achieved. This is all quite validating for Barack Obama while making John McCain's positions look increasingly lonely.

Now Obama is getting favorable press coverage and gets to look presidential shaking hands with the soldiers and leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan while McCain gives press conferences with President George H.W. Bush in Maine. He even scored more political gold by making a tough basketball shot in a gym surrounded by soldiers. The Obama campaign couldn't have asked for better imagery. Even though making a basketball shot has nothing to do with one's ability to govern, Obama actually made himself look cool while perhaps subtly reminding voters of his youth--in contrast to the elder McCain. It also works against the elitist caricature because elitists don't know what to do with basketballs, much less know how to shoot them.

The pictures and videos of Obama shaking hands and smiling with the troops in Iraq shows that the military likes him. Republicans who accused liberals and Democrats of "not supporting the troops" should also have egg on their faces because the cheering troops in the videos that have come from his trip so far suggest that Obama is actually quite popular among them.

So now Obama is traveling from country to country and meeting various military and foreign leaders with all of the major media outlets in tow. He looks presidential. He's receiving enthusiastic crowds. He's giving voters the opportunity to actually see him conducting mock presidential duties. And that undercuts the common McCain attack of Obama being inexperienced because the photos and videos of him in Iraq are suggesting that even if he may be inexperienced, he is at least experienced enough.

Obama obviously won't be an expert on international relations after this one trip, but it's difficult to criticize Obama for not going to Iraq and then criticize him for actually going. And if Obama's not going to Iraq was such a big deal earlier, why are so many Republicans and conservatives minimizing the trip's significance now? Complaints about how much money this trip is costing taxpayers seems a bit silly because his opponents are the ones who goaded him into making this trip to begin with. And McCain has visited Iraq at taxpayers' expense several times, so it would seem that conservatives' outrage is misplaced.

McCain forced Obama to play on his turf and so far, Obama is rising to the challenge. Obama will probably cut into McCain's lead when it comes to military and foreign affairs. And this trip has knocked McCain out of the headlines. And even worse, it will be hard for McCain to criticize Obama's trip in the future without it sounding like sour grapes. Oh, and because he went, McCain lost his talking point about Obama not talking with the military leaders there too.

So McCain has to find a way to make himself relevant again or risk falling too far behind Obama in the polls to catch up without help. One possible way to seize the microphone would be to name his running mate early. But this would give him one less tool in his arsenal that he could use after the Olympics and the Democratic Convention. Another option is to go back to Iraq, but that may make it seem like he's going for political reasons (to keep up with Obama) instead of pragmatic reasons (to get information from the military commanders there).

McCain is making some political hay out of the New York Times' rejection of his essay on Iraq in its op-ed pages. Complaining about media bias is always a good way to drum up support among the conservative base, but it is worth mentioning that the New York Times endorsed John McCain in the Republican primaries and did not endorse Barack Obama (the Times endorsed Hillary Clinton instead). And is it in McCain's best interest to play the victim at home while Obama is looking strong overseas?

The moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. This is an example of simple politics and talking points backfiring and leaving your campaign worse off than you would have been had you kept your mouth shut.

7/19/2008

The Veepstakes: Joe Biden

Delaware Senator Joe Biden was probably the greatest candidate nobody heard of in the 2008 primary season. Even though Joe Biden was ranked as the secondmost underrated candidate after Bill Richardson last fall, the veteran senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was mired in the back of most polls and placed a disappointing fifth in the Iowa caucuses.

His debate performances were mostly sharp, as he eschewed partisan rhetoric and empty promises for the sake of being honest about this nation's challenges and even offering specifics to match his solutions. He won a lot of plaudits for his federalization policy regarding Iraq, which remains as the plan with the most specifics when compared to John McCain's "We are winning and we can't surrender" rhetoric and Barack Obama's "We have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in" rhetoric. His Democratic rivals often found themselves agreeing with him--a point not lost on the Biden campaign which subsequently created a compilation of these praises entitled "Joe is Right."

Biden's presidential campaign may be over, but he has been getting a lot of buzz as of late about being at or near the top of the Obama veepstakes. I have long argued that Biden had a good shot at being chosen because he was such a formidable candidate even though he underperformed in Iowa. Here is what I wrote back in January when Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses:

"As for Biden, should Obama win the nomination, do not be surprised if Obama considers him as his running mate because the message of Obama '08 is quite similar to the message of Biden '88 and adding Biden to the ticket would lend Obama's presidential campaign some much needed pragmatism and experience to assuage voters who are not content solely with his message of "change." Ironically, the final reason why this might not be such a far-fetched possibility is because of Biden's mouth. Short of choosing a Republican, the selection of Biden as his running mate would be the ultimate showing of the unity of Obama's message. This is said in reference to Biden's stepping all over his own campaign rollout by referring to Obama as "clean and articulate." Obama-Biden would be the Democratic version of Huckabee-McCain and would make for a spectacular general election campaign."
Let's examine these points in greater detail:

To start, Biden passes the Commander-in-Chief test. His record of public service covers more than three decades. Thus, he could not be pegged as a political greenhorn the way Obama is being pegged. Voters who have reservations about Obama's inexperience should be assuaged by Biden's years in Washington because Biden could serve as a sort of old hand behind the scenes. Republicans could not call him a Washington insider either because John McCain has been in government for almost as long. And attempts to portray Biden as the center of political gravity in an Obama White House would be retorted with questions about Dick Cheney's power in President Bush's White House.

Foreign policy is Biden's strongsuit. John McCain has a tremendous edge over Barack Obama when it comes to international affairs and foreign policy knowledge. Biden should help blunt this by compensating for Obama's perceived weakness on the subject. Combining Obama's international appeal with Biden's pragmatism regarding world affairs may prove quite formidable.

Hillary Clinton's supporters will likely be upset with anyone Obama chooses who is not named Hillary, but they may find Biden more acceptable because he created the Violence Against Women Act. John McCain has been making a play for disaffected Clinton supporters, but may have lost them when he was unable to answer a question about why birth control was not covered by insurance even though Viagra was. Contrasting this with Biden's Violence Against Women Act should be enough to keep most of Clinton's female base solidly behind Obama.

Even though Biden hails from a small state that traditionally votes Democratic, he could be a tremendous help to Obama in the Midwest. Biden is a carbon copy of the "bitter" voter who "clings" to guns and religion. Thus, Biden should have great appeal in rural Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. He should also help keep New Jersey out of reach for the Republicans. Biden is a gun owner and would likely be seen as more credible on gun rights than leading Republican veep prospect Mitt Romney. And voters who are still uncomfortable with Obama's demographics and religious views should find Biden, an Irish Catholic, considerably more reassuring. That would give him another edge over Romney, whose faith may be viewed with skepticism. And in terms of his lifestyle, Biden uses public transportation to commute home from Washington every night instead of a private jet. So he is most definitely not an elitist.

Short of choosing Governor Tim Kaine, Joe Biden would likely present Democrats with the best chance of stealing Virginia in November. He is well known throughout the Mid-Atlantic states and could appeal to voters in the rural southwestern part of the state, which is similar to central Pennsylvania and southern Ohio. It is also worth noting that southwestern Virginia is quite similar to western North Carolina. If Biden can keep McCain's margins among rural and White voters (also known as John Edwards' base) down in North Carolina while Obama cleans up among Blacks and younger voters in the college towns of Raleigh, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Winston-Salem, it is conceivable that North Carolina could turn blue. And if that were to happen, this election would be over.

Like Obama, and unlike Evan Bayh, Biden is a talented public speaker with a good sense of humor and a folksy style. His biggest problem is his tendency to be long-winded and to put his foot in his mouth on occasion. However, I would argue that his foot-in-mouth tendencies would be a benefit to Obama in that by virtue of being chosen by Obama, it would show that Obama simply doesn't care about these gaffes. And if Biden's boss doesn't care so much about it, then perhaps the media and voters shouldn't care so much either. That would help keep the media from focusing so much on any awkward statements Biden may make.

The other problem Biden will have to deal with is renewed criticisms of plagiarism from his 1988 campaign. However, at a time in which violence is increasing in Afghanistan, banks are going bankrupt, and people are paying $70 to fill their gas tanks, voters might not care so much about a politician not giving proper attribution in a speech he made twenty years ago.

In short, Biden should definitely be in the top three on Obama's shortlist. He is a policy heavyweight who appeals directly to the rural White voters Obama is struggling with. He also has no real negatives that the GOP can exploit without looking like hypocrites and brings little in the way of baggage. And unlike Hillary Clinton, Biden and Obama genuinely like each other. Many Democrats who lamented the demise of the three most experienced Democrats this primary season (Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd) would react with glee to this pick. And Republicans would probably react with horror because he is both a defensive and offensive pick who shores up Obama's base and threatens McCain's.

Obama would be wise to give Joe Biden serious consideration.

3/02/2008

Anatomy of a Clinton Comeback: Part 2

(Note: This is the second half of an extended piece about Hillary Clinton. To read the first half, click here.)

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3. Stop complaining and fight. At the most recent debate in Cleveland, Clinton started the debate off by whining about "being asked the first question" and sarcastically chided the moderators for not asking if "Barack [Obama] wants another pillow." This was a stunningly stupid thing for her to say because it only reinforced her negatives, reminded voters that she was losing, sounded petty instead of presidential, and wasted time that could have been better spent articulating her views on something that actually mattered to voters. One of the most basic rules of politics is that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. (Regarding her actual complaint, Dan Abrams of MSNBC argued that she had a point, but her poor delivery crowded out her actual message.)

Clinton needs to accept the fact that underdogs don't get treated as well as frontrunners do. Just ask Chris Dodd. What she needs to do is suck it up and work with what she has. She should be thrilled when she is asked a question because that gives her more opportunities to make her case to the voters. Obviously in politics, it's usually better to rebut than to go first because it gives you extra time to think and new avenues for attacking your opponent, but when you don't have this flexibility, you just have to work with what you've got.

She needs to return to the ironclad message discipline and trademark unflappability that defined her campaign last year. When sharks smell blood, they attack. And that's what the media did after the debate. Her overall performance at the Cleveland debate was actually quite steady and commendable, but because of her whining, a lot of time was spent responding to that instead of lauding her grasp of policy.

4. Wait. As I just mentioned, aside from her complaining, Clinton turned in a reasonably strong debate performance. Democrats in Texas and Ohio would be wise to follow New Hampshire's lead and keep her in the game just a little longer because she is a very strong candidate who offers a skill set that Obama cannot match. This is not to say that Obama is underqualified or that he is a poorer candidate than she is. However, her knowledge of foreign affairs and her political pragmatism cannot be denied even though Obama has a clear opening when it comes to Iraq.

Republicans are going to ignore Obama's superior oratory skills and focus more on him being "the most liberal senator" and "out of the mainstream." Will Obama wither under these kinds of attacks? As for Clinton, while she defines herself as a "progressive" and has a left of center voting record, there are several issues on which she is more of a centrist. So perhaps she would be better able to parry these attacks.

There is still enough time for Clinton (with the Republicans' unsolicited help) to plant these doubts in the minds of enough voters to turn the tide in her favor. And there always exists the possibility of a gaffe, a skeleton in someone's closet, or an unforced error that would render Obama unelectable. In addition, it is unlikely that Obama can sustain the momentum he has generated thus far, so if Clinton is able to ride out this wave, she could emerge victorious.

5. Turn Iraq into an advantage. It is true that Clinton is vulnerable on Iraq because she wasn't against it "from the very beginning" like Obama. Obama was also able to successfully turn Iraq against her in the most recent debate by reminding voters that "she drove the bus into the ditch to begin with."

However, Obama's "purity" on Iraq is only a winner among Democrats and liberals. Despite the financial burden, increased regional instability, and loss of American lives that the Iraq War has caused, the broader electorate feels that regardless of our reasons for going to war in the first place, the fact remains that we are there now and we have to handle our responsibilities there as carefully and as pragmatically as possible. Saying you were against the war from the very beginning does not change the reality on the ground, does not bring a single soldier home, and does not secure Baghdad.

Should Obama remind Clinton that she was duped by the president, Clinton could turn this back on him by asking if the majority of Americans were also duped because they supported engaging Iraq militarily. And while these Americans may have been "duped," they cannot be faulted for wanting to take actions that they thought would best defend this country. Clinton will never be able to out-dove Obama on Iraq, so she should try and seize the mantle of being a pragmatist on the issue while reminding voters that despite his superior judgment, it does not account for the current reality of our situation there.

National security is the best card Republicans have left to play. They will relentlessly attack Obama for wanting to "surrender" to the terrorists, even if the merits of their argument are suspect. It would be harder for them to make this argument against Clinton because she voted with John McCain on Iraq. The contrast Clinton could make with McCain is that while they both voted to enter Iraq, she is thinking about how continued operations there weaken the United States overall and make the nation less able to respond to another conflict elsewhere. It might not necessarily be a winning argument, but it as at least more credible than trying to apologize for her war vote without explicitly apologizing. At the very least, this argument would allow Clinton to somewhat blunt the natural advantage Republicans have on national security by displaying a bit of competence on the issue. Moderate and conservative Democrats should also find this pragmatism appealing.

Again, Obama is in a much better position to win the Democratic presidential nomination and could potentially deliver a fatal blow to Clinton on March 4 if she gets shut out in both Texas and Ohio. However, Clinton is not as helpless as the punditry may think. There are several things she can do right now to right her ship and position herself as a credible alternative to Obama that doesn't make Democrats want to hold their noses in the event that they must vote for her. Neutralizing Bill Clinton, acting presidential, staying on message, and not giving up are all strategies she can employ that are independent of Obama. While Obama obviously controls his own destiny (the race is currently his to lose), Clinton has a bit more control than she thinks, but only should she choose to exercise it.

Anatomy of a Clinton Comeback: Part 1

(Note: This is the first half of an extended piece about Hillary Clinton. To read the second half, click here.)

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The caucuses and primaries on March 4 in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont have been dubbed Junior Super Tuesday. This is welcome news for politicos who will have been starved of fresh primary election results for about two weeks. Because of the saturation of pundits on television as of late, many political observers have noticed that there simply isn't much new to say right now. After the Wisconsin and Washington primaries, everybody knew that Barack Obama had the momentum, that John McCain was the assumed Republican nominee, and that Hillary Clinton was in serious trouble. And given that Obama is whittling down Clinton's lead in Ohio and may have overtaken her in Texas, these stories about mayday in the Clinton campaign seem prudent.

However, in light of all the twists and turns of the fight for the Democratic nomination so far, nothing is a done deal and the race may find yet another way to embarrass the punditry and the media just like it did with New Hampshire. To be sure, Clinton has a lot less room for error than Obama does, but there exists at least one scenario for her to win the nomination. Here's what she has to do:

1. Kick Bill Clinton out of the campaign, or at the very least, get him to stop making news. There was a lot of speculation last year about what role the former president would play. The consensus was that he would be Hillary Clinton's greatest asset and greatest weakness at the same time. Unfortunately for Hillary, her husband has turned out to be far more of a detriment than a benefit to her campaign, and he may have caused irreparable damage not just to her presidential ambitions but also to her political career and legacy in general. South Carolina is still a sore spot among what used to be her core constituency--Black voters. I live in South Carolina and the sentiment here (based on my own anecdotal experience) is that "they didn't know the Clintons as well as they thought they did."

How would silencing Bill Clinton or keeping him off the campaign trail keep Hillary Clinton's campaign afloat? For starters, it would remind voters that she, not he, is in charge of the campaign. Last year when Clinton was maintaining an aura of inevitability, it was due in part to the fact that she seemed in control. She was not hitting any home runs in the debates, but she was methodically belting out singles and doubles and running out the clock. She even managed to turn Bill Clinton into a foil, as she did at one New Hampshire debate when she said, "Well, he's not here [running for president]; I am." She was the one making news. She was the one on the attack. She was the one at the center. She was the one coming out from behind her husband's shadow looking attractively tough. But once Bill Clinton got too involved in the campaign, that reminded voters of the "two for the price of one" idea that failed the Clintons earlier. And worst of all, it also made voters question who the real president would be in a Hillary Clinton administration. This undermined her common campaign slogan "Ready to lead."

Hillary Clinton needs to create some sort of excitement about her campaign that the media could turn into free publicity. Demoting Bill Clinton would lead to numerous stories about "Hillary being reborn" or "Hillary 2.0" or best of all, "Hillary taking charge." That's far better than stories about her losing 11 contests in a row.

2. Adopt John Edwards' strategy and don't drop out of the race, even if Obama wins Texas and Ohio. Conventional wisdom says that if Clinton loses both megastates, her campaign is toast and she'll be under increased pressure to exit the race. This is a terrible idea. Unlike Mike Huckabee, at least Clinton still has a mathematically plausible chance of winning the nomination. And seeing that she's already come this far, she might as well fight on. There are only 11 states left for the Democrats; she might as well compete in all of them. Doing so would allow her to say that she fought for every vote in every state because she wanted to hear every voice.

When it became apparent that John Edwards' campaign was going nowhere (courtesy of his distant third-place showing in his home state of South Carolina), he vowed to stay in the race and essentially wait by the shower drain while hoping that either Obama or Clinton would stumble and end up falling down this very same drain. John Edwards didn't have much to lose, but the problem for him was that he had to employ this strategy far too early in the race. Edwards would have risked looking more like a laughing stock than a fighter had he endured defeat after defeat on Super Tuesday and beyond.

While Clinton hasn't fared much better for the past three weeks, at least she was able to hold her own on Super Tuesday. John Edwards' appeal was among less educated, working class Whites. These are the very same voters that live in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania--states she can win. Her message of being a champion of the working class seems to be a good fit for these states. (She might want to revive her night shift ad, retool it a bit, and give it a bit more airtime in these Midwestern states.)

The advantage of going the distance even if she's not able to amass enough pledged delegates is that she can rehabilitate her public image, make Obama a stronger candidate (which in turn benefits the Democratic Party), and make an even stronger case for superdelegates from the Midwest to support her. If Clinton toughs it out, she at least has a slight chance of victory. If she folds up her tent after March 4, it's back to the Senate for her.

(Click here to read the second half of this post.)

5/13/2007

Iwrecked Iraq

I got another letter to the editor published in the local newspaper today:

Would war czar be Bush's new fall guy?
Why is President Bush looking for a "war czar" to lead the troops and develop a winning strategy for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

As commander in chief, isn't that Bush's responsibility? Or is it possible that "The Commander Guy" (formerly "The Decider") simply doesn't know what he's doing?

Or is he just looking for another potential fall guy, should things on the ground fail to improve?

ANTHONY PALMER

Columbia

I haven't written much about Iraq in The 7-10 because of the sheer volume of information, quotes, positions, details, developments, factions, nuances, resolutions, and maneuvering involved. I simply can't keep up with all of it.

But I will say this much.

Politicians, especially Democrats, just don't get it.

If you want to end the war, there is an easy way to do so. If the Iraqi government decides to take a two-month vacation this summer, then cut off the war funding immediately. Giving deadlines and timetables and whatnot, no matter how noble, can easily be spun by Republicans as "telling the enemy to wait us out" and "issuing surrender dates." However, if the war funding is cut because the Iraqis are clearly not stepping up to the plate and assuming responsibility for their country, the blame would shift from the "surrender Democrats" to the "inept and ungrateful Iraqis," which is much safer politically. And if the situation does indeed improve by September, then future funding should be contingent upon a series of increasingly rigorous benchmarks that the Iraqi government and Iraqi military must meet regularly. If they don't meet them, then funding will gradually be cut while U.S. troops will gradually be pulled out of the country. So it's a win-win situation.

Here's another idea:

Give President Bush the funding he wants, but only until the end of September when General Petraeus said he could ascertain the "surge's" effectiveness. Keep tapes of all interviews and quotes by Republicans and President Bush about "how the surge hasn't been given a chance to succeed." If things do not improve, then throw these quotes back at them and then cut off the funding. Keeping the troops in Iraq past the end of this calendar year would be political suicide for Republicans, so they will have a much greater appetite for pulling the troops out later this year. And giving Bush the funding he wants until September will demonstrate a bit of good faith on behalf of the Democrats towards Bush and General Petraeus, who has to be given a chance to have his leadership succeed. I think Democratic and anti-war voters won't penalize the Democratic legislators for this just yet. They've already stood up to Bush on this issue, so that should placate the base a bit. Also, because of our nation's short attention span, I don't think voters will be paying too much attention to Iraq and politics during the summer, so I think they can afford to wait just a little bit longer.

Right now though, it seems like the Democrats are playing their hand too soon.

As for Republicans, I am not really sure what "victory" in Iraq looks like. And it seems like the best we can do is "not lose." Americans are not going to be happy with "not losing," which means that "staying to win" isn't worth it. I know these Republican lawmakers want to be loyal to their president, but it is this loyalty that has gotten them stuck in the situation they're in now--minority status in both houses of Congress.

When Republicans talk about "if we don't fight them over there, they will follow us over here," do they not realize how porous that logic is? Smart Democrats will use this phony argument to pivot to a discussion about immigration reform, securing the borders, screening what comes into our ports, and increased penalties for corporations that hire illegal immigrants. That would put a lot of those red state Democrats on friendly ground with the residents of the states they serve while driving a wedge between Republican legislators because immigration is one of the most salient issues to their party. I cannot believe I haven't heard any Democrats respond to that "they'll follow us over here" nonsense in any meaningful way whatsoever so far.

4/30/2007

The Legend of Mike Gravel

The most colorful figure in last week's Democratic presidential debate was former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (official campaign site). From the very beginning he established himself as the unvarnished loose cannon who was not afraid to speak truth to power. Seeing that he really had nothing to lose, he came out with his guns a-blazing.

But did he actually hit any targets?

In my estimation, he actually did.

Let's be clear. Mike Gravel is not going to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. However, he has already made a tremendous impact on the psychology of Democrats and Democratic legislators.

Let me explain. During the debate, Gravel fielded a question about how he would resolve the conflict. He said we should "get out" because "the Iraqis don't want us there, but we insist on staying!" He then said he would "make it a felony" for Bush to continue to prosecute this war and urged the other Democrats on stage to pass a law instead of a resolution to achieve this. After all, he reminded everyone, Bush said earlier that America was not pulling out of Iraq on his watch and that it would be a decision for "future presidents" to make.

That certainly got liberal antiwar Democrats fired up.

But then he went a step further. He said Pelosi didn't have to worry because she had the votes in the House of Representatives to keep passing bills ending the war. But for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), he said he should show some backbone and not worry about Republicans' threats of filibustering. Instead, he should schedule a cloture vote every day to get that bill passed. And if he did that while the Republicans continued to filibuster or Bush continued to veto this legislation, "it would be clear to everyone who was prolonging this war." (That's not an exact quote because I don't have the debate transcript with me, but that's the gist of what he said.)

And you know what? That's close to what the Democrats are going to do now. Even though Bush said he would veto the bill, the Democrats have said they will send him the bill anyway. Some Democrats have suggested they will send him the bill several times. I am not sure if they adopted this strategy before or after the debate, but at the very least, even if this idea did not come from Gravel himself, he still forcefully advocated this approach, which likely did not fall on deaf ears.

And by doing this, he showed the Democrats how to fight.

There's some debate about whether longshots should be allowed to participate in presidential debates because they often take precious time away from more viable candidates to express their positions. However, they can be beneficial in that they can throw more established candidates off script. In Gravel's case, it may behoove Democrats to keep him on the stage at the debates because he may be quite instructional to his colleagues in Washington and activists everywhere. Of course, Republicans will love to give Gravel as much exposure as possible because it would allow them to tar all Democrats as "far left lunatics." But I think most responsible voters see Gravel as a fringe candidate based on his lack of decorum alone.

National Journal was really miffed by his "rudeness" and dropped him from their biweekly race rankings. I think that's a mistake. My view is that knowledge is everywhere. You just have to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Even if Gravel comes across as something less than what is commonly considered senatorial or presidential, his advice about resolving the Iraq impasse suggests to me that people are giving him far less credit than he deserves.

Update: According to Parker (check the comments to this post), John Edwards advocated the exact same approach that Mike Gravel mentioned in the debate. Again, according to Parker, John Edwards stated this on NPR "about a month ago." If John Edwards owns this strategy, then Mike Gravel may have further validated it. At the very least, this is very favorable for John Edwards and really puts Barack Obama on the spot.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.